A mere ninety minutes south of Sydney sits the Southern Highlands, known for English inspired hamlets and a distinct four seasons.Often known as Australia’s Cotswolds, expect manicured gardens, winter log fires and tulips in spring. Romantic accommodation options range from quaint bed and breakfasts to country lodges, horse studs and wineries – a mere stumble from the cellar door to the guest bedroom. Many of the region’s land owners have in recent times turned to planting grapes, contributing to a burgeoning wine industry with sixty vineyards and sixteen cellar doors. Try Mt Ashby Estate run by Chris Harvey and Sally Beresford, head to Southern Highland Wines for vineyard vistas from the in house restaurant, Tertini Wines for international recognition, and celebrate Italian heritage at the family owned St Maur wines. Centennial Vineyards in the gateway town of Bowral boasts an impressive restaurant menu with local produce.
Check the calendar as international artists often perform in the grounds – Lionel Richie performed at their Day on the Green. Gourmands should head straight to Biota Dining in Bowral. Chef James Vile’s destination dining establishment features a kitchen garden, fine dining restaurant and casual tapas bar. His cuisine earned him a Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide chef ’s hat in the first year of opening and two in the second year. This is romance on a plate. Foodies won’t get a better insight into the local produce than local epicure, Jill Dyson’s Food Path tours for workshops with local chefs, long table dining and private farm tours. If roses be the flower of love then take a turn around any of the region’s public gardens. Get lost in the maze with your lover at Harper’s Mansion’s grounds in Berrima and Greenbrier Park Garden in Mittagong combines English style with Australian native. Head to the heritage town of Berrima for some old world charm and channel your inner Darcy and Elizabeth at Berkelow antiquarian book barn, grab a bite to eat in the café and sup of the Bendooley Estate Wine cellar door while you are there.
See www.southern-highlands.com.au for more.
This pocket of vineyard love two hours north of Sydney features cute cottages for two, luxe resorts, quirky boutique vineyards and restaurants where produce is plucked straight from the garden. A hundred and twenty cellar doors will keep couples well and truly satiated. Try Brokenwood, McGuigan and Hungerford Hill for the bigger names and Saddlers Creek Winery for Australia’s ‘boutique red wine of the year.’ Did we mention Tamberlaine for an organic drop, Mount View Estate for Brokenback Mountain Range vistas and the secret Tintilla Estate for wines, vinegars and olives? Then there’s Lisa McGuigan, a fourth generation wine-maker of McGuigan Wines fame. Her Tempus Two vineyard is home to the most impressive cellar door in town and regularly hosts concerts from the likes of Elton John, Rod Stewart, The Beach Boys and KD Lang. Grab a bike and map out your own vineyard tour for two. Grape Mobile offers bike hire complete with water, map, sunscreen and roadside assistance should you get a flat tyre or imbibe too much. Where there’s wine there’s food. The Hunter Valley has it’s own share of Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide hats. Book ahead for one hat Bistro Molines at the Tallavera Grove Vineyard and fine dining Muse at Hungerford Hill or for a romantic casual long lunch head to Leaves and Fishes on the shores of a lily pad lake. Better yet, coincide your trip with the annual Lovedale Long Lunch on May 18 and 19.
The progressive lunch celebrates seven local wineries all showcasing the best produce and grapes on offer. History also abounds in the Hunter Valley from the majestic heritage sandstone of Wollombi Valley town to the Great North Road hand built by convicts in the 1800s and part of the World Heritage Australian Convict Site List. National parks surround the area with some excellent, and remote, bushwalking trails filled with wildlife. Soothe the burning thighs or wine weary head with a spa treatment at Australia’s only purpose built health retreat, The Golden Door Elysia. The stunning spa is open for day treatments and is next door to Cypress Lakes golf course for some time on the green.
For more see www.winecountry.com.au
Where to Stay: For a selection of romantic accommodation options in the Hunter Valley, visit our New South Wales accommodation directory.