Visiting Lovedale – A City Guide
Set in the gently rolling countryside of the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region, Lovedale is a picturesque destination populated by artisans and producers. With an abundance of vineyards, fine restaurants, craft shops and farmers’ markets, and surrounded by bushland, the town offers a relaxing country getaway.
Lovedale: city layout
Two hours north of Sydney, in the heart of the Lower Hunter wine region, Lovedale sits between the town of Pokolbin in the west and Werakata National Park in the east. To the north, the Hunter River snakes east towards the coastal city of Newcastle, drawing cooling sea breezes into the humid valley.
Lovedale lies on Wine Country Drive, which cuts northward through the vineyards, from the Pacific Highway to the Hunter Expressway. Its handful of crooked country roads are home to wineries, boutiques and workshops, as well as golf courses, country clubs and day spas – all just a stroll or a bike ride from one another.
Top attractions in Lovedale
Lovedale’s star attraction is, of course, the wine. Dozens of vineyards are scattered throughout the countryside, many with ‘cellar doors’ – tasting rooms where you can try and buy the wines and other wares. Many also have restaurants serving fresh local produce.
To sample the range of wine and produce available, you can follow the Around Hermitage Wine and Food Trail through Pokolbin and Rothbury. The self-guided tour goes past a number of boutique cellar doors, including several multiple award winners.
For outdoor fun you can visit the Hunter Valley Gardens. Its 10 themed plots include a sunken garden with a 10-metre waterfall, an Italian grotto, Indian mosaics and several ornate fountains and statues.
The concierge recommends…
● Hiring a bicycle from Grapemobile to admire the rural surroundings as you zip between cellar doors.
● Cooking up a storm at Majors Lane cookery school, where the resident chef will teach you the principles of Asian fusion.
● Meeting a marmoset in the monkey enclosure at Hunter Valley Zoo. You can also get up close and personal with meerkats, tapirs and native koalas and wombats.
● Touring Maitland Gaol, a former maximum-security prison whose history spans 150 years.
Hotels in Lovedale
Lovedale accommodation ranges from homely B&Bs and private cottages to stylish resorts and luxury hotels. Right next door to the Hunter Valley’s winemaking heart of Pokolbin, this peaceful township offers golf courses and country clubs, day spas and restaurants, and events and conference facilities. Its leafy country roads are dotted with artisan workshops, boutique sellers, vineyards, breweries and cafés.
Families will enjoy Hunter Valley Gardens and Hunter Valley Zoo, while the conservation areas of Werakata National Park and Cessnock State Park promise plenty of outdoor activity in the sunshine.
Eating Out in Lovedale
Surrounded by farmland and vineyards, Lovedale dining centres on fresh, seasonal produce paired with fine wines. You can sample the wares at local cheesemakers, smokehouses and chocolatiers, or sit down for a three-course meal in modern Australian style, prepared by chefs at award-winning wineries.
The town is renowned for the Lovedale Long Lunch, a food and wine festival held every May. Over one weekend, some of the best Hunter Valley chefs collaborate with Lovedale wineries to celebrate the flavours of the region.
The Palmers Lane Wine Eco-Trail connects six cellar doors with cafés offering high tea and cheese platters. For some fresh air and exercise between tastings, you can hire a bicycle or stroll between the wineries.
Visit the brewery or let a sommelier pair wine with your meal at Hope Estate in neighbouring Pokolbin. Nearby restaurant Circa 1876 offers an innovative fine-dining experience, with ingredients coming straight from the kitchen garden. For a long, relaxing brunch, try Emersons Café & Restaurant on Lovedale Road.
The chef recommends…
● Lemon myrtle olive oil: Sourced from the olive grove at Adina Vineyard, this extra virgin olive oil is blended with indigenous lemon myrtle for a citrus flavour.
● Smoked Hunter Valley beef sirloin: With local produce again taking pride of place, this cut is treated by hand at the Lovedale Smokehouse.
● Grapevine-ashed brie: A soft, creamy cheese made at the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory, with a rind of ash encased in white mould.
● Caramel macadamia bar: Belgian-style milk chocolate with a filling of caramel and Australian-grown macadamia nuts, from the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company.
Shopping in Lovedale
From farmers’ markets, galleries and antique stores to the region’s many cellar doors, there’s a wide range of shopping in Lovedale – all in support of local producers, craftspeople and traders.
Most local wineries have tasting rooms where, with the advice of an expert, you can taste the produce before deciding what to buy. Stroll from door to door along the quaint country lanes to sample the many cheeses, wines, charcuterie and condiments on offer.
Monthly farmers’ markets are held in nearby townships Broke and Kurri Kurri. In Pokolbin, you can chat with local artisans at the fortnightly Handmade in the Hunter Markets. At the Hunter Wine Country Markets, which take place on Saturdays, makers sell handmade jewellery, pottery, soap, clothes and more.
Lovedale Antiques Old Wares & Gallery specialises in antique collectibles and works by local artists. You can buy original jewellery, paintings and photography at Emma’s Cottage Gallery. In Rothbury, the Gabby Horvath Collection offers bespoke, handcrafted jewellery.
Best wines to buy in the Hunter Valley
● Semillon: The internationally renowned Hunter Valley semillon is a dry white with a unique grassy flavour. This wine is delicious when cellared for eight to 10 years, developing notes of toast and honey.
● Chardonnay: This is the most commonly produced wine in Australia, and some of its finest examples come from the Hunter Valley. They have a distinctive woody flavour, with hints of peach and cream.
● Verdelho: A white wine grape usually associated with Portugal, verdelho is well suited to the Hunter Valley’s warm, rainy climate. This fresh-tasting, fruity table wine goes well with spicy Asian food.
● Shiraz: Another signature variety of the region, Hunter Valley shiraz is a full-bodied, astringent wine that ages very well. Cellar it for 20-30 years for a silky wine with earthy, dark-fruit flavours.
Culture & Nightlife in Lovedale
Lovedale and the greater Hunter Valley region are home to a thriving community of artists and artisans, working with glass, wood, paint, metal and precious stones. During the Lovedale Arts Festival , held in May and June, you can visit studios and galleries, see performances at vineyards and restaurants, and buy art at accessible prices.
Film buffs will love the Hunter Valley Wine, Food & Film Festival in April, when Australian films are screened at vineyards along the Around Hermitage food and wine trail.
Like much else in the Hunter Valley, Lovedale’s nightlife revolves around good food and wine. For an after-dark adventure, book a place on the iHop Tour by Night. You’ll sample cheeses and wines, enjoy a tapas-style meal and finish the evening at a local dessert bar.
Art galleries in Lovedale
● Australian Woodwork: Browse pieces made from sustainably sourced native timber at this purpose-built gallery, which highlights traditional Australian woodworking practices.
● Maitland Regional Art Gallery: This vibrant gallery features work by renowned Australian artists, and hosts touring exhibitions from around the country. Its interactive Art Factory is designed to engage children and young adults.
● Ogishi Craft Centre: Run by local artist Setsuko Ogishi, the centre includes a gallery, a shop and glassblowing workshops. You can observe the entire production process – from mixing colours to blowing and finishing.
Leisure in Lovedale
At the foot of the scenic Brokenback Range and surrounded by state parklands, Lovedale provides a lush setting for a range of outdoor activities. Local resorts and country clubs promise relaxation too – perhaps on the golf course or at a day spa.
You might like to stroll around the 60-acre Hunter Valley Gardens. Kids will appreciate the nursery rhyme characters in the Storybook Garden, as well as the miniature train and brumbies (wild horses) made from maidenhair vine.
You can treat yourself to a facial, massage or body treatment, or just take it easy at Crowne Plaza’s sumptuous Ubika Spa. The resort’s Hunter Valley Golf championship course offers 18 holes with mountain views.
Further afield, you might spy Australian wildlife like echidnas, wallabies and spotted quolls, plus birds and native flora, at Werakata National Park. Bushwalk along trails and old mining tracks or cycle Deadmans Loop, taking a lunch break at Astills picnic area.
Adventure activities near Lovedale
● Hot air ballooning: Beyond Ballooning can send you floating over the valley’s slopes and vineyards to watch the sunrise from on high.
● Scenic helicopter flight: For a speedier journey, charter a helicopter ride over the region’s wineries and bushland.
● Horse riding: Enjoy a personalised trail ride through the Molly Morgan range with Hunter Valley Horse Riding & Adventures. There are pony rides for kids, and at sunset you might spot wombats and kangaroos.