If you’re looking for a day trip from Sydney or a weekend away, we definitely suggest visiting the Hunter Valley even if drinking wine isn’t your thing.

After a bit of research, we’re sharing our Hunter Valley budget guide as the first thing we learnt about it is it can be expensive. We’ve found some great things to do in Hunter Valley and awesome affordable places to eat as well. 

Hunter Valley Budget Guide 

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Hunter Valley Accommodation

Getting the pool to myself at Mercure Hunter Valley Gardens Resort

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We stayed at the Mercure Hunter Valley Gardens Resort. This resort is in the perfect location, right in the middle of Pokolbin which is within walking distance to all of the wine tasting spots in Hunter Valley.

Our room at Mercure Resort

Now, it’s a bit on the higher end side (expect to be paying around $400 a night), but we got a deal on Luxury Escapes for $300 for 2 nights, incl breakfast and a bottle of wine. We went right before Christmas so as you could imagine, the hotel was packed full of families with a lot of children running around.

The staff were friendly and welcoming, the buffet style breakfast was big enough to really feel like you were getting a big hotel breakfast.Breakfast at Mercure Resort

The room was also a life saver from the 41C first day. Thank you aircon! We had a lovely sunken bath which was a novelty but we didn’t get a chance to try it out.One of the reasons I picked this hotel was because of the swimming pool. This pool was completely perfect for the extremely hot day we were hit with.

One of the great things about this hotel are the short cuts to some of the vineyards like Miguigans (literally next door) and the Hunter Valley Gardens and village. You could even do a self guided wine tasting tour all within walking distance of this hotel (more on this later!).Ariel shot of Mercure Hunter Valley Gardens Resort 

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Hunter Valley Restaurants

As I mentioned, food is really expensive in the Hunter Valley. All of the restaurants I looked up were heading towards $40+ for a main meal.

However, we’ve found some great affordable restaurants in Hunter Valley.

Hunter Valley Gardens Village

There’s some cheap cafes in the village. We went to Oscars and had a salad which cost $22.

Harrigan’s Irish Pub

On our first night, we just kept it casual and went to Harrigans Irish Pub which really brought back memories of the UK in a good way! The steaks are huge and really good.

It’s a proper pub where you’ll be asked if you want a half or a pint – no schooners or midi’s here, thank you very much!Our main meals came to under $30 each and the incredible chocolate fondant dessert was about $12.

Cafe Enzo

We absolutely loved Cafe Enzo which is a fantastic restaurant in Hunter Valley. This gem is located at the back of an Alpaca shop but it’s got a lovely outdoor area and affordable, great food. The food is reasonably priced and pretty much all meals are under $30. The tagliatelle was a real winner with everyone!The courtyard at Cafe Enzo, Hunter Valley

Hunters Quarter

Hunter’s Quarter

For Steve’s birthday dinner, I took him to Hunters Quarter because the view out to the vineyard look amazing and I liked that they had a 5 course tasting menu for $100 or with matching wines for $140 which was fine with me. The staff were lovely and we had a great evening there.

Related post: Top 10 posh restaurants in Sydney

Top 3 things to do in the Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley is one of those places you really need a car because everything is spread out. But there are loads of different tours you can do and jump on/jump off buses as well.

There are lots of things to do in Hunter Valley but here’s our highlights which include our own wine tour, a sunrise balloon flight and the Hunter Valley GardensChristmas Lights.

Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley

Obviously going to the Hunter Valley wouldn’t be complete without a bit of wine tasting. There are various tours you can do which don’t require you to drive and hop on hop off buses as well.

Because the location of our hotel was directly next to a few vineyards, we went to the following three vineyards.

Tempus Two

Tempus Two vineyard in Hunter Valley knew everything about wine and described each wine like no one else could. I was impressed with the service here and really enjoyed the experience.

BrokenwoodEven though it’s just over the road, Brokenwood had a completely different and laid back vibe like you’re standing up by the bar although you had to pay $5 each to do any tasting.

MiguigansLiterally next door to our hotel, Miguigins is fun and free like Tempus Two. There’s a cheese shop next door and you can do some tasting there too!

Related post: The ultimate guide to Jervis Bay


Hunter Valley Gardens

We only saw it at night time. Image Credit – visitnewcastle.com.au

Because we went just before Christmas, we were able to go to see the Christmas lights at the Hunter Valley Gardens.

Our hotel had a special 241 deal so we couldn’t pass it off. The gardens were open during the day and then back again from 6pm-10pm.

We actually turned up at 9pm after dinner and there were still a fair few families around. I hate to think of how busy it actually got but it was fun.

Think of it being like Vivid but not as big. It’s a great place to take the kids, all the children around us were absolutely loving it! They have some fair ground rides as well.

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Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight

On the morning of The Aussie’s birthday, I woke him up at 4am so I could take him on a surprise, sunrise hot air balloon flight with Balloon Aloft. I was surprised that we had to meet so early but it’s not just a balloon flight, it’s actually more of an experience lasting about three and half hours.

Read more: Sunrise hot air ballooning in Hunter Valley

After the 45 minute flight over the Hunter Valley, we were taken back for a gourmet champagne breakfast. What a way to bring in his birthday!

You can also book VIP private flights which one couple did as the guy was going to propose. We don’t know what the answer was but we were all in awe of how amazing that special moment would have been.

Related post: 18 best hikes in Sydney

Other things I wish we had time for:

I wish we had time to go to a day spa such as Reflections or Chateau Elan and 2 Fat Blokes do a 9 course degustation gourmet food tour which we would have also loved.

Don’t forget to watch our vlog below on our weekend away from Sydney to The Hunter Valley.

Things to do in Hunter Valley

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