Six Of The Best Places To Take Kids In The Hunter Valley
Let’s be honest, whenever you think of the Hunter Valley it’s probably boozy weddings and cheeky weekenders: great for adults, visiting dozens of wineries, but not exactly exciting for children. However, there are some great attractions and activities to do with kids in the Hunter Valley! Here’s our pick of the best.
The Hunter Valley Gardens
If you want acres of beautiful scenery for the kids to soak up nature, and see life-sized Story Book characters that will thrill their little imaginations, then Hunter Valley Gardens is the place to visit. An outing to the award-winning themed gardens will take between 2-3 hours and all the pathways are stroller friendly. There is also a fun train ride for the littlies or for those who may find walking all over 60 acres of the garden too tiring. The Garden's hold special signature events throughout the year, including the Christmas Lights Spectacular, Snow Time in the Gardens, Mega Creatures and the mega Easter Hunt. There are carnival rides and the Garden Terrance serves delicious bistro food. Grab a table on the deck so you can view the beautiful Oriental garden while you eat. The baby change area is near the entrance and don’t forget to check out the lovely souvenirs in the gift shop.
The surrounding Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village is a quaint place to go if you’re looking for a bite to eat, souvenirs and knick-knacks or forgot to bring your toothbrush from home! The collection of over 20 boutique stores sell sweets, honey, wine, chocolate, candles, books, toys, handmade crafts and loads more. Children may like to stare at the rows of sweets at the British Lolly Shop or glance over the books and toys at Village Books. There is also a small playground adjacent to the Village, so grab a gourmet hamper from Oscars or a ploughman’s platter from Taste of the Country and enjoy a picnic. The kids will also love to visit the Cupcake Espresso after lunch!
The Hunter Valley Zoo
The perfectly-proportioned Hunter Valley Zoo is home to a menagerie of interesting animals, from dingos to iguanas and monkeys to lions! Kids will love hand-feeding some of the farmyard animals, kangaroos and birds in the walk-through interactive yards. Zoo highlights include amazing animal encounters where you can feed and interact with exotic creatures like Meerkats, Lemurs and Tamarins, plus daily keep talks. It’s fun to watch the meerkats poking their heads out of the burrows. There are also BBQ facilities for those keen to make a day out of it.
If you want something with a bit more adventure, why not try your hand at horseriding? Hunter Valley Horse Riding & Adventures at Hill Top offer riders of all experiences a chance to trot off into the countryside. We especially love their Sunset Rides where you're escorted by Kangaroos and Wallabies in the light of the beautiful setting sun.
Aqua Golf and Putt Putt
Right next to the Hunter Valley Gardens is Hunter Valley Aqua Golf & Putt-Putt. The driving range is a 50,000m2 lake with a number of floating target nets, and they off fantastic prizes for those lucky enough to hit their ball into one of the nets. It’s probably a tad challenging for very young kids, but they’ll have fun watching mum and dad smack golf balls into the water (and it's therapeutic for the parents!).
More appropriate for those 4 and over is a family game of putt-putt. on the 18-hole beside the lake. Show them how it’s done and they’ll soon be putting their way all over the greens. Don’t be too strict on the scoring though - the main idea is to have fun!
The Chocolate and Fudge Factory
It’s not Willy Wonka’s, but it will still give your kids a buzz! This factory is where all the magic happens for the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company. They make all kinds of chocolate goodies like honeycomb, mint slice and giant jaffas and sprinkles, as well as handmade choccies disguised as penguins and frogs, and chocolate-covered jelly snakes and pretzels. Watch the kids’ eyes light up in front of the jelly bean towers or the chocolate fondue fountain. The factory also sells an impressive range of fudge, candies and nuts and you can taste test a few of their favourites.
Tempus Two for Meals, Cheese and Gelato
For some fun, family fine dining, try the restaurants at Tempus Two. I can highly recommend the shared plates menu at Goldfish Bar and Kitchen. The whole (deboned) baby barramundi is divine, as is the melt in your mouth black Angus beef carpaccio. My kids loved the pizzas and the crunchy pig's ear fries! Just next door you can also get your cheese and gelato fix at the Smelly Cheese Shop, where they sell a cheesetastic range of local and international cheeses. Order a family platter of gelato and everyone can choose a flavour. We chose chocolate, salted caramel, blueberry, mango, mint, and pink guava. Locals also recommended we try the mouth-watering Japanese and Thai food at Oiishi, but sadly, time did not permit. It’s just another restaurant we’ll have to try on our next visit to the Hunter Valley!
Mortels Sheepskin Factory
Look for the world's biggest ugg boots along Weakley's Drive and you've found Mortels Sheepskin Factory - an Australian owned and operated company founded in 1958. As well as seeing this local landmark, you can watch the world-famous Australian product being made on a fully guided interactive tour through the shearing-shed-style factory. The in-house Sheep’s Back Museum also offers a unique insight into the history of UGG boots, Mortels and sheepskin in Australia For a laidback lunch after taking it all in, the Café @ Mortels has a newly built 'shed' plus a great Little Lambs Menu for kids. Of course, you can also pick up some Ugg boots before you leave, straight from the source! Mortels holds a seasonal artisan market for a fun day out with a variety of quality locally made products and live music. Check The Sunday Muster for dates.
Please note: Factory tours are currently suspended due to COVID-19 but you can stay up to date on Facebook.
Where To Stay
We recently did a weekend trip to Gypsy Willows, a homestay tucked away a few kilometres from historic Wollombi. We loved the simple life here, greeted by kangaroos, cows and horses and even Shetland ponies, and waking up to beautiful mist rising from the country fields. Read more about our stay.
When you think of wine tasting you probably don't think of kids - but there are actually a whole heap of kid-friendly wineries in the region where you can sample the local delights and let the kids run amock! Check out our guide to kid-friendly vineyards.
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