A freeway it is not, but when it comes to scenery, the Great Northern Road’s southern approach from Peats Ridge into the Hunter Valley is the only way to travel into the famed wine country.
The route takes you from the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway through rolling country and towns the likes of Kulnura and Laguna to the Cessnock-Pokolbin turnoff at Wollombi.
This historic old staging town itself is worth the trip. Settlers first swung their axes in these parts in the 1820s and for many years the area prospered as a stop-over on the old Great Northern Road.
The road has long since been superseded, but the Endeavour Museum in the old post office, the quaint, Edmund Blackett-designed Church of St John the Evangelist and the welcoming pub with it notorious pick-me-up, Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice, are real travel-stoppers.
The road north-east takes you to the gateway to the Pokolbin vineyards, Bellbird, which sits in the eastern lee of the Broken Back Range and serves some of the most dinkum damper you’ll find this side of the Black Stump.