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Rothbury  New South Wales

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Cessnock may be the shopping centre of the Lower Hunter, but for wine and food the surrounding villages of Pokolbin, Lovedale and Rothbury are taste central. The area is situated 150 km to the north of Sydney, and 60 km inland from the Pacific coast. Rothbury is 10 km from Cessnock, while it is about a 5 minute drive away from Pokolbin, the largest of the region's wine villages. The number of wineries and accommodation properties in Rothbury is small, yet it is close enough to nearby Cessnock and Pokolbin that visitors can take advantage of their greater range of accommodation.

The growth of the region has been proportional with the success of the Australian wine industry. Grapes were planted in the Hunter Valley the 1820s, with wine produced since the mid-1800s, though for a long time wine was the sleeper of the local alcohol market. As Australians began to drink more wine in the 1970s, and as our wine reached a wider market overseas, areas such as the Hunter Valley have undergone remarkable growth.

The main roads to visit in Rothbury are Palmers Lane, Deaseys Road and the northern end of McDonalds Road. A highlight in nearby Lovedale is the Lovedale Long Lunch, a two-day moveable feast organised and operated by a consortium of wineries, held annually in May. Local restaurants or guest chefs, present entree-sized servings of gourmet dishes, accompanied by selected house wines in an al fresco setting. Cellar door premises and courtyards are dressed up with add-on attractions such as art exhibitions, jazz and classical musicians and the event now attracts more than 10,000 visitors arriving by car, bus, bicycle, aircraft and even a special steam train.

Looking a little further afield from Rothbury to Pokolbin, as you drive along its main road, Broke Road, you'll notice vineyards, wineries and restaurants lining the road, with signage on the side roads listing those companies off the main road. About 5 km along you come to McDonalds Road, the main cross street, and it is in this part of Pokolbin that could be called the town's centre. Many wineries are within walking distance of this point, plus several accommodation properties, general stores, restaurants and even a pub. As you continue on Broke Road past McDonalds Road there are still more wineries, and again the off-main road companies are signposted at the junction with Broke Road. Hermitage Road, Deaseys Road and Mistletoe Lane are three such roads with a strong concentration of wineries, while heading along McDonalds Road will also find you many places to visit, taste and buy wines, plus there are restaurants, galleries, accommodation and more. Wine tasting and cellar door sales opportunities are numerous, though some of the boutique vineyards are only open on the weekends. Some of the larger wineries run tours of their operations.

The Pokolbin area hosts many events throughout the year. The main event each March and April is the Hunter Valley Harvest Festival, with music concerts, art exhibitions, street parties, barrel tastings, gourmet feasts and more. October is a musical month, with Opera in the Vineyards at the Wyndham Estate and Jazz in the Vines at the Tyrells Long Flat Paddock. In September and October there are activities associated with budburst, the Spring flowering of the grapes, the main one being a street parade in Cessnock.

Golfers will love the area, with courses ranging from link-style courses to resort-style. Two of the more spectacular courses are the Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club and the new Greg Norman-designed The Vintage. Not far behind in impressiveness is the Hunter Valley Golf and Country Club. In Cessnock is The Oaks Golf and Country Club, and north of Cessnock is the Branxton Golf Club. These courses are all within a 20 minute drive of each other.

An excellent starting point for exploration of the area is the Visitor Information Centre, on Allandale Road near the start of Broke Road. In addition to information the centre also houses the Hunter Valley Wine Society, the Wine Country Cafe and a wine interpretive centre.

Things to do:

  • Wineries - for tastings and cellar door sales
  • Winery Tours - by Harley Davidson, horse, bike, limousine, horse-drawn carriage or even on foot

    In the area:

  • Golf - several courses in the area
  • Shopping - art and craft galleries, gourmet food outlets
  • Adventures - Hot air ballooning, scenic flights, horseriding


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