It was once a leading Australian river port and the home of Arnott’s biscuits, but now Morpeth mixes tradition with the quaint and sometimes downright quirky.
Morpeth is located on the southern bank of the Hunter River west of the coastal city of Newcastle, in New South Wales – Australia’s most populous state. It is a suburb of the City of Maitland.
Once covered in dense rainforest, the town is steeped in history, with European settlement dating from the early 1800’s. A river port in the 1830’s and 1840’s, Morpeth is now a popular tourist attraction, largely because of its natural scenery and absorbing history.
The town’s tree-lined and stone paved streets boast impressive sandstone buildings; shops offering an typical Australian experience; and an array of riverside picnic spots.
Our road trip to the area coincided with a warm Australian Spring day and were grateful for the shady trees at the Ray Lawler Reserve and the number of cafes offering cool drinks and respite from the sun.
After consuming cooling milkshakes provided by the friendly staff at the Riverview Cafe – which boasts a great view of the Hunter River – we set forth on foot to check out the striking old buildings, shops and parkland.
Quaintly named businesses like the ‘Muffet Tuffet’; ‘Gourmet or Glutton’; ‘Teddy Bears Downstairs & Grandma’s Featherbed’; ‘Miss Tilly’s Lollies’ and ‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ certainly caught the eye.
However, there are more than 40 stores and galleries in all – including some selling charming collectables and a huge range of clothing. It soon became apparent that we should have set aside more than one afternoon to truly sample the attractions of Morpeth.
We soon realised why the town is a popular stop for tourist buses and overseas visitors keen to get a taste of Australian history with a different.
There was free fudge and ginger beer tasting; a shady nook at the Australian Alpaca Barn; Australian arts and crafts at Campbell’s Store Craft Centre; and a bewildering range of lollies and sauces at Miss Tilly’s, before we followed the seasonal sounds to Christmas Lane.
Wow! This place was astonishing.
After entering the shop, we were swept up in a wonderland of twinkling lights, shimmering ornaments; decorations, trees, dolls, designer Christmas dresses, snowmen, reindeer etc etc
Some of the Grinch-inspired decorations stopped us in our tracks; but Christmas Lane features a series of rooms, with a different theme in each.
Back out into the sun, we wandered down to Morpeth’s Heritage Walk to see the restoration of the historic Arnotts Bakehouse.
In the 1860’s, Morphet’s colonial bakery was operated by Arnotts, giving the site an important place in the commercial development of Australia.
Then, we walked further to take a close look at the remarkable Morpeth timber road bridge.
Completed in 1898, this bridge is a rare example of a truss bridge with overhead bracing. It is the oldest such bridge in service within New South Wales – and one of only three remaining in the state.
Unfortunately, time had run out and we had to leave Morpeth without experiencing many of the town’s attractions.
However, we did notice several accommodation facilities in the town – and we are hopeful of returning to do a more comprehensive review of remarkable Morpeth.
How to get there
Morpeth is about 165.2 kilometres – or just over two hours driving – north of Sydney, Australia, via the Pacific Motorway.
It is about 32 kilometres – or 33 minutes – from Newcastle Airport.