ANGELA SAURINE finds this famous wine region has plenty to offer kids as well
With everything from miniature train rides to an epic new waterpark, Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Resort is about as family-friendly as they come. Surrounded by vineyards and gum trees, it’s also just a short drive away from the region’s famous wineries. One of the resort’s biggest attractions, however, is the large, mostly shallow pool, which is ideal for kids. It’s also home to the largest private solar farm in the Southern Hemisphere, producing enough power to run five hotels!
The resort is located at Lovedale in the heart of the Hunter Valley, a two-hour drive north of Sydney and 45 minutes from Newcastle. It’s around 10 minutes’ drive to Hunter Valley Gardens and five minutes to the zoo.
There are 415 hotel rooms, villas and suites to choose from. We were among the first to stay in the new Hunter Valley Kids Cottage, which was specially designed for families. Located in the centre of the resort on the activity lawn, a short walk from the kids’ club, it has a separate bedroom with a bunk bed, family movie posters on the wall and a door leading out to a fenced area for children to play. There’s also a kitchenette, a small lounge area, and an outdoor setting on the terrace.
As well as the Water Dragon Kids Club, for children aged three to 12, there is an abundance of activities to keep littlies amused. For a $5 donation, you can ride the miniature trains and the carousel at set times during the school holidays. The resort has a games room, teen lounge and the new two-storey Water Splash Park, which has an assortment of slides, flutes, showers, water cannons and jets. During school holidays, you can take a super fun kangaroo tour around the resort, spotting the marsupials grazing amongst the vineyards, and the restored World War II tugboat with Dane, the son of the resort’s owner, Dr Jerry Schwartz, at the wheel. Parents are also sure to love the 18-hole championship golf course, adults-only pool and the Ubika Day Spa.
FOOD AND DRINK
The resort’s signature restaurant, Redsalt, awarded a prestigious chefs hat for two consecutive years by the Good Food Guide, overlooks the pool. Open for breakfast and dinner, it has a focus on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The Lovedale Bar has an alfresco dining area where you can watch the sun set over the Brokenback Mountain Range. It serves award-winning local wines, espresso martinis on tap, and beer and cider from the onsite Sydney Brewery Hunter Valley (which dad is sure to love!). Wherever you dine, be sure to try the Jade Estate Semillion, made from grapes grown on the property.
Nearby Hunter Valley Gardens boasts ten internationally themed gardens to explore, including the magical Storybook Garden. There are also five rides open during school holidays and event periods, including a carousel, swing chair, giant ferris wheel, super slide and tea cup ride. At Tulloch Wines, children aged four to 12 can enjoy a special Junior Tasting Experience which consists of three snacks paired with three non-alcoholic drinks. There’s also a dedicated kids’ zone at Misty Glen Wines, indoor and outdoor games at Scarborough Wine Co., a cubby house at Whispering Brook, and play equipment at Gemelli Estate. You can hire bikes and ride around the wineries, go horse riding, and visit Hunter Valley Zoo.
The writer was a guest of Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley