House Review: Luxury Pet Friendly Stay (yes really!) – River Haus, Morpeth

The stunning River Haus, Morpeth

Our mission was outwardly easy – to find a luxury home a few hours from Sydney, where we could bring our recently adopted rescue greyhounds in the safety of a fully fenced back yard. Sounds easy? Yeah/Nah?

Nup! Sadly pet friendly places are often not so luxe, then comes the fine print- some don’t even let your pooch in the house! Next is hand to hand (or email) combat to check with every house owner about the ‘fully fenced’ bit. When you have a dog which reaches 60km per hour in less than 10 seconds, a fence is all that remains between you and a hamstring injury. Where is my dog bed? I need to lie down!

Meet the taste testers – The Greys

First of all let’s introduce you to our taste testers:
Georgia: We first adopted Georgia a year ago. She is a pretty little thing, it has been a journey as our nervous little girl is slowly growing in confidence. She has trouble walking on a lead in streets as the world is too scary. It was clear she needed a fearless leader, another greyhound.
Maggie: She goes by many names Magster, Mad Max Maggie, Maggie-Moo!! It’s like welcoming The Terminator into your home. She is big, powerful, intense about life in every way but very loving and endearingly vulnerable. Living in the inner west, our fur cows (as they like the odd munch of grass) have been missing a place to run off lead in safety. It’s a challenge many dog parents face, if you are not comfortable with dog parks.

Introducing River Haus I first spoke with Sheriden when her house launched on Airbnb. It looked adorable, but they were not pet friendly at the time, however after being pet-sterd, all that changed. Book us in lady! It’s at this point I discover that I am talking with Sheriden Rhodes – a highly acclaimed travel writer and contributor to SMH (full disclosure – total writer crush here). Together with her property developer (aka I can transform a wreck into a super cruiser hubby), they have taken a run down property and over 12 months of love, sweat and tears River Haus is born.

Morpeth Bridge

Morpeth: It’s like stepping back in time in all the right ways.  In the 1820’s it became key river port and by 1833 the town was alive with boats and trade. One of the most iconic views we love is that of the timber truss Morpeth bridge. A gleaming white beacon of connectivity across the Hunter River. Morpeth is registered as a National Trust town. It’s easy to fall into its charms with so many quaint alleyways, walks, cobblestone paths, historical buildings with heritage shops and experiences. See our Guide to Morpeth, Matiland and beyond here

The Welcome: Sheriden’s warmth and hospitality is palpable – it jumps off the page, from our conversations via messenger, phone or via Airbnb descriptions. We are already excited. The day before our trip, we receive an email with the key house ‘must knows’  including how to get in via their fancy electric keypad Schlage. Normally these not so welcoming emails are like reading a military command list of do’s and don’ts, here Sheriden signs off that  “Most importantly it’s SO not about rules”  She checks on our preference of wine and even milk. Now that’s service.

Driving first class fully flat beds and soft pillows for snoozing!

The Journey: This is our first getaway with the girls. It was clear that my Mazda2 is not going to cut it with 2 dogs, dog beds, food, clothing (theirs not ours yet) and then we have to consider how we get our things into the car. So we hire a Toyota Kluger. I have never driven a high tech sofa on wheels; it’s enormous with two rows of back seats. We spend the day before trying different dog/bed/luggage combos to maximise comfort and space. In the end we use our Pawnamity hammock which creates a first class seating experience given the width and depth of the seats. It also maximizes Georgia’s ability to supervise my driving skills. It is high up so depending on your pup’s jumping ability you may need to pick them up to get them inside. With the back seat down we are easily able to fit all of our luggage. Navigation is so easy as we connect our phone to the car via the USB port (rookie error alert- you need to Bluetooth before you start driving). The Kluger drives like a dream, it’s a treat to be high up, you can hardly hear hybrid engine and it’s so powerful that 80kms an hour feels like 20km. Swoon. We love this car. Cruise control is set and lane assist is perhaps overly firm and very bossy! The girls are asleep until we pull up outside River Haus.

Arrival: This white picket fence cottage looks so picture perfect it should be in a Disney movie.  We open the little gate and in front of us is a slice of heaven. The front porch area has two loving chairs on one side of the front door and a swing on the other to while away our days as human watchdogs over our greys antics. The wrap-around garden acts like the most marvellous greyhound racing track. We decide to keep the Kluger parked outside on the road rather than park in the driveway. I’m already smitten with the wot-no-keys -keypad. A few taps and open sesame!

The girls are inside and like an army seal squad they divide and conquer, inspecting all rooms for soft lounging spots (not on the beds ladies! Never EVER!!), the best nooks and any naughtiness they can find.  We pop their dog beds down in the lounge and moments later they are snoozing.

Bedrooms: The hallway peels off the two front bedrooms.  Each one is identical in size with an oar above a divinely comfy AH Beard mattress which all the hotels use, as its just, well, so darn good!! Bedside tables and antique wardrobes create a stylish lair with an artisan wooden ceiling fan. A fluffy hot water bottle is quickly rescued from Maggie’s affection – in that anything small n’ fluffy  is fair game and should be her new best friend/aka bed fellow. No Maggie! This is going to be my buddy on cold evenings.  There is also a fabulous study with an antique typewriter which came in very handy for working from River Haus.

The Lounge: Is a beauty. A three seater caramel leather sofa sits by a rattan rug. It’s so comfortable that my partner, Mr G actually spends almost as much nap time here as our bed! We light the Nectre fire which has already been thoughtfully prepared by the best of girl scouts. Sadly my firestarter skills are less than satisfactory and we almost run out of kindling. Third time lucky and it’s off!  Coffee table books sit over a glass top of an antique chest whilst tea lights look charming inside iron edged lanterns. There are historical and nautical touches everywhere from the model of a 19th century tall ship, artwork on the walls, antique wooden step ladder with looped sections of knotted rope to woven baskets hanging from the coat rack.

The deck and garden: Sliding doors peel back to reveal a decked veranda with table, chairs and a black and white sun umbrella.

It’s nano seconds before the girls are down the stairs and into the
lawned garden. A flick of Georgia’s ‘come get me eyes’ and Maggie is off chasing her! Mr G and I gaup like Statler & Waldorf from The Muppet Show as we watch from the verandah as the girls run, sniff and have an absolute blast!  Being fully fenced this is a dog parents dream.

Terracotta tiles, timber touches and gold finishes

Bathroom: A signature herringbone floor of terracotta tiles has a textural brick like finish. A stand alone curved bath is in the wetroom which has a little wooden low table adorned with bath salts and a scented candle. I always have the best intentions of having a bath but somehow never get round to it. A morning shower is welcome and three golden bathroom hooks are perfect for hanging Sheridan towels and fresh clothing. There is even a little utility room with another toilet, washing machine and tumble dryer which comes in handy during our stay so we can towel down the dogs after a romp at the fence dog park a few mins down the road (note: they are pens so we had it totally to ourselves!). We make use of the basket of towels for the dogs which we use to protect the floors from dirty paws oh and there is even a cute jam jar of dog treats.

Kitchen: The open plan kitchen is given more character thanks to a commissioned art deco frosted window pane framed by green and red squares. The high dining table has natty industrial wheels. It is showing off goodies along with handwritten welcome note which includes a bottle of 2018 Tranquil Vale Shiraz. The highchairs become our perfect vantage point for drinks whilst cooking dinner. Cleaning up is a breeze with an oversize bultlers sink and lots of organic cleaning goodies. 

For someone who likes to cook when they are away, it’s kitted out like a real home from home with high end Smeg appliances to dinnerware and cooking equipment. The pantry has been stocked with high end produce; Laughing Pug slow drip coffee, 36th Parallel coffee pods, tea, rice, Pukara Estate lemon olive oil, and house made muesli.

It’s our first night, we crack open a bottle of champagne that we brought with us, enjoying it by the fire and indulge in some Netflix.

We watch the girls sleeping whilst tucking into an organic pot roast chicken all cooked beautifully thanks to a huge stockpot. When you have a home this beautiful, sometimes the test is that you don’t want to leave it. Goodnight River Haus. See you in the morning.

Grey Taster Verdict: Woof Woof!! We loved our racing track, it was so much fun, sniffing in the garden and bouncing down the stairs. We loved snoozing in the morning whilst the hoomans were out at breakfast and the air con kept us lovely and toasty at night. The treats from Sheridan were so yummy we often just licked them and hid them under our beds for later. The towels were perfect for a rub down after sprinting around in the rain and long walks in the reserve park by our house. We also thought that dog park was the dogs B#$%^S as we had our own pen to run around in without any other pesky fluffy things.

What we are addicted to: The luxury of it all. The styling, attention to detail, little touches like milk and a pantry of goodies. It has the perfect location, just a tip toe away from restaurants and cafes of Morpeth.

What could get us more addicted?: Not much is missing! We know a fire pit is planned and a BBQ in the summmer. The bedrooms face onto the High Street which can be a little noisy but after 6pm there is little traffic.

River Haus, High Street, Morpeth. To book
DA Guide To Morpeth, Matiland and the BEST sausage rolls in Australia
Tourism Information on the area: My Maitland
Read more about Toyota Kluger Hybrid

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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