The Hunter Valley, about 250 kilometres from Sydney, is best known as one of Australia’s premier wine regions. In recent years the Hunter Valley has earned a burgeoning reputation as the hottest music destination, with a number of wineries taking advantage of their large property to play host to big name international artists and a day serving their wines to thirsty patrons seeking a fun day out. It has become commonplace for artists to add a Hunter Valley venue to their Australian tour, Kylie Minogue, Bryan Adams and Red Hot Chilli Peppers are all coming up in 2019.

If you’re thinking of buying tickets to a concert in the Hunter Valley, here’s some tips and tricks to make sure you have an amazing time!

Looking out over the Hunter Valley

Make it a Hunter Valley weekend away!

Chances are, if you’re heading to a Hunter Valley Concert you’re from out of town, so it makes a world of sense to get a group of friends together and make a weekend of it.

Accommodation prices increase any weekend there’s a concert on, but with a group you can make this much more cost effective by renting a house for the weekend. And besides, its just way more fun!

 

Hunter Valley Accommodation

Hunter Homestead

My last concert weekend was a group of nine adults, so naturally you need to think about the space you need, and a single bathroom place just isn’t going to cut it. Myself and the other organiser settled on the lovely Hunter Homestead. The two-storey house features five bedrooms plus a sofa bed, two bathrooms and an additional toilet, a paved undercover area out back with the barbeque and outdoor dining setting, plus a fire pit and plenty of firewood. The owners also live on the property for any issues.

Split nine ways the cost was less than $200 each for the weekend, and to further keep costs down everyone brought food to contribute so we were able to cook some meals rather than eating out.

A two bedroom cottage shares the outdoor area and makes Hunter Homestead suitable for even larger groups.

Horse on Hunter Homestead, Hunter Valley

Hunter Homestead local

Wilderness Cottages

Another property with multiple choices for accommodation making it suitable for groups is Wilderness Cottages. Wilderness Cottages offer a charming two bedroom cottage, a two bedroom balcony apartment and a one bedroom apartment. All guests have use of the pool and again the owners are on the property.

I stayed here on a weekend that was just a friend and I, so we had the cottage. Each of the rooms had a comfortable queen size bed, the lounge featured a combustion fireplace and a barbeque on the front verandah. The property was large and had lovely views as the sun went down.

Interior of WIllow Cottage, Wilderness Cottages Lovedale Hunter Valley

Inside Willow Cottage

Glasses of wine with backdrop looking out over Hunter Valley at Wilderness Cottage Lovedale

Enjoying a glass of wine looking out over the Hunter Valley

There was an added advantage of the restaurant Mojo’s a short walk down the driveway on Wilderness Road. They made great coffee.

Emma’s Cottage

Emma’s Cottage was a close runner-up for the accommodation for my last trip. It is situated on a vineyard and the owners are lovely people who bought the place a number of years ago for a sea-change from the city. There are four cottages to choose from, ranging from two to four bedrooms and guests have access to a pool.

Emma’s Cottage is one of my favourite Hunter Valley vineyards. If you go to their cellar door, be sure to ask to try their trademark Ruby – a carbonated red wine.

Vineyard at Emma's Cottage Hunter Valley

Vineyard at Emma’s Cottage

Hunter Valley Buses

There’s a reason I chose and recommend these accommodation options, and it’s a practical one. They are on the bus route.

When the Hunter Valley concerts are on the bus network runs like a well oiled machine, with a number of routes through the region picking up and dropping patrons off at the venue. Even if you wanted to drive, you would struggle to park anywhere, so your best and easiest option really is buying the $20 return bus trip.

Emma’s Cottage and Wilderness Cottages are both on Wilderness Road, and are pickup points on the bus route. Hunter homestead has a pickup a short 200m walk down the road.

The schedule generally goes through each route twice so check the timetable to ensure you pick the one best suited to you, and buy your tickets online in advance so they know they are picking you up.

Check out Rover Coaches for all the information.

Sign advising of what gate to meet bus at after the Hunter Valley concert

Don’t forget where to meet your bus after the show!

Your Hunter Valley concert

There are a number of wineries that host concerts, Hope Estate, Roche Estate and Bimbadgen included. Each one has their own regulations around what will be permitted into their venue. Make sure you check their website for any restrictions on what you can take in.

List of things you need

1. A small backpack; you’re in for a long day.

2. A vinyl backed picnic blanket. Most venues will not permit you to bring in chairs, and you’ll have to carry anything you want anyway so the less bulky items you pack the better.

3. If you prefer something more supportive on your back an alternative to the picnic blanket is a beach mat.

4. Powerbank; don’t underestimate the importance of this one. My last concert weekend one of our group wasn’t able to locate us again in the dark and her phone battery had gone flat. She ended up having to get a taxi home after the show because she missed our bus and couldn’t call us. Besides, think of how much it would suck trying to walk back to your house after the bus dropped you off if you can’t use the torch on your phone. I am rarely without my Cygnett powerbank.

5. Cash; take at least some cash with you as a just in case to buy food and drinks. They will have EFTPOS facilities and sometimes an ATM, but I have seen the EFTPOS go down before, meaning hundreds of people lining up to get cash from an ATM. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

 

Weather specific items – Hot

Depending on the time of year the chances are pretty good that you’ll have fine weather. Be aware it can get very hot, and there is no shelter whatsoever. There will be free water stations available to stay hydrated.

1. Hat

2. Sunglasses

3. Suncream

It can also get very cold in the Hunter Valley at night. So sticking a pair of leggings and a light jumper in your backpack isn’t a bad idea either. I used both at the concert where the day had been stinking hot.

Hunter Valley concert stage on a sunny day

The stage on a sunny day

Weather specific items – Wet

This happened to me at my last Hunter Valley concert. It was still an amazing day, but it can get a little uncomfortable being sopping wet all night, and umbrellas are not permitted, so if wet weather is predicted for your show there are some things that can make it a little more comfortable.

1. Emergency Ponchos; just get all your group to chuck in on some of these. The more you can keep dry the better.

2. A nice dry jumper will be the best thing you ever saw at the end of the night.

3. Stick a garbage bag in your backpack. If it starts to rain whip it out and put the backpack in it. Viola – everything stays dry!

4. This is an out there idea perhaps, but one our group last year brought a small tarp. It wasn’t big enough to keep us dry but it served to protect our things from the worst of the weather. A groundsheet would work equally well.

5. Think about a lightweight towel too. Turkish towels are great because they are so compact yet effective.

a sea of ponchos on a wet Hunter Valley concert weekend

A sea of ponchos on a wet concert weekend

Last but not least, don’t forget to have a great time!

 

Things to do in the Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley concerts will be on a Saturday night, so you’re going to have some extra time to kill. Fortunately there is plenty to fill up a weekend in the Hunter region.

Hunter Valley wineries

Grapes on a wine in the Hunter ValleyWine is a unique taste so everyone will have their own preferences. Some of my favourites are somewhat off the beaten track but no problem to get to if you have a vehicle.

Sandalyn Estate

I first visited Sandalyn Estate years ago when it was included on a wine tour on a hens weekend. They had an amazing Botrytis Semillon that I wish I had bought more of. My last two trips there they disappointingly haven’t had any of the same calibre, but their grounds are beautiful and they have some nice sparkling wines on offer, glitter decorated if it is the lead up to Christmas. They also serve coffee if you’re looking for that morning caffeine hit and you can try a number of delicious olive oil varieties.

Sandalyn Estate is on Wilderness Road Rothbury, it is a short drive from the three recommended accommodations.

 

Emma’s Cottage

Even if you don’t stay there, It is worth the visit to Emma’s Cottage cellar door. Make sure you try the Ruby, it was the result of an accident.

Thomas Allen Wines

A beautiful little boutique winery in Pokolbin, Thomas Allen Wines is a great place to take a group and relax at a table under the verandah. Make sure you try the Mistura if they have some, it’s pricey but very worth it.

Savannah Estate

This is my absolute favourite. It is out of the way and in the middle of nowhere, so this is one you would probably schedule to visit on your way home. I discovered Savannah Estate on one of my concert trips while in search of a good Port. I didn’t find the Port, but their sparkling Moscato is simply divine! I stop by every trip to pick up a bottle or two.

Bramblewood Fruit Wines

This one is so off the beaten track it doesn’t even have a website or a listing on Trip Advisor! If it is still around you’ll find it at 80 Lindsay Street, Belford in the lower Hunter Valley, and it’s worth the trip just for the unique, quirky value. Depending what is in season you can sample a range of fruit wines, including passionfruit, mango and boysenberry. It is the only fruit winery in the Hunter.

Rustic cabin at a Hunter Valley winery

Hunter Valley charm

Hunter Valley Wineries Map

Plan your attack by downloading a Hunter Valley Wineries Map.

 

Hunter Valley Wine Tours

If you aren’t quite committed to doing your own thing, there are a couple of options for wine tours.

Ihop Hunter Valley run a hop-on/hop-off bus service that circuits twenty-five different wineries. You can choose which ones you get off at and stay as long as you please, grabbing the next bus when you are ready to move along.

Hunter Valley Wine Tours can take you on set small group tours or you can organise a private one. I’m told that they don’t bring out the good wines on group tours though!

Abandoned tractor at Wilderness Cottages, Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Cheese Tasting

Hunter Valley Cheese Factory

Located in Pokolbin this small cheese factory is located at McGuigan Wines and immensely popular with tour buses, so hit it early to avoid the crowds.

Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop

Stocking local, imported and artisan cheeses, as well as a range of other produce and gelato, Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop is worth the visit. Stop in for a cheese and olive tasting platter.

 

Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory

The Hunter Valley Chocolate Company is a must, offering a range of delectable treats to make the mouth of any chocolate lover water! I always visit on my trips and inevitably spend far too much money. It’s a great place to shop for gifts for the chocolate fan in your life. They have a store at Hunter Valley Gardens and Peterson House and a boutique factory on Broke Road, Pokolbin.

Sabor Dessert Bar

While you’re on Broke Road, don’t drive past Sabor Dessert Bar. The coffee is great and their range of stunning desserts is just wonderful. Savor the sweetness as you look out on the vineyards and mountains in the distance.

Dessert at Sabor Dessert bar Hunter Valley

Hot Air Balloons Hunter Valley

I can’t vouch for experience on this one, as I’m not overly comfortable with heights, but the Hunter Valley region is well known for its hot air ballooning, Balloon Aloft and Beyond Ballooning both offer breakfast and flight packages.. This probably isn’t an activity you would look to do on a Sunday morning after the concert, given the early start.

Each October long weekend there is the Hunter Valley Balloon Fiesta, balloons from all over the country will launch at sunrise to float over the countryside. I’m putting it on my bucket list to get there next year.

 

Hunter Valley Helicopters

Another one I can’t vouch on experience for the same reason as above. But if this piques your interest Slattery Helicopters and Hunter Valley Helicopters both offer flights over the valley.

Both the helicopter flight and hot air ballooning are activities which would require booking in advance.

Know of any other great activities in the Hunter Valley? Drop me a line and let me know!

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