With local makers and growers at the heart of the town, Maitland is stepping up the plate to become a foodie destination worthy of your next getaway.
When Sydneysiders want to escape the bustling city, we often turn to regional towns in our NSW backyard and we have recently bumped Maitland to the top of our getaway list. Just a 2.5-hour drive northwest of Sydney CBD, this charming town is rich with history and has a thriving arts community and emerging food scene. Located a scenic half an hour drive from Wine Country (Hunter Valley), Maitland provides a similar foodie experience with farmers and winemakers at the core of the offering. Discover some of our favourite places to visit for your next weekend away!
In the main town, you’ll find The Cunning Culinarian which is a quaint cafe pouring Little Marionette coffee with a side of wholesome eats. Open for breakfast and lunch, perch up for their seasonal menu of homemade brioche waffles with vanilla bean cream and maple syrup, herbed scrambled eggs on sourdough, or the corn and feta fritters with bacon, smashed avocado, sour cream and relish. Feel as though you’ve stepped into a friend’s dining room as you perch up amongst the fireplace with one of the cookbooks on display. The Bikesmith is also a great coffee shop that bridges the line between an espresso bar and a bike store.
Once you’ve fuelled up for the morning, explore the Maitland Regional Art Gallery where, unlike other galleries, entry is free. Feast your eyes on a diverse and vibrant collection including over 7000 works by Australian and international artists. Junkyard Gypsies has your vintage shopping addiction covered with racks of handpicked vintage clothing, accessories and homewares.
If you’re looking for a nighttime venue with a more lively atmosphere, The Rigby has you covered. The family-owned bar and bistro opened in 2016 and has since become the neighbourhood go-to. The menu transforms across breakfast, lunch and dinner with a focus on highlighting local growers and producers. For breakfast, feast across breakfast staples of ham and cheese croissants, eggs your way with fresh pane di casa, waffles with macerated blueberries, white chocolate macadamia praline and chantilly cream, or bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes, labneh, prosciutto, rocket and rye sourdough. The lunch menu features a mouthwatering selection of burgers including a classic cheeseburger, a mushroom burger for vegetarians, and a juicy Portuguese chicken burger.
The dinner menu is impressive with a selection of dishes to suit all tastes. An absolute must is the starter of toasted pane di casa and a garlic hot pot which honours the owner’s method of serving garlic bread to his family (safe to say we feel ripped off we’ve never eaten garlic bread this way). Moving onto the small plates menu, the BBQ king prawns with chermoula, BBQ broccoli with almond cream and chilli oil, and roast heirloom carrots with caraway, maple and tahini are highlights. The banquet menu allows you to feast over a parade of their most popular savoury dishes, along with the dark chocolate cake with caramel mousse, macadamia and berry coulis for dessert.
Other great places to visit in Maitland include Coquun which is a small bar, deli and bistro serving up a native-inspired menu right by the river. The venue has a certain pizazz with burlesque music, dim lights and eccentric waiters. The menu rotates with the seasons and it’s not uncommon to see dishes with wattleseed, kangaroo, Davidson plums, lemon myrtle and other native ingredients. If you’re after a place pouring craft beer, you can’t go past The Pourhouse with an ever-rotating selection of tap beers.
Enjoy a scenic drive out to East Maitland and make a pit stop at Heritage Gardens Nursery. Take in the smells and sights of beautiful flowers in the nursery, shop for some interiors and decor, and perch up at the cafe for breakfast or lunch. The chef puts on an impressive menu in a tranquil setting, from blueberry bagels with whipped ricotta, pistachio and blueberry compote and decadent croquettes with caramelised onion, triple cream brie and petite bouche, to soy and balsamic lamb burgers and Korean-style twice-cooked pork belly.
Another spot for a quick lunch is Organic Feast where you can shop for local organic produce in the grocery store and enjoy a freshly baked pie or sausage roll. It would also be a crime to not visit Donarch Fine Chocolate to try their famous raspberry heart chocolates which have won multiple awards over the years.
Morpeth is a historic town on the banks of the Hunter River where you’ll be able to sample local wines and browse boutique shops in original 19th-century buildings. The original Arnott’s Bakehouse is worth a visit to partake in a sourdough masterclass, pick up fresh sourdough on the weekend, or even stay in their boutique accommodation where you can choose from the Monte Carlo, Volvo, or Sayo suite. Must-visits in this area are the Morpeth Antique Centre which will have you browsing across multi-levels of vintage interiors, jewellery, art, clothing, collectibles and more. Stock up on candy for the trip home at Miss Lilly’s Lollies and note Morpeth Deli has everything you need for a quick lunch from fresh sandwiches, gourmet cheese and meats, coffee and sweet treats.
Reminding us that we were not far from Wine Country was Boydells Cellar Door & Restaurant. Over lunch and dinner, sample their award-winning wines and taste plates of local cuisine. The restaurant itself is cosy with a fireplace and welcoming staff. Enjoy starters of cauliflower fritters with mango chutney and cheddar crisps, beetroot terrine with goat’s cheese, or sashimi tuna with miso, grape and finger lime. Impressive mains include barramundi with pippies, prawns and XO sauce, roasted porchetta with cauliflower purée, cabbage salad and apple purée, and oxtail with shitake dumpling, water chestnuts and a hot & sour broth. As you scoop away at licorice parfait for dessert and sip a matched wine, it’s easy to see why Maitland is working up a reputation in the foodie industry.
Luskintyre is no longer than a half-hour drive out of main Maitland and is surrounded by vineyards and beautiful countryside. Tranquil Vale is a beautiful winery to visit producing authentic Hunter Valley award-winning wines, specialising in estate-grown semillon, chardonnay and shiraz. Tranquil Vale also offers intimate vineyard stays in a Romantic Couple’s Loft with a balcony overlooking the vines, or your own two-bedroom fully self-contained cottage opening onto the vineyard itself. The cellar door is small allowing you to get up close with the producers and ask any questions you may have about winemaking while you sip their flagship wines and sample their olive oils with freshly baked bread.
Looking to take a guided tour?
A great way to experience Maitland is through Umbrella Events & Tours, a boutique service that offers guided tours of the town’s best restaurants, bars and cellar doors. Choose from ‘A Moving Feast’ which is Maitland’s first progressive dinner experience taking you on a 3.5-hour drinking and dining experience across three central venues, the ‘Hunter Valley Private Wine Tour’ which is a full-day private winery tour offering a guided training session in the beautiful Hunter Valley, or ‘A Taste Of Maitland’ which is a guided 3.5-hour tour with friendly professionals who will highlight Maitland’s rich history, unique artisan local businesses and diverse coffee cultures.