WE leave Sydney around midday for the commute to the New South Wales Hunter Valley to avoid the traffic heading out of the hustle and bustle for the weekend.
We made the right choice and around two hours later, we take a left turn off the Hunter Expressway towards Corunna Station. Set on 100 acres of private property in the scenic Hunter, 120km north of Sydney, Corunna was the largest sheep shearing station in the region.
As we make our way up towards our home for the weekend and one of three properties to hire – The Homestead – we pass the original shearing shed, hay shed and timber mill.
As we pull up beside the beautiful home with a wrap around balcony, we disturb the afternoon sunbake session of around 20 kangaroos, all sitting together enjoy one of Australia’s most beautiful valleys.
They’re relaxed and calm as our toddler shouts ‘ROO!’ from my hip.
We open the front door to find an immaculately restored home, country chic with fresh white linen and recycled timbers throughout.
Warm, but not overcrowded, there’s just enough books and games and decorative pieces to feel right at home. The fireplace, which we’ll use throughout our stay, is the centrepiece in the living room and we really appreciate the welcome bottle of wine and whisky to taste during our stay.
As we unload the car, we pick one of the three bedrooms and notice that the central heating can also be isolated to the bedrooms – a great treat in the winter.
There are two very large bathrooms, each with stand-alone baths that beckon a dip. There’s also a coffee machine, a state-of-the-art kitchen and the laundry is the type dreams - and Pinterest tags - are made of.
Our son Xander runs down the hallway to peek in all the rooms. It’s luxurious and chic, but a haven for kids and boasting a bigger yard than any they’ll ever have in the city.
We open the bottle of Tinker’s Merlot, a local wine from a cellar door we later spot just down the road and watch as the sun disappears. I sync the Bluetooth speaker with my phone and sit back, while my husband Jason prepares dinner for us all.
The next morning, we cook up breakfast and enjoy it on the veranda while our son plays on the grass in front of us calling out ‘cow!’ to the herd just across the fence. Mid-morning, we decide to explore the local Hunter Valley Gardens to run off some energy.
When we arrive, just after 9.30am we’re a little shocked by the steep prices ($30 per adult or $70 for both of us and our son.) After we begin to wander the grounds though, we understand why.
The gardens are privately owned and consist of 10 different themed spaces including an immaculate rose garden, a Chinese garden and Indian garden and a storybook garden featuring all the timeless nursery rhyme characters we all love. We spend more than an hour wandering through archways, past hedges and waterfalls and roses in a kaleidoscope of colours.
During the school holidays, there are also theme park-grade rides for kids including a ferris wheel and carousel.
We head to Café Enzo for lunch – located in a cluster of sandstone buildings inside a Tuscan-inspired village. There are numerous choices for dining in the Hunter, but we choose Café Enzo for its beautiful café-side yard and waterfall that our son can run around whilst we enjoy our food.
There’s a stunning oversized fireplace glowing inside but we sit out in the sun and order coffee to start. We’re impressed by our oversized servings when the food arrives – I order a spinach leaf salad with chicken, pumpkin and goats’ cheese and we order nuggets for the little one.
We share a bottle of David Hook Pinot Grigio – a wine that we later buy from the cellar door just metres from our table. The service is fast and attentive and before long, every table is taken.
After lunch we head to Audrey Wilkinson, a winery located 10 minutes away on a hill in the Brokeback Mountain Ranges, overlooking the entire valley.
We’re taken to a private room where we experience a Premium Tasting of a variety of wines, served with a cheeseboard. Our friendly and knowledgeable host Daniel talks us through the wines we taste and laughs as kids circle the table playing.
They’re friendly people out here in the Hunter and very welcoming, despite the fact we have a toddler in tow in wine country. Daniel talks us through the history of the property, first acquired in 1866. Audrey took over the farm at just 15, when his father passed away.
At the end of the tasting, we’re invited to do something a little different – enjoy a dessert wine direct from the barrel. Like Daniel warns, it tastes like sticky date pudding and while dessert wine isn’t usually my thing, this one is.
We head outside to the lookout and take photos before half-jokingly requesting our son takes a nap, so we can. We’re in luck, he’s out within minutes of the commute back to Corunna Station and while we don’t quite go to bed, we enjoy a tea on the deck together enjoying the tranquility of the farm.
It is a little warmer than the previous day so we decide to light up the barbeque to cook some chicken we brought with us. Our son eats early and then after splashing around in the oversized bathtub, drifts off to sleep after a big day running around. We eat at the dining table, listening to music and sipping on wine – exactly what the doctor ordered.
The next morning, we wake to see a huge cow has wandered up to eat the green grass around the house and Xander is enthralled. The cow happily eats beside us as we enjoy the bacon and eggs that I cook for us.
As we pack our things into the car, we’re a little sad to be leaving the stillness of the farm where we’ve managed to slow down the clock. We agree next time, we’ll add a couple more nights to our stay.
Before we head back to Sydney, we go by Smokey Sundays, a session put on at the Matilda Bay Brewhouse at the Hunter Hotel. There are seats around a fire outside and an inside option, too.
We’re greeted by that signature Hunter Valley warmth and shown right to our table. Before long, we’re served beer floats and meat boards of 16-hour blackened brisket, smoked chorizo sausage and eight-hour smoked shoulder of pork and slaw.
We take our time to enjoy the floats and beer before packing the car to start the drive back to Sydney feeling rested and refreshed by a weekend of country air.