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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.

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.

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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The Best Margaret River Wineries and Cellar Doors
Celebrated British wine critic, Jancis Robinson once remarked that " Margaret River  is the closest thing to paradise of any wine region I have visited in my extensive search for knowledge." Not only does it combine all the best qualities for viticulture and produce sublime  Chardonnay  and  Cabernet Sauvignon , but it's also downright beautiful! To help plan your trip to this internationally renowned wine region, we've selected a collection of Margaret River wineries that provide the best cellar door experience, plus we've included a handy interactive map down below. Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist, winemaker, and wine show judge,  Dave Mavor , is certainly a fan of the region, "Margaret River blows me away every time with the incredible quality of its wines."  "One of the reasons for its success is the Mediterranean-style climate, which means it doesn't experience extremes in summer and winter, ensuring superb growing conditions. With the addition of thorough viticulture and winemaking practices, you have what it takes to produce consistently high-quality fruit, resulting in many award-winning wines," Dave explains. Margaret River Wineries List Arima
Located down a dirt road in the northwest of Margaret River's famed Wilyabrup sub-region, Arimia is home to a small organically farmed vineyard, kitchen garden, and a cellar door restaurant. There's a great range of wines available on their tasting menu that encompass both Margaret River classics and emerging alternative styles to enjoy while you learn more about organic farming and winemaking practices. The excellent restaurant has a fantastic menu with ingredients sourced and produced on the property for a complete estate experience. 242 Quininup Road, Yallingup -  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm www.arimia.com.au Swings & Roundabouts Cellar Door and Taphouse
Swings & Roundabouts is arguably the hippest winery in W.A. with a great restaurant, blaring music, cosy open fires, and an expansive lawn to spend an afternoon in the Sun. The wood fired pizza and rustic Mediterranean-inspired restaurant menu matches perfectly with the excellent range of wines available to sample. And, if you're based in the township of Margaret River during your stay, then make sure you also visit the Swings & Roundabouts Taphouse. This funky restaurant and bar is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day visiting the Margaret River wineries with a spectacular range of wines available to sample on tap. Yes, you read that correctly. You can learn more about some of the  benefits of keg wine here  . 2807 Caves Rd, Yallingup -  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Tap House 85 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River Open Daily 12 pm to late Visit the Swings & Roundabouts website Hay Shed Hill
Located in the picturesque Willyabrup Valley, Hay Shed Hill produces single vineyard wines that express the character of this outstanding Margaret River site. There are over 25 wines available to sample, from classic Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay through to emerging alternate varieties such as Malbec and  Tempranillo   - all are perfectly matched to the Mediterranean tapas available in the Rustico at Hay Shed Hill restaurant. And, if you're a cheese lover then you're in luck, as Rustico have what might be the largest selection of European cheeses in the South West! 511 Harmans Mill Rd, Wilyabrup  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Hay Shed Hill website Howard Park
Less than five minutes drive from Margaret River's famous beaches, the Howard Park cellar is the perfect place to unwind after an early morning surf or swim. This striking modern cellar door is set on 138 hectares of native bushland, surrounded by the region's iconic marri and karri trees and spacious lawns where you are able to borrow a blanket or bocce set and enjoy a glass or bottle of wine under the West Australian sun. You'll have the unique opportunity to sample and compare wines from both Margaret River and  Great Southern  wine regions, with excellent wines featuring grapes sourced from Howard Park's four individual estate vineyards. 543 Miamup Rd, Cowaramup  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Howard Park website Killerby Wines
Nestled on the ridge of Yallingup and only 10 minutes from Dunsborough, the Killerby Wines cellar door is home to picturesque views over the Wildwood Valley on Caves Road. A visit here will allow you the chance to immerse yourself in the history of the family in the region over the past 90 years and an opportunity to taste the premium range of award winning wines. With sweeping views across the vineyards and Wildwood Valley, the Tuscan style Cellar door and terrace is the perfect setting to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy our wines on the large lawn area. 2715 Caves Rd, Wilyabrup -  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Killerby website Hamelin Bay Wines
Nestled on a hilltop amongst a beautiful vineyard with views over an idyllic lake, sits the Hamelin Bay winery and cellar door. Hamelin Bay 's wines are estate grown and, with 11 Royal Show Trophies and medals too numerous to count, they have built a reputation for producing wines of distinction. Sample their spectacular wines accompanied by a platter of local produce, while you relax outdoors on the verandah. McDonald Rd, Karridale -  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 4:45 pm Visit the Hamelin Bay website Redgate Wines
Bill Ullinger, an ex-Lancaster Bomber pilot, established Redgate in 1977. As for the name Redgate, in keeping with Bill's character, there was once a property close by that had a reputation for producing very good moonshine. In recognition of the service that this farmer offered the community, Bill named his property and wines after the infamous red gate at the entry of that property. This picturesque cellar door is the perfect place to sample the exquisite (and highly awarded) Cabernet Sauvignon and oaked Chardonnay. 659 Boodjidup Rd, Margaret River -  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 4:30 pm Visit the Redgate Wines website Credaro
Cesar Credaro's first foray into winemaking was to provide wines for the family table and those of his friends family's after arriving in Margaret River in 1922. 90 years later, Cesar's legacy of sharing excellent wines with friends and family, lives on at the charming Credaro Family Estate . With sweeping views across the vineyards and Wildwood Valley, this Tuscan style cellar door and terrace is the perfect setting to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy our wines on the large lawn area. 2715 Caves Rd, Yallingup -  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10:30 am to 5 pm Visit the Credaro website Vasse Felix
When Dr. Tom Cullity planted the first Cabernet vines in 1967 at Vasse Felix, Margaret River arguably got its start as a premium wine region. Today, this extraordinary estate and architectural marvel of a winery is a must visit during any trip to the region. With a famed restaurant, cellar door, wine lounge and a gallery brimming with one of the nation's largest private art collections, Vasse Felix is a destination in and of itself. Make sure to book one of the behind the scenes winery tours, that operate during the week, to learn more about how premium Australian wines are crafted. 2715 Caves Rd, Yallingup -  View on our Margaret River Map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the V asse Felix website Margaret River Winery Map Planning a trip to Margaret River? Download our interactive Margaret River winery map. To save on your browser or device,  click here. For more information on visiting Margaret River, be sure to visit the official  Margaret River region website  or stop by the Margaret River Information Centre in the centre of town. But, if you'd like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our wide selection of Margaret River wines and find out more about the wineries listed here in our  Meet the Makers section  . And, with the Wine Selectors Regional Release program   , 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  Regular Deliveries  page to find out more!
Life
Cellar Doors Italian style
Words by Alessandro Ragazzo on 20 Aug 2015
Like most producers in the world, Italian wineries are constantly looking at making better quality wine. In Italy in recent times, this search has become a study of the ‘fashion of form’ – uncovering the intricate concept of structure of wine to help conceive that perfect drop. This thinking has also extended to ‘Turismo Enogastronomico’ (food and wine tourism) with spectacular results. Old estates have been transformed by a collection of famous Italian architects, so that the cellar door and winery has become as much the centre of attraction as the wine. It is a union between tradition and modernity, a road map that directs guests and the curious to an unexpected and beguiling journey. These new concept wineries have been designed by architects and engineers in conjunction with Italy’s most famous contemporary sculptors, and using biodynamic principles so their designs are at one with their environment. Gone are the boring rusty tinned walls of decaying estates, ushering in is a new era of engineering that utilises the natural shape of the landscape as the centre of attraction. Buildings don’t just go up, they also flow out, around and even down inside the earth. Natural inspirations The choice of materials, most of the made from recycled or sustainable products, and the sensitivity for the surroundings have been critical elements in this architectural revolution. The most precious inspiration for Arnaldo Pomodoro, one of Italy’s greatest contemporary sculptors and designers, was a turtle, a symbol of longevity and stability. In this case, the shell of the turtle became the domed copper roof of the Tenuta Coltibuono di Bevagna , a winery in Umbria. Pomodoro had produced many sculptures in his time, but this was the first for the wine industry and the success of the project reverberated on an international scale and set the tone for the design wave to come in the Italian wine industry. Other wineries followed suit, embracing the art of the concept and seeing it as a way to reinvigorate tourism to the wine regions. Designers and architects Paolo Dellapiana and Francesco Bermond des Ambrois collaborated to conceptualise the Cascina Adelaide di Barolo in Cuneo, Piemonte. This amazing structure has been built into the hills, and from a distance it almost disappears into the countryside, perfectly camouflaged with the rest of the habitat – almost like a Hobbit house full of wine, if you will. Structure and form While many of the structures are dazzling from the outside, just as much thought and design has been applied to the internal workings. Everything from barrel halls to crushing rooms have transformed wineries’ inner workings into virtual exhibition halls. The new Antinori Cellar Door in the Chianti Classico area near Florence is a perfect example. Designed by Mario Casamonti it is a truly unique structure. With a surface area of 24,000m2, it took eight years to construct, with an investment of 40 million Euro. The structure is developed horizontally rather than vertically, with the winery hidden in the earth. The production facilities and storage are spread across three stunning levels. And the interior design is simply breathtaking with terracotta vaults to ensure perfect temperature and humidity levels.   The new world order Where Italy once had wineries they now have monuments. And while there are still plenty of the old style ‘casale’ with moulded walls and giant dirty barrels, the way forward is for large, clean, bright and spacious structures with areas dedicated to each individual phase of wine production.   This concept of wine and design seems to be resonating around the globe with architects working on amazing structures   from California to Chile, from Spain to France, from Alto Adige to Sicily, and even right here in Australia – think Chester Osborn’s big Rubik’s Cube plans for d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale. The future is now and it is an exciting time for those who appreciate design in architecture and in their wine glass.
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Dubai | Utopia
Words by Mark Hughes on 12 Jan 2015
In the history of civilisation, it is fair to say there has never been as much economic and structural growth as has occurred in the United Arab Emirates in the past 40-odd years. From virtual villages, Emirs such as Abu Dhabi, and in particular, Dubai, have become the new business centres of the world, the must visit stop-over destination for global travellers and with that, a new mecca for food. Just a century ago, Dubai was a small community of a few thousand, who survived by fishing and pearling Dubai Creek, a 14 kilometre inlet of the Arabian Sea. The discovery of oil in the region in the 1960s saw unprecedented wealth f lood the seven emirs of the UAE. But it has been how these finances have been spent that has set the Emirates apart and facilitated its amazing transformation. It was the foresight of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai from 1958 until his death in 1990, to develop the region’s economy to prosper once the oil has dried up. The Dubai of today is testimony to the fact his vision has been realised. These days oil production accounts for just six per cent of GDP, with business, trade and tourism raking in over half the Emirates income. One of the biggest incentives for business is its centre point in world trade, between east and west, north and south, and for the businessman looking to make a fortune, the fact that there is no income tax, is a massive lure. Quite simply, what you earn is what you get! And with many companies providing accommodation and expenses, you can see why Dubai has such a large ex-pat community. City of Ests Dubai is the city of ‘ests’ – the bigg-est such as the massive Dubai Mall, the tall-est – Burj Khalifa, at 830 metres the world’s tallest man-made structure, and whose viewing platform on 124th f loor is the highest anywhere, and a must-visit in this city of stunning architecture. While Dubai sits on the edge of the mystical Arabian Desert, it has been transformed into an oasis with meticulously maintained luscious parks and gardens throughout the city. Ninety-three percent of the water is from massive desalination plants, irrigation is recycled sewerage. The city is fastidiously clean and organised with a modern railway system, cheap and reliable taxis, whose drivers all speak English and, most noticeable of all, it is extremely safe. Due to the fact there are severe punishments for breaking the law, crime rates are low (less than 1%). In fact, Interpol has rated Dubai as the safest city in the world for the past decade. All this means it is ideal for the discerning tourist.
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