Hunter Valley: A Hedonist’s Playground

Australia, Cabins & Camping, Food & Wine, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Spa & Beauty, Tours & Attractions — By on July 4, 2007 at 7:16 pm

There’s a lot more to Oz than the sunburned outback and endless beaches. When my fellow Lost Girls and I heard about the rolling vineyards, gourmet restaurants and relaxing spas that were to be found in Hunter Valley, we refilled the oil in our camper van (we learned our lesson!) and hit the road. Located just about three hours from Sydney, Hunter Valley sounded like the perfect place to recharge without having to waste too much of our dwindling vacation time behind the wheel.

It turned out to be a pretty big region encompassing lots of towns, so we decided to stop in Singleton for the night because it had a campground with powered sites. It was here that I met Makalah, a permanent trailer park resident who introduced herself to me in the bathroom. When I mentioned that we were on our way to visit the Singleton Information Center to figure out which wineries to visit, she laughed out loud. “The Information Center is about as useful as tits on a bull!” Feeling slightly like silly tourists, we decided to hit up the bigger Hunter Valley Information Center anyway, which was only a twenty-minute drive.

I can’t speak for the Singleton Tourist Information Center, but most of the ones we’ve visited in Oz have been lifesavers. The large one in Hunter Valley was stocked with maps and the staff even guided us in drafting an itinerary for the next four days, including wine school, food tastings and hot air balloon rides. Information is more than power-having it on a road trip makes everything more manageable.

It’s no secret that The Lost Girls live to eat, and Hunter Valley turned out to be a foodie haven. We were overwhelmed with the possibilities: There was the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Factory, Hunter Valley Olive Centre and Hunter Valley Coffee School. Worried that our tummies wouldn’t be able to handle all these yummy delights, we opted to simply satisfy our sweet tooth and drove over to the Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory.

I witnessed the girls’ eyes light up and then glaze over in anticipation as we examined the endless mounds of confectionary creations arranged in neat piles behind the glass display cases. I sampled chocolate-covered caramel frogs, rocky-road fudge and chocolate-dipped marshmallows. Then I tasted Jen’s toffee-filled treats and Amanda’s mango-mousse covered chocolate. Dieters beware: This is not a place to come if you’re counting calories, so it’s best to give yourself a break. I’m over dieting because it makes me bitchy. Chocolate, on the other hand, makes me very, very happy.

Rising before dawn, on the other hand, does not make us happy. But the next morning we did just that because we had the chance of a lifetime: To get a bird’s eye view of the sunrise over the valley. We signed up for a hot air balloon ride at Balloon Aloft that required us to meet our group at 5:30 a.m.

When we arrived, we were asked to fill out the mandatory safety forms and then sat around sipping steamy coffee and watching kangaroos have a boxing match in the grassy field that stretched out in front of us. By 7:30 a.m., the sun had risen, but our hot air balloon had not. Our guide ended up canceling the ride due to windy weather. We were bummed, but figured it was better to be safe than sorry (we made it this far around the world and would rather not have to report to our parents that we’d been involved in a hot air balloon crash).

We had the whole day ahead of us and made our next stop the Hunter Valley Wine School. Yes, they are opened for wine tasting at the ripe hour of 9:30 a.m. The Lost Girls became wine connoisseurs! Well, not really, but we graduated and each got our own certificate. Our teacher instructed us to wear these hardhats for a tour of the winery to watch just how vino is made. Then we sat down inside the wine bar and got to sample the goods.

Hunter Valley is known for four types of wine: Semillon (a light, dry white), Verdelho (a fruity white), Chardonnay (a full-bodied white that can be tart) and Shiraz (a spicy red). Though there are around 140 boutique wineries in Hunter Valley, we were disappointed to learn that we couldn’t buy many of the bottles in the States since the smaller ones don’t produce enough wine to export.

We walked out of there giggling like schoolgirls. Seriously, how the heck did we get so lucky as to be able to spend our days tasting chocolate, sipping wine and watching kangaroos at sunrise?! However, our high soon became a low when our perfect road trip took a turn for the worse. Stay tuned for Jen’s story about how it all went sour…

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  • Dellie says:

    Sounds like an idyllic way to spend your days…chocolate, wine, Australian wildlife…nice… I’m looking forward to the next installment of your story…sounds ominous…a cliff-hanger. (I’m hearing dramatic organ music in the background)…

  • VampireFaust says:

    You’ve been nominated for a “Rockin’ Girl Blogger” award! Check out the new post on to pick up your nifty award badge! 🙂