Until we’d struck up a conversation with a group of cyclists in Newcastle, we’d never heard of the Hunter Valley. But, at the recommendation of some soon-to-be-retirees, we altered our plans. Instead of heading directly north along the coast, we headed inland towards Cessnock and the Hunter Valley, a scenic and popular wine making region of Australia. This ride is perfect for a 3 or 4 day cycle tour with plenty of scenery, wine tasting stops, and gourmet restaurants. There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts and unique accommodations located on vineyards, but our budget directed us to a caravan park in Cessnock.
Day 1 – Newcastle to Cessnock – 69 km. We took a very circuitous route from New Castle to Cessnock avoiding all highways and major roads.
We climbed and descended many hills. (992 meters ascended) but were rewarded with bucolic pastoral scenes.
After pitching our tent at the Big 4 Campground, we had just enough daylight to cycle the 1.5 km to the Sadler Winery where we tasted some delicious wines and brought a bottle home for dinner.
Day 2 – Loop around Hunter Valley – 50 km. We loaded our bikes with the intention of cycling through Hunter Valley and on to Nelson Bay. Little did we know that the lure of the tasting rooms, the pleasure of a gourmet lunch, and an afternoon beer tasting would compel us to change our plans.
As a matter of fact, when Eric first broached the idea of actually “tasting” wine at 10:30 am, I was less than supportive.
Eric: I’ve been thinking….since we’ve come all this way, why don’t we stop and taste some wine.
Me: I’m NOT going to drink wine at 10:30 in the morning. That will ruin me for the day. You go ahead.
Eric: Forget it. It was a bad idea.
I was feeling pretty guilty as we cycled another kilometer down the road. I pulled up in front of a tiny winery.
Me: Sorry. I just shot down your idea. You’re right. We’re here. Let’s taste some wine.
Eric: Not here. I was thinking of a bigger name winery. One that might actually sell wine in a store. You know..So we could learn something.
We cycled a few more kilometers. Just ahead was Lindeman. I’d remembered that label from the “three bottles for 99 ringits” (about $30) at Aeon in Lumut, Malaysia. I’d also remembered not liking it very much. So I was curious to see if the wine from the source was better.
Me: How about Lindeman?
Eric: Looks great.
We walked inside and had a wonderful tasting experience. (Eric had ANOTHER good idea!) We’d learned that Lindeman is probably the 2nd largest exporter of wine in Australia. It’s been around since the late 1800s. (I had no idea). And the wines we sampled were delicious.
Thank goodness we stopped as we have a much better appreciation for Lindeman.
Our next destination a recommended restaurant called Leaves and Fishes. By the time we finally arrived we were more than starving, Unfortunately, the restaurant was NOT open on Tuesdays. Luckily, the Deck Cafe’ located nearby was a delicious alternative in a beautiful, outdoor setting.
To cap off a really great day, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Blue Thai located adjacent to the Big 4 campground. The restaurant came highly recommended by the hostess at the Sadler Winery and we agree it was some of the best Thai food we’ve eaten since Thailand.
Day 3 – Cessnock to East Maitland (34 km) – We awoke to a the sounds of at least three different species of songbirds beginning just before sunrise. The birds in Australia have surprised and delighted me with their beautiful, loud sounds.
After breakfast we took the Old Maitland Road towards Maitland. I was a bit disappointed with this trail due to the amount of trash and broken bottles lining both sides of the road.
A good potion of the road is unpaved and potholed making it unsuitable for road bikes.
Rain starting around 11:00 am made us stop in a cafe in Maitland. As the rain did not let up we decided to call it a day and spend the afternoon relaxing at the Molly Morgan Motor Inn making tentative plans for the next several months of our cycle.
In spite of today’s rain, this brief detour to the Hunter Valley has been a very enjoyable part of our tour in Australia.