Heritage buffs escape

Once known as the ‘Emporium of the North’, Maitland’s streets are lined with the splendours of the past. Enjoy historic homesteads, enlivened streetscapes, heritage experiences and that’s just the high street. Festivals, walks, monuments, and museums revel in this region’s history. There is so much on offer for heritage buffs or historical novices seeking a fun day out or a whole weekend.

The mists of time are lifted each year at Hunter Valley Steamfest with the high pitched whistle of locomotives and the hubbub of train enthusiasts. Held every year over a weekend in April, the festival’s heart is grand old Maitland station. Jump aboard a passenger train brought out of retirement and enjoy the heart and soul of the weekend, the steam trains. Be sure to grab tickets early as these beauties draw a huge crowd. Road machines more your speed? There’s also the annual Show ‘n’ Shine with classic cars a plenty. Across the street at the Rally Ground, marvel and meet the skilled engineers of all things driven by oil or steam as well as, market stalls with a traditional twist

Learn about Maitland’s past at your own pace with Maitland Heritage Walks. Download the free Maitland Walks App and choose from a variety of walks that are easy to navigate and brought to life using historic images all in the palm of your hand. It’s a joy to experience yesteryear while still being able to stop for coffee or lunch by the river.

The Central Maitland Heritage Walk will take you past the distinguished Grossman and Brough Houses. Mirror imaged Victorian townhouses built in 1870 with a delightful rose garden. These National Trust treasures have been lovingly restored and furnished as a Victorian house museum. Dedicated volunteers host displays and exhibitions including the work of artists from the Fibre Maker’s Space upstairs in Brough House. Take the unique opportunity to see master weavers using heritage looms to create bespoke items. Best of all you can purchase these treasures to take home and enjoy every day! These historic manors and the beautiful St Mary’s Church across the road are at their best during Maitland Heritage Festival in June.

Delve into dusty shelves in search for antiques or vintage pieces at Morpeth. This historic township is only a 15 minute drive from Central Maitland. Nestled along the Hunter River, Morpeth is home to cobbled streets, boutique shopping, fine dining, and the Morpeth Heritage Walk. Using your trusty app you can visit an impressive 25 sites to uncover the history of Morpeth and its colourful characters. Your walk will end at the iconic Arnott Bakehouse which is a working bakery offering classes to master the art of sourdough making. You can even stay in their boutique accommodation aptly named after Arnott’s classics like the VoVo Suite or the SAO Studio. 

A vital stop on the heritage walk is the Court House which is now Morpeth Museum. Housing the history of Morpeth and the district it’s a history buffs paradise. It is packed with an abundance of memorabilia, displays and exhibitions. Sit in the judge’s chair or challenge your knowledge with mystery objects. Open Thursday to Sunday come and meet the enthusiastic staff ready to share even more secrets of the past.

Now that you have sat in the judge’s chair perhaps you’d like to see what life was like behind bars at Maitland Gaol? Unlock the past with the Gaol’s formidable sandstone buildings, tiny cells, and razor wire fences. With 150 years represented in a variety of tours, some of which take place at night (are you afraid of the dark?), hear, see and even smell life in prison from colonial times to the modern day. Be sure to check out an exciting view on the new Tower Tour. Take the journey up seven meters of spiral staircase to reveal a unique perspective on the Gaol and the surrounding area just as the guards would have seen it.

Peek into bygone eras and uncover the historic glories of Maitland. Explore the power and noise of steam trains to the hardship and trials of Maitland Gaol with all the rich tapestries of buildings, antiques and walking tours in between. There’s always something new to discover in the jewel of the Hunter River.

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