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Life

17 Must Do Hunter Valley Experiences

The Hunter Valley isn't just about cellar doors. Shonagh Walker uncovers a host of activities that may well see you extend your stay.

While it's widely known as the destination to uncover boutique cellar doors and world-famous wines, the Hunter Valley has another face that it's worked hard on showing to the world. From balloon rides to nature walks, festivals to art amongst the vines and even animal sanctuaries that will melt your heart, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to filling your itinerary on your weekend or family holiday. Here's a list of some of our getaway inspirations.

Be Cheesy

Cheese lovers should make a B-line for The Sebel Kirkton Park on Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18, which mark the annual Cheese Lovers Festival. Highlights include 50 exclusive stalls featuring cheese, beer, wine and assorted cheese-related food stalls, cooking with cheese workshops, beer and cheese workshops and cheese making classes. Preceding the official start of the festival is the Classic Cheese Dinner on Friday June 16.

cheeseloversfestival.com.au

Get Cooking

Millfield Hall Cooking School caters for corporate and private groups of eight to 20 people. All produce used is local and seasonal, with citrus and herbs grown in the Hall's garden and eggs coming straight from their own chook pen. Prices are usually around $145 per class, which includes a glass of wine, however, bespoke tutorials can include anything from roasting an entire beast and beer tasting, to matching courses with local wines, which might up the price a bit.

millfieldhall.com.au

Organic Fare

Run by partners Matty and Jimmy Kerr, Nanna Kerr's Kitchen is a mostly organic restaurant and is a huge favourite with locals and tourists alike. Famed for dishes taken from the Kerr matriarch's menu and its farm to table ethos, this restaurant also boasts a retail space where you can purchase the pickles, relishes and jams served on site. Don't miss the Dirty Chai Pannacotta, which was created to celebrate Nanna Kerr's recent 80th birthday.

nannakerrskitchen.com.au

Be Proud

You'll have a blast during the second annual Pokolbin Pride Festival, which this year again sees local businesses band together with wine tasting tours, live entertainment, fine dining and cocktail parties, community markets, guided bike riding winery tours and more. The festival runs from October 20-22.

pokolbinpride.com.au

A Day On The Green

Hit Bimbadgen for this not-to-be-missed event where you'll get your fix of local and international acts teamed with a great selection of wine. This year has already seen rock icons Blondie and Cyndi Lauper entertain, with more acts every summer. When major celebs aren't singing, you can enjoy Esca restaurant and sip a generous wine selection at the cellar door.

bimbadgen.com.au

Take To The Skies

If you fancy yourself a bit of a pilot, then Hunter Valley Joy Flights is for you. Located at Cessnock airport, the company offers Tiger Moth adventure flights where you man the cockpit and fly the plane solo once in the air (an experienced pilot is there to guide you at all times). A less adrenaline-inducing way to get elevated is by Hot Air Balloon. Hunter Valley Ballooning offers exclusive and group flights out of its Lovedale HQ every day and is a peaceful and unique way to take in the views of the region

huntervalleyjoyflights.com.au

Inspire Your Green Thumb

With over 60 acres of international display gardens, you can easily while away a day or two in the lush haven that is the Hunter Valley Gardens, situated conveniently in the Pokolbin region.

There's over eight kilometres of walking paths to explore, which reveal 10 individual feature gardens each with a unique theme. The Storybook Garden with its topiary animals including horses, teddy bears and ducks will delight kids of all ages. The Lakes Walk will take you past waterfalls, babbling brooks, Weeping Willows, a chapel and rotunda and stunning seasonal flora.

The Rose Garden features over 150 varieties of roses, with around 8000 fragrant and beautiful roses in bloom and the Formal Garden, a nod to French and British garden designs, will transfix you with its manicured hedges, evergreen magnolia and 3000 bushes of Rosa chameleon roses. Make sure you stop by the Wishing Fountain - all proceeds from your wish are donated to local charities.

A favourite of this scribe though, is the Italian Grotto, with its Statue of Saint Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment), its lush lavender hedges and incredible bougainvillea.

Winter marks the annual Snow Time festival (June 24 to July 16), with a giant ice-skating rink, mega ice toboggan and tubing. You can also build a snowman at in the man-made Snow Play Zone.

huntervalleygardens.com.au

The Block

Four luxury self-contained villas and a three bedroom guesthouse comprise the secluded but stunning accommodation and winery of Block 8. Soak up views of orchards, olive groves, grapevines, open fields and distant mountain ranges as you meet kangaroos and wallabies, sugar gliders, swans and goannas. You can even pat a couple of pigs and handfeed the ducks. Guests also receive bottles of the estate-grown single vineyard wines, generous breakfast hampers and home-baked treats for afternoon tea.

blockeight.com.au

Get Artsy

Sculptures in the Vineyards happens throughout November, stretching across Undercliff Winery and Gallery, Stonehurst Cedar Creek Wines, Wollombi Wines and Noyce Brothers Wine. Works are by renowned local and national artists, with an estimated 100 pieces planned for 2017.

sculptureinthevineyards.com.au

On Your Bike

As the original bike hire company in the region, Grapemobile Bicycle Hire and Tours really know their stuff.

Rent from the centrally located vineyard and hire shop in Pokolbin, where you can take a private off road self-guided tour amongst the vines, sampling wines from up to nine vineyards on the way (some even provide free delivery of your purchases to the bike's hire shop). You can also choose to have the Grapemobile bus pick you up and return you from your accommodation or meeting place.

All tours include mountain bikes, retro cruisers or tandems, helmets, sunscreen, bottled water, numbered VIP access pass, maps and tour options.

grapemobile.com.au

Organic Spa Experience

There's a plethora of day spas peppered around the Hunter. UBIKA spa at the Crowne Plaza in Lovedale is noteworthy, thanks to its alliance with certified organic skin care brand, Eminence Organics. Hailing from Hungary, this nurturing range relies on ingredients such as blueberries, Arctic berries, and pomegranate. Choose from an array of facials and body treatments including Vichy showers, wraps and exfoliation.

Other fantastic spa experiences include iconic Spa Elysia Golden Door, which has partnered with Certified Organic skin care range, Divine Woman and Chateau Elan at The Vintage, where you can enjoy a glass of bubbles in the outdoor Jacuzzi before or after your treatment.

crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au

goldendoor.com.auchateauelan.com.au

Luxe Getaway

Just Desserts

Sweet tooth? Book a table at Sabor. Famed for its Portuguese Chocolate Mousse made from owner Fernando's grandmother's recipe from 70 years ago, there are over 50 desserts on the menu and each can be paired beautifully with local wines. There are gluten-free options too, as well as Glinelli coffee and a selection of teas.

saborinthehunter.com.au

A Berry Nice Time

Few things taste as sweet as organic, bio-dynamically farmed blueberries, fresh from the bush. At Misty Valley Farm, you can pick your own punnet and enjoy the intense flavour straight away, or freeze your harvest for up to two years. Berry picking season is Dec/Jan, but at other times you can lap up the farm environment in the boutique accommodation, which sleeps up to four people and includes organic farm fresh eggs in the breakfast hamper.

mistyvalleyblueberries.com

Take A Stroll

If you're still feeling energetic and want (or need) to walk off a few calories, take one of several walking trails through Barrington Tops National Park. Choose from easy walks, overnight hikes, or simply enjoy a picnic by the stunning Barrington Tops Falls. Those after more action can 4WD.

nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/barrington-tops-national-park

See Pigs Fly

Where Pigs Fly is a registered charity and sanctuary located in the Lower Hunter region, dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and caring for farmed animals that have been treated cruelly, abused or neglected. With various open days and sanctuary tours (bookings essential) throughout the year, the team is committed to educating guests about the importance of treating all animals with compassion and respect. An open day will see you mingling with pigs, lambs, chickens and cows, living life as they should be - free range and organically.

wherepigsfly.org

Lush Lavender

Daniela Riccio bought Little Valley Lavender Farm five years ago and while she still grows over 100 lavender bushes, the farm is mostly an organic garlic producer, alpaca breeding base and fleece retailer, bee keeper and miniature cattle grazier. It's is also a part of the Department of Primary Industries' Visit My Farm program, whereby city slickers can spend a day learning about farm life.

littlevalleyfarm.com.au

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Check Out the Best Barossa Valley Wineries
Words by Ben Hallinan on 9 Mar 2017
There’s a fantastic range of Barossa wineries and cellar doors to visit just outside of Adelaide. And, to help plan your trip to this internationally renowned wine region we’ve selected a collection of wineries that provide the best cellar door experience plus we’ve included a handy interactive map down below . A trip to the Barossa allows you to visit two world class wine regions on the same day, the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley . The former is internationally renowned for it’s bold Shiraz, of which there is plenty on offer. The Eden Valley enjoys a cooler climate, higher elevation, and shallow rocky soils, resulting in exquisite Rieslings and vibrant more medium bodied Shiraz . Many wineries in the Barossa will source fruit from individual vineyards in each region depending on the style they are searching for. This ability to quite quickly move between the two areas allows for a unique comparison and understanding of the impact of climate and soil to the winemaking process. You can find out more about the regions in our Barossa Valley and Eden Valley region guides. The Best Barossa Valley and Eden Valley Cellar Doors Chateau Tanunda Established in 1890, the grand buildings and exquisite gardens of Chateau Tanunda are built on the site of the Barossa's earliest vines. Be sure to book for the Discover the Chateau tour, which departs daily at 11:30 am, unwind with a game of croquet on the lawn and enjoy a wine tasting in the grand barrel room. 9 Basedow Rd, Tanunda - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Chateau Tanunda website Elderton Wines Elderton’s cellar door is quintessential Barossa, with its stunning views, fantastic wines and warm welcome from their friendly staff. There is a stunning array of wines on offer for tasting, from their Nuriootpa, Craneford and Greenock vineyards. 3-5 Tanunda Rd, Nuriootpa - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 4 pm Mon-Fri 11 am to 4 pm Sat-Sun Visit the Elderton Wines website Pindarie Wines The old farm buildings that make up the Pindarie cellar door were hand restored over a period of 20 years by vigneron and winemaker couple Wendy Allan and Tony Brooks. This determination and eye to detail is present in their exquisite estate grown wines featuring Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and unique range of Mediterranean varietals such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. 946 Rosedale Rd, Gomersal - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 11 am to 4 pm Mon-Fri 11 am to 5 pm Sat-Sun Visit the Pindarie Wines Website Henschke Wines The intimate and charming cottage that serves as the Henschke cellar door showcases the sustained six-generation focus on producing internationally renowned wines that make the Henschke family famous. Drawing on select vineyards from the Eden, Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley regions, the Henschke cellar door is the perfect place to sample the unique effect of terroir in their premium single-vineyard wines. Selector caught up with Justine Henschke to talk Barossa food and wine in this interview 1428 Keyneton Rd, Keyneton - view on our Barossa winery map Open Mon – Fri 9 am to 4:30 pm Sat 9 am to 12 noon Visit the Henschke website Seppeltsfield Seppeltsfield is perhaps Australia’s most historic winery with a fascinating history forged in the pioneering vision of Joseph and Joanna Seppelt in 1851. This grand complex of heritage buildings is the perfect place to sample their unique 100-year-old fortified wines and to taste wine from the year of your birth. Seppeltsfield is a must for every Australian wine tragic or budding wine historian. 730 Seppeltsfield Rd, Barossa Valley - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10:30 am to 5 pm Visit the Seppeltsfield website Thorn-Clarke This relaxed Barossa cellar door is the perfect place to unwind during your visit to the region. Enjoy the locally sourced regional platter in the winery garden while sampling the fantastic Eden Valley whites or Barossa Valley reds on offer sourced from their four estate-owned vineyards. 226 Gawler Park Rd, Angaston - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon-Fri 11 am to 4 pm Sat-Sun Visit the Thorne-Clarke website Two Hands Wines This boutique Barossa Valley winery allows visitors to sample their range of innovative wines in an intimate and informative setting out on the tasting deck with views across Marananga. 273 Neldner Rd, Marananga - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Two Hands website Yalumba Established in 1849, Yalumba is one of Australia’s most iconic and important wine labels. The impressive wine room, built inside the original brandy store is the perfect place to sample the wide range of wines on offer from everyday table wines through to their exquisite reserve collections. 40 Eden Valley Rd, Angaston - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Yalumba website Grant Burge Nestled atop of a hill along Krondorf road, the Grant Burge cellar door enjoys exquisite views over the Barossa Valley floor in one direction and rollings lawns and manicured gardens in the other. With a fantastic range of world class Barossa shiraz to sample, spend the afternoon unwinding on the lawn with one of their highly regarded platters. Krondorf Rd, Tanunda - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Grant Burge website Interactive Barossa Winery Map Planning a trip to the Barossa? Download our interactive Barossa Valley winery map. To save on your browser or device click here For more information on visiting the Barossa be sure to visit the official Barossa website or stop by the Visitors Center in Tanunda when you're in the area. But, if you’d like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit – explore our wide selection of Barossa wines and find out more about the wineries listed in this guide in our Meet the Makers section. With our Wine Selectors Regional Releases , you'll experience a different wine region each release with all wines expertly selected by our Tasting Panel , plus you’ll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region. Visit our Regional Releases page to find out more!
Life
Foodie vs Wine-Lovers' guide to the Indian Pacific
Words by Meghan Londeragan @citizensoftheworld on 10 Apr 2017
The  Off Train Excursions of the Indian Pacific  will split your tastebuds on whether they’d prefer to gorge on rich chocolate fondant frogs, or while away the afternoon with a glass of  Barossa Shiraz . Life is full of decisions and, let’s be honest, if the hardest part of your day is deciding what type of gourmet treat to feast on, then it’s pretty clear you’re having a great holiday.  This is one of the ‘tough’ choices you’ll need to make onboard the  Indian Pacific . One of the great train journeys of the world, traversing Australia from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific (or vice versa), the Indian Pacific not only offers a unique travelling experience, but also myriad off-train excursions to delight  every gourmand and wine connoisseur. TIME FOR WINE
When touring the Barossa Valley with the  Indian Pacific , you’ll get the best of both the winemaking and natural wonders of this unique destination. Famous for its full-bodied wines, it’s a place where nourishing red soil meets lush green hillsides that softly roll on the horizon and it’s genuinely so beautiful you’ll feel like an afternoon spent staring upon its landscape is like refuelling the soul. Disembarking from the train at Two Wells, you’re transported by air-conditioned coach to the heart of the Barossa and the iconic Seppeltsfield winery, whose long, rising driveway lined with towering palm trees welcomes you to its illustrious cellars. Here you’ll be given a private tasting inside the 1900 Bottling Hall that housed the very first blends ever created by the Seppelt family and enjoy their famous wine and canapé tasting – think Grenache matched with soft cheese and onion jam, and  Vermentino  paired with sugar cured salmon with mustard dressing. Seppeltsfield is famed for having the longest continual vintages of Tawny Port dating back to 1878 and an absolute must is Seppeltsfield’s Taste Your Birth Year experience, an extra $60 per person, but so unique and so worth it. For the record, 1985 is an excellent drop. The  Indian Pacific  team firmly believe there’s always room for more, so when you feel you’ve had your fill of vintage Tawny, you’ll be whisked over to  Yalumba , Australia’s oldest family-owned winery. Enjoy an exclusive tasting of their award-winning wines at their cellar door before indulging in a three-course dinner of roasted lamb, summer vegetables and chocolate parfait, set inside a renovated concrete wine vat. CHOCOLATE OR CHEESE
The Adelaide Hills Off Train Excursion  leaves Adelaide by coach and winds through the picturesque churches and laneways of the city before climbing up to the forest surrounds. More specifically, to the historic town of Hahndorf, which is one of the oldest surviving German settlements in the country. Walking the tree-lined streets of this picturesque village is like being transported to a movie set where quaint cafés, bookstores and galleries are the star attractions. You’ll be guided to Chocolate @ No.5, a tiny house that holds a veritable treasure trove of sweet treats that you can taste almost completely at your leisure.  Owned by cocoa expert Alison Peck and chocolatier Sarina Waterman, these  two ladies seriously love their chocolate. They breathlessly riff on everything from single origin Venezuelan beans all the way to what drives a person to stir melted cocoa all day and night. We guarantee you’ll never look at a supermarket stocked block of chocolate again. If cheese is more your thing, you can opt to be taken down the road to Udder Delights, which is famous for its softer-than-soft goat’s cheese. Owner and cheesemaker Sheree Sullivan speaks with such reverence for the process that you’ll almost want to pack up your city life and start your own dairy farm.  The day closes with a stroll down the road to The Haus, a German-inspired restaurant where you’ll dine on all the bockwurst, bratwurst and cheese kranskys your stomach can handle, all matched with wines from the region. Safe to say that whether you’re a vino fan or a die-hard foodie, there’s something for you on the  Indian Pacific  – you just have to choose your side. It’s intense. It’s delicious. I wish you the best of luck. For more details on the  Indian Pacific and Off Train Experiences , visit the  Great Southern Rail website ,  request a brochure  or  sign up to All Aboard .
Life
For the love of Newcastle
Words by Mark Hughes on 16 Aug 2015
Most Selector readers would know that the magazine is produced in Newcastle and as editor I am often asked what is Newcastle like? Where do you go to eat and drink? I like to think of Newcastle as Australia’s best kept secret. Known as a steel city, it has long had a reputation as an industrial town with the smokestacks dominating the landscape. But over the last few decades Newcastle has undergone an amazing transformation. Once the biggest employer in the region, the BHP is gone and the blue collar mentality is changing to white or even t-shirt. The University of Newcastle is now the biggest employer, so in that respect Newcastle is a real college town. With that, there is plenty of creativity, a cheaper standard of living and a growing bohemian café and restaurant scene. It may surprise many that Newcastle is a city of natural beauty, bordered by spectacular (clean) beaches and a glorious working harbour. It is of course the gateway to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest and most visited wine region. Just to the south is Lake Macquarie, Australia’s largest salt-water lake offering a plethora of water-based activities from boating to fishing with cafes, restaurants and museums dotting its shores. To the north is glorious Port Stephens, world-renowned for its marine wildlife with whale watching a regular activity in its pristine waters. A time of change The inner city of Newcastle is also going through a real transformation. The main arteries, Hunter Street and Scott Street were once bustling ‘High Street’ style thoroughfares, with hoards of shoppers and business people crowding the sidewalks. But an earthquake in 1987 had an impact that lasted far more than its initial rumblings. Measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale, the tremors tragically claimed the lives of 13 Novocastrians and also caused wide-spread damage. Some buildings needed to be demolished, while a vast majority in the heart of the city were deemed unsafe for business. With an extensive wait for insurance and repair, a plethora of inner city businesses were forced to relocate. Many remerged in quickly growing suburban shopping malls and, as a result, the city of Newcastle became a virtual ghost town overnight. The city’s recovery was initially hindered by Sydney hosting the 2000 Olympics. Money potentially earmarked to revive Newcastle was funnelled into hastily preparing the state’s capital for the world biggest sporting event.
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