Visiting Newcastle – A City Guide
The vibrant coastal city of Newcastle was once best known for exporting coal. Now it’s stunning surf beaches and impressive culinary offerings that put it on the map. With hip bars and restaurants, miles of coastline, excellent hotels and a busy working harbour, it’s an exciting destination to explore.
Newcastle: city layout
Newcastle’s city centre is sandwiched between the Hunter River on one side and spectacular surf beaches on the other. Hunter Street is the main strip at the city’s bustling heart.
Beside the river at Queen’s Wharf, diners can sit outside stylish bars and restaurants and watch the coal ships toil in the distance.
On the southern side of the harbour mouth is Nobby’s Beach, home to a long harbour breakwall and a striking lighthouse. From here you can join the Bathers’ Way coastal walk, which connects the city’s surf beaches and takes around two hours to follow on foot, passing historic Fort Scratchley and the Strzelecki Lookout en route.
Newcastle’s spectacular swims
In the mood for a dip? Can’t decide between the beach and the pool? These iconic swimming spots let you enjoy the best of both worlds.
● Newcastle Ocean Baths have been seducing swimmers since 1922. You can swim laps as you soak up the gorgeous views out to sea and a beautiful art-deco pavilion provides shelter from the sun.
● Bogey Hole is a striking ocean swimming pool, cut directly into the rock way back in 1819. Swimming here while the waves crash around you is an exhilarating experience.
● Slightly further out of town at Merewether Ocean Baths there’s a shallow pool where children can splash about, while the large deep pool is ideal for swimming laps and watching the waves crash onto the rocks.
The concierge recommends…
● A visit to Miss Porter’s House, an Edwardian terrace built in 1909. Once a family home, it’s now a museum filled with original furnishings and personal belongings, providing a unique insight into domestic life in the mid-1900s.
● A Sunday walk around Nobbys Lighthouse Grounds, which rewards you with sweeping city and ocean views. Entry is free and if you’re lucky you might even spot some migrating whales.
● Exploring 200 years of local seafaring history at Newcastle Maritime Centre, housed in a restored wharf. Look out for detailed model ships, artefacts from Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour and a fascinating collection of lost property recovered from shipwrecks.
Hotels in Newcastle
Newcastle’s different neighbourhoods offer a wide variety of experiences. In recent years urban renewal projects have transformed the city centre and harbourside precincts into exciting places to visit.
The city centre is an ideal place to stay if you’d like to have theatres, cinemas and shopping centres right on your doorstep.
Once an industrial site, harbourside Honeysuckle is now a vibrant destination, home to boardwalks lined with elegant hotels, cafés and restaurants.
Cooks Hill is Newcastle’s bohemian neighbourhood, where Darby Street bustles day and night with pubs, galleries, trendy shops and lively sidewalk cafés.
Eating Out in Newcastle
Newcastle has no shortage of sunshine and stunning waterside locations, so expect to find great al fresco dining and excellent seafood. As you’d expect from a major Australian city, you’ll find food from all over the globe, as well as superb coffee and wine.
Honeysuckle offers everything from casual spots for sushi and steaks to elegant waterside restaurants serving international cuisine.
You can dine beside the harbour at Queens Wharf, where you’ll find restaurants dishing up seafood, pizza and bistro fare.
In the city centre, Hunter and King Streets offer plenty of dining options, including French, Indian, Spanish and Modern Australian spots.
The vibrant bars and restaurants around Darby Street in Cooks Hill serve everything from pub grub to Thai. If you’re looking for a great spot to eat brunch, look no further.
The chef recommends...
● Soaking up the harbour views with a chilled glass of wine and a platter of Premium A-Grade Oysters at Scratchleys on the Wharf.
● A gourmet burger with herb salted chips at the Newy Burger Company. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, try the Pasha Bulker, with triple beef and triple cheese.
● Sipping a shot of espresso with a freshly baked muffin at One Penny Black Espresso Bar.
Shopping in Newcastle
Newcastle is a great place to find a bargain, whether you prefer major shopping centres, trendy boutiques or farmers’ markets.
Hunter Street Mall runs between Perkins and Newcomen Streets in the heart of the city. It’s a leafy, open-air strip of shops offering outdoor dining and some well-known fashion brands.
If you’re looking for a major shopping centre Westfield Kotara, 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre, has more than 200 stores to explore, and a cinema. Junction Fair Shopping Centre has a Coles supermarket and 25 speciality stores, and Marketown Shopping Town is home to supermarkets, salons, fashion brands and electrical retailers.
Darby Street in bohemian Cooks Hill is the place to go for artisan boutiques, gift ideas and unique fashion.
Explore Newcastle’s markets
● Newcastle’s Farmers and Makers Market is held most Sundays at the Newcastle Showground. Visit to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, sample local wines or browse homemade fashion, soaps and wooden toys.
● Grab some fresh fruit and veggies or an organic meal at Newcastle Market on Hunter Street, open weekly from Wednesday to Saturday.
● The monthly Olive Tree Market is the place to go if you’re looking for contemporary handmade art and design. From jewellery to homewares, visual art and handbags, you’re sure to find something unique here.
Culture & Nightlife in Newcastle
Newcastle City Centre and Newcastle East are where you’ll find the city’s main theatre, cinema and edgy art space. After dark, Darby Street in Cooks Hill is the place for lively bars and pubs.
Civic Theatre Newcastle is the city’s most prestigious performing arts venue. Decorated in Spanish Baroque style, the grand building hosts a packed calendar of dance, theatre and live music across its two spaces, the Civic Theatre and the Playhouse. Nearby is The Lock-Up, a contemporary art space hosting multi-disciplinary exhibitions and artists’ talks, housed in the city’s former police station.
Event Cinemas screen new releases, independent films and recordings of major international ballet and opera productions.
Newcastle Museum in Honeysuckle offers free admission to its permanent exhibitions, which explore coal mining, steel making and city history.
Darby Street drinks
● Modern and spacious, Deco on Darby is a swanky spot for cocktails and coffee, as well as hearty burgers, grills and pasta dishes.
● The Hop Factory is heaven for craft beer lovers - with 20 varieties on tap, they also serve wines from nearby Hunter Valley.
● At 5 Sawyers you can admire the unique artworks on the walls as you sip creative cocktails, regional wines and craft beers.
● Treat yourself to a frozen cocktail or a glass of cider at the modern and lively Soho on Darby.
Leisure in Newcastle
Newcastle is all about enjoying the great outdoors, with a string of beaches to entice swimmers and surfers. If you prefer to stay dry, there are some excellent walking trails with superb beach and harbour views. Or you can try one one of the walking tours on offer, exploring the city’s shoreline, street art and convict past.
Nobby’s Beach and Bar Beach are the best for swimmers, while surfers head to Newcastle Beach or the coastline referred to by locals as ‘the stretch’ which runs from Merewether Beach to Bar Beach. They’re all connected by a five kilometre path called the Bathers Way.
Take the ferry from Queens Wharf to Stockton to explore the Shipwreck Walk. Many ships were lost here in the 19th and early 20th centuries and some of the rusted ruins still remain.
● Test your agility on rope bridges and flying fox zip wires at Tree Top Adventure Park in Blue Gum Hills Regional Park, 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre.
● Get behind the wheel of a go kart at Go Karts Go in Broadmeadow, where the 700-metre outdoor track is sure to get your pulse racing.
● Take in the impressive views of the city and the harbour from the top of 30-metre Queens Wharf Tower. There are 180 steps to climb, but the views make it all worthwhile.
● Visit Stockton Sand Dunes, where you can you can take a 4WD or quad bike tour with Sand Dune Adventures, go sandboarding, ride a camel or spot frolicking dolphins.
● See Newcastle from a new angle – from 14,000 feet up in the air! With a tandem skydive, you’ll freefall for around a minute and once your parachute is open you have another seven minutes to enjoy the view.