The largest of the cluster of towns and villages sprinkled through the Hunter Valley
wine region, Cessnock is 151 kilometres north of Sydney by freeway. Cessnock has prospered and mourned with the characteristic peaks and troughs of the coal mining industry.
But in recent years there has been a distinct shift in Cessnock’s economic base, as wine and tourism have superceded coal as the region’s primary earner.
The huge increase in the number of visitors drawn to the region by the commercialisation of the wineries of the Lower Hunter has led to an explosion in the volume and range of guesthouses, motels and restaurants, and in such spin-off tourist industries as hot air ballooning and equestrian centres.
The ruggedly beautiful Watagan Mountains, which cater both for serious bush-walkers and family picnickers, lie to the south-east, while institutions such as the Richmond Main Mining Museum pay homage to the debt owed to miners.
Created in 1984, the Greater City of Cessnock embraces 25 previously independent towns and villages, most of which grew round the pitheads of coal mines.
Visiting wine buffs, however, should be aware that NSW enforces a rigid .05 blood-alcohol limit on drivers. Chauffeured tours of the wineries are available, allowing you to taste to your heart's content. Information on these, and indeed all the region's activities and attractions, can be found at the Hunter Valley Wine Country Visitor Information Centre on Allandale Road.
Find out more about the Hunter Valley