A place of adventure and beauty
The Upper Hunter has so much to offer it’s hard to choose just one town to visit. But perhaps you don’t need to.
Scone, in the heart of the Upper Hunter, is best known as the home to the nation’s most prestigious stud farms. Just three hours from Sydney, and 90 minutes from both Newcastle and Tamworth, it is a substantial and refined country town where you’ll find fine food and wine, boutique accommodation, heritage listed sites, breathtaking natural beauty and world class events like the annual Scone Horse Festival and the bi-annual Warbirds Over Scone airshow.
For a leisurely start to your Scone experience, pick up a map featuring 36 points of historical interest from the Scone Visitor Information Centre and visit the Scone Historical Museum at the old gaol for more information about the town’s rich heritage.
If you are feeling more adventurous, view Scone from way up high. Soar through the clouds and experience the thrill of flight in a purpose-built replica Bristol or Spitfire fighter plane during Warbirds over Scone (25 – 27 March). Watch the breathtaking aerobatics of the SkyAces, their skillful formation loops and dynamic head-to-head stunts. A P-40 Kittyhawk, CA-18 Mustang and Grumman Avenger are confirmed for the adrenaline inducing line-up as well as a Wolf Pitts Pro, the world’s highest performing aerobatic biplane. Pilot Paul Bennet will leave you speechless with his high energy, precision aerobatics.
That weekend in March also marks the opening of the permanent Hunter Warbirds Exhibition with an awe-inspiring collection of historic aircraft, trainers and fighters on display. In a state-of-the-art, purpose-built space located at Scone Airport, immerse yourself in the incredible stories of these aircraft and their daring pilots. Learn about the vital role of the Upper Hunter in supporting military and civil aviation during times of war and peace, going back more than a century. Board an authentic Warbird or buckle in, take over the controls and protect our skies in a flight simulator to brave battle scenarios and adverse weather conditions. It is an experience like no other in Australia or the entire Southern Hemisphere.
Heading to the races
The annual Scone Horse Festival held in May each year involves the entire town and features a plethora of events including a charity rodeo, sheep dog trials, polo and fireworks. The Scone Cup Carnival is a highlight of the festival featuring two of the biggest country race days on the NSW calendar, offering nearly $2 million in prize money and boasting stand-alone metropolitan status. If you can’t make it to the races, the Scone Race Club Function Centre combines modern facilities with picturesque views over the racecourse and to the ranges beyond, providing an ideal setting for weddings or corporate events.
Whether you are planning on attending Scone Cup’s Fashion on the Fields or not, you’ll need a hat for your Upper Hunter trip. Here’s where Phylli Designs comes in. Specialist milliner Laura Hall crafts hand-made hats that echo the Australian landscape. Each extraordinary hat is made to order. Book an appointment to visit the Phylli flagship store in Scone via their website phylli.com.au.
For a carefully curated range of women’s clothing and accessories from Australian labels, visit The Herd Store on Liverpool Street. Take your pick from collections by the likes of Zoe Kratzman, Ginger & Smart, Binny or Marie Louise de Monterey. Or be prepared to fall in love with the delicate old world inspired jewellery by Fairley or the timeless freshwater pearl earrings from Peggy & Twig.
Proudly owned and operated by Scone locals Lynda Poša and Hilton Ariel, Plants on Main is more than your local, specialist garden centre. There is, of course, an extensive range of plants, seeds, pots and garden supplies to choose from. A trained horticulturalist, Lynda provides her customers with first-hand plant advice and landscape consulting. And now there is also a quaint little café on the premises, perfect for a little break and to pick your favourites from their extensive selection of gift wares.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, The Thoroughbred Bakery, Bar & Restaurant has you covered. Located in a hotel that was first established in the1800s, it has recently been lavishly refurbished and now features a gourmet bakery and cafe, steakhouse-style dining room, bar and 10 beautifully renovated rooms upstairs for accommodation.
Scone is also home to award-winning restaurant The Cottage, housed in a lovingly restored grand 1860s country homestead. Renowned chef Colin Selwood reigns in the kitchen and his menu reflects his classic French training, with Asian and Mediterranean influences.
To work off some of these delicious calories head to Lake Glenbawn, renowned as one of the best freshwater fishing spots in New South Wales and perfect for canoeing, sailing, wind surfing or water skiing. With a wonderful diversity of bushland and over 100 species of birds, Lake Glenbawn Recreation Area will delight both bushwalkers and bird lovers.
You can even spend the night with a range of accommodation options available, from cabins, bungalows and villas to waterfront camping sites.
For a more luxurious night’s sleep try Russley Homestead with its five beautifully appointed private rooms with a funky twist leading onto wraparound verandahs, and access to the large shared living room with open fire, polished floors, high ceilings, leadlight bay windows and big comfy lounges. Built in the 1890s it is a charming country retreat where you can drop your shoulders, breathe in deeply and simply be.
Ten minutes from Scone and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d travelled much farther. You’ll find yourself in Aberdeen, with its strong Scottish roots, this town boasts its own tartan and a much-loved festival. The Aberdeen Highland Games are being held annually on the first weekend of July.
Hit the gourmet food trail
One of the first settlements of the area, Aberdeen is named after the Earl of Aberdeen who was a friend of the British MP, Thomas Potter MacQueen who in 1828 was granted 10,000 acres between Scone and Muswellbrook. He built The Segenhoe Inn on his property and today the original 19th Century homestead offers bed and breakfast accommodation, believed to be the oldest colonial accommodation in Australia.
A bit further south, Muswellbrook is well known for its gourmet food trail. Make sure to work up an appetite before heading into Hunter Belle Cheese Café. Their famous selection of locally made cheeses feature throughout the seasonal menu. We can’t go past the Vegetarian Stack featuring Hunter Belle haloumi on the brekkie menu or the cheese platter with three or five of their flavourful cheeses for lunch or any time of the day really. Watch the cheese makers at work, stock up on gourmet produce and specialty giftware, but before you leave, a bite of their famous, creamy fudge and a scoop of the house-made to-die-for gelato is a must.
Read more in the Summer issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.
Story by Megan Hazlett