A WEEKEND IN MAITLAND
Our home-base for the weekend was The Villa in the historical village of Morpeth. With a history of its own, the 1879-built house has been lovingly restored by its owners to the now picturesque country stay that it is. Take advantage of the bikes available to explore the town but be sure to spend some time enjoying the Villa’s peaceful garden or relaxing of an evening on the verandah.
EAT & DRINK
The first point of call on our trip was True Café in Lochinvar. A great road-side stop half an hour out of Maitland, it’s a cool oasis from the highway filled with an eclectic mix of vintage & found furniture, pre-loved bit & bobs, games & papers dated from 1951. True Café prides itself on house-made chocolates & ice cream, and so it should – the chocolate is incredible, hand-made by owner Edwin.
Morpeth Ginger Beer have managed to bottle nostalgia & old fashioned goodness in their brewed-on-site ginger beer. They offer tastings not just of the ginger beer but also of the many cordial choices, so you can take home the one that’s just right for you.
The place to book for dinner, Coquun is bar, deli and bistro all in one. With a strong emphasis on acknowledging the traditional owners of the Hunter Valley region, the menu highlights Indigenous ingredients and you will soon become familiar with the Wonnarua words karay (meat), makurr (fish) and kukirr (house). Local farms, wineries, breweries and distilleries all feature in the for & beverage offering, making for a wonderful culinary meeting place for makers in the region.
For the most incredible pastries pop into Icky Sticky Patisserie, but be sure to set aside some time as the lines are usually out the door. It is reminiscent of a French patisserie with all the romance that is conjured up by skilled bakers labouring to produce delectable desserts. The treats are certainly of the highest standard and I found it hard to choose just one!
Grab a drink or two in the heart of Maitland inside a restored 1870s heritage building. The Rigby is laidback & a local favourite, transitioning from café during the day to bar at night.
The Heritage Gardens Nursery not only has a plethora of green & growing things for your garden, but it makes for a lovely breakfast stop, overlooking the grounds.
A short 5min drive from Maitland lies Morpeth, home to Campbell’s Store. It still carries the name of founder James Campbell who had the stone & brick building constructed in 1835 to carry a range of general store goods. It now contains the Morpeth Ginger Beer Factory, Morpeth Antique Centre, the Servant’s Quarters Tearoom and art gallery.
Explore a little further at Campbells and you will find Guil and his fine handcrafted timber wares. From pocket watches to wood-turned sculptures there’s bound to be something to catch your eye.
A nod to old crafts & knowledge can be found on the main street of Maitland at Dennerly Leather Design, where Bob & Annie create on site the leather goods that fill their shop. I came out with a watch band and belt bag.
John Wright Broom Maker
Another craftsman not to be missed! John Wright is a beekeeper, farmer and broom maker who is keeping the hand-made broom business alive. Look for the honey sign after the wooden bridge leading out of Morpeth to find his workshop.
2019 sees MRAG celebrating its 10th anniversary since its re-development, but the building holds a longer history having been officially opened in 1910. The Federation Gothic structure hosts a several exhibitions at a time from local artists and artists from further afield. I was entranced by Del Kathryn Barton’s captivating animation The Nightingale and the Rose. When visiting the MRAG, take a coffee break at Seraphine. We choose a lovely spot outside surrounded by greenery to enjoy our lunch.
The hub of Maitland and right next to the river. This is where you’ll find Dennerly Leather and other stores to peruse, as well as cafes to grab a coffee and sit by the water.
A notorious past and colourful history is to be explored at the gaol. Take a self guide tour or book in for a tour by torchlight in the evening.