Maitland is one of the main gateways and bases for explorations into the popular and historic Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. Residing within earshot of Newcastle and Port Stephens, it is easy to get to by car and can also be done from Sydney in about two hours.
Although one of the largest towns in this beautiful region, Maitland is quite small as far as Aussie cities are concerned, such that it can easily be done on foot. Most apparent is the heritage here, with many colonial-style buildings and cute wooden shop house fronts remaining well preserved.
Such was its prominence in history that Maitland was, at one time, considered for capital city status during Australia’s penal colony days. High Street is where it’s at and you would struggle to find a more historic-looking street in all of Australia. There are fine mansions, galleries and craft shops galore along here.
Maitland Gaol is one of the top landmarks, an imposing sandstone structure towards the north of town that is popular among visitors. The Walka Water Works and profusion of wooden bridges are also highlights and there is some excellent shopping, too, although it only really buzzes over the weekend.
Apart from the town itself, the vineyards of the Hunter Valley are the main draw. They are all around the town and can easily be done by car. You can also check out the nearby Buttai Barn for its bush dancing, a short drive out of town, or continue south and explore the beautiful Watagans National Park.
Maitland has a train station with direct services from Sydney, while the annual Hunter Valley Steamfest is a big deal for train-spotters and suchlike. You can daytrip from Newcastle or Port Stephens, but there are a good deal of hotels in the area and it is much better to spend time here.