Western gateway to the Hunter Valley.
Morpeth is a cute, historic little town/village a couple of hours from Sydney. More of a suburb of nearby Maitland, it merrily sits on the banks of the Hunter River and is an alternative place to stay while checking out the wineries in the region. Morpeth is also an historic river port hailing from the early 1800s and thus comes with eye candy for the history buff.
Strolling the quaint sandstone streets and admiring colonial buildings and old shop fronts, sipping wine at its cafés or riverside restaurants are the order of things here. Although somewhat of a living museum, there is plenty of bustle, too, with some of the best shopping in the Hunter Valley region, along with tasty eating.
The main Swan Street has the bulk of the heritage, together with pubs and restaurants looking out over the river. Most noticeable is the high number of the boutiques, galleries and antique shops in Morpeth, where people come from all over the region to shop for jewellery and high fashion.
Special mention should go to Campbell's Store Craft Centre for its craft shops, art gallery and tea room, as well as to the Morpeth Wine Cellars for its excellent wines and cheeses. Morpeth Gallery goes off during the annual Teapot Festival.
For activities, go on a horse and carriage ride from the Morpeth Trading Post or take in a Hunter River cruise. This area is also ripe for exploring by car as there are scores of wineries in the Lower Hunter Valley where you can sample local wines, along with the striking scenery of the nearby Brokenback Mountains.
There are comfy hotels and bed and breakfasts right in the village, as well as in nearby Maitland. Many visitors choose to drive for the day from Newcastle or Sydney, taking in the colonial road from the latter. It takes about three hours, but if you're in a hurry you can whiz up the main M1 Pacific Motorway.