Destinations

Good wine hunting with a toddler in tow? Yes, it’s possible!

Swapping the hangovers for high chairs, one establishment at a time.

By Bella Brennan
When I typically think of the Hunter Valley, I remember raucous antics at the annual Lovedale Long Lunch, merry group sing-alongs on the shuttle bus carting us around as we winery hopped and late-night dancing on the sticky floor at Harrigan's.
Ahh yes, this is what trips to the Hunter Valley used to look like for me in another lifetime. A bygone, child-free era.
So, is it possible to return to one of my favourite destinations with my 15-month-old daughter in tow? You betcha!

Feeling right at home

There's no denying 2020 has been one hell of a year as a result of the dreaded c word. But if you're privileged enough to still be able to travel within your state, the Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort makes for the perfect base to explore the Hunter Valley in NSW.
My family and I spent two nights at the sprawling resort and were beyond impressed with the friendly service, cosy accomodation and endless amount of activities right on our doorstep to entertain our energetic daughter.
Situated in the heart of the Hunter Valley, the Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort makes for the perfect base for your trip. (Image: Supplied)
Sweet dreams are made of this: The 300 acre resort offers premium facilities including a pro golf course, a country club, two restaurants, two bars, three pools, two tennis courts and a day spa. (Image: Supplied)
From kangaroo spotting on our front doorstep, to swimming in the show-stopping pool framed by the lake, we had to remind ourselves to actually leave the resort!
Although our date night at their in-house restaurant, Cypress Lakes Bar and Bistro, was cut short due to a very sleepy toddler the staff were so accomodating and let us take our delicious bottle of half-consumed red wine and our desserts home to go.
Is there anything better than tucking into a mouth-watering chocolate mousse with a glass of vino as a reward for getting the baby down to sleep? Absolutely not.
The resort also has a pro golf course and a world class day spa if you want to tag team with your partner and book in some sacred baby-free pamper time.
Lazy afternoons spent by the pool were a huge win in our daughter's eyes. (Image: Supplied)

A future Bindi Irwin in the making

When you have a baby alarm clock who rises at 6:30am every morning, you're always on the hunt for fun activities to fill your day.
The Hunter Valley Zoo opens at nine on the dot and you better believe we were ready and raring to go at the gates at 8:59am.
It's $32 for adults and children under two are given free admission.
Up close and personal with Skippy: Feeding these albino wallabies was a very special moment. (Image: Supplied)
The zoo has a variety of animals from all over the world - African lions, alligators, meerkats, cheetahs, king parrots, sulpha crested cockatoos, camels and iguanas to name a few.
But it was the Australian native mammals that were the real scene-stealers!
We couldn't believe it when a friendly zoo keeper said we could enter their enclosure to feed and pat them, and were even more blown away by how fearless our mini Wildlife Warrior was as she bravely approached the wallabies to feed them.

Rancho relaxo

If you're still keen to enjoy some decent wine but have a wriggly worm of a bub like us, an afternoon picnic, which can be booked through Experience Oz, at Audrey Wilkinson makes for a clever compromise in lieu of an actual wine tasting.
Arrive hungry because their gourmet picnic hampers are epic!
It was a warm afternoon when we visited, we opted for their famous dry rose as we lapped up the sun and soaked in the amazing views of the Brokenback Mountain Ranges.
Audrey Wilkinson's gourmet picnics are a must-do. (Image: Supplied)
Our toddler had miles of green grass to explore and even stopped for a very brief three-minute cuddle reprieve. Unheard of!
While our Hunter Valley experience may have looked very different with our adorable side-kick tagging along, I wouldn't have it any other way.
A rare moment of stillness after a busy afternoon running around the expansive lawns at the beautiful Audrey Wilkinson winery. (Image: Supplied)