DAYDREAMING of relaxing away from the hustle and bustle with a wine in the vineyards?
The Hunter Valley has you covered. Only two hours north of Sydney, the region is rich with food and wine experiences.
Pokolbin is a perfect base for your visit, close to the wineries, cellar doors and boutique food sellers in Broke, Lovedale and Rothbury. It's also a great spot for a kangaroo-spotting adventure on a Segway Tour with Hunter Valley Resort. You'll ride at your own pace through the bushland property along an old 1880s stock route through the McGuigan Wines vineyard. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including kangaroos, wombats and the occasional fox as you take in the views of the Broken Back Range.
Early bird? You can enjoy a stunning start to your day with a sky-high adventure on a hot air balloon ride followed by a champagne breakfast. You'll see the valley from an entirely new light as the sun breaks over the vineyards, olive groves and countryside dotted with wildlife.
Get in touch with your wild side at Hunter Valley Zoo. As well spotting some native wildlife such as dingoes, wombats, wallabies, koalas and quokkas, you'll also have the chance to see lions, cheetahs, meerkats and alligators. The zoo offers personal encounters with some of their animals so you can get up close with lemurs, marmosets and binturongs - the little creatures famous for producing (via digestion) the world's best coffee Kopi Luwak.
The Hunter Valley region is full of captivating local history. Learn about the crimes of convicted drug trafficker Arthur "Neddy" Smith and the infamous Ivan Milat at a tour of Maitland Gaol, where these two men joined other inmates during its 150 year operation. The gaol runs a number of tours including a warder guided tour, an overnight "lock and key" experience and, for the truly brave, a guided ghost tour with paranormal investigators.
More interested in colonial history? Morpeth has a much more relaxed feel. A bustling port in colonial times, Morpeth is a historic town on the banks of the Hunter River. Here you can browse boutique shops in heritage 19th-century buildings, including the bakehouse where the Arnott's family biscuit dynasty began, as well as enjoy a Devonshire Tea and other foodie delights at the cute cafes and artisan food stores along the high street.