Newcastle is at the mouth of the Hunter River, approximately 150 km north of Sydney in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. The city is the focal point for the diverse Hunter region that encompasses beaches and mountains, restaurants and wineries.
Newcastle is a great place for surfers, wine buffs, bush walkers, and anyone interested in Australian history. The second largest city in the state of NSW and sixth largest in Australia, Newcastle city had a population of 153,000 and the suburban area of over 500,000. Newcastle is Australia's oldest sea port, currently the second most important in the country in terms of overall tonnage, and significant for coal exports.
Many Novocastrians take an avid interest in sports, as participants, spectators or both. The local NRL Rugby League team, the Newcastle Knights are widely followed. Newcastle also hosts soccer, baseball, ice hockey, netball and various other sporting teams. Hunter New England Health and The University of Newcastle are the city's primary employers.
To the north is Stockton beach with miles and miles of uninhabited beaches that stretch up to Nelson bay. The wreck of the Signa can be seen from Fort Scratchley, which was Newcastle's maritime defence during the world wars. Travel westward to the wineries and taste some of Australia's best wines. Barrington Tops National Park in the north west has beautiful fresh water rivers and rain forests, a good place to spot a platypus.
- Newcastle Visitor Information Centre, Honeysuckle Wharf, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 10AM-3PM.
Newcastle is a two hour drive north of Sydney on the M1 Motorway which starts at Wahroonga (close to Hornsby) on the Upper North Shore. The freeway is in excellent condition and driving is normally not difficult. However, as a large number of people commute to Sydney daily from the Central Coast and even Newcastle, northbound travellers during the evening peak (5PM to 7PM) will encounter high speed and heavy traffic between Wahroonga and the Central Coast, with traffic easing off further north. The reverse applies to southbound traffic during the morning commute.
The M1 is on the Western side of Lake Macquarie. To travel up the Eastern side of Lake Macquarie (through Swansea) then take the "Charlestown" exit on the M1. This route is more scenic, more hilly, and less congested (though it takes a few minutes longer). If you follow this route you will eventually come to the "Charlestown Bypass" at Bennett's Green which you can take if you wish to head north-west (towards Lambton). Otherwise veer right to keep following the Pacific Highway until you reach Charlestown and then follow the signs to the city.
Traffic during holiday periods and long weekends is also affected, with heavy northbound traffic at the beginning of the period as Sydneysiders flee the city for the weekend, and heavy southbound traffic as they return.
Sydney's Central, Strathfield, Epping and Hornsby stations have regular trains to Hamilton Station via the Central Coast. Travelling time varies between 2 to 3 hours. This line uses the NSW Opal card (the same as in Sydney) and trips to/from Sydney are quite comfortable and cheap at less than $9. This trip is included in the $2.50 fare cap on Sundays.
There is an additional train service from Hamilton Station to various Hunter towns such as Maitland. Check the Sydney Trains website for trackwork along the Central Coast & Newcastle Line; when these occur, buses replace trains between stations and can add an hour to the trip.
From January 2015 the regular train service to Newcastle no longer travels to the city centre, and terminates along Beaumont Street at Hamilton Station. Free shuttle buses transfer passengers the remaining 5km to the city centre, until a new Newcastle light rail is planned and constructed. These buses do not carry as large objects like bicycles or surfboards.
Several NSW Trainlink regional services pass through Newcastle's Broadmeadow Station (approximately 5 km from the CBD) daily from Sydney and the Central Coast to the south and from the Northern Rivers and New England. These trains are more expensive than intercity services and tickets must be booked in advance, but they are somewhat more comfortable and are also faster. Occasionally NSW Trainlink discount tickets offer discounts, and $1 fares for kids, so it may be worthwhile checking their fares.
- Busways, 36-38 Stroud Street, Bulahdelah, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Su 8AM-5PM. Operates services that run to Newcastle from Taree and to Newcastle from Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens, north of Port Stephens.
- Greyhound, ☎ 1300 473 946 (local rate call), fax: +61 7 4638 2178. M-F 8AM-6PM, Sa-Su 8AM-4PM. Newcastle from Sydney direct twice daily, Newcastle from Brisbane three times daily with many stops along the Pacific Highway.
- Port Stephens Coaches, ☎ . provides daily services from Port Stephens and Williamtown airport to Newcastle Railway Station.
- QantasLink. flys to and from Brisbane.
Flying may not the be fastest way to travel such a short distance as Sydney to Newcastle. However, the flight is particularly scenic, especially on a fine day, as there are stunning views of the northern beaches between Sydney and Newcastle. It can be well worth finding an excuse to fly if the cost is not an issue.
The actual city centre itself is fairly walkable. With the current construction works for a new light rail lasting until 2017, public buses are the best way to get around Newcastle city. The Sydney Opal card is used here, and used in exactly the same way. The shopping centres, John Hunter Hospital and the university tend to be served by several bus lines albeit infrequently (e.g. hourly).
Google Maps works for transit in Newcastle, as do several 3rd party smartphone apps that Transport NSW recommend.
There are taxis available, although you will likely need to call for one. Hamilton station has a Taxi rank which often has a few taxis waiting for the Sydney train. Uber may not have any drivers here, and GoCatch has just a handful.
There is a single ferry service between Queens Wharf and Stockton Wharf, also using Opal cards.
Riding a bicycle is possible, and infrastructure is slowly being built, but takes some time to discover. Select areas around Wickham, Islington, and along Honeysuckle Drive have some infrastructure, quiet streets, a gentle terrain along waterways that can be quite pleasant to ride through. Other areas which have some infrastructure are around Adamstown and Kotara Shopping Centre. It is possible to ride to & in the surroundings of the John Hunter Hospital, University of Newcastle but these are up significant gradients. Even so, much riding will occur on roads shared with motor vehicles.
- Newcastle Taxi Co-operative, ☎ .
- Europcar, 66 Hannell St, Wickham, ☎ . Closest rental outlet to city centre and also has an outlet at the airport.
- Budget, 107 Tudor St, Hamilton, ☎ . Bit further out from the CBD (not far from the Broadmeadow Train Station) and also has an airport outlet.
- Thrifty Car Rental, 272 Pacific Hwy, Charlestown NSW 2290, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Located on the Pacific Highway
- Newcastle Car & Truck Rental, 851 Hunter Street, Hamilton, NSW (Cnr Hunter & Selma Streets), ☎ . All sorts of vehicles to hire for all sorts of uses
- Christ Church Cathedral. See Newcastle's Cathedral. Tour the inside, with a guided map.
- Heritage architecture. in and around the city. Notable buildings in the CBD area include the courthouse (top of Bolton St), former Customs House, Newcastle Railway Station, and Post Office (cnr of Hunter St and Bolton St).
- Nobbys Head. Nobbys island is connected to the mainland by a pier built using convict labour (completed in 1846). The pier is accessible to pedestrians, and is flanked by Nobbys Beach. It provides an excellent vantage point to take in views of the harbour and Stockton Beach across the water.
- Queen's Wharf Tower. Suggested as resembling a large phallic symbol but has great views across the city.
Museums and art galleries
- Newcastle Museum, Workshop Way, ☎ . T-Su 10AM-5PM. Opened in 2011, this museum is spread across three historic railway workshop buildings with permanent exhibitions on local history, the BHP steelworks and coal mining, and interactive science. Free.
- Fort Scratchley, Nobbys Rd, ☎ . W-M 10AM-4PM. A historic site which now houses a military museum. The fort defended Newcastle in 1942 when a Japanese submarine surfaced shelling the city. Fort Scratchley has recently been refurbished and is open to the public, great views to the north and over the city are a highlight as well as the history. Just east of the fort is Newcastle ocean baths a great place to swim and meet some local characters.
- The Lock Up Cultural Centre, 90 Hunter St, ☎ . W-Th 10AM-4PM, F-Su 10AM-5PM. Incoporates a Police Museum and the John Paynter Gallery, which hosts resident artists all year round. Gold coin entry.
- The Maritime Centre, 3 Honeysuckle Dr, ☎ . T-Su 10AM-4PM. $10.
- Newcastle Art Gallery, 1 Laman St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. T-Su 10AM-5PM. Well worth a visit. The gallery houses a high quality collection of works by Australian artists and also stages its own and travelling exhibitions. Free.
Parks and gardens
- The foreshore. Large grassed open spaces on the old goods marshalling yards at the eastern end with playground equipment for children. Bars, cafes and restaurants overlooking the harbour starting from Queens Wharf where live music can be listened to on the outdoor area over the water (Hunter River)but very little grassed areas.
- King Edward Park. A great place for a picnic or a BBQ. Nice views of the ocean.
- Mt Sugarloaf lookout.
- ANZAC Walk. A short bridge connecting Strzelecki lookout with Bar Beach along the ridgeline, honouring the ANZACs who fought in WWI. free.
- Hunter Wetlands Centre, Wallsend Rd, Sandgate, ☎ . 7 days, 9AM-5PM. A regenerated 45 ha wetlands area adjacent to Hexham Swamp. There are walking trails, a bicycle trail, a canoe trail, picnic and barbeque facilities, and a visitors' centre.
- See some live music. The TE Guide provides weekly entertainment listings and appears in Wednesday's "Post" free newspaper and Thursday's Newcastle Herald in print and online. The online version is not always kept up to date, so it is best to get hold of a print copy. Alternately, look for Uturn streetpress, which is widely distributed to shops and libraries around town.
- Blackbutt Reserve. A 182ha reserve in suburban Newcastle. A natural bushland area which is full of native animals, picnic areas, wildlife exhibits, bushwalking trails, children's playgrounds. Don't miss the flying fox colony on the Rainforest trail. Main entrance is off Carnley Avenue, Kotara. Other entrances - Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights (on bus route) & Richley Reserve off Freyburg Street, New Lambton. On foot from Kotara train station, enter by the small trailhead opposite Grinsell Ave. on Carnley Ave., and stay to the right in the trail system to reach the info booth and animal displays at the Carnley Avenue entrance.
- Fernleigh Track. A 15.5 km long cycling/walking/running trail that starts in the Newcastle suburb of Adamstown and ends in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Belmont. It follows the remains of a railway line that used to run from Adamstown to Belmont down the coast.
- Newcastle Regional Library, Laman Street, Newcastle. A large local library which also hosts exhibitions. This Library is a stunning War Memorial in a unique setting and style. Note also the curious bikestands outside the front steps. The Local Studies Library on the second floor will answer most questions about Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. A small library well done.
- Bar Beach. Regarded by many as the best of a range of beaches that ring the city. Surfing and Kite surfing available.
- Dudley Beach. A secluded beach great for surfing.
- Nobbys Beach. One of the safer beaches to swim at, fairly close to the city and Newcastle train station.
- Redhead Beach. Located further from the inner city allows dogs as well.
No visit to Newcastle during the warmer months would be complete without taking a dip in the ocean baths. On sunny days you can sunbathe on the Grandstand on the Fort side of the Baths.
The baths are also open during the winter, for the more adventurous. The Newcastle baths are home to the "Newcastle Pirates", a winter swimming club not unlike the Icebergs or Polar Bears of other places.
- Newcastle Ocean Baths. Close to the city centre, these historic baths were opened in 1922.
- Merewether Ocean Baths. The largest ocean baths complex in the southern hemisphere. Free.
- The Bogey Hole. Carved out of the rock by convicts, this ocean pool at the bottom of King Edward Park is a great place for a relaxing dip.
Festivals and events
- Mattara Festival. A week long series of events that commences each year during the Labour Day long weekend in late September/early October. The Mattara festival notably includes the Mattara Hillclimb, a car race held in scenic King Edward Park. The festival also features a grand parade, concerts, family entertainment and market stalls.
- This Is Not Art Festival. Held in the same long weekend each year, and showcases the talents of young and emerging artists, writers, media makers and electronic musicians from around Australia.
- The Shoot Out. 24-hour film making festival.
- Carols by Candlelight. Held each December in many of Newcastle's parks.
- Cultural Stomp, Civic Park. A one day celebration, bringing people together to celebrate the region's cultural diversity. Forums, panels, music, art, films, spoken word.
The University of Newcastle is one of the major regional universities in New South Wales. Its academic program is quite broad and includes many liberal arts courses. Their undergraduate medicine degree is very highly regarded.
- For locally made clothing with a quirky, hip look, try High Tea with Mrs Woo, 74 Darby Street, Cooks Hill, ☎ . Darby Street is also a good place to browse in the boutiques, although the options here aren't cheap.
- Retro/Second-hand clothing: Newcastle has a range of interesting second-hand stores. some of which are priced very competitively when compared with their Sydney counterparts.
- Patsan Dance Music Specialist, 301 Hunter St, ☎ .
- Newcastle City Farmers Market, Newcastle Showground, Brown Road, Broadmeadow, ☎ . Most Sundays 8AM-1PM.
- Hunter Street Markets, Hunter Street Mall, Newcastle, ☎ . Every Th-Sa 9AM-3PM. Also runs whenever a cruise ship is in town.
Most of the city's restaurants and cafés can be found along three main eatery strips: Honeysuckle Drive in Honeysuckle, Darby Street in Cooks Hill and Beaumont Street in Hamilton.
- Asa-Don, 179 King Street, Newcastle, ☎ .
- Civic Lunch Delights, 389 Hunter Street, Newcastle, ☎ .
- Darby Street Take Away, 98 Darby St Cooks Hill, ☎ . A real value-for-money greasy spoon/sandwich bar. The "international burgers" ($6.50) are recommended.
- Hooi's Recipe, Shop 1 55 Joslin Street Kotara, NSW, ☎ . Excellent place for Malaysian, Chinese and Thai food. Price is reasonable and good service too. There's noodle special ($9.50) for dinner on Sunday till Thurs. A place that is highly recommended.
- House of Peking. (Hotel Jesmond, Jesmond) is excellent value for Yum Cha (lunch and dinner, typically $10-$15/head).
- Pide Fez, 126 Darby Street, Cooks Hill, ☎ .
There are numerous options along Beaumont St in Hamilton and Darby St in Cooks Hill. At Three Monkeys (Darby St Cooks Hill) coffee can be ordered by the bowl. Euro Patisserie, 68 Orchardtown Rd, New Lambton, tel: 4957 7188, is deservedly popular for their award-winning cakes and pastries.
- Goldbergs, 137 Darby St, Cooks Hill. A busy Darby St stalwart, offers large meals and a good location for people-watching.
- Long Bench Café, Darby St, Cooks Hill. Open until late.
- Rolador. Hamilton Train Station Carpark.
- Benjamas, 100 Darby Street, Cooks Hill, ☎ .
- Bocados, 25 King Street, Newcastle, ☎ . Spanish cuisine
- Delucas Pizza, 159B Darby Street, Cooks Hill, ☎ . Italian classics
- Oma's Kitchen, 16 Watt Street, Newcastle, ☎ . German food
- Moor, 33 Hunter Street, Newcastle East, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. North African and Spanish dishes
- Bacchus, 141 King Street, Newcastle, ☎ .
- Dark Horse Espresso, 20-24 Greenway Street, Wickham, ☎ . Funky little cafe connected to a furniture shop in an industrial area, serving Campos coffee.
- Glee Coffee Roasters, 155 Darby Street, Cooks Hill, ☎ .
- One Penny Black, Corner Hunter and Morgan Streets, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 7AM-5PM, Sa-Su 7AM-4PM.
- Suspension Espresso, 3 Beaumont Street, Islington, ☎ .
Bars and clubs
- Queens Wharf Brewery. On the foreshore. A popular spot for a drink. The pub sells its own beers and has harbour views. During the day and M and Tu nights the atmosphere is relaxed, whilst W-Su evenings can get very busy. There's also entertainment (generally DJs, top 40 cover bands, R&B soloists) on W-Su evenings. There is a large outdoor (beer garden style) area on a jetty over the river - great way to relax on a sunny day.
- Silo Lounge Bar. Located in the new Honeysuckle development on the Harbour. A drawcard is the selection of Belgian beers available.
- Northern Star Hotel, 112 Beaumont St, Hamilton, ☎ . An Irish pub in the middle of Hamilton's restaurant strip. The Northern Star regularly functions as a music venue - check the blackboard out the front to find out what's on.
- Kent Hotel, 59 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, ☎ . A busy pub on Hamilton's restaurant strip. Check out the popular trivia night (each Wednesday, starts at 7.30PM).
- Beach Hotel, Fredrick Street, Merewether. A Newcastle institution. The place to be on Sunday night is sitting on the front deck overlooking Merewether Beach at sunset with a locally brewed Bluetounge Beer.
- Gateway Hotel, Maitland Rd, Islington. The local establishment frequented by Newcastle's gay & lesbian community. The venue features a rotating mix of local and Sydney DJ's, special events, drag shows and feature performers, featuring a nightclub (Club G), main bar and bistro.
- Cambridge Hotel, 789 Hunter St, Newcastle West, ☎ . Newcastle's premier live venue plays host to the best national and international touring bands. Enjoy cheap drinks and great music while meeting friendly locals.
- The Clarendon Hotel, 347 Hunter St, ☎ . Voted best pub style accommodation in Australia in 2009, this venue is a great place to have a drink or a meal at their restaurant that offers good food at reasonable prices. They also host the Sundae Fundaze event several times a year with a number of world class dance music acts.
- MJ Finnegans Irish Pub, Cnr. Darby and King street. One of the most popular night spots on Friday and Saturday nights. Not really an Irish pub anymore.
- Bimet Executive Lodge, 121 Union Street. An affordable option, and close to the restaurants and shops of Darby Street.
- Backpackers by the Beach, Address, ☎ , fax: +61 2 4926 5210, e-mail: email@example.com. Dorm beds: $21 per night, Twin room or double room: $50 per night. Discounts for weekly rates available..
- ibis budget, 3-5 Thomas Street, Wallsend (cnr Link and Lake Roads), ☎ , fax: +61 2 49 500 524. A reasonable option if driving - a little far out from the city centre, but convenient to the freeway. Twin room or double room: $59 per night..
- Hotel Ibis Newcastle, 700 Hunter Street, ☎ , fax: +61 2 4925 3377. Close to the heart of the Newcastle CBD, the hotel is an easy stroll to the Regional Museum, art galleries, Civic Theatre, Civic Playhouse, Newcastle's popular Honeysuckle and Queens Wharf harbour foreshore and retail precinct Rooms cost approx $99 - $149 a night.
- Ashiana B&B, ☎ , fax: +61 2 4929 2895, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A small B&B with two rooms available.
- Sovereign Inn Newcastle 309 Maitland Road Mayfield, Australia. With family, twin share and double rooms, plus cable TV, in-room Internet connectivity, direct dial phone, clock radio, coffee- and tea-making facilities AUD 94.
- The Clarendon Hotel, 347 Hunter Street, ☎ , fax: +61 2 4925 3900, e-mail: email@example.com. Four and a half star boutique hotel centrally located in Newcastle's CBD. Serves excellent meals and many boutique beers. Has one of the few genuine beer gardens in the CBD at the rear where with live music Fri and Sat evenings.
- Novotel Newcastle Beach, 5 King Street, ☎ . Novotel Newcastle Beach hotel is situated almost on Nobbys beach, and a short walking distance into town.
- Crowne Plaza Newcastle, CNR Merewether Sreet & Wharf Road, ☎ , fax: +61 2 49075055, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Boulevard on Beaumont, 131 Beaumont Street, ☎ , fax: +61 2 4940 0092, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00.
- Noah's on the Beach, Cnr Shortland Esplanade and Zaara St, Newcastle. Close to the CBD, views over Newcastle Beach. About $200 for a double.
Good walking shoes are required for the CBD as many streets are steep slopes. Use the walkways or footbridges to get to and from the CBD and the Foreshore. The Queen's Wharf Tower is ideal for calming restless children, they can run up and down the staircase or along the covered walkways nearby! Make sure you note the Historic Markers in the CBD as they make sense of the magic that is Newcastle.
- Sydney - Australia's most cosmopolitan city is easily reached by train.
- Hunter Valley - Australia's oldest wine-producing region; the town of Cessnock, adjacent to the Lower Hunter wine region (including the Pokolbin district) is 50 minutes drive from the Newcastle CBD.
- Port Stephens - featuring Nelson Bay, a 45 minute drive north and famous for its holiday lifestyle and beaches, and for whale and dolphin watching.
- Barrington Tops National Park - a protected area which contains World Heritage listed wilderness, to the north of the Hunter Valley.
- Myall Lakes National Park - for camping and water activities.