A Family-Friendly Holiday 3 Hours North of Sydney

Melissa-Jane Nguyen

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Driving in the scenic Hunter ValleyAuthor Photo

We haven't wanted to venture too far from home with the pandemic still running rampant. But heading into the third year of lockdowns, masks, avoiding crowds, and being cooped up at home with two small children, we decided it was time to find a mini holiday that's not too far away and not in a busy city location.

The Hunter Valley is one of the main wine regions in Australia that's usually host to weddings, wine and cheese tasting, and major international music acts such as Fleetwood Mac and Elton John.

It's the perfect adult playground.

Perhaps less well-known is that it's also family-friendly with plenty of activities and entertainment for kids.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, which was a little pricey, but well worth it for the tons of children's activities available on-site.

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Water park fun at the Crowne Plaza Hunter ValleyAuthor Photo

They have a kids' club, games room, train ride and carousel as well as a water park that also includes a large section of the pool at around 0.6 metres – perfect for our five-year-old who loved being able to stand and swim around with ease.

There are two different restaurants:

  • Lovedale Bistro has a relaxed vibe with plenty of pub/bistro food favourites like steak, schnitys, and pizza. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality that was by far the best pub/bistro food I've ever had! I highly recommend the sticky pork belly bites and the Australian mountain pepper lamb rump. Food and drinks are available to consume poolside, which was great because it meant we didn't have to interrupt our water fun and get out of our swimwear to eat. We didn't visit on a weekend, but apparently they have live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Redsalt Restaurant is host to the gourmet breakfast buffet in the mornings with à la carte or 5-course degustation menus for dinner. There are options for wine-pairing and either 2 or 3 courses if you're not up for the 5-hour degustation. The kids' menu has a few options for dinner and of course, dessert!

We stayed in a one-bedroom villa, which was spacious and had everything we needed for a family with two young children. I particularly liked that there was a kitchenette because we took along breakfast, snacks, and drinks. There are plenty of different kinds of options depending on your needs, ranging from: single rooms; 1, 2, or 3 bedroom villas; poolside rooms; and even a kids' suite with 2 bedrooms.

Other kid-friendly accommodation to check out in the Hunter Valley:

  • The Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens that's situated right next door to the Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village and the Hunter Valley Gardens, which are must-visits while in the area.
  • Wandin Valley Estate in Lovedale is a beautiful boutique estate featuring accommodation for small and large groups with a cellar door and restaurant, plus it has a cricket pitch that's fun for the whole family. You won't be able to resist exploring the gorgeous scenery and observing the local wildlife on walks through the grounds.

Things to Do

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Swinging chairs ride at the Christmas Lights SpectacularAuthor Photo
  • The Hunter Valley Gardens are an award-winning attraction that's full of fun for the whole family all year round. We've visited many times before but our latest visit was in January during the Christmas Lights Spectacular. We purchased night session tickets and delighted in the food, rides, and gorgeous light display that was a magical experience for all members of the family. We had a late night, but it was well worth it for the fun and awe that the kids experienced. There's always something happening at the gardens; next up is Mega Creatures with dinosaurs, dragons, and more, then during winter it'll be Snow Time in the Garden.
  • Hunter Valley Shopping Village is a boutique village featuring a range of shops and food options to explore. There's a toy shop, British Lolly Shop, Christmas shop, and more. There's also a playground, picnic and BBQ area, and local entertainers regularly taking to the stage in the middle of the village.
  • Wine tasting – with kids! Tulloch Wines have a Junior Tasting Experience for kids aged 3-12 as well as a Kombucha tasting for teens and/or non-drinkers. You can't go wrong with soft drinks, snacks, Kombucha, and cheese for the kids and wine tasting for the adults!
  • The Hunter Valley Zoo houses animals from all around the globe including, primates, Australian native mammals, African animals, reptiles, Australian birds, and South American animals. You can get up close and personal with special encounters with some of the animals including meerkats and squirrel monkeys. There are BBQ facilities and daily shows to encounter some favourite animal friends.
  • A visit to the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company is a must for all chocolate lovers (isn't that most of us?!). Visitors get a peek into the kitchen where all our favourite treats are made and there's a cafe where you can sit and enjoy the delectable delights. And don't worry, they have a huge range of chocolates to buy and take home with you. The only problem will be that when you run out you'll be wanting to book another trip to the Hunter Valley asap.
  • If you want to step back in time to country Australia then a horse and carriage tour is the way to go. Hunter Valley Classic Carriages have a range of family experiences including a chocolate tasting tour, an activities tour that includes fun and games, an Australian experience tour where you get to learn about the history of the heavy horse, and more.

Add the Hunter Valley to your list of kid-friendly holidays that's great at any time of year!

Note: the writer has no affiliation with any of the businesses mentioned and is not being paid for any of these mentions.

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An Aussie freelance writer and editor writing about parenting, life and current events in Australia, and everything in between.

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