Presentation of the destination
Situated on the Hunter River around 166 km north of Sydney, Maitland is a cheerful city of around 67,000 inhabitants. With its low-lying site, Maitland has suffered some of Australia's worst floods, but the hardship only seems to have engendered greater resilience and good humour in the residents. There's plenty of sites for tourists including the gaol, the Walka Water Works and the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. There are also plenty of annual festivals, celebrating everything from steam to beer, jazz to agriculture, and the town also makes a great base for exploring the rest of the picturesque Hunter River Valley. The currency is the Australian dollar and the time zone is Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC +10).
Points of interests / things to see
One of the Hunter Valley’s top tourist attractions, Maitland Gaol has housed some of the area's roughest, toughest criminals for over 150 years. Despite the first stone being laid in 1844, the real allure of the place is not how old it is, but rather the modern razor wire and CCTV camera supports that remind the visitor the last prisoners only left in 1998. Open seven days a week, the gaol offers three atmospheric self-guided audio tours. Choose from the general audio tour, with information about the daily life of prisoners, the Escapes audio tour focusing on daring efforts to slip past the guards by sneaky inmates, and for the kids the Snitch the Rat tour is a fun and informative trip through the cells. Guided tours with ex-inmates, ex-warders or even psychics can also be organised, whether around a theme or by torchlight, and particularly brave visitors can even ‘enjoy’ a sleepover in the creepy old dormitories. Website: http://www.maitlandgaol.com.au/activities/Blackbird
Looking for the perfect spot for a picnic? Well look no further. Walka Water Works has history, atmosphere and beautiful nature in spades. The Walka Water Works is a 19th-century pumping station, originally built in 1887 to supply water to Newcastle and much of the Hunter Valley. Built in the Victorian Italianate style, the site was decommissioned in 1978, and stood empty for many years. But in 1984 local people rallied together, forming a trust and restoring the water works. Now it's a wonderful free public park, with brick built barbecues and picnic areas, a playground for the kids frolicking, walking trails that will take you through the beautiful natural environment of the water works grounds, and even a miniature railway offering rides every Sunday. Visit the main pump house with its ornate Victorian brick chimney, stroll around the reservoir spotting 300 species of birds and enjoy learning more about one of the largest and most intact 19th-century industrial complexes in the Hunter Valley. Opening hours: 7.00 am to 5.00 pm, seven days a week. Address: 55 Scobies Lane, Oakhampton Heights 2320.
The Maitland Regional Art gallery, or MRAG as its known for short, only opened five years ago, but has breathed some welcome fresh air into the local arts scene, with culture vultures and art lovers flocking to the High Street at the eastern end of the city centre to visit the gallery. The gallery was once struggling, limited by space in the former Maitland Technical College building, but after $8 million of extensions the site was transformed, opening on 15 August 2009 with a space of just under 3000 m². There are 11 spaces of varying sizes, including one just for children. The gallery hosts up to five major exhibitions at any one time, including various travelling exhibitions. Plenty of art by well-known Australian artists is on display, hit the shop to pick up local crafts including glassware and jewellery, or take the kids along to an art class. Current exhibitions include Simone Paterson’s digitally produced mandalas; Vivienne Dadour and Gail Burrows’s work on the Greta Migrant camp, a site situated just to the north of Maitland that housed many European evacuees during the Second World War; and Judy Henry’s enigmatic landscapes. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm. Website: www.mrag.org.au
For an authentic old-fashioned Bush bar experience, head out to the edge of town where the purpose-built 1982 Buttai Barn has the best tucker and country music in Maitland. With seating space of 300 and a massive sprung dance floor, the Buttai is surely the spot for a party. House band ‘Wanted’ keep toes tapping and hips swaying with their energetic bush dances, fun country music and wild and wacky games. With a friendly country atmosphere, free-flowing beer, delicious grub and even a mechanical bull known as Elvis to give you a run for your money, Buttai Barn is guaranteed to deliver a fun night out. Boozing and barn dancing not your style? Try a Senior Lunch, with tea and scones and golden oldies music. Or maybe make it official with your new cowboy or cowgirl, as the barn also hosts weddings. The menu is all authentic country fare, from sweet chilli prawns sticks on mesclun salad to a mouthwatering carvery of mustard crusted beef, seasoned roast pork and country style roast chicken. Reservations on 0249 303153, website: http://www.buttaibarn.com.au.
Morpeth is a historical town that has since been absorbed into Maitland, making it the city’s loveliest suburb. It takes its name from the English town situated near Newcastle, and was founded by Lt. E.C. Close in the early days of the 1800s. His house, Closebourne, went on to be used as a theological college, and still stands today, with Georgian style colonnades and a sunny aspect. The town enjoys a lovely riverbank setting, with many registered historic buildings. Poking around the town is also a delight for boutique shopping fiends and lovers of fine dining, as these colonial mansions house some of the most fashionable cafes, pubs, galleries and antique shops in the city. Enjoy a river cruise, visit a wine cellar, or head to Morpeth Sourdough, where the same bakers have been plying their trade for five generations. Pick up woollens at the Australian Alpaca Bar or take a ride in a horse and trap. For more information explore the area’s tourist website: http://www.morpethhuntervalley.com.au/.
Based in nearby Newcastle, Gone Walkabout of the range of fantastic adventures. Choose from surfing, four-wheel driving, sand boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, snowboarding and skiing if you are the active type. Nature lovers might enjoy visiting noted beauty spots in far-flung national parks, rolling sand dunes, islands, paradise beaches, crystal clear lakes and unforgettable rainforests. Call + 61 2 4915 8515.
Just a few hours north of Maitland lie the Wollomombi Falls, one of Australia's most dramatic waterfalls, and long believed to be the highest. This plunge waterfall drops up to 230 m into the Wollomombi River, and is surrounded by campsites and a range of walking tracks for different abilities. Lace up your hiking boots and enjoy exploring the pristine wilderness surrounding these dramatic falls.
Cessnock is situated in the very heart of Australia's oldest wine producing region, so no prizes for guessing what draws visitors! Once a coalmining town, Cessnock enjoys rich and fertile volcanic soils and a population of talented and entrepreneurial winemakers. Other attractions include golf, hot air ballooning and sky diving, and you can also wander around the lovely colonial town, or visit the aboriginal rock carvings site known as Baiame Cave to learn more about Australia's first people.
Just an hour from Maitland, Port Stephens is a perfect place for beach bums to visit, as there are 26 beaches to choose from here. Enjoy delicious fresh seafood, swim, snorkel and kayak in the lovely blue Bay or head out to One Mile Beach or Fingal Spit for pro-level surfing. But the star attraction here has to be the aquatic wildlife, with around 150 bottlenose dolphins who love to play around the boats of tourists, and opportunities to watch the whales make their annual migrations. Head east on the A1 and then follow signs to paradise.
Vacation rentals in Maitland (New South Wales)
How to get there ?
Maitland is conveniently situated on the New England Highway, making it a snap to get to Newcastle in the south and the Upper Hunter and New England areas to the north of the city. The town is 166 km north of Sydney, and Canberra is around 540 km away. Many visitors to Midland fly into Newcastle, the second-largest city in the state of New South Wales. It's a domestic airport with links to Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Canberra. International flights tend to land at Sydney, but as it’s only 2.5 – 3 from Sydney to Newcastle on the Cityrail train, it might be worth skipping the domestic flights entirely. Hiring a car is the best method of transport in the area, so try Redspot Sixt Rent a Car at Newcastle Airport. Be aware that the Hunter Valley is a popular weekend jaunt for Sydneysiders, and the roads snarl up with traffic on Friday evenings in one direction and Sunday evenings in the other. McCafferty's and Port Stephens Coaches both run bus services throughout the area.
Hotels in Maitland (New South Wales)