The truth is that any time is a great time to visit the Hunter Valley, but there is something special about Spring (one of our favourite seasons)!

What’s so special about Spring in the Hunter Valley?

Because primarily of our temperate climate, there are few places in Australia where you can feel and see the seasons. The Hunter Valley is one of them, and it is stunning at this time of year because this is an agricultural country. Spring is the season of new beginnings and growth in the farming calendar – lush green hills surround us, bright blossoming trees and shrubs, and all the animal babies.

It’s a lovely time of year – fresh with the promise of new life as bud burst takes place on the vines, endless possibilities, and long summer evenings not far away! 

If this doesn’t convince you … then come and see for yourself. And if you love baby animals, make sure you put Pokolbin Farm on your to-do list!

Winemaking … and much, much more

As Australia’s oldest winemaking region, with a solid international reputation for wine and more than 180 cellar doors, there is a lot to see and do if you’re a wine enthusiast. But even if you’re a teetotaller, whether you’re coming for a week or a weekend, there are some incredible experiences for everyone.

At iHop, we’re proud to say as locals; we know our backyards pretty well now!

And so our friendly team will be able to recommend any activity for singles, couples, groups, families, and any age group.

If you’ve got limited time, we suggest taking a tour. We’ve packaged these up to suit all budgets and tastes and taken care of everything for you, so all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself.

We have something for everyone, including ‘chocolate lovers,’shopaholics,’ and food and wine tours, just for starters.

Our Hunter Valley wine tours have been designed to showcase the best the Hunter region has to offer, from internationally renowned wineries, microbreweries, casual and fine dining venues, cheese shops, chocolatiers, shopping, art, craft, local history, and more …

We also offer:

Tours and more

Browse our website and look at what you can do – we have an easy search function that will help you find the information that matches your interest and budget. You can book online too.

Our buses are clean, modern, air-conditioned, and spacious … so you can travel around in comfort. We even have storage boxes and cooler box facilities on board, so you can be assured that any wine you purchase will stay chilled, along with the smoked salmon, cheeses, chocolates, and delicious dips or other goodies you’ve collected along the way.

The only thing that will spoil when you return to your accommodation is YOU!  

Sit back and relax

iHop was founded by a husband and wife team who are both actively working day to day in the business and have lived in the region for 7+ years. Their local knowledge is invaluable, and it’s what underpins all the tours we’ve put together for you to choose from. We know where you can get away from the crowds, where you can see peacocks roaming the gardens, and the best spots for an evening picnic to watch a spectacular sunset.

You can be assured that all our bus drivers and guides are carefully selected – very experienced driving skills, super friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about their wine country backyard. They will always be happy to help you find your way around and make recommendations.

Of course, suppose you want to go your way. In that case, we’re all for that, too – we offer a bus service that runs around the Central Pokolbin region of the Hunter Valley and allows you to hop on and off as you want to, and also an ‘on-demand’ service that can take you almost anywhere in the region, as well as a VIP concierge service where we can tailor a custom itinerary. Contact us for more information. We’re here to ensure you see as much of this beautiful region as possible in comfort. Don’t forget to stay in touch via Instagram and Facebook, so you can be the first to hear about special offers and new services.

Though the Hunter Valley is one of the smallest wine growing regions in Australia, it produces some of the most highly-acclaimed wines worldwide. The region is home to many historic characteristics, with some wineries dating back to family lineages from the 1800’s. This rich heritage can be viewed and experienced on one of iHop’s guided wine tours and makes for an amazing Hunter Valley getaway.

The Hunter Valley is conveniently located, the drive is just two hours from Sydney and 50 minutes from Newcastle Airport. For the rest of Australia, the Hunter Valley is now even more accessible. You can take a direct flight from almost every major city into Newcastle Airport such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and the Gold Coast. You can find yourself immersed in rustic charm and hospitality in a matter of hours.

Explore Vineyards, Wineries & Cellar Doors

The Hunter Valley is home to more cellar doors than any other wine region in Australia, with over 180 cellar doors in the region. They range from global award-winning wineries to lesser known hidden gems, all producing a varied range of products. This means there is no shortage of options for you to experience. One of the best parts of wine tasting on your Hunter Valley getaway is discovering a hidden gem and new found favourite wine.

To expand your knowledge and experience on the variety of products to come from the Hunter Region, you can join a wine tour that specifically focuses on wine and food pairing (even some beer recommendations for those who prefer or want to try both). iHop’s ‘Taste ‘n’ Graze’ pairing tour takes you on a journey sampling some of the finest local wines, cheeses, craft beers, whisky, chocolates and chef tasting plates all while teaching you which types of drinks pair well with the foods you are tasting.

What better way to learn about Food and Drink pairing than from internationally renowned wineries and restaurants?

Foodie Lovers Haven

As for the fine dining in the area, there are a myriad of restaurants and cafes to suit your taste buds. Muse Restaurant is one of the most highly regarded and acclaimed restaurants in the region and is a must try on your Hunter Valley getaway. They have maintained a Chef Hat status each year since 2011 and in 2015 to present, they have been awarded Two Chef Hats.

Other notable Hatted restaurants include; Restaurant Botanica, Bistro Molines, Circa 1876, Muse Kitchen and EXP Restaurant. The Hop-On Hop-Off service and iHopGO On-Demand Bus can transport you to most of these locations to enjoy a leisurely long lunch and unforgettable dining experience amongst the vines.

Hands On Wine & Cooking Schools

To learn more about the different types of wines and how they are made, The Hunter Valley Resort offers a wine education experience called the ‘Hunter Valley Wine School’ which focuses on everything from growing the grapes, right up to bottling and aging the wine.

The masterclass involves walking through the vineyards, followed by a comprehensive winemaking tutorial with their skilled ‘Cellarmaster’. The experience goes for two hours and can be reached by using transport services such as the iHopGO On-Demand Bus or the Hop-On Hop-Off service stops there at Hop 10 on the Central Pokolbin Loop.

There are also a number of cooking classes to experience on your Hunter Valley getaway, hosted by various estates and restaurants across the region, from an Italian cooking masterclass to cheese making. These fun and interactive cooking classes are a great gift idea or a good way to experience something different as a group or couple on your getaway. 

Accomodation

With many unique and memorable experiences on offer in the Hunter Valley, a day trip is just not long enough to get the most out of your time in this amazing region. Thankfully, there are many great accommodation options suitable for everyone, making the Hunter Valley a perfect getaway for a weekend or longer stay. From luxury resorts to self-contained units and wellness retreats, there is accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes. Many of the estates and hotels in the Hunter Valley offer spa treatments and full day spa experiences, perfect for those looking to relax and unwind from the everyday world or is the perfect treat for that someone special.

A Hunter Valley getaway is the perfect break from the everyday routine and is often described as Disneyland for Adults, offering many Food and Drink related adventures and various other activities. Discover Australia’s oldest wine producing and world renowned wine regions today!

If you’re visiting the beautiful Hunter Valley wine region and want to get your hands (and taste buds!) around the certified “good stuff”, then this is the guide for you!

The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine region and today boasts over 150 winery destinations for our welcome visitors to try. From humble beginnings in Semillon and Shiraz, the region still does our classics well, but we also range out into some amazing Chardonnay and Verdelho. There is even an emergence of European styles growing successfully here including Southern Italy’s Vermentino and Fiano varieties, which still carry the hallmark of a Hunter white being crisp and light with a beautiful dry finish. If reds are more to your liking Spanish Tempranillo and Italian Sangiovese are also producing beautiful wines in the Hunter. Basically, there is something for everyone!

With so many varieties and destinations to consider it can be hard to know where to start, so we have put together a run-down of the best places to visit for an award-winning wine experience. Luckily, you can plan your visit to some of the Hunter’s favourite destinations across Pokolbin and Lovedale with our Hop-on-Hop-off tours!

Calais Estate

(Hop 1 – Lovedale and North Pokolbin Route)

As well as a Cellar Door located in the charming colonial-style building built from convict cut bricks and solid timber bridging beams, Calais Estate offers sweeping views over their vineyard and Brokenback Ranges. Here you can taste everything from classic wine varieties, to a range of hand-crafted sparkling wines made in the French traditional method. With their cellar door awarded the ‘Best Cellar Door’ in the Lower Hunter Business Awards for five consecutive years, this is one not to miss!

De Bortoli

(Hop 2 – Lovedale and North Pokolbin Route)

The smell of roasted coffee, toffee, sweet raisins and a touch of lemon-peel bitterness will draw you in as you arrive at De Bortoli. These are the aromas of the award winning Black Noble. As the world’s only fortified wine made from the botrytis grape, this wine was the recipient of a gold medal in the highly respected ‘2019 Global Fortified Masters Blind Tasting Competition’.

Hungerford Hill

(Hop 3 – Central Pokolbin Route)

Grab your friends and indulge in Hungerford Hill’s boutique wine tasting experience. Tickle your tastebuds with award winning wine by treating yourself to a bottle of St Vernay Vineyard 2017 Shiraz, awarded 90 points and 4 stars by the ‘Gourmet Traveller WINE Expert Panel’! This light wine has the perfect balance of light peppery fruit, perfect for pairing with a meal from the acclaimed Muse Restaurant offering some of the finest dining in the area with its 2 Chef Hatted status.

Roche Estate; Tempus Two

(Hop 5 – Central Pokolbin Route)

Hop off at Roche Estate and try the Uno Series at the Tempus Two Cellar Door! Winning the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion Competition in 2016, the Uno Series represents the very best of Hunter Valley winemaking. Luxurious and elegant, this series comes as a classic medium to full bodied Shiraz. Its perfumed red-berry aroma will encapsulate you, while its long lingering finish will leave you wanting more. After wine-tasting, there is a range of award-winning cheese on offer at Smelly Cheese Shop next to the Tempus Two Cellar Door. Or you can head across the road to McGuigan Wines, who have won International Wine Maker of the Year a record four times! Also across the road is Brokenwood who won 2019 Cellar Door of the Year in the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Awards. This stop is a great place to plan for lunch with Oishii, The Wood Restaurant, and Goldfish restaurants all within reach.

Hart & Hunter

(Hop 13 – Central Pokolbin Route)

Boasting a 4.5-star rating from James Halliday, Hart & Hunter celebrates their 10-year anniversary in 2019. Their grapes are sourced from highly regarded Hunter growers and they have a strong emphasis on single vineyard wines and small batch processing. This approach has served them well with their wines winning a multitude of awards including the ‘Marshall-Flannery Trophy’, the ‘H.J. Lindeman Trophy’ and accolades from the ‘Hunter Valley Boutique Winemakers’ Show’ in the past.

Bimbadgen Estate

(Hop 14 – Central Pokolbin Route, Lovedale and North Pokolbin Route)

Relax and take in the views in the Courtyard Cafe while sipping on Bimbadgen Estate’s award winning 2017 Semillon. With a fragrant citrus blossom and lemongrass scent, mixed with a weighty lemon and lime fruit on the mid palate with a fine acid backbone, you’re sure to leave wanting more. This is a style of Semillon which has seen the Hunter region gain international recognition and popularity.

First Creek

(Hop 15 – Central Pokolbin Route)

With an esteemed win of the James Halliday 2018 Chardonnay Challenge – Best Hunter Valley Chardonnay, you mustn’t leave the estate without trying this Winemaker’s Reserve Collection. This collection encapsulates regional and vineyard provenance, winemaking skill and integrity, as well as the essence of the First Creek style resulting in exceptionally rare and special wines. Greg Silkman, owner of First Creek and highly regarded industry leader, won last year’s Hunter Valley Wine Legend Award if you needed any more proof that First Creek is a stop not to miss!

Hunter Valley Vineyards Restaurants

No matter whether you’re a dedicated foodie or just love getting away from it all and enjoying time with good friends, sharing great food and plenty of fun along the way, Hunter Valley vineyards and restaurants offer something very special.

Boasting world-renowned vineyards, award-winning restaurants, a smorgasbord of magnificent local produce and a host of things to see and do, a visit to the Hunter Valley’s vineyards and restaurants makes for a perfect getaway or a memorable event.

Here are some great fine food and wine tours and ideas to get you salivating.

Award winning dining

With the amazing bounty available for the glass and plate, it’s no wonder that the Hunter Valley is a magnet for some of the world’s top chefs and creative culinary talent.

Few regions have such an incredible variety of cuisines and diversity of dining options on offer, all easily accessible in this compact region. From the finest in French to indulgent Italian to innovative modern Australian and Asian cuisines, the Hunter Valley is a showcase of Australia’s multi-cultural culinary influences.

Some top suggestions for dining: EXP. Restaurant; Muse Restaurant and Muse Kitchen; Restaurant Cuvee; Emerson’s Café & Restaurant; Wandin Estate Restaurant; The Mill Restaurant; Villa Du Pays; Café Enzo; Goldfish Bar & Restaurant; Oishii; Tatler Tapas Café; Yellow Billy Restaurant; Esca Restaurant; Amanda’s on the Edge; Blaxland’s Inn and Hunters Quarter.
You’ll find a quick guide to the region’s top restaurants and other culinary attractions here.

Experience the Hunter’s best in relaxed comfort

iHop’s Progressive Dinner Tours are a comfortable and relaxed way to enjoy some of the Hunter Valley’s top dining experiences. These popular nighttime tours are an ideal way to combine sampling some of the region’s world-class wines (and cheeses) with dinner at one the region’s award-winning restaurants – not to mention enjoying the gorgeous vineyard outlook.

What’s more, with these all-inclusive tours, you also have the option of a private, behind-the-scenes tour of a working family vineyard, and work up an appetite as you learn the art of perfect wine and cheese pairing with an expert.

Degustation Hunter Valley – A showcase of the region’s best

If you’re looking for a true taste of the Hunter Valley, degustation and tasting menus are offered by many of the top restaurants in the region.

The highly acclaimed 2 chef hatted Muse Restaurant located at the Hungerford Hill Winery in Pokolbin is fine dining at its best. With a focus on contemporary Australian cuisine, the degustation and tasting menus offered by Muse is a showcase of the best seasonal Hunter Valley produce on offer, with carefully selected wine pairings by their in-house Sommelier is a culinary treat.

If you are looking for an intimate dining experience EXP. Restaurant is located at Oakvale Wines. Focusing on contemporary Australian cuisine, the restaurant’s tasting and a la carte menus are driven by the seasons and the region’s finest local produce, matched with award winning Oakvale and Hunter Valley wines.

Another popular option is Esca Bimbadgen which showcases Bimbadgen wines by matching them with simple, elegant food in a stunning setting. A pioneer of fine dining in the Hunter Valley, Esca Bimbadgen exemplifies the unique nature of a winery restaurant. The spectacular entrance suspended above the winery is second only to the view from your table.

iHop’s Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours are a flexible, convenient and relaxing way of visiting the region’s best restaurants for that perfect leisurely lunch in the heart of wine country. You’ll find Muse Restaurant at Hop 3, EXP. Restaurant at Hop 9 on the Central Pokolbin Route and Esca Bimbadgen features at Hop 14 on both the Central Pokolbin and Lovedale & North Pokolbin Routes.

Wine and Dine ideas for that special occasion in the Hunter Valley

If you’re looking for that lasting memorable birthday party, corporate function or anniversary celebration, Hunter Valley vineyards and restaurants offer some fantastic options.

A Hunter Valley wine, tasting and dining tour can turn any occasion into a truly memorable evening out or weekend away. The eating, drinking and entertainment options are many and varied, and you can tailor the event to suit your group’s interests and tastes.

Even better, with iHop’s wine and dining tours, there’s no designated driver required, so no fuss and no worries with driving. You know you’re in good hands, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy! Tours run both day and night.
Some suggestions to visit: Sabor Dessert Bar (pure indulgence); High Tea at Gemelli Estate; Adina Olive Grove; Ironbark Hill Brewhouse (handcrafted beers); Lovedale Smokehouse (smoked meats, produce and more); Harrigan’s Irish Pub; Hunter Valley Cheese Factory; Binnorie Dairy (artisan cheeses); Potter’s Brewery; Hunter Valley Distillery; Hunter Valley Smelly’s Cheese Shop and Pokolbin Chocolate & Jam Company.

Getting to the Hunter Valley

When to visit: The restaurants and wineries mentioned are open all year round. Booking ahead is recommended. iHop tours run 6 days a week and the twilight and nights tours run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Other nights available by arrangement. Check here for specific dates and times.

Travel options:Drive north from Sydney via the M1 motorway or board the Sydney to Hunter Valley train at Sydney’s Central Station. Trains depart regularly throughout the day. You can also fly to Newcastle from Sydney and most other Australian capital cities.

Distance and times: The Hunter Valley is around 160 kilometers from Sydney, via the most direct route north on the M1 motorway. Driving typically takes two-and-a-half hours and around a 50-minute drive from Newcastle.

Staying in the Hunter Valley: There are many accommodation options from budget to boutique 5-star winery stays available via online booking sites and travel agents. We recommend staying in Cessnock, Pokolbin, Lovedale and Rothbury areas.

Hunter Valley Cheese and Wine Tasting Tours

If there was ever a match made in heaven, it’s fine wine and matched cheeses. And on an iHop Hunter Valley cheese and wine tasting tour, you can indulge in the very best of both while enjoying the beautiful backdrop of the Hunter Valley vineyards – a region that many say is not far off heaven itself, but within easy reach of Sydney.

No matter whether you’re a committed gourmet wine and cheese lover, or you’re simply looking for a special weekend getaway, or a unique and memorable group activity, a Hunter Valley cheese and wine tour is literally a feast for the senses.    

A cheese lover’s paradise

When you think about the Hunter Valley, most people think of it as a wine destination, and rightly so. After all, it is recognised across the world as one of the great wine regions. But what you might not know is that the Hunter Valley is quickly becoming equally famous for its fine cheeses.

Given the wonderfully rich grazing land that has been producing top quality dairy produce for generations, it’s not surprising that the Hunter Valley has attracted the talents of leading cheese makers that now produce an extensive array of cheese styles with their own particular Hunter Valley personality. In much the same way that wine reflects the regionality of where it is made, so too with dairy produce and the cheeses that the region inspires.

So many Hunter Valley cheese shops

The Hunter Valley Cheese Co is just one of the standout cheese makers that is a perennial favourite on any Hunter Valley cheese tour. This boutique cheese factory with it’s own maturation and tasting rooms, offers a fascinating insight into the cheese making process using local dairy produce. After you’ve filled your mind with the help one of the company’s cheese specialists, fill your mouth with an extensive sampling selection of the company’s artisan handmade cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses, including fromage blanc, feta, brie, washed rind, natural rind, cheddar, tommes and blue vein styles.

Other popular options that are open to the public include Cheesemaker Simon Gough’s Binnorie Dairy that specialises in soft cheeses and the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop, which, for added decadence, is also home to the Hunter Valley Gelato Company.

The best of Hunter Valley wine and cheese in one

One of the best ways to experience the best cheese and wine the Hunter has to offer is by joining iHops Wine and Cheese Lovers’ Progressive Dinner Tours. The name pretty much says it all. But there’s more to it than simply tasting the best of the cheese makers’ art.

Typically lasting for about three-and-a-half hours, on these nighttime tours you’ll get the full Hunter Valley experience that combines sampling fine wines and cheeses and dinner at award-winning restaurants set amongst beautiful vineyard surrounds. You’ll also get an insight into the art of perfect cheese and wine pairing and a private look behind the scenes of a working family vineyard.

This is by no means the only option. In fact, you can enjoy local cheese plates and matched wines on iHop’s Taste ‘n’ Graze Tour and on iHop’s Hop-On Hop-Off Bus tours you will be able to visit and sample all of the Hunter’s best cheese offerings at cheese factories, shops and cellar doors.

If you’re looking for something different to the organised tours, or there are particular providers or sites you’d like your group to visit on a Hunter Valley cheese and wine tasting tour, the iHop team can help you put together a tour itinerary to suit your needs.

Getting to the Hunter Valley from Sydney

Given its proximity and easy transport connections to Sydney, the Hunter Valley is ideal for an overnight or weekend getaway.

Driving from Sydney, the distance to the Hunter Valley is around 160 kilometres, via the most direct route north on the M1 motorway. This will have you in the Hunter Valley in around two to two-and-a-half hours. Follow the Cessnock/Hunter Valley exit sign to Cessnock. That said, there are a variety of scenic coastal and country routes to enjoy that take a little longer.  

Catching to the train from Sydney’s Central Station is another easy and popular option. Trains to the Hunter Valley area leave regularly throughout the day. Google Transport NSW Trip Planner for details.

Flying to Newcastle from Sydney is another option. From Newcastle hire a car, or take a bus service to your destination.

iHop offers a range of tour pick-up points throughout the region, depending on the tour you choose. These will be listed along with the tour details.

Given the region’s popularity as a tourism destination, the accommodation options are wide and varied, from budget to boutique 5-star winery stays. Any good accommodation-booking website or travel agent will have a host of options to suit your budget.

Find out more about iHop’s Hunter Valley cheese and wine tour options here.

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