How to enjoy the Hunter Valley with kids

Yes, yes visiting a wine area with kids does not sound fun right but for many of us we cannot justify a trip to a wine region and leave the kids behind. My husband and I have travelled to the hunter for the weekend for a concert and what it cost us in babysitting fees for two days and one night was extraordinary. The concert wasn’t even that good! We would have been better off realising our room had plenty of room and liaising with the hotel to get a local babysitter in for a few hours.

Visiting a wine region

Wine regions are a lovely get away as they have the right mix of fresh country air but also tend to have many city favourites like coffee, great food and of course beautiful wines. Just because the kids are with you does not mean you are restricted to lower quality wines. Some of the stuffier places with hatted restaurants may of course not be for you on this trip, but there are plenty of options.

Firstly, I would like to point out that vineyards are often family owned and run. They are often third generation family run. They get family. What they often forget is to sell fabulous wines often their buyers will have kids in tow. To express all the characteristics of a wine they often try to create a sophisticated and elegant ambiance. Words that are not synonymous with children often.

Many wineries recognise that whilst they may not want to cater for kids all the time they do have customers who have kids. Often, they promote family days or picnic events that wrap family units in a big hug. You can look out for these events and plan your visit but often they will be a singular winery and not across the region.

My top tips
  • Plan your day to visit no more than 4-5 wineries.
  • Break up your day with a visit to something for the kids
  • Pack a bag of activities. NO screens. I pack UNO and charades. We can enjoy a much longer lunch if we give a bit and engage with our kids.

Here is my break down of the wineries in the Hunter and how to best enjoy them with the kids in tow.

Scarborough Wine Co

Scarborough Wine Co would be my number one pick to take the kids if visiting the Hunter with kids. I went to school with Sally and it is truly a family owned and managed business. As a family business, they would be doing a disservice to themselves if they were not making the experience appealing for the whole family.

The tasting room is within view of an outdoor chalkboard, chess board, giant jenga and quoits.

Kids are welcomed at the cellar door’s restaurant and provided with an activity pack to do at the table. It means you can enjoy the fabulous Chardonnay and your lunch.

Gemelli Estate

If you visit at the right time of year, the lovely courtyard is a riot of blossoms. There is a grassy area where kids can play bocce, totem tennis, and a cubby house for smaller children.

Audrey Wilkinson

Audrey Wilkinson was only 15 when he took over running his family’s vineyard, and at the age of 15 managed to produce some of the finest wines in Australia.  Despite this piece of history, the cellar door does not have open arms for children but there is room outside for the kids to run around.

Staying on site however would be the ultimate family getaway. The vineyard offers picnic baskets to have between the vines. I however, think book a cottage and order a picnic basket for the lawn in front of the cottage.

I would suggest the tempranillo, it’s a different grape and a new taste for many and I think you will enjoy this whilst enjoying a picnic as the kids run around.

Elbourne Wines

Each year around January/February (depending on the growing season), Elbourne Wines hold a picking “luncheon”, where family, friends & anyone else who happens to be nearby, are roped in to hand pick the fruit. The legend of the long lunch that follows continues to grow, making the picking seem easier and a great way to experience firsthand life in a vineyard.

Elbourne Wines, run regular events and conversations to include the whole family. As a further example, they held a guessing competition when one of their Wessex Saddleback sows “Pippa” was about to give birth to a little litter of piglets. With everyone at the vineyard being super excited with the anticipation of the new arrival/s, the vineyard ran a competition to see who can guess the number of piglets in the litter.

More than just a winery

Elbourne Wines is a true mix of the various family members passions and loves. The vineyard is also home to a small number of broodmares which we try to breed high quality racing stock from. The progeny is then sent to the sales, such as Magic Millions & Inglis, where we hopefully sell the yearlings. Should we be unable to sell a yearling, we then retain them to race – often with family & friends. Keeping with the vino theme, our racing silks (or ‘colours’) for Marrowbone Park Stud feature a large bunch on pink grapes on the front & back of the black silks!

This is a family business that recognises many passions and as such welcome all members to their vineyard. From bonfire nights, to long picking lunches this is a family affair. Aside from the horses, the rest of our menagerie of Wessex saddleback pigs, black Suffolk sheep, English springer spaniels, pheasants, guinea fowl, ducks and countless chooks keeps the winery busy on weekends and offers some of the freshest farm fare to go with our lovely wines. More than a winery this is a place where all the pets are part of the family. You will feel part of it too when you visit.

HUNGERFORD HILL WINES

For families you can relax and enjoy the ambience with a glass of award winning wine al fresco style. Take a seat in the sculpture courtyard or picnic on the lawn. They offer wine by the glass or bottle, along with a selection of cheese. The kids will enjoy running between the sculptures. No climbing I am afraid.

Visit Dalwood Estate (part of same family) on several weekends throughout the year they offer family themed promotions. For example, on one long weekend Saturday is the official Family fun day. Sunday is a time to relax let the kids jump on the jumping castle and race on the Mini Jeeps, whilst you enjoy some fabulous Dalwood Estate wine. Sounds perfect to me.

Hollydene Estate

This vineyard is an ideal setting with verandas and decks overlooking sweeping lawns. They have several options on their menu for kids but not very many activities other than the lawn. If you have city kids this may be all you need to entertain them is large sweeping spaces, then you are set for a lovely lunch. Pack a drawing book or game for them just to be safe.

Brokenwood Wines

Brokenwood is conveniently situated right next to Hunter Valley Gardens. They too offer a get your hand dirty luncheon where you can enjoy the picking. I would get hubby to drop you here while he heads over to the gardens with the kids. Having enjoyed your tasting head to Tempus Two, or walk to the gardens relieve hubby and send him off to Tempus Two. It’s a 8 minute walk from Brokenwood to the gardens.

Tempus Two Wines

Tempus Two would be my favourite Hunter Valley winery. Their wines are delicious (sorry wine snobs who expect greater vocab when describing wine, but they are delicious, why go further?) You will also find Tempus Two in the Barossa and Langhorne Creek. Make sure hubby brings you many gifts from the cellar door if you send him.

Krinklewood

When you scroll through the photos on the vineyard’s website there are pictures of children not only on their Taste of Italy days and over the Easter break but also whole families at their members lunches. They not only publish the fact they are a family vineyard but they live it. Too often I see wineries that state we are family run but do very little to make children welcome. Making children welcome goes far beyond activity packs and adding nuggets to your menu.

Krinklewood are a biodynamic vineyard and it seems they take this philosophy and adapt it throughout their lives. People who are true to their beliefs. Trust me a family visit here will be enjoyed by all.

 

AUSTRALIAN ARMY INFANTRY MUSEUM

Located in Singleton, the Museum’s collection ranges from the Australia’s pre-federation state colonial armies through to today’s twenty first century diggers.

Australian Infantry Soldier are displayed with actual weapons, uniforms, equipment, maps, medals, pictures, stories, personal letters and videos.

The weapon displays covers weapons as used by colonial soldiers in the 1800s, weapons as used during the ANZAC campaign, machine guns and a collection of pistols and sniper weapons.

I have boys so this appeals especially to me but I think all children would be interested as the museum is curated in a way that you can see a soldier with all their gear. It is very effective in making a visitor consider the hardship they must of faced.

CHAPMAN VALLEY HORSE RIDING

Depending on how old your children are then an hour or two horse riding may be a great family activity. They are located an hour form Singleton but just as a tip, Putty Road is the scenic drive back to Sydney.

 

HUNTER VALLEY GARDENS AQUA GOLF & PUTT PUTT

Break up the day with some action at putt putt golf. There is a lake full of floating targets and you can win prizes and vouchers to nearby restaurants.

Walking is good for everyone and walking in green spaces is not only a known reducer of stress but a great way to break up your wine tour and let the kids run a little. The gardens are beautiful and there is plenty to keep the kids busy and interested.

National Parks

Talking of wide open spaces and getting outside. A weekend is not a weekend without some time outside if you ask me. Plus bushwalks are a great way to listen to the kids whine about how much further and it’s so hot! Just joking, it could very well be like that but you will be outside enjoying the Australian Bush. Use the below links to investigate what facilities are available and pick a walk that suits your family unit. There are some pretty sights to see so do your research so you don’t miss out.

Mt Royal National Park

Wollemi National Park.

Watagans National Park

BALLOON ALOFT

In all honesty, I don’t think there could be a better thing to do in a wine region than ride a hot air balloon. I am petrified of heights but the magic of floating over the area at sunrise will grab you like nothing else. You might think it is a far better thing to do with hubby without the kids and I don’t disagree but hear me out. At Kids and Luggage, we are about creating family memories and I can guarantee you this will be one of them. I also think involving your kids in your romance helps them understand your love for one and other and how to be a romantic.

Children need to understand that your relationship requires nurturing and it is through investing into your relationship that the family unit can survive. It is not all about them and there are other needs. I use a piggy bank analogy and explain that when it is empty you may need to top it up from time to time to create a healthy account.

Going on a balloon flight is a wonderful way to involve the kids in a special treat and appreciate the world slowly. Must do in my book.

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