We headed north of Sydney to the Hunter Valley. Sadly we had to leave Buster and Hazel at home, but picked up some new friends along the way. Best known for its vineyards, the Hunter Valley has 200 km of coastline and spectacular National Parks, state forests, many rivers and the Brokenback Ranges inland. Our getaway included exploring Newcastle, the Hunter wine region and Port Stephens, where we discovered a paradise welcoming the two of us and our new best friends.
The Hunter region extends from Newcastle, about a two hour drive north of Sydney, up the coast of NSW to Harrington, and inland to include many regional centres.
The original inhabitants of the region were the Wonnarua people, who lived in the area for over 30,000 years. European settlers discovered the Hunter River by chance in 1797, during a search for escaped convicts. Abundant reserves of cedar and coal were harvested for the steamship trade in the early years, with vineyards being planted in the early 19th century when the climate was found to be ideally suited to the production of wine.
The Hunter River meets the sea at Newcastle. The gateway to the Hunter Valley is a wonderful city to start your holiday, before venturing up the coast, and inland to the natural attractions. The stunning beaches of Newcastle are linked by the Bathers Way, a coastal walk extending between Nobbys Beach and Merewether Beach. Two historic sites on the path are the convict-built ocean bath Bogey Hole, and Fort Scratchley, built in the 1880s and a perfect viewpoint for whale watching.
The coastline in Newcastle seems to go on forever. Horseshoe Beach is the only official off lead beach; and an essential visit on a doggy agenda. At any time of day you will find plenty of dogs racing up and down the beach ready to play. The beach is protected by the spectacular Nobbys Head, the site of the earliest surviving lighthouse in NSW, Nobbys Lighthouse. Built in 1858, it is now on the Commonwealth Heritage List, and is floodlit at night, a stunning sight if you’re out for a late walk. There are also three keeper’s houses and a signal station; the site is open on Sundays offering unsurpassable 360 degree views.
For off lead dog fun a short drive from Newcastle head to Stockton and Merewether; both have exercise areas adjacent to the beach. Further south, Redhead Beach and Hams Beach provide room to run and roam. Hams Beach is a renowned off leash beach, friendly and clean. It is at the northern end of Caves Beach, which itself does not welcome dogs, but has a fantastic dog exercise area back from the beach.
Pet Friendly Accommodation in Newcastle
Tantarra Guest House
Tantarra Guest House is an Indo-Asian inspired B&B providing superior dog friendly accomodation. The pool, gardens and grounds are tranquil, and a breakfast hamper is delivered to your room every morning. The guest house is located in beautiful Warners Bay, and dining options are just a two minute drive away. Dogs are welcome in the well appointed rooms; bring bedding, food, bowls and toys to keep your little friend happy and pampered.
Hamilton Heritage Bed and Breakfast
Hamilton Heritage Bed and Breakfast is a Federation brick and stucco building, with original ornate features and open fires providing the charm of days past. It contains three separate rooms, each with their own en suite, and welcomes dogs of all varieties. The owner Laraine will make you and your dog feel right at home. Enjoy a cup of tea with your breakfast in the sunroom – a lovely start to the day – or sit in the garden for some peace and quiet. Beaumont Street has cafes, restaurants and pubs, and Gregson Park, with off leash areas, and the Newcastle Foreshore are a short drive away.
PET FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION IN NEWCASTLE Lucy’s Run Wines welcomes your dogs to their 9 acre vineyard in a 68 acre cattle farm. They are home to Woof Woof Wines: every purchase supports Pet Rescue, so buy and give generously. And the name? Lucy was a dog with the run of the place!
We visited David Hook Wines, Pigg’s Peake and Stomp! Wines. At David Hook Wines Cellar Door, you’ll find Cafe Enzo in Pokolbin. They source local seasonal ingredients which you can enjoy in their outdoor traquil setting with a beautiful glass of David Hook Old Vines Chardonnay. And, most importantly, your dog at your toes.
Pigg’s Peake Winery offered something a little more unique. Their tastings are enjoyed among the wine vats where the fermentation process is taking place. We enjoyed a cheese platter with our tastings and had Ellie-May (from The Wattle Lodge) join us. Pigg’s Peake has Yellow Billy Restaurant. Their custom made fire pit is used daily to cook delicious food like a local lovedale suckling pig to share.
Here are some other great spots.
- Stomp! Wines: Buy a dog’s bed made from recycled wine barrels from Kimba (their dog).
- Hungerford Hill: Enjoy wine tasting with your dogs in the courtyard
- Dalwood Estate: Relax with a BBQ at Dalwood Estate. The birthplace of Hunter Valley wine, established in 1828.
- Deck Cafe, at Gartelmann Wines: Appreciate the forest bushland with your dogs during breakfast or lunch.
- Pepper Tree Wines: Say hi to resident dog Spence. Home of the annual Pooch Picnic.
- Hanging Tree Wines: Meet Labradors Muscat and Vodka.
- Capercaillie Wines: If your dog is extra-special it can hang out off lead at Capercaillie Wines – be sure to ask first.
Dog Walks in the Hunter Wine Region
- Kitchener Poppethead Reserve, Cessnock: Dogs can be walked on lead along the 1.2km Poppethead Dam Walk, or for a more vigorous trek tackle the 5km Poppethead Bushwalk.
- Watagans State Park: Includes waterfalls, rainforest and summit views. The Moss Wall Walk is an easy walk along a unique moss covered rock wall. A steep but short hike to Monkey Face Cliff will bring you to the base of a popular abseiling spot. Longer hikes will immerse you in this natural place of beauty. Dogs are welcome on lead.
- Lake St Clair, north of Singleton: The lake is popular for fishing, skiing, swimming and sailing. Take a picnic or make use of BBQ facilities. Dogs are welcome on lead, and visitor fees apply.
- Stock up on local produce and handmade items at one of the many markets in Hunter Wine Country. On any weekend there is a market or two across the region, in Pokolbin or close by. The Sunday Muster is notable for artistic creations, and the Hunter Valley Gourmet Market showcases locally sourced food and wares.
Pet Friendly Accommodation in the Hunter Wine Region
The Wattle Lodge, Glendon Brook, Hunter Valley NSW
The Wattle Lodge is a cosy cottage set on 100 acres of stunning farmland between the Pokolbin vineyards and Barrington Tops. This eco-friendly lodge in Glendon Brook sits on a cattle grazing property, proudly held by the same family for four generations. Still successful after emigrating from Ireland in the 1850s, they now welcome two dogs and their owners to join their own dogs, Dolly and Ellie-May. Your dogs are secure in a fenced play yard and welcome in the cottage. Before setting out for a day of wine tasting, experience the beauty of the Hunter Valley from the front deck: sunrise and lingering over dinner are lovely. The owners Winnifred and Roger will make you feel right at home and are nearby to suggest places to visit best known by long-term landholders. Or simply walk the property with them to experience the appeal of their lifestyle.
Misty Glen Cottage, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley NSW
Immerse yourself in the life of viticulture at Misty Glen in Pokolbin. The self-contained cottage is on a 16 acre vineyard with cellar door, where traditional and unusual methods produce notable, delicious wines with character. With three bedrooms, plenty of guests are catered for, and dogs are lovingly welcomed. Taste their wines in the rose garden overlooking the vineyard, bring a picnic, and test your skill at boules. Explore the property with your dogs on lead; they may even splash in the dam. And meet the residents, dogs Semillon and Chambourcin, cat-dog Tuscany and cat Chianti. They have a blog!