The Hunter Valley - a couple of hour's drive North of Sydney - is, due to climactic fortune and perfect soilds, one of Australia's winery centres. The region of Pokolbin (there's no real town, more a collection of wineries scattered around the Cessnock area)is filled with marvellous wineries, most of whom offer tastings. There are also heaps of accomodation offerings for all but the most budget conscious, and combined with the lovely scenery, it all makes for a rather fabulous weekend!
Day 1 - Sydney
Your first step is to make sure that you have hired a car (though there are also many guided tours, leaving from Sydney, which are an option if you're into that kind of thing). Certainly, the public transport links are particularly primitive in this neck of the woods.
Spend the morning wending your way towards Pokolbin - take your time, and if you feel tempted to stop somewhere, then do. Much of the coast along this way is lovely, and if it's summer, you might feel tempted to take a dip. Keep a particular lookout for the estuary of the Hawkesbury River, which is particularly nice.
There are dozens and dozens of wineries amongst the rolling hilsl sof the Pokolbin area. A nice thing to do is head towards the Garden Terrace at the Hunter Valley Gardens - a particularly pleasant place to grab a quick spot of lunch in leafy surrounds, while you catch your breath, stretch your legs, and plan your next move.
Later, visit a few wineries. A couple of options here - you can check into your hotel (see below) and then catch the Hunter Valley Shuttle bus, which will ferry you from winery to winery, or you can drive - but do be aware that Australia's police force strictly enforces a .05 blood alcohol limit, and so it's probably best that your driver does not inbibe.
The Pokolbin wineries come in all shapes and sizes. Some of Australia's biggest and best known have a presence - Lindemans, for instance, is a transglobal brand nowadays. Nonetheless, they keep a presence in the Hunter, where they were founded. Their cellar door is certainly no boutique operation, but it is very well done and makes for a fun visit.
McGuigans Wines is a well run and professional mid-sized operation, while Binbadgen is a smaller winery with a hot reputation and a friendly cellar door.
There comes a time when it's time to move on - to your hotel if you didn't check in earlier, or to a resturant if you did. There are a wide range of B&Bs in the area, and some classier options, too. Amongst these the Tuscany Wine Estate is hideously expensive, but luxurious. A little further done the slippery pole (it costs about 1/5 as much) is the lovely rural establishment The Bluebush Estate which makes for a good base, handy to most things.
Amongst resturants, The Star Anise, does Asian fusion (Australia's national food) while Chez Pok also does a modern Australian fusion.
Finally, should you have the energy and desire after your day drinking in the sun, you might want to visit Harrigans Irish Pub, which is a fun place with a good ambience (and which also does accomodation upstairs).
2323 Sydney, Australia