The Hunter Valley has been on my bucket list for many years and I had come close to ticking it off a couple of years ago when we were at Umina Beach on the NSW Central Coast for our annual November holiday with our crew (we are four families made up of some cousins and friends and we pick a different destination each year to travel together for a week or so).
Anyhoo, we didn’t end up squeezing in a trip to the Hunter in favour of Taronga Zoo that trip so we definitely wanted to include it in this leg of our trip. And whether or not it was just high expectations, I’m not sure, but to be honest I found it a little lacklustre. I know that’s a pretty strong statement, but the main reason for my disappointment is some of the establishments’ attitude towards children.
Don’t get me wrong, I can completely see that the Hunter Valley is geared for couples and adults who do not have to worry about children when they are drinking their way from vineyard to vineyard. But, hello! Aren’t parents the ones who need that wine more than anyone???
One of the first stops we made was to a food establishment. I won’t name them, but on the door walking in was a sign that pretty much said (and I’m paraphrasing here – but not much) “people don’t want to listen to or have their day ruined by your children. Don’t let them touch anything, run around or make noise. They are also not allowed in the ‘adults only’ section of the café”. Ok then… nice first impression.
Now, I’m the first to admit I hate seeing kids running around, especially when the parents are within arms reach but despite their kid running riot, they are completely oblivious (or choose to appear oblivious) to their kid’s shite behaviour. I’m also the first to acknowledge that making sure your kids aren’t running around being shitheads is the parents’ responsibility, no question.
I suspect that this particular establishment has had a couple of awful experiences and as a result have shot a pre-emptive strike, putting it all on the table and trying to avoid it happening again. And although I’m not one to get offended easily, I was actually offended. Not in an outraged ‘my kids don’t do that kind of thing’ (coz trust me they do, and on this very day they did – just not here) kind of way, but more in a ‘thanks for painting us all with the same brush’ kind of way.
And unfortunately it kind of set the tone for the rest of the day. The girls were pretty well behaved in that shop. We grabbed some fudge and had a coffee but by the time we got to the cheese shop the sugar had kicked in. Rookie move Mum! The girls were just being annoying – you know, that whingey and hang off you and sook kind of annoying. Not full blown shitheads, but annoying enough that Corey had to take them out of the cheese shop we were looking through and let them run around outside. And when we continued along the cluster of shopfronts, (and I was audacious enough to even contemplate going into one for a tasting), I ended up sculling 2 glasses before calling it a day and leaving… After I picked Miss A up off the floor who had cracked it because she was scolded for touching stuff.
We gathered our cheese, jams and breads and headed to the park for lunch where the girls could burn off some energy at the playground.
I’m disappointed because I was so looking forward to tasting a few wines and checking out a local gin distillery, but it just got too hard and most places just don’t cater for kids unfortunately. So we called it a day and went back to Singleton where we were staying (because the Hunter Valley was booked out for a Day on the Green – d’oh! #IheartGarbageforeva) and put the kids to bed for an early night.
The next day we had much better luck (both with behaviour of said annoying children but also in an age appropriate activity) when we decided to explore the Hunter Valley Gardens. It’s not a cheap day out at $30 per adult and $18 for kids over 4 (Miss B became 3 and ¾ that day – sorry if you happen to read this HVG) but the gardens were stunning and you can see where the money is spent. It’s the largest private garden in the country owned by the Roche family (who as an interesting aside, were the founders of Nutrimetics in Australia).
It is so well designed and pretty that we paid the extra $20 to get a 35min train ride tour around where we discovered that the gardens took nearly 4 years to build from scratch. Prior to that, it was just a large paddock. So much effort has gone into the gardens featuring an oriental influenced garden, Italian grotto, several formal gardens, a sunken garden, Mrs Roche’s rose garden, an indian garden with curry plants which smelt awesome, a Storybook garden to engage the kids as well as a big waterfall which is often used for weddings. Overall, it was definitely worth the tour.
The dedicated Storybook garden was designed to engage the kids and establish a love of gardens and the girls definitely loved it. Taking a range of nursery rhymes and fairy tale stories, props and statues were erected along the garden with the ‘book’ open to a key page to set the scene.
There was of course, Humpty Dumpty as well as the Mad Hatters Tea Party and Alice in Wonderland’s big red chair, Jack and Jill, all the sheep rhymes (Mary had a little lamb, Baa Baa Black Sheep & Little Bo Peep!), Hansel and Gretel and a whole heap of others.
They also had the gardens set up for the annual Christmas light spectacular with literally hundreds, if not thousands of Christmas lights and displays throughout the gardens. It was due to start that evening, but obviously that required coming back at night and, nope… that wasn’t gonna happen. So we just enjoyed it for what it was in the daylight.
And that pretty much wrapped up our time in the Hunter Valley. Singleton as a place to stay was great. Power and water at the Showground for $25 a night meant we could so some washing and get some issues with the car fixed (yes, again). We also got a big crack in the windscreen so that’ll have to be fixed at some stage soon as well.
Although I was disappointed not to get the full Hunter Valley experience, we did have a great time there but next time I think I’ll just arrange a gals weekend away to explore it properly – no kids allowed!
Have you been to the Hunter Valley with young kids? Did you find it kid-friendly?