With the 3 Regions Winery Safari fast approaching, we headed towards Stanthorpe where we would meet the members who would be joining us on the road. We were looking forward to the exciting 10 days ahead visiting wineries and travelling throughout NSW.
We arrived in Ballandean to beautiful weather and were excited to meet everyone and get the safari underway. Attendees started arriving around 1pm, and after a few late check-ins, we all got together for our very first happy hour and meet and greet. After going around the circle, hearing everyone’s life stories and handing out trivia questions for the trip, we headed over to the Barrelroom & Larder restaurant for our first dinner together. And what a dinner it was, with shared platters of various delights, some we couldn’t work out what we were eating, but it still tasted great. We also had our first taste of Stanthorpe wines. We all enjoyed the evening so much, we just new we were going to have a great 10 days on the road together.
On Friday morning, we all hopped on-board a bus that would take us to our first three wineries in the region. The first stop was the well know Symphony Hill, with very entertaining commentary by the owner of the winery during our tasting. Our second stop was Granite Estate Wines which was a very informative tasting, I think we all learnt a lot there about wines. Then our last stop was a visit to Rumbalara where the Impi Cream was a hit. After loading up the bus with our purchases (and a drive back to Granite Estate to go back and pick up the rest of everyone’s purchases!) we headed back to Ballandean to have a rest before getting together to play our first game of Disc Bowls. It turned out to be a bit of challenge with the uneven ground, but nevertheless all a bit of fun to add to our happy hour. Ballandean put on a gorgeous sunset for us before we settled in for the night...
On Saturday we had our first day on the road heading towards Cranky Rock Reserve in Warialda. We stopped at Girraween National Park for morning tea and a short walk. It somehow eventuated into a long walk, as some of us decided to walk up to the Arch. After our morning tea we hit the road again, stopping for lunch near Ashford and arriving at Cranky Rock Reserve in time for a surprise happy hour put on by the caretakers. One of the members brought out his poetry book and had us enthralled and in laughter with his great Aussie poems. As the weather cooled down some of us went for a walk to the lookout of the billabong and watched the sunset over the rocks.
We all enjoyed free time on Sunday morning, where everyone headed into town to do some shopping, fuel up and have a coffee. As it was Sunday, most coffee shops were closed, but luckily, we managed to come across an open café and we all enjoyed a delicious morning coffee. The day was already heating up, so we decided to stop at the Commonwealth Hotel at Barraba for lunch. After a quick phone call to the hotel to book in for a delicious meal, and more importantly to make sure they had air conditioning, we arrived in time for lunch and had a nice and lengthy lunch at the hotel. Hitting the road again after lunch, we later arrived at Lake Keepit to a rather hot and windy afternoon. Undeterred by the weather, we had our happy hour gathering out of the wind but eventually the weather won with most of us opting for our air-conditioned RVs for the evening.
The next day we left Lake Keepit, although we managed to witness a gorgeous morning on the lake before we hit the road. We were on our way to Mudgee, another winery region we were looking forward to. We arrived at the Mudgee Riverside Caravan Park and found some shady spots to park our RVs and got together for yet another happy hour. Some damper was made and enjoyed by all, and we were lucky enough to have an impromptu lesson on GeoWiki from one of the members before we all retired to our vehicles.
Tuesday brought us another beautiful morning and an exciting day ahead. Our coach picked us up at 10am and our bus driver Brad made sure we had a great day exploring the Mudgee wine region. Our first stop was Robert Stein Winery where we enjoyed the wines and got to visit the old motorcycle museum. We were soon back on the bus and we were bound for Huntington Wines, where another wine tasting took place and we enjoyed more purchases. Our third winery of the morning was Bunnamagoo Winery and not long after we were off to lunch. Our lunch stop was by far the favourite amongst the group, stopping at Gooree Park for lunch, wine tasting and a tour of the champion horse stud. Wow what a place! The staff greeted us under the trees for the tasting and then we all enjoyed some delicious home-grown Wagyu beef burgers. While we ate lunch, we were joined by Mike Whitney who was filming for the Sydney Weekender and we all became his backdrop for his commentary of the area. After all the excitement, we hopped in the bus with Vicki who has worked at Gooree Park for 35 years. The knowledge that she has of this place is just incredible. It’s such an amazing horse stud and we all left there not only having thoroughly enjoyed the experience but also with a tip for a possible winning horse in an upcoming race.
Wednesday was going to be a short drive so everyone had a free morning to do what they pleased, with some needing mechanical assistance and others needing more wine and cheese tasting, and a couple escaped for an intimate Valentine’s Day lunch. We met up again at 1pm and headed off to Bylong for a BBQ dinner, cooked up by us. We had lots of help with cooking and the dishes, and it was a great social dinner enjoyed by all. Once again, a beautiful sunset was observed, and the heat slowly disappeared.
On Thursday we travelled our last leg of the journey, to the Hunter Valley, with our final stop at Nightingale Wines. We decided to stop in at Twin Rivers Winery on the way as well and enjoyed a cheese platter and some more tastings (only the non-drivers enjoyed a tasting). We later arrived at Nightingale in time for lunch. Some had lunch at the restaurant and others opted for a snooze or some more (yes, I said more!) wine tasting. We got together for our last happy hour and some more Aussie poems and comradeship.
We were lucky enough to see the grape harvester in action at Nightingale on Friday morning, before we hopped on the bus for our tour of the Hunter region. With a knowledgeable bus driver, we were soon learning about the region and heading towards our first stop of the day at McGuigans Winery and then on to the Hunter Cheese Co for some cheese tasting (personally my favourite). Our stop at Tamburlaine Organic Winery was interesting as they had a different take on growing vines and also had a long wine tasting list! We enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the Deck Café and also enjoyed a tasting at the Chocolate Factory. We rolled on back to Nightingale for a quick dip in the pool, and then we attended our final dinner together in their restaurant where we handed out the awards for the trivia questions. The wooden spoon went to Kip and Nelliette who also won the most interesting and inventive answers (probably out of all safaris to date) and the winning prize was awarded to Kerry and Brian.
Thanks everyone for making it an awesome and enjoyable safari and we hope to see you on another one!
Remember it’s not about the drive, but about the journey!
Page Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February 2020 2:30 PM, Session: Public