Wanting to treat my nan to a day out in the sunshine and on the water, I booked us in for a trip along the Hunter River from Newcastle to Morpeth with Nova Cruises. The sun was shining, there was a slight, cool breeze and we were ready for a relaxing cruise full of history!
Arriving at the Lee Wharf pontoon, Nan and I could see the boat cruising down the harbour and we couldn't wait to see what the day had in store for us! After a warm, friendly welcome from the crew, we got comfortable in our seats inside the vessel and we were off.
Passing through the harbour we caught glimpses of Newcastle's gorgeous city scape including Scratchleys On The Wharf, Queens Wharf Hotel and my favourite Christ Church Cathedral.
Newcastle Harbour is Australia's oldest export port and one of the country's largest tonnage throughout ports and provides a significant gateway to the resource rich Hunter Valley and for much of the north and northwest of NSW. You can read more on the history of Newcastle Harbour here. You can really appreciate the size of these cargo ships as you pass by.
Approaching the Stockton Bridge I was amazed to see how long it really is! Stockton Bridge is the main gateway from Newcastle to the Port Stephens region. I have many memories of school excursions where the students played a game. When the bus was at the start of the bridge we would see who could hold their breath the longest, the aim of the game was to see if anyone could hold their breath until the end of the bridge. Now that i'm older, I realise how stupid and dangerous games like those are but thankfully no one passed out as a result of it!
As we enter the Hunter River we said goodbye to the bustling city and coast of Newcastle and said hello to the country side where there was nothing but river and fields of properties surrounding us. As we journeyed through Hexham I was keen to see the opening of the bridge which stops the traffic and allows vessels to pass under. Never seeing it open before, I had imagined that it would open by lifting up the sides and parting in the middle however, the bridge is simply raised. Having driven over the bridge many times I haven't been stopped once so it was nice to see it for the first time from the perspective from the water.
Bird lovers will get great joy out this cruise because there is so much birdlife to discover! You will most likely come across flocks of pelicans, seagulls, ducks, ibis and other water birds and white bellied sea eagles! The cruise goes quite slow along the river so you have plenty of time to get some photos and admire them in their natural habitat. There were also hundreds of jellyfish to be spotted in the water too!
Apart from the wildlife, the landscape along the way is also a beautiful sight. You see all sorts of old architecture, massive houses by the river, overgrown mangroves, people fishing, farm land and all types of cattle, some were even cooling off by the edge of the river!
While heading to Morpeth, guests on board are treated to samples of Morpeth's most delicious homemade goodies including scones, sourdough bread with olive oil to dip, wines and my favourite, the fudge! Sample fudge flavours were passionfruit, vanilla, jaffa and chocolate caramel and although all of them were super tasty, the passionfruit is to die for and I was so happy to hear that it could be purchased at Miss Lily's Lollies along with a massive selection of lollies and sweets from all over the world!
Pulling into Morpeth, this place was once the gateway to inland Australia and one of the busiest trade ports in New South Wales. My first impression of Morpeth is that it's a very small, country town where all the shops and eateries are located on one main road. The idea was to have lunch at the pub but finding out it was way down the other end of the road we decided to go to the first eatery we saw. Just next to an antique shop was a sign advertising a little cafe down an alleyway off the main road, nan and I though why not and i'm so glad we did, there was a whole world of shops waiting to be discovered here!
Tucked behind this antique shop was the cutest little cafe I have ever seen called The Servants Quarters Tearooms! It was like a magical garden with plants and flowers hanging from everywhere, quirky decorations, fairy lights and wind chimes, they even had all these gorgeous Eastern Water Dragons around the place! Finding a seat I couldn't stop smiling at our pretty this place was, I was certainly in heaven! Nan ordered fish and chips with salad and still feeling a bit full from the tasty samples on the cruise I went with a light meal and ordered the chicken nuggets and chips. The service was warm and friendly and the food came out quick and was delicious!
After lunch I went for a walk around to see what I else I would discover and let me tell you there is plenty! It's amazing how there are so many shops tucked away behind the main road and alleyways on every corner! I came across a cute wooden hut where you can purchase these beautiful hand crafted items, giftware stores, boutique clothes shops, antique shops with products and items dating back many years ago, a military shop with real life war memorabilia and there was even a shop entirely dedicated to cats! There were soft toy cats, cat beds, cat figurines, cat artwork, literally cat everything! You can't go past the lolly shops though, these sweets and goods are all made fresh and with love right in the shops sourced from local products. I have to also mention the enormous amounts of free taste testing of jams, biscuits, fudge, oil, honey and so much more!
After spending about 1.5 hours at Morpeth we all made our way back to the cruise for our journey back to Newcastle. Nan and I had a great time doing this historic cruise, it was amazing to learn about the history of the Hunter River and see the landscape from a different perspective. Do keep in mind that this is an 8 hour cruise with a large majority of it being on the water so if you have children with you definitely bring something to entertain them, even my nan was wishing she brought her iPad for something to read!
You have access to the inside of the boat where there is seating and tables, out on the back of the boat to be near the water or up on the top level to get really good views and soak up the sunshine. There is a small bar on the boat where you can purchase drinks and light snacks or you are more than welcome to bring your own on board. Thanks for a great day on the water Nova Cruises, it was a beautiful one!