While its winery packed neighbours Cessnock and Pokolbin were busy luring visitors and admiring their own shiny reflection in a perfectly polished wine glass, historic Maitland, the region’s biggest but oft overlooked city, quietly got on with the job of becoming fabulous.
Whether it’s foraging for food, a restful rural retreat, a creative quest or a heritage holiday you seek, the region’s rich history, vibrant arts and cultural scene and a cornucopia of kid-friendly farm gates and gourmet food experiences means you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do in Maitland with kids.
Things to do in Maitland with kids
Sitting on the traditional land of the Wonnarua People, historic Maitland is a vibrant regional city that offers a little something for everyone.
Built in 1844, heritage listed Maitland Gaol is a former maximum security prison and boasts the dubious honour of having held some of Australia’s most hardened criminals with many harsh forms of punishment, including flogging with the cat-o-nine tails, isolation and gagging were utilised. By the time it was closed in 1998 it was the longest continuously-run correctional institutions in the country and its walls and cells still bare marks that tell the grim stories of its some of its infamous inmates, including Arthur ‘Neddy’ Smith, Darcy Dugan and Ivan Milat. Now a museum, visitors can download an app to learn the history of the Gaol. There’s even a kid friendly tour with virtual guide “Snitch the Rat” sharing all the secrets of the gaol. It’s one of the more unique things to do in Maitland with kids. Mine were fascinated, though wannabe warden Sugarpuff seemed more preoccupied with locking up her brother.
Location: 6/18 John St, East Maitland
Maitland regional Art Gallery – MRAG
This world class art gallery is up there amongst our favourites. Home to an impressive collection of more than 6,000 works, the public gallery is steeped in history and renowned for its significant federation gothic structural features. It also plays host to numerous visiting exhibitions including, during our visit, the insanely cool Sci-Fi-inspired VR installation, Terminus. Maitland Regional Art Gallery Free Art Sundays mean that as well as exploring the world class gallery’s current exhibits, kids can enjoy free hands-on art activities inspired by them, with the MRAG art tutors. The excellent in-house café, Seraphine, is open 8am – 3pm Tuesday to Sundays and is sure to leave your bellies as full as your creative well. To quote Raff “This is how to art!”
Location: 230 High St, Maitland
Street art and heritage
Maitland is one of those irresistibly creative types. You know the sort … cultured and dreamy but tinged with a little mystery and history. The type you think you’ve just gotten to know until, boom, they spring another layer of loveliness on you. Like this surprisingly pretty piece of public art, The New One, just one of the gorgeous murals and faded ghost signs you can spot on buildings dating back to the mid 1800s on the Maitland Heritage Walk.
Walka Water Works
Maitland’s Walka Water Works is a recreation area that encircles a circa 1887 pumping station. The restored but retired pumping station is a brick confection of ornate detail, and with its accompanying gardens, playground, lawns big enough for even the most cartwheel obsessed kid, and a lake area that more than 300 species of birdlife call home, we think it one of the prettiest spots for a picnic in a town that is liberally sprinkled with them.
Location: 55 Scobies Lane, Oakhampton Heights, Maitland
Purple Pear Farm
Purple Pear Farm Education Centre and Biodynamic Farm is a brilliant biodynamic permaculture farm showcasing sustainable food production. As well as offering excellent hands on sustainability, permaculture, biodynamics and community building courses to the public, Purple Pear hosts regular farm tours and Acacia Play nature farm play days, a safe and nurturing space where kids and their carers can get their hands dirty, enjoy nature based imaginative free play and craft, and meet the frogs, dogs and farm animals who call it home. Bookings are required for all courses and play days. purplepearfarm.com.au
Location: 131 Anambah Rd, Anambah
The Levee located in the Maitland city centre is a cosmopolitan retail and dining zone flanked by Maitland’s high street and the river. When you’re not dining on some of Maitland’s finest food or stocking up on everything from fashionable frocks to crystals and quirky collectibles, The Levee sets the stage for activities and events including seasonal programs including free Friday performances in Autumn.
Things to do in Morpeth with kids
An old Hunter River port that once rivalled Sydney Harbour in traffic volumes at its Queens Wharf, the National Trust listed town of Morpeth became an important hub in the colony’s trading network and is now an important and rather delightful dormitory suburb of Maitland.
Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills Barn
A vibrant blue sign for Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills, located on an old barn on the road to Morpeth is a restored hand-painted advertisement from the early 19th century and one of the area’s most instafamous icons. So, what exactly were Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills? The invention of a fictional doctor who was said to have discovered the ingredients for an elixir that could cure everything from arthritis to aging while living with Native American Indians. The formula is still being made and distributed today, though under a different name as a vegetable laxative.
Location: Morpeth Road, Raworth
The beautifully restored Campbell’s Store is a two-storey emporium that’s been the place to shop for 175 years when Hunter Valley locals travelled by steamship or horse and cart to stock up on goods. Open from Thursday to Sunday the sprawling store is now home to Morpeth Antique Centre, The Servant’s Quarters Tearoom, The Ginger Beer Factory & Gourmet Foods, Morpeth Gift Gallery and Morpeth Investment Art Gallery. You’ll find everything from quirky collectibles, military memorabilia and vintage fashion to teddy bears and gourmet goodies within its sandstone walls.
Location: 175 Swan Street, Morpeth
If you don’t believe in fairies, a visit to Fairytale Lane in Morpeth will quickly change your thinking. Entering the store is like entering an enchanted world where everything has been sprinkled with a smattering of fairy dust. You’ll find fairy costumes and collectibles as well as Disney delights and designer dresses for your wannabe fairies, making this a must visit when visiting Maitland with kids.
Location: 161 Swan Street, Morpeth
Where to stay in Maitland & Morpeth
From beautiful motel style accommodation, serviced apartments and boutique heritage hotels to top notch pub stays, divine bed and breakfasts, and farm and vineyard stays, there’s no shortage of places to rest your head in Maitland.
For those seeking a little relaxation there are spa suites at the Monte Pio Hotel and Conference Centre. Perhaps a serviced apartment with self-catering facilities at Quest Maitland or a whole gorgeous two-bedroom period cottage like Glenellyn House Servants Quarters is more your family’s style. Step into Aussie history with a room in the gorgeous William Arnott Hotel, part of the original Arnott Bakehouse at Morpeth, where rooms are named for famous biscuits (families will want the VOVO room which comfortably sleeps four). For our most recent visit we elected to go rural with a stay at the Hunter River Retreat, spread across 110 acres of gum tree-clad Mountainside just 15 minutes from the Historic towns of Maitland and Morpeth. Surrounded by bush and a coterie of new farmyard friends, it was the just the spot for a back to nature break with the kids. You can read or full review of the Hunter River Retreat here.
Where to eat in Maitland & Morpeth
With cafes serving up great coffee, sensational sourdough, delectable cakes and pastries and other instaworthy delights, to small Bars, pub bistros and fine diners dishing up native inspired degustation delights, Maitland’s emerging food scene is unsurprising when you consider its location, surrounded as it is by some of the finest fresh local produce in NSW. Add highly skilled artisan producers and restaurateurs and fine local wines and you’ll want to visit Maitland with an empty stomach and an empty esky. You can read all of our top tips on where to eat, with or without kids, in Maitland here.
Getting to Maitland
Nestled halfway between Port Stephens and Pokolbin on the picturesque banks of the Hunter River, Maitland is just a half an hour drive from Newcastle and a two-hour drive from Sydney. Easily accessible by train, Maitland Station is the junction station for the Main Northern and North Coast lines.
Disclosure: The BoyEatsWorld family were guests of Maitland City Council, but all gaol breaking, and opinions are our own.