There are more accommodation options in the Hunter Valley than you can poke a slice of smelly cheese at. for your holidaying pleasure, Here’s Australian Traveller magazine’s pick of the bunch.
Wandin Valley Estate
You can tell Wandin Valley Estate is cool because, according to the Visitors Book, Ricky Ponting and his wife have stayed there more than once. The main draw for Ponting (besides the wine) must surely be the tiny cricket oval with its exquisite Ruby Pavilion nestled in the valley, but the treats don’t stop there at Wandin. Its two cottages, two villas and one studio apartment are clean, spacious and very private. You’re also only a crawl away from the swimming pool, cellar door and adjoining BelPosto for European-style lunches. Superb in every aspect. AT’s tip: the valley view from the upper balcony in the Winery Cottage (left) is worth every cent. From $150 per room per night midweek. www.wandinvalley.com.au
Cedars Mount View
Four deluxe dwellings (Terrace, Ridge, Creek and Gums cottages) are dotted throughout this dense, 40ha valley perched on the side of a mountain valley. Completely secluded from one another, this could be the most private and luxurious boutique outfit currently operating in the Hunter. With simple exteriors and expansive verandahs, each cottage’s interior is a study in clean, simple, modern elegance. AT’s tip: sipping wine in The Ridge cottage’s corner window spa watching a Hunter thunderstorm stalk through the valley is a transcendent experience. Rates vary depending on cottage, number of people and weekend versus midweek. www.cedars.com.au
Every budget level is covered across Hermitage’s 20 rooms – from plush, modern suites ideal for top-end groups to serviceable Lodge Rooms for penny pinchers.
The spacious Vineyard Suite is specially designed for wheelchair access and is a real credit to the Lodge.
As is its award-winning Italian restaurant, Il Cacciatore (a consistent performer that’s very popular with the locals – always a good sign).
Hermitage has spent a lot of money recently upgrading its high-end suites, and plans to add a boutique day spa this May.
AT’s tip: the spa on Premier Suite’s outdoor decking, a mere tractor-width from the vineyards, is pure indulgence. From $155-$520 per night midweek.
Lillians on Lovedale
Take a right at Cessnock airport down Lovedale Rd and you’ll soon come up on a magnificent white-panelled creation straight out of Mississippi’s deep south. Lillians on Lovedale is ideal for lovers of shiny, stylish, spotless elegance. Dazzling walls, gleaming floorboards and wide open-plan spaces make this a place of light, air and supreme comfort. Completely self-contained with two bedrooms on a 25-acre tree-studded property, the tariff includes a free bottle of wine on arrival. From $198 per couple. www.lillians.com.au
Hope Estate’s Wombat Cottage
The massive cellar door at Hope Estate on Broke Rd in Pokolbin is perfect for weddings and other large group functions, especially in the spectacular Great Cask Hall, which – when done up – looks sensational. Unbeknownst to most casual visitors the winery also houses (down the bottom paddock across the lake) a single, simple lodging called Wombat Cottage. Intimate, self-contained and ideal if you’re the stars of the aforesaid wedding or function, Wombat was built in 1910 and sleeps up to eight at a pinch. Polished floorboards, quite verandah, wood fireplace . . . simple, solitary bliss. From $225 per night midweek for wine club members. www.hopeestate.com.au
Crown Plaza Hunter Valley
No AT roundup of the Hunter would be complete without a short mention of CP Hunter Valley. Its golf course is coming along superbly after recent heavy rains, even if the surrounding grapevines aren’t.
Smack bang on the corner of Wine Country Drive and Lovedale Road, it’s the first choice for large groups wanting easy access to everything in the region. The trees and gardens are flourishing apace, and there’s a fresh treatment room called Tea Tree Spa that’s the newest in the Valley. From $150 per night. http://www.crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au/
Peppers Convent Hunter Valley
This one’s a classic, with 17 spacious rooms and wide balconies in this relocated, restored convent. Classy on the outside with a delightful courtyard and gardens, the interior is old-school but with mod cons like iPod dock stereos etc.
Tariffs include breakfast and pre-dinner drinks and canapés, but, best of all, you can walk to the superb Roberts Restaurant nearby. Or, better yet, avail yourself of the Convent’s free bicycles – just remember to appoint a designated cyclist if you’re going to imbibe. From $396 per room midweek. www.peppers.com.au/Convent