Huge visitor numbers in Hunter Valley over October long weekend

GREAT WEEKEND: The inaugural Hunter Valley Art Fair at Pokolbin Community Hall was a success.
GREAT WEEKEND: The inaugural Hunter Valley Art Fair at Pokolbin Community Hall was a success.

The long weekend brought huge numbers of visitors to the Hunter Valley, with many restaurants and accommodation providers booked out.

The Hunter Valley Visitor Information Centre was "flat out" all three days, with 338 people on Saturday, 313 on Sunday and 295 on Monday.

Staff were on hand to help visitors plan their experience in line with COVID-19 regulations, which include booking in advance for restaurants, cellar doors and attractions.

Many of the visitors were staying in Newcastle and driving up to the vineyards for the day, because most of the local accommodation was booked out.

Over at Lovedale, The Deck cafe's Matt Dillow said he had been "smashed" by the large number of diners.

"We were really busy this time last year, but we were up by a further 25 per cent on that this year," he said. "It was crazy."

Dillow said the layout of The Deck at Gartelmann Winery meant they were luckier than many establishments and he hadn't been badly affected by social distancing regulations.

"We've put up outside tables around the lake which has meant we can keep our numbers up and still meet all the regulations," he said. "We're lucky we have all the room in the world to spread out. I feel sorry for those restaurants that are restricted by four walls."

On the wine side of things, cellar doors were equally busy. Mark Coster, cellar door manager at Leogate, said they too had been flat out.

"We've changed how we do things but it's working well," Coster said. "We strongly encourage bookings, with maximum tables of eight for a tasting. For $10 you get to taste six wines, and we have a one hour maximum tasting.

"It has been really well received. Visitors are getting a more personal service and it gives us the chance to explain the wines a bit more. At the same time sales are strong and our wine club membership is up."

The inaugural Hunter Valley Art Fair at Pokolbin Community Hall was a great success, with just over 400 visitors on Saturday.