Newcastle Foodies Day Trip: A Guide To Morpeth
When I decided to give writing a go, I didn’t expect sourdough bread to become such a recurrent theme but you can’t fight what feels right. Being a relative newcomer to the area, in my mind Morpeth rhymes with sourdough but, as it turns out, this small town 40km from Newcastle has far more to offer than its locally well-known loaves.
On the border between the Hunter Valley and the Port Stephens area, and only 40 minutes from Newcastle, Morpeth makes the perfect destination for an easy-going day trip out of the “Big Smoke.”
The historic town of Morpeth, flanking the Hunter River, offers a nice variety of shops (somewhere between “curio” and “shabby chic”), a surprising number of cafes with lovely shady courtyards, a couple of gourmet restaurants with deluxe accommodation to match, some lovely architecture with sandstone being the usual tell-tell sign of a more affluent past, and a nice array of specialty food stores. But if it’s the history you are after, there is plenty of that too. Did you know Morpeth was a huge commercial harbour long before Newcastle?
And once you are done strolling up and down Swan Street, rather than getting straight back on the freeway, why not cross the bridge over the Hunter and take a lazy drive through the surrounding bucolic farmland? Cattle, paddocks and rusty machinery: Who knew getting away could be so close to home?
Why not go straight to the source to pick up a loaf of sourdough bread or your favourite gourmet muesli? All bread is made on site using traditional methods. The bakery also stocks a number of local producers (Tar10, Pukara Estate oils and vinegars etc.).
Within the walls of 1840's sandstone 'surgeon's cottage', you'll find an impressive variety of locally produced spirits, ports, Muscat, Tokays as well as a range of local wines and beers. Most of these are available for tastings. And if drinking on an empty stomach isn't your thing, you can even sit down for a wood-fired pizza.
Gourmet or Glutton offers a convincing range of local and international cheeses. The shop isn't big but is well stocked with a good selection of hard and soft cheeses, blues, chevres, Cheddar, fresh cheeses etc. Although cheese is the main offering (which suits me fine), the shop also stocks other deli staples such as olives (stuffed, marinated), cured meats and antipasto. The ideal destination for a picnic!
Whether you like it delicate or peppery, everyone should have a bottle of good quality olive oil in the pantry. Along with a wide range of boutique oils (olive, avocado, walnut etc.), you'll find mustards, vinegars and books to help add that final touch to every meal.
Above the Morpeth sourdough bakery, you'll find this fantastic restaurant specialising in the best the Hunter region has to offer. In an elegant setting overlooking the river, this is a restaurant worthy of a celebration so if you have a special occasion coming up, I urge you to fete it here.
If coffee and cake will do the trick, this charming cafe overlooking the river has tempting breakfast and lunch options, as well as a well-stocked cake display cabinet. A mezzanine up the stairs offers a fun range of old and new gifts for the home.
So close to the Hunter valley wine region, Morpeth makes a great base for a weekend of exploring, so take your time and stay the night. An elegantly restored heritage building, this guesthouse has 6 comfortable suites to call home on that romantic getaway you've been dreaming about...