On the banks of the Hunter River, Singleton is a historic town with 200 years of European history and easy access to the wineries of the prestigious Hunter Valley.
The shire’s countryside is all rolling, vineyard-draped hills with a backdrop of rugged peaks.
Almost half of Singleton is made up of national parks, so there’s no lack of adventure for those who want it.
Or for something gentler you could cycle from cellar door to cellar door, pairing award-winning wine with delectable food from this fertile part of the country.
Singleton the town has much to love, not least in the 19th-century architecture lining George Street and the well-appointed parks dotting the townscape.
1. Hunter Valley Wine Region
Singleton is close to the geographic heart of one of Australia largest and most acclaimed wine regions.
If we were to list the dozens of estates and cellar doors in the shire around Pokolbin we would be here all day (some big-hitters are Audrey Wilkinson, Peterson House, Tulloch Wines and Pepper Tree Wines). But there are a few things you need to know.
The scenery, framed by the Brokenback Mountains, is out of this world.
There’s a mix of sandy soils in the alluvial flats, ideal for crisp whites like Semillon, and red duplex on the slopes suiting full-bodied reds like Shiraz and Merlot.
Setting off from Singleton, you could craft a tasting itinerary mixing big-hitting names with boutique operations, enriched with world-class paddock-to-plate cuisine.
You could also make your own way via the safe Around Hermitage Wine and Food Trail, a dedicated food and wine cycleway north-west of Pokolbin with heart-lifting views of the Brokenback Mountains.
2. Australian Army Infantry Museum (AAIM)
A little way south of Singleton you’ll find the active Australian Army base, Lone Pine Barracks.
As well as the Special Forces Training Centre, this is the home of the Australia Army School of Infantry, which makes it a fitting place for a museum about this corps.
The AAIM is the custodian of the history of the corps and documents every overseas deployment, from Sudan in 1885 to Afghanistan in the 21st century.
This timeline is shown on the lower floor, while the mezzanine level has an enthralling collection of small arms, detailing their evolution and their effect on the procedures, tactics and techniques in the field.
3. Singleton Heritage Walk
With a lot of 19th-century architecture mingling with cute gardens and modern monuments, Singleton is a town that deserves to be discovered on foot.
The good news is that this can be done with ease via the Singleton Heritage Walk, a map for which can be downloaded for smartphones.
Many of the 37 stops can be found on the arterial George Street, like the grand Ewebank (1884), the Royal Hotel (1859), Percy Hotel (1892), Mechanics Institute (1866) and the palatial former Post Office (1878).
4. Singleton Sundial
To mark Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988, Singleton erected one of the biggest sundials in the world.
This monument on the edge of what is now Rose Point Park, was funded mostly by local industry including the Lemington Coal Mine.
It serves as a gateway to the riverside recreation facilities that were also developed for the Bicentenary, and symbolises the transition between old and new with one of the most ancient ways of timekeeping.
The Singleton Sundial weighs some 30 tons and its gnomon (part that casts a shadow) is pointed to the south celestial pole and is parallel to the Earth’s axis of rotation.
There’s a sign beside the sundial showing the corrections that you may have to apply to determine Australian Eastern Standard Time.
5. Townhead Park
South-east of the CBD, around the Singleton Visitor Information and Enterprise Centre, is an agreeable green space where you can pause and get you bearings.
When we wrote this list in 2020 Townhead Park was going through an upgrade, furnishing it with an up-to-date children’s playground, a drinking fountain, picnic tables, bike racks, an electric barbecue and a shelter.
On the second Sunday of the month you can browse the Valley Markets, which set up in the park trading local fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, specialty foods and arts and crafts.
6. Singleton Visitor Information Centre
With a massive directory of wineries around Singleton, as well endless inspiration for days out, an amenity like this becomes vital.
The centre’s staff are experts on all things Singleton and can help you fine tune your itinerary to get the best out of this corner of the Hunter Valley.
And being in Townhead Park, it’s a restful spot to get out of the car and take a breather after arriving in town.
There’s also a cafe at the centre, as well as free Wi-Fi and a gift shop stocking delicious local goodies and one-off handmade items.
7. Lake St Clair
When it comes to water activities the obvious destination is Lake St Clair, an immense and scenic reservoir in the undulating foothills of the Mount Royal Range.
You can get there in under half an hour from Singleton proper, and may be taken aback by the sheer size of the lake, which has just under half the capacity of Sydney Harbour.
Come summer Lake St Clair is a magnet for boating, and little wonder considering the dramatic landscapes all around.
People come to sail or zip along the surface on jet or water skis.
You can also fish for the lake’s big quantities of golden perch, silver perch and bass.
If you want to spend a few days the lakeshore has 12 powered campsites and almost 40 acres of camping space.
8. Barrington Tops National Park
Mount Royal National Park, which forms the awesome backdrop to Lake St Clair, shares a boundary with the World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops.
This belongs to the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia UNESCO Area, giving you a seldom seen glimpse of Earth long before human life.
You can venture into this lush, mossy world on a variety of walking tracks, delivering you to cascades, waterfalls, swimming holes and scenic lookouts through invaluable rainforest that has been here hundreds of millions of years.
For a shorter day walk you could hike the Gloucester Tops circuit, which in eight short kilometres includes three stretches of longer trails and ushers you through rainforest and snow gum woodland to lookouts and the beautiful Gloucester Falls.
9. Baiame Cave
Not far west at Milbrodale there’s a rugged escarpment of Hawkesbury sandstone with an overhang looking north-east back towards Singleton.
There on the rear wall of this open cave, with a privileged view of the Hunter Valley, is a pigment art depiction of the deity Baiame.
In the dreaming of several indigenous groups in NSW, this mysterious figure was the creator god.
An image of this kind is considered extremely rare, and shows Baiame with huge white eyes and his long arms outstretched, encompassing the lands of the Wonnarua people.
10. Rose Point Park
The place for Singleton to relax or get active is this dog-friendly wedge of greenery on the south bank of the Hunter River.
You could pass a quiet few minutes on the River Walk Track, while the city’s Netball Association, cricket nets and AFL Club are based right here in the grassy surroundings.
There’s room for everyone, but especially for littler members of the family as the park’s fully fenced playground has just come through a redevelopment.
This is an all-abilities facility with state-of-the-art equipment and challenges designed to be fun for children with or without disabilities.
Bring a picnic or food for a BBQ and half a day could easily fly by.
11. Singleton Historical Society and Museum
If you’re in town on a weekend or Tuesday it’s well worth checking out the historical society’s museum.
This couldn’t have a better location, at the old Council Chambers, dating back to 1874 and set within the pretty Burdekin Park.
Initially intended as a gaol, this beautiful building has been used by the historical society since the 1960s and has a intriguing hoard of artefacts.
There’s Singleton’s first ever ambulance cart, all kinds of vintage furniture, farm equipment and kitchenware, as well as a convict bell embedded in a tree trunk.
12. Werakata National Park
Slightly further out, this protected natural space lies just east of the Polkobin’s vineyards, conserving rare tracts of kurri sand swamp woodland and Hunter lowlands red gum forest.
The botanical diversity at Werakata National Park is startling, with 400 recorded plants, a good deal of which are endangered.
Spring is an unforgettable time to come for a walk, when the park is vibrant with wildflowers from a range of ground orchids to red mountain devil and purple happy wanderer.
If you’ve got a trunk full of treats from the Hunter Valley, you could have an indulgent bite al fresco at the Astills picnic area.
13. Heuston Lookout
Also known as Apex Lookout, this impressive vantage point is posted 60 metres above the Hunter River in the suburb of Gowrie.
The park, now equipped with benches, a playscape and picnic areas, was once farmland bequeathed by one P.A. Heuston with the express purpose of being turned into a beauty spot.
The view is delightful, pointing west along the serpentine course of the Hunter River towards the mining landscape at Warkworth and the peaks of Wollemi National Park behind.
14. Chapman Valley Horse Riding
Something worth travelling for is this riding centre and stables based on a vast cattle farm.
And by vast we mean more than 6,500 idyllic acres of peaks and valleys, belonging to the Chapman family for six generations, that’s 180+ years.
You can get there from Singleton along the picturesque Putty Road, and will be able to take part in experiences ranging from a one-hour ride to a two-day trek or even a three-day cattle muster.
Chapman Valley’s horses are kept in great shape, both physically and mentally, and as well as hundreds of cattle the land is bustling with wildlife like mobs of kangaroos.
Younger children unaccustomed to horses are also catered for on a led ride conducted by an experienced handler.
You may not have pictured yourself freefalling at more than 220km/hr in a picturesque rural town like Singleton, but this exhilarating activity is on the cards for those brave enough.
Skydive Hunter Valley is a centre based little more than five minutes from the centre of Singleton and specialises in tandem jumps, which require little training.
You’ll be placed in the hands of an experienced skydiving crew and carefully guided through every stage of the jump.
Safely attached to your instructor by a harness, you’ll feel the speed of freefalling from up to 15,000ft, and then once the canopy opens you can appreciate the pastoral Hunter Valley and its rolling, vineyard-decked hills.