Hunter Valley for Kids

One Night in Hunter Valley.

It was a close call between Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley. We were deciding to make one of these an overnight trip from Sydney with the family. It takes two hours to get to the former and 30 minutes more to the latter. What sealed the deal was Hot-Air Balloon! Hunter Valley offers Hot-Air Ballooning flights which is on my bucket list! We had to go there.

Besides, I am very particular about where we stay [spoilt by Raffles days] and none in Blue Mountains made the mark except for The Escarpment Group of hotels which were too luxurious for a night's stay with family [I would have booked it if was just the two of us]. Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains was the best choice in Blue Mountains because of it being absolutely family-friendly with playrooms and all. Pity, their rooms are oldish and definitely in need to be refurbished.

The Hunter Valley is the birthplace of Australian wine with over 150 premium wine producers holding a very special place in the world wine industry, and Oaks Cypress Lake Resort has been a part of this historic wine region from the beginning

We chose to stay in this 25 acre resort called Oaks Cypress Lake Resort in Hunter Valley which is relatively near to the places we have penned out in our itinerary.

It takes only four minutes drive to Hunter Valley Gardens, five to the meeting point of our Hot-Air Ballooning experience, 20 minutes to Hunter Valley Horse Riding & Adventures and three minutes drive to Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory.

Perfect location if you may ask me?

If you are lucky enough, you would be treated to a morning visit from the resident kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas!

With our family of five including grandma, a two-bedroom villa was what we need. Featuring two separate bedrooms, one with ensuite, a full kitchen, living & dining area together with a balcony, we felt very much at home. Especially when we drove up to the doorstep and parked right in front of our residence. As Meyer and I wound down from the day's hectic schedule, sitting at our dining table and working on our respective laptops, he said, "It's actually quite homely as compared to a hotel ay?"

It is a golf club with accommodation services and so you can imagine how peaceful and beautiful the grounds are. We had lunch at Bodega, the resort's main restaurant, and we were impressed with the quality and price of food. In Australia, food is very expensive and they may not always be delicious but at Bodega, we were satisfied hippos. Especially the children who had the Kids' Menu which included juice and ice-cream in their meals for just AUD15.

Our rate [AUD250 nett per night] doesn't include breakfast but we didn't need it anyways since we've got a kitchen. It is really affordable for a two bedroom villa housing our whole family! If I break that down, it's just AUS125 nett per night per room if we stayed in a hotel. Only thing is we got a whole house for that price!

Address: 15 Thompsons Road, Pokolbin
Reservations: 1300 886 091

Cost: from AUD245 per adult | AUD215 per child [7 to 12 years olds]
Time: Daily depending on wind conditions, 0530hrs to 1030hrs
Locate: Peterson House

There are three hot-air balloon companies in Hunter Valley which I studied throughly on with regards to their offerings [in order of priciest to cheapest]:

1. Balloon Aloft AUD269 per adult inclusive champagne breakfast and e-photobook of flight
2. Balloon Safaris AUD245 per adult inclusive of champagne breakfast only
3. Beyond Ballooning AUD249 per adult inclusive champagne breakfast and e-photobook of flight

Obviously, I sent my enquiry to Beyond Ballooning. To top that price up, they've got a hotel package with Crown Plaza Hunter Valley! I was looking to book a hotel at that time when I was looking up ballooning flights and was eager to book this package if the price was right. Alas! No one replied me from Beyond Ballooning and when I emailed  Crown Plaza Hunter Valley, they said they didn't know that this package existed. I later learn that they have only two pilots who are also working in the office. The experience they have is definitely not the same as the Balloon Aloft team.

Balloon Aloft has more than 35 years experience in this Valley, with eight pilots from all around the world. They've got a world woman champion, Nicola Scaife and the boss himself, Matthre Scaife, is Australian's champion! 

Understanding that Balloon Safaris and Balloon Aloft are currently under the same family business, I decided to book the AUD245 rate with Balloon Safaris and do without the e-photobook. 

The experience was once-in-a-lifetime. It was very cold that morning and I think we were under-dressed for the occasion. We should have brought our scarves and beanies but we didn't. As we gathered at Peterson House Winery that Thursday morning at 0530hours, we found ourselves stationing under the heater just to catch some warmth before leaving for the valleys. 

Hot-air balloon flights are mainly dependent on wind conditions and our pilot suggested we drove 30 minutes away into Broke Valley for our flight because where we were wasn't desirable to fly that morning. We were all crossing our fingers when we arrived because if the wind test fails, we will be required to drive further away into another valley! Oh we would be missing the sunrise if we did that!

Well, it passed *phew*

It was a beautiful experience watching the balloon come up. I wanted to capture it on video and had both hands out of my pocket in the freezing cold to do just that. Oh it was so cold, my hands were shivering! I couldn't keep still and we laughed at the sight of this Asian lady trying to photograph every moment! 

The fire from the balloon and the morning sun kept us warm and toasty throughout our hour-long flight. Our basket fits 20 people and when it was time to hop in, everyone rushed for the best standing space there is. I don't know where is the best spot but Meyer and I were the leftovers. There are four compartments in the basket, allowing space for five people per booth. Since everyone were travelling in twos, there will be two couples who will be "separated". They will need to take the outermost spot of the basket, separated by a cushion. Guess what? These are the best spot in the house! So please don't rush in, be the leftovers and head in last because you get a 180 degree view of the valley when you are up there. 

Do Not Forget To Bring Your Selfie Stick!

I brought a selfie stick with us on this holiday but I forgotten to bring it out with us that morning on the hot-air balloon. I had to depend on the length of my not so long arms to get some couple shots. Meyer was complaining how dangerously close I was to dropping my phone and camera just to get shots like these as I stretched my arms out of the basket. I had to take the risk didn't I? Thank goodness we lost nothing from our basket!

While our children are too young to fly, you can still bring your children for this experience if they reach the minimum age of seven to make this a family affair. I decided I won't be bringing Ewan and Faye on any hot-air balloon flights because they've got to earn their own experience like we did. Who knows! Maybe Faye might get proposed on one! Or my new-age sensitive boy may just propose to his girlfriend in one.

The thing about hot-air ballooning is, you are totally dependent on the wind. We could either be really really high or get so close to the ground, you wonder if you will land prematurely. We got so close to the ground one time that we saw kangaroos and calves right before of our eyes! 

This herd of calves were totally curious. They ran after our balloon and stared at us, wondering who we were. What an amazing experience. 

The experience doesn't end at landing. We were given the opportunity to help keep the balloon and load it up to a trailer! It was really fun and it gave us many opportunities to photograph ourselves INSIDE the ballon itself! 

The flight was rounded up with a hearty champagne breakfast at Peterson House. The perfect way to end our morning before heading back to the reality of being parents.

Cost: AUD102 for a Family of Four for Snow Time in the Gardens
Time: Daily, 0900 to 1900 hours [Monday to Friday] | 0900 to 2100 hours [Saturday and Sunday]
Locate: Broke Road, Pokolbin, NSW2320, Australia

Spanning over 60 acres, be amazed by the sensational sights, colours, and fragrances of the ten stunning feature gardens here - Storybook Garden [kids love it], Sunken Garden, Chinese Moongate Garden, Indian Mosaic Garden, Formal Garden, Rose Garden, Border Garden, Italian Grotto and Oriental Garden.

During our visit, there was Snow Time in the Gardens, a ticketed event ending 16 July 2017. They had bouncy castles, carousels, ice-skating and ice-pits, snow ball fights, swing chairs, super slide, face-painting and ice toboggan! Well, how can we miss this event? It'll be such a pity for the children to give it a miss.

They ran amok when we arrived and we stayed till sundown. I realised we over-stayed in every attraction we went and couldn't afford more time to head to the rest of fun the gardens had to offer.

While Ewan went for his snow-ball fight, Faye decided to go on a walk with grandma and I though the Storybook Garden. It is a garden filled with Nursery Rhymes like Little Bo Peep, Alice in Wonderland, Jack and Jill and the likes of it. This is a permanent display with ‘Larger-than-life’ nursery rhyme characters and spectacular murals greeting us at every corner, offering excellent photo opportunities!

It is a beautiful place and I regretted not spending the whole day here exploring the rest of the gardens.

Upcoming Events: 
1 to 30 September 2017 - SPRING FESTIVAL Visit Hunter Valley Gardens this spring and immerse yourself in the colours and scents of over 60 acres of display garden.

23 September to 8 October 2017 - MEGA CREATURES In the September school holidays, see the giant new animatronic Dragons, along with Mega Bugs and Dinosaurs. #MegaCreatures

14 October to 12 November 2017 - See over 50 varieties of roses, with hundreds of thousands of blooms as part of their annual Rose Spectacular.

3 November 2017 to Late January 2018 - With over 2 million Christmas lights on display and new rides, make some memories this festive season. #ChristmasLightsSpectacular

    Cost: AUD7 per bucket of aqua golf balls or AUD12 for two. Club hire is Free. Putt Putt is 18 holes and costs $6 for adults and $5 for a child (under 17) or $20.00 for a family of four.
    Time: 0930 to 1630 hours
    Locate: Hunter Valley Gardens

    Hit floating golf balls into a beautiful lake with stunning garden and mountain surrounds. You can win prize vouchers and cash jackpots if you land a ball in the floating nets. A challenging 18 hole putt putt course beside the lake is also a fun option for players!

    Children get to go on a mini-golf adventure and although Ewan really wanted to go, we didn't have time for it. Would you tell us how it is when you go?


    Cost: AUD45 per child for Horse Riding [30 min] | AUD20 per child for Tractor Ride [1 hour]
    Phone: 02 4930 7111
    Locate: 288 Talga Road, Rothbury, NSW 2320

    We had the children booked in for house riding because they were begging us for it. Ewan has rode on many ponies before but this time, he was on a horse! We were all very surprised that they gave a five year old a horse but well, I trust they will take care of my son. We can all walk alongside our children on the ride too anyways. His ride is called, Cherry Kee.

    Faye was excited the whole night before her ride. She even woke up asking, "Are we going horse riding now? I want to go now! Now now now!" When we arrived, she wore her helmet and stood in line, waiting for her turn to mount on her horse. Well, she's so tiny and they gave her a pony. As we carried her towards her pony, she started to cry. "What? Didn't you say you want to ride? It's AUD45!" I screamed in my head.

    The ranch was kind enough to have the money refunded seeing her petrified look. Faye didn't tell us why she didn't want to ride eventually but I suspect it's because of the bushy mane and possibly the horse poop all around the ground.

    We walked alongside Ewan as a family on his house-riding experience and I must say, it was boring. Oh I wouldn't recommned going for this walk after experiencing what we had in Margaret River with Jesters Flat Equestrian [Top On The List]. The grounds where we walked in Hunter Valley was just an open space unlike the forest walk we had with Jesters.

    I guess Sunset Horse Rides are the way to go when wildlife awakens. You mayweed and ride with Kangaroos and Wallabies in the light of the beautiful sunsets. We went at mid-day and no Kangaroos were in sight.

    However, the Tractor Ride is a MUST GO!

    We didn't initially book the Tractor in advance because we didn't know about it. When Ewan saw it on arrival, he insisted it was a must. Daddy didn't want to pay for it because well, AUD20 for a ride in the tractor? That is kind of pricey isn't it? But it turned out to be worth every cent we paid.

    Ewan, Faye and I went [mine was free because I had to take sure Faye doesn't fall overboard] on the tractor ride and our driver brought us to a little pen where pigs, goats and chickens reside! He gave each child a bucket of swill and said, "Now, let's go! We are going to feed the little animals!"

    Wow Wee! That's fun! Ewan ran in chasing the goats and feeding the pig. It was a real farmer's experience.

    Our tractor driver drove us further and stopped once again. This time, the children were given the opportunity to feed the cows and horses from the other side of the fence. Oh so that's what all the hay was meant for. I had thought it was only decorative! The children were eager to feed the cows all the hay there was but we were stopped because the big experience was going to come! We needed more hay on the tractor because we are going to drive into the big field where the cows and horses lived. They are going to feed on the hay stuck to our tractor, giving the kids a close-up experience of these animals.

    It must be our lucky day that one little calf got lost and we were taken into the field to look for him. We found him and the kids were told to disembark from the tractor and GO CHASE THE CALF BACK TO MOMMY! *hahaha*

    A total of one hour for this tractor ride and definitely worth the go.

    Don't forget to email or call to book your slot in advance! It's really very popular.

    Cost: dependant on flight package
    Locate: Cesshock Airport Terminal, Wine Country Drive Pokolbin

    Definitely on the list for a family ride but we didn't have time once again. They allow children of all ages on the helicopter which meant Faye was able to go! Each child will get a seat on their own with one accompanied adult. 

    They have three aircrafts with the biggest one seating a pilot and four passengers, perfect for that family of four. Sorry if you have bigger families! 

    Let us know your experience if you go!


    Peterson House
    Cnr Broke Rd Pokolbin NSW 2325
    Tel: (02) 4998 7301

    Hunter Valley Gardens Shop
    5, Hunter Valley Gardens Broke Rd Pokolbin NSW 2325
    Tel: (02) 4998 7221

    HVCC @ Twenty-3-Twenty 2320 Broke Rd Pokolbin NSW 2320
    Tel: (02) 4998 6999
    I am not a fan of chocolate and although we did go in to have a look, I didn't walk out with any purchases. I wouldn't really put this under "Hunter Valley for Kids" since there was no playground or chocolate-making workshops for them. However, I know many families take chocolate factory visits as part of their itinerary and I am here to say, "Yes! There is a Chocolate Company in Hunter Valley too!"

    Our little Travel companions 
    July 2017 - Ewan at 5 years old and Faye at 3 years old 
    Click on our Travel tab to read all about our travel tips and tricks
    Sydney For Kids
    Swissotel Sydney - A Kids Retreat

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    We want to echo the sound of love through our lives to inspire other mothers alike.


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