[Sydney, New South Wales Escapade with HTC EVO 3D] - Hunter Valley Gardens, Wine and Beer Tasting, Picnic Lunch and Helicopter Ride at Hunter Valley - Alvinology

[Sydney, New South Wales Escapade with HTC EVO 3D] – Hunter Valley Gardens, Wine and Beer Tasting, Picnic Lunch and Helicopter Ride at Hunter Valley

On the fourth day of my Sydney escapade with HTC EVO 3D, hosted by Destination New South Wales, Eunice, Duglass, and I parted way with Willy.

The three of us were headed for a leisurely tour of the Hunter Valley while Willy was headed to Wollongong for sky-diving and other adventure stuff.

Hunter Valley is a region of New South Wales, extending from approximately 120 km  to 310 km north of Sydney, Australia. The Hunter Region is one of Australia’s most famous wine-growing regions, known for both its red and white wine varieties. It is a major tourist destination in New South Wales and is the 6th most visited place in Australia attracting more than 2.5 million people annually.

Hunter Valley, Wine County
Hunter Valley, Wine County

It takes just around 2 hours to drive from Sydney city to Hunter Valley. For this trip, I got behind the wheel in a hybrid Toyota Camry, sponsored by Hertz, one of the best known car rental corporations in the world. I enjoy driving in foreign countries. The drive to Hunter Valley is pretty smooth and scenic, which makes it even more enjoyable.

The hybrid Toyota Camry is part of Hertz’s “Green Collection”. Other models in the collection include the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion, Buick LaCrosse and Hyundai Sonata. Eco-conscious travelers will be pleased with this initiative.

I have never driven a hybrid car before. It’s interesting how quiet the car was. There were occasions when I drove out of the carpark and Eunice commented she didn’t even know I started the engine!

Driver for the day
Driver for the day
Set to go
Set to go
It's a hybrid car!
It’s a hybrid car!

The first attraction we visited was the Hunter Valley Gardens. We took a tram ride around the garden and did some shopping at their various shops.

Inside the tram
On board the tram
Rose Garden
Rose Garden
There were many ponds to add to the overall scenery
There were many ponds to add to the overall scenery
Majestic crane statues
Majestic crane statues
Cute little duck statues
Cute little duck statues
Look, some kids are filming us as our tram drove past them
Look, some kids are filming us as our tram drove past them
Lovely reflection in the water
Lovely reflection in the water
Some purple plants
Some purple plants
Grass growing over little pebbles
Grass growing over little pebbles
Little shrubs
Little shrubs
Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden
Chinese Garden
Chinese Garden
Indian Garden
Indian Garden
Horse-shaped shrubs
Horse-shaped shrubs
Ornamental piece
Ornamental piece
Small purple flowers
Small purple flowers
The ponds are filled with beautiful plants too
The ponds are filled with beautiful plants too
Storybook wall
Storybook wall
Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty
Girl from Storybook
Girl from Storybook
Gingerbread House
Gingerbread House
Storybook in Storybook Garden
Storybook in Storybook Garden
Recognise this boy?
Recognise this boy?
The Hunter Valley Garden gift shop
The Hunter Valley Garden gift shop
Golliwogs!
Golliwogs!
A cafe to chill out
A cafe to chill out
British Lolly Shop - I bought some candies here for Rachel
British Lolly Shop – I bought some candies here for Rachel
Playground for children
Playground for children
Garden supply store
Garden supply store
A shop that just sells Christmas stuff
A shop that just sells Christmas stuff

The entire premise span over 60 acres, and there are various themed gardens for visitors to enjoy, ranging from a traditional Rose Garden to the quaint Storybook Garden.

Hunter Valley Gardens is a retirement project by Australian business couple, Bill and Imelda Roche who established Nutrimetics International (Australia) Pty Limited in 1968. In Bill’s own words:

“Over the years Imelda and I have created a number of beautiful gardens and open spaces throughout Australia, many of which have won awards. On retirement we thought the time had arrived to act upon our long held ambition to build a garden that would outlast us for many generations to come. A garden which would bring joy and excitement into many lives.”

I find this quite romantic. The couple met in a supermarket in 1956 and started in business selling lamps door-to-door. They have been through thick and thin together and this garden is like their labour of love.

Next, we headed to a vineyard called Audrey Wilkinson for wine-tasting as well as lunch. I am not much of a drinker, but I pretty much enjoyed the wine-tasting session, learning to smell, swirl and slowly sip and savour each different bottle of wine like a pro.

Arrived at our destination, Audrey Wilkinson
Arrived at our destination, Audrey Wilkinson
Audrey Wikinson vineyard
Audrey Wilkinson vineyard
The nice scenery makes Eunice happy
The nice scenery makes Eunice happy
I am happy too
I am happy too

Instead of just saying a bottle of wine is “nice” or “not nice”, I learnt to use more sophiscated terms like acidity, nutty, woody and fruity to better describe the aroma, texture and taste.

Eunice and I both enjoyed Audrey Wilkinson‘s signature rose wine, Audrey Series Rosé 2009 very much. Ruby pink with magenta hues, the wine was lovely to look at and fun to drink with a relatively low 13.5% alcohol content. It is a fruit driven style made from Shiraz, Merlot and Malbec grapes. We got a bottle each. I enjoyed mine with my wife when I got back to Singapore.

There's our red hybrid Camry, parked outside the Audrey Wilkinson building
There’s our red hybrid Camry, parked outside the Audrey Wilkinson building
Inside the main building
Inside the main building
One of their signature red wine
One of their signature red wine
Signature rose wine
Signature rose wine
Some of the Audrey Wilkinson wines we sampled
Some of the Audrey Wilkinson wines we sampled
The winemaker from Audrey Wilkinson who guide us through our wine-tasting
The winemaker from Audrey Wilkinson who guide us through our wine-tasting
Cheers everyone!
Cheers everyone!
Enjoying a glass of red wine
Enjoying a glass of red wine
A toast to our wonderful host
A toast to our wonderful host

For lunch, we had an outdoor picnic style lunch with foodstuff from the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop.

Outdoor lunch
Outdoor lunch

Eunice fell in love with their cheese cake and ate like a hundred slices.I was drawn by the platter of assorted cheese, fresh crackers and dried raisins. I am a big fan of cheese, especially the smelly ones which taste exceptionally heavenly to me.

The cheesecake that got Eunice hooked
The cheesecake that got Eunice hooked
Gorgeous cheeses!
Gorgeous cheeses!
Alvin loves cheese
Alvin loves cheese
Assortment of wraps
Assortment of wraps

Lovely views, fresh cheese and good wine – the combination for a perfect picnic.

While we were eating halfway, a helicopter from Slattery Helicopter Charter landed in the adjacent grass field. We were going to board this helicopter to visit another vineyard. This was really traveling in style.

Our pilot is here to get us
Our pilot is here to get us
Eunice and I with our helicopter pilot
Eunice and I with our helicopter pilot
A solo picture
A solo picture
Poser spotted
Poser spotted
Another poser shot
Another poser shot
The helicopter control panel
The helicopter control panel
Our pilot busy flying
Our pilot busy flying
Up in the air and Hunter Valley below
Up in the air and Hunter Valley below
Helicopter view
Helicopter view
Majestic mountains
Majestic mountains
Flying over some mountains
Flying over some mountains

I have never boarded a helicopter before and was rather looking forward like a little kid. Here are two 3D videos I recorded of my first helicopter ride in Hunter Valley:

[youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bZh_2c8a94″]

[youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo12HFt8uRY”]

We alighted at Hunter Resort, a vineyard resort for tourists to stay and learn about appreciating wine and beer, as well as how to make them.

The General Manager came to greet us personally. Really friendly chap, enthusiastic to show us around his property. The first thing we did was to visit their Bluetongue Brewery Cafe for a round of beer.

We had their unique Beer Tasting Paddle which came with accompanying notes for each of the brews. It was pretty interesting to taste beer with chocolate, ginger, seafood and other notes.

Welcome to Hunter Resort
Welcome to Hunter Resort
Bluetongue Brewery
Bluetongue Brewery
We will be trying all of these brews
We will be trying all of these brews
The GM filling up the paddles
The GM filling up the paddles
The beer tasting paddles
The beer tasting paddles
A useful fact sheet detailing the unique notes of each beer
A useful fact sheet detailing the unique notes of each beer
The friendly GM guiding us through each beer flavour
The friendly GM guiding us through each beer flavour
A toast!
A toast!

After the beer-tasting, we were given a tour around the resort and also visited their nicely furnished Hunter Wine Theatre for a crash course on wine appreciation before setting off.

The GM showing us round the property, like these guest houses
The GM showing us round the property, like these guest houses
Inside one of the guest rooms
Inside one of the guest rooms
Grape vines in the resort
Grape vines in the resort
The Hunter Wine Theatre
The Hunter Wine Theatre
Learning about wine appreciation
Learning about wine appreciation
Attentive Duglass and Eunice
Attentive Duglass and Eunice

We rounded up our visit to Hunter Valley with a little shopping at the Smelly Cheese Shop. Eunice and I both bought a bag of fresh muesli to take home. We were addicted to the fresh, organic muesli in Australia which tastes so much better than the factory packed ones in Singapore.

The shop stocks an impressive selection of delicatessen products from both Australia (including produces from the Hunter region) and overseas. As the name of the shop suggests, cheese was one of their main attraction. I was very tempted to buy slabs and slabs of cheese after sampling, but figured it would not be practical transporting them back to Singapore, not to mention stinking up the whole car on the way back for Eunice and Duglass!

Our last stop in Hunter Valley
Our last stop in Hunter Valley
The Smelly Cheese Shop
The Smelly Cheese Shop
Inside the shop
Inside the shop
You get to sample the cheese
You get to sample the cheese
You get to sample other stuff too, like the different flavour olive oil
You get to sample other stuff too, like the different flavour olive oil
Shopping for cheeses
Shopping for cheeses
Checking out the freezer
Checking out the freezer
Some of the cheese variety
Some of the cheese variety
Cheese and more cheese
Cheese and more cheese
Even more cheese
Even more cheese
Fresh Gelato ice cream
Fresh Gelato ice cream

Thereafter, we were headed back to Sydney city for dinner at The Rocks. Stay tuned. 🙂

FYI: There’s a voting contest going on via the official HTC Escapade website. Vote for your favourite Sydney photos taken by me and stand a chance to win a HTC EVO 3D smart phone for yourself! Triple your chance by voting for a photo each from Willy, Eunice and I!

Useful Links:

HTC Escapade featuring Willy Foo, Eunice Khong and Alvinology

Day 1 – Quad Biking, Sandboarding and 4WD Ride

Day 2 – Horse Riding, Parasailing and Dolphin Watching

Day 2 – Crave Sydney International Food Festival, Fraser Suites, Sydney by Night

Day 3 – Sunrise, Fine Dining, Harley Ride and Surfing at Bondi

Day 3 – Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and Balla Restaurant at The Star

Hertz Rent-a-Car

Hunter Valley Wine County

Hunter Valley Gardens

Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

Slattery Helicopter Charter

Hunter Resort

Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop

Destination New South Wales

HTC EVO 3D

9 comments
  1. Looked like an absolutely wonderful day in the Hunter Valley! I loved the gardens which look like a place I could bring my boy to (and I’m sure Rachel and you would bring Asher too when he is older). All the blog posts that you guys are putting up on Melbourne and Sydney are making me nostalgic about down under. 🙂

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