The Hunter is a place for wining, dining and romance. So where do the kids fit in? Natalie Talisman has AT‘s tips for keeping them happy, starting with a child-friendly winery . . .
CONSERVE WATER – DRINK MOOREBANK WINES
Moorebank Private Vineyard is a fabulous winery to take the whole family to for a variety of reasons. You’ll be welcomed by Ian Burgess, one of the principal directors of this unique boutique winery, and by a plenitude of heart-warming and chuckle-worthy quotes that decorate both the interior and the exterior of the cellar door. Ian runs the vineyard with his wife Debra Moore and the rest of the Burgess-Moore clan, their five children. Both Ian and Debra are more than happy to talk about their family run business and the rest of the Moorebank values. Ian’s both a horticulturist and a viticulturist and ensures his six-hectare property is run in the most environmentally sustainable way possible. Their produce consists truly of “wines of style & soul,” and due to the minimal use of synthetic chemicals, some wines are even allergy friendly.
Once your kids have learned about sustainable farming and family values, Ian will entertain them with some of his “drinking games for children”. None include alcohol, however one does involve skilfully manipulating a bottle to get its cork back into the neck as it dangles from a piece of string. That will keep the kids occupied long enough for you to sample all of the delicacies on offer, including wines (some bearing the Burgess-Moore kids’ names, like Summar Semillon and Charlton Chardonnay) and Debra’s irresistible and versatile Spicy Grape Sauce. And if your kiddies manage to master the games on offer quicker than you can after a few sips of wine, then see if they can spot Hopsy the kangaroo.
Palmers Lane, Pokolbin, (02) 4998 7610, www.moorebankvineyard.com.au
WANDER AMONG THE GARDENS
It’s hard to visit the Hunter without at least dropping in to its fabulous Gardens. With more than 25 acres of twisting pathways among some of the most sublime floral arrangements and landscapes you’ll see, Hunter Valley Gardens is the perfect place for big kids and little kids alike at any time of the year. Designed by Bill Roche and wife Imelda, you’ll wander among the rose garden that boasts more than 8000 roses and try to find the different species blooming there. You can even take a quick Italian side-trip by ducking into the Italian Grotto (complete with a statue of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of birds and animals), then go from there to a typically English Parterre garden over in the Border Garden, unless of course a trip to the Indian Mosaic Tea Garden would be more your cuppa.
Whichever inspires you the most, you can be sure your kids will be wowed by the elaborate Storybook Garden. Enter through a giant storybook being read by huge giraffes, and be on the look out for all your favourite nursery rhyme and fairytale characters along the way.
Broke Rd Pokolbin, (02) 4998 4000, www.hvg.com.au
FINE DINING FOR KIDS
Here’s a handy tip for frugal parents: when I was young, my father told me the ice cream van jingle was only ever played when the ice cream had run out. Can you imagine? If you ever actually heard “Green Sleeves”, it meant the ice cream man had already sold his entire stock. Luckily for me, all those years I missed out on getting an ice cream into my sticky little hands were made up for when I visited the Ice Creamery in Pokolbin Village. The assortment of flavours is astonishing (and the only thing that will run out is room in your belly for more).
(02) 4998 6960 or check out www.pokolbinvillage.com.au
Once the ice cream has melted and digested, head over to Lindemans winery to satisfy your sweet tooth some more. While parents sip away at their grape of choice, the kids can taste and contemplate which flavour fudge best suits their palate. At the far end of the bar at the Lindemans cellar door is the fudge bar, where you can taste your way through over 15 flavours of homemade and packaged sugary goodness before deciding on which to take home. You can’t go wrong with the chocolate fudge, but the caramel is pretty special too.
McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin, (02) 4998 7684, www.lindemans.com.au
VALLEY OF ADVENTURE
The stunning landscapes of NSW’s Wine Country lend themselves to making an activity such as horse riding that extra bit more special; it’s a fantastic experience for the whole family and many stables offer treks for all ages and levels of experiences. But if your little ones are more adventurous (and over the age of seven) you may want to consider taking them on an adventure they’ll not forget: soaring high above the Hunter in a hot-air balloon. Let them fly above the world and watch the sunrise over the mountains and farmlands far below. Balloon Aloft in North Rothbury will be happy to take you up into the wild blue yonder.
(02) 4938 1955, freecall 1800 028 568, www.balloonaloft.com
If you really want to go to a zoo, you’re probably better off heading down the freeway for two hours into Sydney and going to Taronga. However, if all you’re after is a little bit of a diversion from the wine hangover, then Hunter Valley Zoo in Lovedale is a passable option. Of the 90-odd species on display, the albino kangaroos are the most unusual on the 10ha property, and there’s plenty of opportunity to hand-feed animals throughout the day. Visitors can also feed their own hungry little animals by making use of the onsite BBQ facilities.
(02) 4990 7714, www.huntervalleyzoo.com.au