An Aussie abroad, Elyse moved to London 14 months ago and hasn’t looked back. Raised on the beaches of Australia’s New South Wales coast, she is always the first to explore new places - as long as camping isn’t involved. She is an avid runner and her passion for the beach is matched only by that of her love for peanut butter.
To say I am partial to Australian wine is an understatement. In fact, it is a complete lie. I am 100% biased towards the Aussie grape. Since packing up my Australian life over two years ago and moving to the UK, I find myself scouring the aisles of supermarkets looking for the earthy taste of my homeland’s sweet nectar.
Hailing from the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, it's only natural that I know my way around a bottle of Shiraz or Chardonnay (two of the biggest varieties produced in Hunter). On a recent trip home, I took some time to wander through the numerous vineyards, taste some wonderful bottles and enjoy the summer sun. Below are my top five favourites, which make any visit to the Hunter Valley a must:
A family owned vineyard, Tyrrell’s has been producing wine for over 150 years. It is well known for its use of old oak vats, which provide the bursting flavours of its Shiraz and crisp taste of its Semillon. If you visit Tyrrell’s my recommendation is the award-winning 2014 Hunter Valley Shiraz.
Located in the exquisite area of Lovedale, Gartelmann Wines is a newcomer to the wine-making business. Founded in 1996, this vineyard has proved its muscle in the thriving Hunter Valley. Despite being a small cellar door, it provides an array of whites and reds and is well known for its Semillon and Shiraz. Sit back with a glass of its 2017 Benjamin Semillon (a crisp backbone with hints of lemon and lime) and take in the spectacular views across the land here. For more information, check out the Gartelmann website or chat to a Flight Centre Aussie Travel Expert.
Constable Estate Vineyard
Out of all the cellar doors I have had the privilege of visiting, this would have to be one of my favourites. Located in Pokolbin, the Constable Estate Vineyard includes Shiraz, Cabernet, Semillon and Verdelho, planted across 17 acres. It has a reputation for producing some of the most dramatic and bold Shiraz and Semillon in the region.
Take the time to wander through its stunning gardens and surrounds, taking in some of most exquisite natural sites in the Hunter Valley. When visiting this vineyard I would highly recommend the Matilda Rosé. This is made from its Shiraz grape and has nicely blended flavours of strawberry and Turkish delight. I would also recommend the homemade pastes and chutneys.
As the name would suggest, I fell in love here. Every time I head back to the Hunter Valley this is always one of my first stops. Its cellar door is unlike others, where you are able to listen to the interesting history of the vineyard and the family owned business whilst tasting some simple and elegant varietals. It is evident that the wine makers here take incredible care when producing their bottles. My selections at this vineyard include the 2016 Barrel Fermented Rose, made from Hunter Valley Shiraz grapes. The vibrant colour of this rosé is matched by the unique taste (a wine that is initially sweet finishes dry).
For something a little different try the 2016 Hunter Shiraz, which is made solely from the grapes of the Mistletoe Home Vineyard. With a deep earthiness, lined with a spicy fruit flavour, this is a must buy.
Tempus Two Wines
A trip to the Hunter Valley vineyards would not be complete without stopping in at Tempus Two. Located in Pokolbin, Tempus Two was founded by the McGuigan family, making their history and knowledge of wine second to none. Tempus Two has a number of different collections, each embodying their own wine-making process. Sticking to my favourites, I recommend the Shiraz and Semillon from the Copper Series. The Shiraz has a strong but smooth fruity taste, whilst the Semillon is well balanced with a hint of citrus.
And, whilst not explicitly originating from the Hunter Valley, I also recommend the Copper Series Chardonnay.
Sip wines in the Hunter Valley on one of our tailor-made holidays to New South Wales.
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We all know that winter in the UK can be a bit of a depressing time of year. The fanfare of the festive season is over, the weather is miserable and the dread of another full year is upon us. So why not go somewhere better? If you’re looking for sun, cocktails and sand between your toes to perk you up, the start of the year is definitely the best time to Escape. Here’s our pick of the best spots to jet away from those winter blues…
Continuously voted the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne is an abundance of sophistication, hidden laneways, independent coffee retailers and glorious food. It’s also Australia’s sporting and cultural capital. And it has plenty to offer beyond the city limits too: Mornington Peninsula, located just south of Melbourne, provides a great escape with sparkling beaches and wonderful wines, while wildlife lovers can spot penguins on Phillip Island. West of Melbourne will take you along the Great Ocean Road, offering fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean. If time is not an issue, continue the drive down to the 12 Apostles, around 150 miles southwest of Melbourne.
The capital of Thailand is known for its eccentric street life and a heady mix of business and pleasure. Offering a number of canals and winding streets, you will have the opportunity to see the mix of high-class and market fare, all the while soaking up temperatures well into the 20s. Just outside downtown Bangkok is Khao San Road, a long street providing travellers with a variety of clubs, bars, shopping experiences and restaurants.
Napier, New Zealand
To the southeast of New Zealand’s North Island, Napier is the perfect blend of wine regions and Art Deco architecture. This small coastal city is well known for the grapes produced here, particularly in Hawke’s Bay, and throughout town you’ll find a number of Gatsby-esque buildings. Hire bikes and take a tour around the waterfront promenade, soaking up the eclectic atmosphere. In fact, if you are visiting for the wine, I definitely recommend a Hawke’s Bay bike and wine tour.
Cape Town, South Africa
Whether you are looking for amazing food and wine, incredible landscapes or epic waves to ride, Cape Town has it all. Set in the shadow of the mighty Table Mountain, the white beaches make for a beautiful, natural contrast against the emerald green of the surrounding flora. And for those who want to explore further, road trip-worthy tarmacs abound along the Garden Route, while plenty of wildlife can be found in nearby Kruger National Park.
Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Kuta, on the south side of Bali, may be well known for its party culture, but it also gives off a really laid-back atmosphere. It is the perfect location for a beach Escape, with a number of resorts, hotels, restaurants and bars lining the sands. Want to explore? Hire a scooter and make your way to Seminyak, taking in the cultural sites and street-side sellers as you go. Continue onto the amazing La Laguna Bali restaurant on the beachfront, which offers breathtaking sea views, perfect for admiring at sunset with a cocktail in hand.
Nestled in the heart of India, Mumbai boasts a wonderful oasis of food, markets and local tradition. Make your way through the chaotic streets and take in views of the Arabian Sea at Gorai Beach (try the chilli mango here… it’s amazing). If you are looking for something a little more intense, explore and haggle at the local markets, but do be wary of pickpockets.
The stylish capital of Spain, Madrid is located in the middle of the country, providing an accessible place to start your Spanish adventure. Filled with European flare and tapas at its very best, vibrant Madrid also offers an exciting history to discover, dating back as far as the Stone Age. Home of the Spanish royal family and Real Madrid, this city is a must for anyone seeking sun and culture without the long-haul flight. Temperatures aren’t dissimilar to the UK in winter, but the skies are frequently brighter and crisper.
Located to the north, just a stone’s through from the South China Sea, Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. This densely populated city provides visitors with a diverse mix of religion, politics and history. Explore the dramatic Old Quarter, wander through temples and dine on delicious street food. Further afield you can take in the view of limestone karsts and dramatic inlets at Halong Bay or go hiking along trails and through caves in Ninh Binh.
Fez is one of Morocco’s largest cities, as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is best known for its European cultural influences combined with its traditional atmosphere. Located only 128 miles east of Morocco’s capital city Rabat, it is a great place for soaking up Morocco’s rich history, culture and customs, not to mention the vibrant markets, all with aromatic spices and materials for sale.
As a New South Wales native, I am a little biased when it comes to Sydney and anything Australia, but that doesn’t change the fact that this destination should be at the top of your list when looking for a summer Escape. Sydney has an abundance of crystal-clear beaches, matched only by the iconic sights (think the Opera House, Harbour and Bridge) and that laid-back Sydneysider lifestyle. Surfing lessons are a must if you are staying longer than a week – I promise you’ll be a pro in no time. If watching the waves rather than riding them is more your style, Bondi Icebergs is the perfect location for some gentle swimming, morning or night.
Escape the winter with our range of tailor-made holidays and beach breaks.
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New Zealand is one of the most iconic countries in the South Pacific. Despite being frequently overshone by its bigger counterpart Australia, the Land of the Long White Cloud is actually home to a number of creative and exciting holiday experiences. The former capital city of Auckland is no exception. If you only have a short time here, be sure to take in these must-see spots and hidden treasures:
This is at the top of everyone’s list for Auckland. The tallest building in the city provides uninterrupted, panoramic views of the skyline; we went up in the evening to see all the skyscrapers illuminated. With 360-degree views of the city, you can even see the lights of Devonport across the bay. Entry to the Sky Tower observation deck is NZ$29pp. For those seeking a few more thrills, try the SkyWalk and SkyJump, both of which taking advantage of the tower’s staggering height to get the heart pumping.
Wander across the Waterfront
Easily accessible from the city centre, you can walk all around the Auckland Waterfront, taking in the sights across the bay. We started at Teal Park and walked past Prince’s Wharf, down to The Big Wheel (a random but interesting sight). It’s about a 90-minute round trip on foot, and takes you past local attractions including the New Zealand Maritime Museum (entry NZ$20pp).
Eat and drink down by the water
New Zealand is best known for its delicious wines, fro m both the North and South Island, so take in the sights by day, then settle in for the night with some fabulous food and drink. There’s all styles of dish, from fish and chips to succulent steaks. The best part is that the Kiwis don’t do things by halves, as evidenced by this cheese platter I devoured atThe Right Track Sports Bar & Café. I think my face says it all!
One of the most famous areas in Auckland, Mount Wellington is only a 15-minute drive from the city centre. After a half-hour hike to the top you will be rewarded with vistas across the city. You don’t really need to be a hiker or outdoorsy person to enjoy this walk and, best of all, it’s completely free.
A 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island provides some of the best wines that New Zealand has to offer. From the voluptuous grape vines to the sparkling blue of the bay, you can enjoy a bicycle ride around the island or a bite to eat at one of the vineyards here. All the restaurant staff know exactly what wine to match with the dish you order, so it’s definitely worth asking for their recommendations.
Hire a car and explore the rest of the North Island
Whilst this is a city guide to Auckland, it would be remiss of me not to highlight the fact that it is such an accessible city. Linking to the major highway, it is only a short drive south to Hamilton, two hours to the laid-back city of Whangarei, or just three hours away from the beautiful Bay of Islands. New Zealand is full of so many different experiences, from adventure to coastal drives, why not begin your Journey in Auckland?
Discover Auckland and the rest of the North Island on our tailor-made Essential North Island itinerary – 15 days from £2,099pp.
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