The region is known for its wine but there are also loads of fun things to do in the Hunter Valley with Kids. We explore them all here.
The Hunter Valley wine region is just a two-hour drive from Sydney, making it a popular weekend getaway for wine buffs, golfers, families and anyone looking to escape the city for a few days.
Know for its Shiraz and Semillon, the Hunter Valley region is the oldest wine region in Australia and is home to more than 150 wineries. But it is also a great place to head to for a family holiday.
We love heading to the Hunter Valley as a family and as it is just on our doorstep, we have had plenty of time to check out all the best things for families to do here. We share them all with you below.
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Hunter Valley Gardens
Spread over 14 hectares, the beautiful Hunter Valley Gardens is one of the most popular Hunter Valley attractions.
Over 8 kilometres of walking paths wind through the ten individually designed themed gardens, with waterfalls, statues, murals and topiary displays to admire along the way.
The themed gardens include the Chinese garden, Indian garden, Rose garden and the Italian grotto. The Storybook Garden is a favourite with the kids, with its larger than life nursery rhyme characters and fun photo opportunities.
The gardens are open throughout the year but keep a look out for the signature events. The Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights Spectacular is a popular time to visit when the whole gardens glistens with impressive lighting displays.
Other events to keep an eye out for include:
- Mega Creatures (Mar-Apr)
- Easter Hunt (Easter)
- Snow Time in the Gardens (June-July)
- Christmas Lights Spectacular (Nov-Jan)
During school holidays there’s even more fun to be had, when the carnival rides are open. Kids will love riding the swing chair, carousel, ferris wheel, super slide and tea cups.
Child Friendly Cellar Doors
Of course you’re in the wine country and so you can’t visit Hunter Valley without checking out the amazing array of wineries and tasting some of the famous wines from the region.
We have never let having young kids get in the way of a good wine tasting and luckily there are plenty of family friendly vineyards in the Hunter Valley to explore.
Most have outdoor gardens with space to run around, there is often a friendly wine dog to play with and many also offer outdoor garden games and/or colouring and toys in the tasting room.
[2021 update: due to social distancing restrictions some wineries require bookings for tastings. Check their websites or phone ahead before you go.]
Some of our favourite kid friendly wineries are listed below. Check out our full guide to the best kid friendly Hunter Valley wineries here.
- Tulloch Wines: Indoor and outdoor games for the kids include giant jenga and connect 4. Cheese and charcuterie platters are available and there is a small café with sandwiches, cakes and treats. Tulloch also offer a junior tasting experience, pairing non-alcoholic drinks with snacks.
- Elbourne Wines: Tastings are by appointment only but it is worth making a booking. Kids can play in the playground and sand pit, jump on the trampoline and meet the resident farm animals.
- Scarborough Wines: There are two cellar door locations – at Gillards Road and Hermitage Road. Both are family friendly, but our pick would be Gillards Rd for its sprawling lawn and giant chalkboard. Both locations offer games, hula hoops and skipping ropes.
- Bimbadgen Estate: one of our top picks for fine dining with kids in Hunter Valley. A kids menu is on offer and kids can run around on the grass below or play soccer while the parents make their way through their degustation menu. Too much? The downstairs courtyard has a more relaxed vibe and wood fired pizza oven.
- Misty Glen Wines: Bring the kids (and dogs are welcome too) and enjoy a game of croquet or boules out on the large garden. The ‘kidzone’ within the tasting room has toys, games, playdoh and colouring on offer and the resident winery dogs are always up for a game of fetch. Picnics can be ordered, including kids picnics.
Hunter Valley Zoo
Located just outside Cessnock, the Hunter Valley Zoo is a perennial favourite with families. Interactive animal experiences, daily shows, plus onsite BBQ facilities and picnic areas all make for a fun and relaxed family day out.
Animal encounters include the opportunity to meet lemurs, meerkats, binturongs, monkeys and more. And kids can learn more about the koalas, lions, meerkats and spider monkeys in the informative keeper talks.
* Note that age restrictions apply for the animal encounters, so check the website before you go to avoid disappointment.
There is plenty of free parking here and lots of space to enjoy a leisurely picnic, or take advantage of the free BBQ facilities. For those who don’t have time to pack a picnic, sandwiches and snacks are also available from the kiosk.
Note that the zoo is closed on Wednesdays, except during school holidays.
Hunter Valley Chocolate Company
The Hunter Valley Chocolate Company is where to head to to reward the kids for their patience touring the wineries (or alternatively to use as a bribe for them to be patient!)
Watch the chocolatier at work though the viewing window and feast your eyes (and tastebuds) on the large variety of handmade chocolates, fudge and gelato in the chocolate shop.
There is also an onsite café, the Twenty-3-Twenty, that serves up coffees, hot chocolates, cakes and treats.
Hunter Valley Horse Riding
There are loads of fun activities for both young children and older kids at Hunter Valley Horse Riding and Adventures.
Everything is on offer, from 10-minute pony rides up to a 2-hour or half day trail rides, including picnic rides, sunset rides and more.
If you prefer something faster paced, there are also ATV tours here, while little kids might like to jump aboard a tractor to go feed the farm animals. They also offer peddle go karts and even night wildlife tours.
The Adventure Centre at Hunter Valley Resort also offer horse riding adventures for the family. These include 10-minute pony rides and 30-minute to 2 hour trail rides. A 30-minute family ride is also available.
Hunter Valley Aqua Golf and Putt Putt
Located right next door to the Hunter Valley Gardens, Aqua Golf and Putt Putt is great fun for the whole family… and you might even go home with a prize!
Practice your golf swing aiming for floating targets in the lake. Hit the target to win a prize – the smaller the target, the bigger the prize. You could go home with a voucher for a local restaurant or cellar door, hot air balloon ride, bus tour or even a cash jackpot.
Younger kids will love the putt putt mini golf course that winds its way through the Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village. No experience necessary!
And at just $12 per person for a bucket of balls and 18-holes of putt putt, it’s probably the most cost effective way to have fun in the Hunter Valley!
Hunter Valley Ballooning
Floating gently over the vineyards is the perfect way to start a day in the Hunter Valley.
Taking off at sunrise, the 50-60 minute flights take in aerial views of the vines before landing for a celebratory champagne breakfast. Magical.
Kids aged 7 and above can join in the fun.
Hunter Valley Helicopters
Want to get the kids excited about going on a wine tour? Book to go by helicopter!
Choose anything from a 6 or 10-minute scenic flight to a 2-hour, 2-venue wine tasting tour… or all the way up to a 5-hour day tour, which includes visiting 3 wineries and lunch. There’s even a heli-horsing trip on offer!
Note that these helicopters only take a maximum of 3 passengers at a time.
Go Karts Go
Kids as young as 5 years old can get involved in the fun at Go Kart Go, making it a great way for the entire family to spend a few hours.
The 850 metre track has a variety of long fast straights, and fast and slow corners to challenge and entertain kids (and adults) of all ages.
Once kids have had their fill of adrenaline, there’s also mini golf and archery on site.
Visit Nearby Morpeth
Perched on the banks of the Hunter River and surrounded by rolling farmland, Morpeth is a beautiful heritage town around a 30-minute drive from Lovedale.
During the early 19th Century, Morpeth was one of the most important river ports in New South Wales and was a major industrial and agricultural hub. It is also home to the famous bakehouse where the Arnott’s family biscuit dynasty began.
The former importance of the town is still evident in its beautifully preserved buildings and there is a treasure trove of unique boutiques, cafes and artisanal food shops to browse.
You can read more about Morpeth in my article about things to do in Maitland.
On the way to Morpeth you will pass by the Maitland Gaol. This infamous penitentiary was operational for 150 years between 1848 and 1998 and was renowned for housing some of Australia’s most hardened criminals.
Today you can take an excellent self-guided audio tour to gain an insight into the lives of both the incarcerated and the prison wardens. There are two tours – one for adults and one more suitable for children.
Family Accommodation in the Hunter Valley
There are lots of family friendly hotels in the Hunter Valley to choose from, in addition to private houses to hire. Here we highlight our pick of the best.
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
The Crown Plaza Hunter Valley is widely recognised as one of the best Hunter Valley hotels for families, thanks to its spacious accommodation and wide range of family-friendly facilities.
Accommodation ranges from rooms and suites right up to 1, 2 and 3-bedroom villas with fully fitted kitchens and living areas.
The whole family will be kept happy with the large resort swimming pool, water park, KidZone games room, Water Dragons Kids Club, gym, spa and golf course. There’s also a choice of onsite bars and restaurants.
Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort
Boasting a picturesque setting overlooking the Cypress Lakes golf course, this family friendly Hunter Valley hotel offers spacious villas with 1-3 bedrooms.
All villas come with fully fitted kitchens (1-bedrooms have kitchenettes), private balconies and open plan dining and kitchen areas.
It doesn’t have a dedicated kids club but you will find 3 swimming pools, 2 tennis courts, a gym and an 18-hole championship golf course with golf club. There are also 2 restaurants and bars on site.
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