Travel Advice - Friday 5th June 2020

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HUNTER VALLEY BLOG

With more than 150 wineries and cellar doors, 65 restaurants and 180 comfy accommodation places to stay, where do you start?

Follow our insider tips by the people who know best… the locals. We ask talented winemakers, chefs, farmers, brewers and journalists to blog about their favourite places and experiences in this fertile wine region.

Romantic retreats you'll fall head over heels for

There's nothing quite like a dose of country air and rural charm to set a romantic scene. Add a snug hideaway, delicious wine and quality alone time together and it's lights, camera, action. Hands-on action! These places to stay get the big tick for passionate pampering with beautiful vineyard and bushland backdrops. But don't despair if they're booked out… there are loads more retreats for loved up couples, including this cosy collection with fireplaces in rooms.

East Gresford is probably the last place you'd expect to find an African safari-style getaway, but that's what you get at this unique retreat on the banks of the Allyn River. Instead of African savannahs, there are fantastic views of the Boydell's vineyards and grazing paddocks with kangaroos galore.

In true glamping style, the 52-square-metre eco tent, which was imported from Africa, has every imaginable comfort with a silk mosquito canopy cocooning the king-sized bed, a gleaming copper bath where you can share a sexy soak and an outdoor rain shower. No worries about peeping Toms as there's just one solar-powered tent so you have the entire place to yourselves.

You can kayak or paddle board down the Allyn River, wander around the cattle farm and vineyard, or just laze on the wide timber deck and slurp the complimentary bottle of Boydell's boutique wine. You also receive continental breakfast, a gourmet BBQ dinner, and if you'd like an in-tent massage, private chef or picnic lunch hampers, that can be arranged too.

If you can bring yourself to leave, owners Jane and Daniel Maroulis have opened a cellar door and restaurant in the historic town of Morpeth, which is worth a visit.

This is another one-of-a-kind place for couples with a taste of the exotic. Casuarina is famous for its nine themed suites that offer a fun experience like no other.

You can live out your fantasies in one of the eye-popping split-level suites, including getting the movie star treatment in the Casablanca suite, hopping aboard the Love Boat or channelling Nicole Kidman and practicing your can-can in the Moulin Rouge suite.

You can also opt for the oriental opulence of the Suzi Wong room, the flamboyance of the French Bordello or be seduced by Casanova's loft, inspired by the greatest lover in history.

Wherever you hunker down, you're in for an unforgettable time, with a welcome bottle of wine thrown in.When you can drag yourself away from your room, there's a spacious guest lounge, giant-sized outdoor chess set, pool and sauna for all guests to enjoy with a vineyard at the front door.

And it's just a short walk to the Keith Tulloch Wine complex, where you can taste wines overlooking the vines, have lunch or dinner at the fabulous Muse Kitchen and pig out on decadent choccies at Cocoa Nib artisan chocolatier.

Casuarina's partners, Hunter Concierge, can organise any special requests you might have.

There's a quirky element to a stay at Block 8 as well… meeting Helga, the star of owner Todd Alexander's amusing memoir - Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Called Helga - about the ups and downs of his tree change from Sydney.

He fell in love with the 100-acre property in Belford with its grapevines, olive groves and all-embracing mountain views, and decided he wanted to share it with others, building five luxury villas just for couples.

Along the way he also adopted several orphaned and abandoned farm animals, which you can meet and feed during your stay, and serenade Helga the pig, who enjoys a good song.

No luxury is spared in the roomy villas with air-con in summer, log fires in winter and a deep soaker tub and separate double shower where you can enjoy a frisky frolic. You receive a complimentary bottle of wine, vegetarian breakfast hamper, along with slippers, robes and Appelles toiletries, with private wine tours for two also on offer. Picnics, proposal events and romantic restaurant bookings can also be arranged.

Todd also does private wine tastings for two in the Wine Room overlooking the lake that usually cost $15 per person – but they're free in February if you book direct and put the word "Tasting" in your booking comments.

Another exclusive couples-only retreat in a beautiful bushland setting in Pokolbin nestled on the banks of a large dam.

The mission statement here is to help you recharge, rekindle, rediscover and relax – and that's dead easy with just five comfy villas on the 50-acre property. There's also a vineyard you can stroll through, wide-open pastures with grazing horses and a saltwater swimming pool to cool down in during summer.

All one-bedroom villas have a king-sized bed, two-person spa bath, log fires and air-con with breakfast provisions and a bottle of Broken View Estate wines too. 

If you've always wanted to re-enact a romantic rowing boat movie moment, you could do it here. Owners Peter and Kim Earle have a couple of boats for romantic dates on the dam, but the dam levels are a bit low at the moment so you'll have to wait for the rains to come to stage that famous boat scene from The Notebook.

If a homey B&B with freshly baked muffins delivered to your door every morning is more your cup of tea, you'll love the country hospitality at The Grange.

Owners Chris and Ken Bray – and their friendly black Labrador Zena – will give you a warm welcome to go with your oven-warm muffins. You also receive a complimentary continental breakfast hamper with everything you need for a romantic breakfast in bed.

There are three well-appointed guestrooms in the main residence just for couples with private entrances, king-sized beds, a kitchenette, outdoor eating area with BBQ and garden views, and double spa baths in two rooms for steamy nights in. They also have a couple of two-bedroom, self-contained cottages with spa baths too. 

It's a great spot to unwind and breathe in the fresh country air while gazing out over the 28 acres of vineyards and gardens, with the 10.6km Hermitage Road cycleway that links a dozen wineries running right outside the front gate.

And if you have any special requests including Champagne, cheese platters and flowers (a rose petal heart on the bed is popular for proposals), they can organise those too.

This is the place for you if sharing a hammock together while swaying yourselves to sleep is a must on your romantic getaway.

It's a rustic refuge with four timber cottages set within a secluded 120-acre bushland setting, way up high in the magical Mount View region. All of the two-bedroom cottages have air con, wood-burning fireplaces and barbecues with three deluxe cottages sporting outdoor spas. No surprise that these are the favourites with couples who want the added romance of star gazing while enjoying a soak and a scrub.

But back to that hammock. Each cottage has one slung between the gum trees, so you can stretch out together under the leafy canopy and watch the wallaroos or close your eyes and listen to the bellbirds singing.

Owner John Booth offers tailored romance packages, which can include aromatic candles, flowers, rose petals (real or silk), local bubbly, chocolates or a cheese platter. And if you really want to pull out all the stops, he can also arrange helicopter flights from/to the property, horse riding and restaurant transfers & bookings. 

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