Yesterday (Saturday), I decided it was time to take a break from the stresses and frustrations imposed upon us for the past couple of months.
I was keen to revisit Hunter Valley Gardens, particularly since they had a Mega Creatures exhibition of large animatronic bugs and dinosaurs, which is scheduled to close in 3 days time. I loved the “Gigantabugs” exhibit at Fort Worth Zoo (read about that in my newsletter for Fort Worth), which we visited in July of 2014, so I was interested to see how they would compare.
There were some interesting displays, particularly the dinosaurs, and we heard several squeals of delight from some of the kiddies about.
The day we visited Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG), was a day following a terrible overnight storm, so the gardens were no where near their best, and a few of the feature gardens (I note the “Rose Garden” in particular) looked a bit drab (probably due to all the rain and bad weather we have experienced recently). However, there is plenty to see and there are often special events hosted by the gardens. Entry cost is $28 per adult and $17 per child (family tickets are available). Allow 2-3 hours to walk around and explore and admire what the gardens have to offer. There is also a café on site if you really need a bite to eat or a rest and a coffee, but if you are looking for more of a good meal – head to one of the innumerable restaurants around the vineyards – there are many fabulous places to eat (but if you are visiting as a family with children, then the cafe in the gardens is fine). If it’s just adults visiting, my advice would be to visit the gardens before or after lunch. Although, HVG is no Dallas Arboretum, it can hold it’s own in the garden tourist-attraction stakes in Australia.
HVG is situated at Pokolbin, in the heart of wine country in the Hunter Valley of NSW. The gardens are relatively quite young, being completed in 2003 after 4 years worth of construction on land that was originally horse paddocks and vineyards. The gardens cover an area of 60 acres and are made up of 6,000 trees, 600,000 shrubs and 1,000,000 ground covering plants with around 100km (62mi) of underground irrigation piping. 8 km (5mi) of walking paths will take you through 11 different garden areas. One of the most popular areas (especially for children), is the Storybook Garden, it is delightful – with childhood stories and nursery rhymes depicted throughout the garden.
Spring, would probably be the best time to visit, summer can be very hot and humid in the gardens. However, every year from early November to late January, the gardens host the Christmas Lights Spectacular, which by all accounts is indeed very spectacular, with “millions” of lights, some wonderful displays and plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained. I aim to go this year!
Finally, I couldn’t travel up to the vineyards and not visit at lest one winery; so I chose to visit one I hadn’t been to in a long time. Wombat Crossing Vineyard, is the smallest vineyard (and one of the newest) in the region, but produces wine only from its vineyard. The wines are of a high quality (and not cheap) and I would definitely recommend a visit and some tastings – there wasn’t one that I tasted that I didn’t like. I really wanted to become a member and buy an entire case, but Andrew had to reign me in, so I settled for just 3 bottles – maybe next time! 🙂