Located about two hours north of Sydney, Australia, the Hunter Region of NSW makes for an incredible escape from the big city.
The area is home to some of the best and oldest vineyards in New South Wales, with the earliest wineries in the Hunter Valley region dating back to the early 19th century.
The towns around the Hunter Valley also boast more than their fair share of foodie-friendly restaurants, upscale boutique hotels, day spas, local markets, and breathtaking scenic views.
But the most impressive aspect of this part of New South Wales is its abundant natural areas, including Mt. Royal, Barrington Tops, Lake Macquarie, Lake St. Clair, and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Read on for our guide to 7 Fun Things to Do in the Hunter Region NSW, including the WUPA Aboriginal Art Trail, hot air balloon rides, Hunter Valley wineries, exploring 6 Australian National Parks, and much more.
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Aboriginal art is an evocative form of storytelling used to chronicle the beliefs, events, and knowledge of the land of Australia’s indigenous people.
The 3 most common styles include dot painting, abstract painting, and sand or rock engraving. But it can also include ceremonial clothing, sculpting, or wood/rock carving, and each region of Australia has its own unique style.
Running from December 1 to May 31, the annual WUPA Aboriginal Art Trail is a free, self-guided tour that allows visitors to explore the Aboriginal history and culture of the Hunter Region.
Produced by the non-profit Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation, the trail includes Hunter Valley Resort, Drayton’s Family Wines, the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley (Lovedale), and Mecure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens.
You can also view (and purchase!) incredible Aboriginal art at the Hunter Valley Visitor Information Centre, or via the event’s official online gallery.
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Even if the only thing you know about the Hunter Region of New South Wales is that there are a plethora of Hunter Valley wineries worth visiting, you can probably guess that the area is ridiculously scenic.
With mountains to the north and south, and the Hunter River cutting through the region’s rolling hills, the 8,762-square-mile wine region is perfectly picturesque.
Hunter Valley hot air balloon tours offer exquisite bird’s-eye-views of the lush, fertile landscape.
Companies such as Hunter Valley Ballooning, Balloon Aloft, and Beyond Ballooning offer an array of options to choose from, including sunrise tours that may offer a chance to see kangaroos from above!
If you get a chance to visit Hunter Region in October, don’t miss the Hunter Valley Balloon Fiesta, which finds dozens of colorful hot air balloons gliding gracefully across the New South Wales countryside.
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The Hunter Valley region is one of the oldest Australian wine regions. In fact, there have been vineyards in the Hunter region since the early 19th century.
The popularity of Hunter Valley winery tours from Sydney contributed to the city’s rise as a world-class tourist destination, and the region still accounts for 3% of Australia’s total wine production.
Hunter Valley wine tours are a great way to explore the many Hunter Valley wineries, learn more about the region’s unique terroir, and see the winemaking process from vineyard to bottle.
Companies like Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours (a 2022 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice) offer myriad shared and private tour options for groups ranging from 2 to 27 people.
Each tour visits 3 cellar doors for wine tastings, with different vineyards each time. Popular favorites include Hunter Valley wine list-toppers such as Ernest Hill Wines, Gartelmann Wines, Harkham Wines, and McLeish Estate Wines.
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Steam trains were vital to the settlement of Australia, and the New South Wales Government Railways in Sydney oversaw all rail transport in the region from 1855 to 1932.
There are numerous attractions in Sydney and nearby towns devoted to this aspect of New South Wales’ history.
They include the Sydney Live Steam Locomotive Society, the Illawarra Light Railway Museum Society, the NSW Rail Museum, and the Zig Zag Railway.
But if you’re really into trains, visit during the Hunter Valley Steamfest. Held over two days in April, this annual festival features steam trains from the South Maitland Railway and other railroads around New South Wales.
You can also ride the Picnic Train from Maitland to Broadmeadow or Port Waratah and back, with steam locomotives R766 and 5917 taking passengers through the scenic Hunter Valley.
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Located in the Hunter region around 90 minutes north of Sydney, Lake Macquarie is the largest coastal saltwater lake in the entire Southern Hemisphere.
It’s approximately four times as large as the Sydney Harbour, encompassing around 46 square miles (15 miles long, and two miles at its widest point), with 108 miles of coastline bays and beaches.
Historically inhabited by the Aboriginal people of the Awabakal nation, the lake features numerous natural attractions, including Butterfly Cave, Glenrock State Reserve, and Pulbah Island Nature Reserve.
The lake’s southern eucalypt forests were named an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, as they support lots of endangered Swift Parrots and Regent Honeyeaters. Masked Owls and Ospreys also nest in the area.
Other recreational activities on the lake include boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming, and water skiing. Sailing and yacht racing are also popular, with the lake boasting 10 different yacht club.
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With a population of around 390,000 people, the harbor town of Newcastle is the second most populous city in New South Wales. Walking Bathers Way ranks among the most popular things to do in Newcastle.
This area is steeped in history, from the Aboriginal settlements of the Awabakal and Worimi peoples to the founding of New South Wales as a penal colony in 1788 and the arrival of 160,000+ convicts from the UK.
The coastal walk stretches just over 3.7 miles, from Merewether Baths in the south to Nobbys Beach in the north, passing hotspots such as Bar Beach, Dixon Park Beach, and King Edward Park.
What makes this stroll special is the spectacular views along the way, from the jaw-dropping coastal scenery from atop Strzelecki Lookout to the famous beach leading up to the photogenic Nobbys Lighthouse.
There are lots of beach kiosks, cafes, and parking available along the way. And don’t miss the Newcastle Memorial Walk, which offers 360º views of the area’s coastline and a possibility of spotting whales!
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There are a whopping 500+ Australian National Parks that span over 28 million hectares (nearly 4% of the country). Queensland has the most at 237, but New South Wales offers 235 national parks for visitors to explore.
Six of those are in the Hunter Valley region, including Barrington Tops National Park, Mt. Royal National Park, Watagans National Park, Werakata National Park, Wollemi National Park, and Yengo National Park.
The UNESCO-listed Mt. Royal and Barrington Tops (home to Gondwana Rainforests) are side by side near Lake St Clair. The area offers exceptional fishing, hiking trails, camping spots, and lots of other outdoor recreation.
Part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Wollemi is the second-largest of the NSW national parks. It’s popular among kayakers and experienced bushwalkers, with hundreds of challenging hikes.
Yengo National Park encompasses nearly 600 square miles of UNESCO-protected wilderness, offering travelers a chance to visit ancient Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. –by Bret Love; lead image via Canva
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