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The Hunter Valley:

Out of the city, the rolling hills laced in hazy sunshine and the scent of baked grass make the Hunter Valley an alluring spot to drive through. Add to this over 120 wineries, and well, you've won me over. The Valley is the oldest wine making region in New South Wales, its history dating back to the 1820s when medicinal cuttings from Europe and South Africa found their way into the soils. These days the effects are no less restorative, so rather than head straight for tourist hotspot Pokolbin, where all the formerly-mentioned buses of backpackers will be, venture out a little further to the small village of Broke Fordwich , where boutique wineries such as Stomping Ground, biodynamic Krinklewood or the larger but family owned Margans are not only beautiful but welcoming. Top tips at the Stomp - give the Limited Release 2011 Shiraz, all mulberry and mocha, and the Margans 2013 White Label Semillon a go -  I was lucky enough to be the first non-Margans employee to try. It was good.

Newcastle:

Newcastle was once a mining town. Nearby are the areas of Seaham, Wallsend, and Jesmond. So far, so familiar, for any Geordie at least. But there the similarities end, and Newcastle is perfect place to stop and appreciate the Art Deco architecture, sip coffee and cocktails whilst people watching along Darby street, and catch what is known by insiders as some of the best surf along the NSW coast. It's got a more relaxed and almost contented feel than some other surf spots, and the town seems to be comfortable in itself. Walk to Nobby's Point (and yes you are allowed a childish giggle at that), investigate the Botanic Gardens, and relax.

Coffs Harbour:

Coffs Habour is a nice place to visit. It's clean, shiny, full of ambient rather than aggressive activity. Just nice. Full of caravan parks, if you are after somewhere more sophisticated but with the independence of your own space and self-catering options, try The Observatory Apartments, where the views and pretty vast living area make it a great place to base yourself. It's only a few hundred yards to 'The Strip' as Harbour Drive is affectionately known, where an abundance of coffee shops, wine bars and restaurants cater for the customers spilling out onto the pavements, a happy hum of conversation taking you right down to the marina and famous jetty. A leg stretch may well be in order after the last stretch of the journey, so hit up the 60km Solitary Islands Coastal Walk - or at least part of it.


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