Purim is a holiday celebration like no other
Andrew Margan grew up in the area before heading to France to sharpen his winemaking skills. Now, after 15 years of work, the fruit of his labour and experience stands among his 300 sweeping acres of vines – the Margan Restaurant, Hunter Valley Winery and Cellar Door. Margan is a perfectionist and is committed to remaining true to the region’s strengths, such as its sémillon – Australia’s unique dry white wine. ‘We have a special climate in the Hunter Valley,’ Andrew explains. ‘This is what makes a Hunter sémillon so individual. Attempts to replicate it elsewhere have never worked.’
Increasingly, the local emphasis has been on creating high-quality food to go with the area’s excellent wines. Organically grown produce is everywhere – from Valençay cheeses with a dash of ground vine ash, to chicken and macadamia sausages made by the local charcutier.
This theme is abundantly clear at Margan Restaurant, where the fresh herbs that coat a salmon carpaccio are sourced from the organic vegetable garden just metres from the outdoor table. Their taste is as vivid as their colour.
‘The climate and soil don’t allow us to grow a mass-market product in the Hunter Valley, so we don’t try,’ Margan says happily over a glass of buttery sémillon. ‘I don’t know who invented the philosophy that bigger is better, but a small, good-quality winery has always been my vision. Now I’m living the life I wanted.’
Where to eat
At Margan Restaurant in the village of Broke, couple a shiraz with braised wagyu and pomegranate or a merlot with spiced duck breast and mustard cherries (mains from £13).
Where to stay
Eat breakfast on your private patio at this boutique winery, set in the Lovedale area of the valley. Modern, purpose-built cabins are self-contained and positioned perfectly to make the most of the sunrise views at Emma’s Cottage Vineyard (from £135).
Byron Bay: Best for beaches
It’s early in the morning, and surfboard maker Bob McTavish emerges from the waves at Byron Bay, board under one arm, sun glinting off his silver hair and a boyish grin on his face. He’s a legend here, having surfed for 52 years and made his McTavish boards for 46, and he surfs daily. His skin has the soft, weathered look of a man who has spent years in the sea.
Byron Bay is one of a great string of headlands with white-sand bays stretching up the New South Wales coast into Queensland. Here, a verdant cape of national park juts into the warm Pacific like a pouting lower lip, creating beaches that face both north and south. The result of this is unfailing surf almost year-round. ‘There are 15 surf breaks surrounding my home and they offer 300 days of good surf a year,’ Bob explains. ‘That’s a better hit rate than any other town I can think of.’
These beaches have changed since Bob arrived in the 1960s – originally a whaling town, Byron was largely unknown before surfers turned it into one of Australia’s most popular beach areas. Today, small groups begin to arrive soon after dawn. Experienced surfers bring wetsuits and short boards; the less dedicated wear bikinis and clutch ‘learner’ boards – many bearing the McTavish logo. They head into The Pass, a long surf break between the headland and the wooden platform of Fisherman’s Lookout. Veterans carve long paths through the surf while novices balance for a few seconds before falling off. Their shrieks of laughter drift to the shore on the sea air.