Maitland’s little secret and an excuse for a shopping spree

There’s nothing quite like hopping in the car and hitting the open road. This week, Christina and I went country, visiting a new part of regional New South Wales.

We love exploring our own back yard, especially when it turns up so many pleasant surprises.

The Hunter Valley town of Maitland might not be on many people’s radars yet, but mark our words, it won’t be long before this little town is making big impressions on folks looking for a weekend escape from the city.

We’ll be telling quite a few stories from our time in Maitland over the next few week, so here’s just a snapshot of some of the places we visited and things we did while we were there.

And keep reading for news on how you can score great savings on your shopping with American Express until September 12th.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

About 15 minutes outside Maitland, which is a couple of hours’ drive north of Sydney and only 30 minutes from Cessnock and the Hunter wine region, is the village of Morpeth.

Morpeth is full of history – including this old wooden-based bridge, which as you can see from the sign, wasn’t designed for modern vehicles.

This is also where we’re based for the weekend. Check out our hotel:

This is the beautiful bathroom of our digs in the Bronte Boutique Hotel on Morpeth’s main street.

Our room – room 3 – is the biggest in the hotel and has some great antique furniture to go with the Victorian feel to the hotel. There’s also a blend of Japanese art and objects dotted around the place, which give an interesting accent to the hotel.

One of our favourite things to do when we’re in small country towns is check out the antiques stores. You’re guaranteed to find some absolute treasures you’d never see in the city.

True to form, Morpeth has some great shops with all kinds of things. It’s a fair reflection of a town with such a lot of history to it – Morpeth used to be one of the most important ports in the country in the mid-1800s.

This is just one room of one level of the old Campbell’s Store, which is home to Morpeth Antique Centre. There’s just so much stuff here, but it’s also probably the most organised shop we’ve ever been in.

Dinner tonight is at the absolutely incredible Coquun – a restaurant and cafe with strong ties to the local Aboriginal culture, drawing from indigenous foods and local wines. Watch this space for our review – can’t wait to tell you more about this place.

The Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills barn is an iconic landmark of the area around Maitland. The cows certainly seem to like this strange bit of history.

They’re not so keen on having their photo taken though. Shortly after Christina gets this shot, the cow in the foreground freaks out and runs off into the field!

This is just one of the incredible pastries you can have at the Icky Sticky Patisserie in Lorn, just over the Belmore Bridge from Maitland. The cakes in this place are off the charts – but get ready to queue, it’s popular.

Maitland and its surrounding towns are full of pretty places like this. Christina’s filling up memory cards like crazy!

While we’re in Maitland today, walking along the banks of the Hunter River, we decide to pop back in to Coquun and see our mate Daniel. We also get a chance to see this beautiful restaurant, which looks out over the river, in the daylight.

There are some fascinating shops around Maitland, and art is very much a focus in the community.

The entrance to the Maitland Regional Art Gallery is pretty cool and illustrates perfectly what I mean about art being important to the community here.

And perhaps the best thing about the art gallery is the cafe within its walls! Seraphine has some amazing things on the menu – can’t wait to tell you more. Suffice to say, my gnocchi was mind-alteringly good.

Maitland has these messages all over the pavements. They’re pointing to beautiful old facades on buildings you’d probably miss if it weren’t for the signs. A clever activation.

Buildings like this one – Treasure Corner – right in the middle of The Levee entertainment quarter of town.

There are so many interesting pieces of public art scattered around Maitland. The raincloud lights and the ‘dog-man’ cleaning up after itself – so interesting and fun.

Dinner tonight is at The Rigby in Maitland. This place is very impressive and has more of a Melbourne feel than regional NSW. Quietly confident and very cool, this is a hot spot to visit when you’re here.

The food’s amazing, the service is great and the atmosphere makes for a wonderful dinner.

You can see our full review of The Rigby here.

It’s a sign that Maitland is on the up. This bar – Rama – is absolutely superb. Fun, strange and some of the best cocktails we’ve had. Well worth a stop pre- or post-dinner. Or both!

More impressive public art in Maitland.

Back in Morpeth, the rooftops of the town tell of a place that has a lot of history. When this was a port town, the sailors would have to find digs here, and many of them would end up in the attics of these buildings, their hammocks strung from the eaves and rafters.

We stop for another shot of the Indian Root Pills barn and decide we need to shine a bit of light on our noble steed for the trip!

This is a brand new Subaru Forester that Hertz has rented us (only 1000kms on the clock) and it’s got some cool features. I’ve never driven a car that keeps you in your lane before.

If the car starts to get too close to the edge of the line, you feel the steering wheel tug a little and push you back on course. A bit unnerving at first but great for longer drives. Rather impressive.

We’re all checked out of the Bronte Boutique Hotel and have said goodbye to Morpeth. We’re now back in Maitland and enjoying the excellent coffee at the tongue-twistingly tricky Cunning Culinarian! More on this place later, however…

…I do have to show you the ultimate brekky roll they do here. Absolutely magnificent!

Our visit to the Old Maitland Gaol is a real eye-opener. Some of the worst villains in the country were guests here once, including Ivan Milat.

Our last stop as we head back to Sydney is to the Heritage Gardens Cafe in Ashtonfield. Part of a stunning garden centre, the food and coffee here does well to stand out against all the blooms around us.

Taking of blooms, now we’re back in Sydney, we discover the David Jones Flower Show is on.

At the same time, the Vogue American Express Fashion Night Out (VEAFNO is easier) has come to Sydney and Pitt Street Mall is packed with eager shoppers.

It’s the perfect evening for the VAEFNO, and as the sun gleams gold across the skyline, we find our way to the Amex Lounge.

The American Express Lounge (free access for Amex card members) has a cool, NYC block party vibe this year. We grab a glass of Mumm and a bagel and watch the world go by.

As part of the partnership between Vogue and American Express, card members can activate an incredible deal that’s going until Thursday 12th September.

When you spend $50 or more at any of the 600 participating retailers – big and small, you get $20 back! Not bad.

The deal’s valid for the first 10,000 card members, so get in quick.

Here’s cheers to a great week. We hope you’ve enjoyed this Edition.

Jim & Christina xx

We visited Maitland as guests of Destination New South Wales and were invited to VAEFNO by American Express.


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