The famous East Coast trips of most travelers skip Newcastle and not unlike Brisbane, it has a reputation of being boring and less interesting than Sydney or Melbourne. While both capital cities are very vibrant and beautiful, so is Newcastle. The city is a great stop on most people’s travels or is a perfect weekend getaway for other Australians. Therefore I would love to invite you into my travel guide to Newcastle, New South Wales. It is full of foodie goodness, outdoor activities and espresso martinis. Nobody put’s baby in the corner.
The size of Newcastle reminded me a lot of a Belgian city, most spots are within (reasonable) walking distance and you’re bound to run into someone familiar around town. The reason to visit Newy, the second oldest city of Australia, is to experience the true Aussie way of life. You have the surfers, the beaches and amazing sunsets. Newcastle also throws in a great food scene, lively nightlife and excellent coffee. All of this at a significantly lower price as its big sister, Sydney, two hours south on the coast.
Living in Newcastle, if only for a few weeks (thank you again T&C for having us!), was enough to make me realize I’m not done with Australia yet. Delicious eggs for breakfast, walking to the beach in the evening and taking in the amazing views. This is what makes Australia’s lifestyle so attractive to people all over the world. The weekends aren’t limited either with the Hunter Valley at only an hour drive, several fun scuba diving destinations close by and all the marine wildlife Australia has to offer swimming past the coast line.
While working at a travel agency, I was encouraged to tell backpackers to skip Newcastle and go straight from Brisbane to Sydney. Why? Because there was no money to be made. What a shame! If you want to experience true Australian everyday life in an amazing setting, Newcastle is where you are going to where you want to be.
Navigating your way around the city, it’s handy to know it is divided in a couple of sections. You have the center of the city with the main streets Hunter Street and Dalby street, Mereweather and The Junction. I personally loved staying in The Junction as you are only a short walk away from Bar Beach while being super close to so many good cafes.
The ANZAC memorial walk
A walk that was built to remember the Australian and New Zealand forces in the First World War, based in Anzac Cove to be specific. A 160 meter cliff top bridge takes you across from Mereweather in the direction of Newcastle center (or the other way around) and features breathtaking ocean views. Definitely a must when you’re in town (no dogs allowed).
King Edward Park
From the ANZAC memorial walk you can continue to the Newcastle ocean bath or the center via King Edward Park. Spot the colors of the small flower gardens or watch playing kids.
Newcastle ocean bath & Mereweather ocean bath
Ah ocean baths, one of my favorite elements of Australian beach cities. Both Newcastle ocean beach and Mereweather ocean beach are worth a visit. I love driving past the old building that marks the Newcastle ocean bath and it is a perfect spot to swim if you want to avoid the roughness of the waves.
Newcastle is most definitely a beach town with several beaches to choose from. Bar Beach is a beautiful long stretch of beach that will take you all the way to Mereweather Surfhouse (see below). There are also plenty of surfers to spot whether you want to partake or not.
Nobby’s Beach Reserve
A collection of Nobby’s beach, Nobby’s Lighthouse and the dog beach at Horsehoe Bay. If only for the dog beach, this place is a must for a whole afternoon of smiling, no dog required. There is a also a patch of grass where people might be playing bubble soccer (hilarious), doing yoga or recording a music video (ok, that one was a bit odd). A great place to regain your energy and it’s very close to the action later on in the evening.
Another great swimming spot in Newcastle. I didn’t visit this one personally but it will be on my list for my next visit! It’s another ocean bath but has a bit more of a natural vibe than the Newcastle or Mereweather bath.
Take a day trip and explore the delicious vineyards only an hour from Newcastle city. It’s easy to find your way around as you can get a map from Wine Country Magazine at any cellar door or on their website. Some wines you can taste for free, others you have to pay for. We loved the Vinden Estate and their 2015 nouveau style Shiraz that can be served cold (it get’s really warm in Australia and then this is just lovely!). Other great vineyards that we got recommended are Wandin Valley Estate, Tyrrell’s Wines, Tempus Two, Petersons House and many more. Make sure not to skip out on Two Fat Blokes Gourmet Kitchen, the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese shop (get some truffle brie for me!), Goldfish Cocktail bar and Potters Brewery if you fancy a beer.
4WD on Stockton Beach
Looking for another weekend activity? Stockton beach is a classic Aussie beach on which you will find four wheel driving cars. If you have never driven a four wheel drive on the beach, Australia is thé place to try it! The sand dunes of Stockton provide 32km of sand dunes and reminded me of the empty and beloved beaches of Western Australia. It’s also a pretty good beach for swimming and dolphin spotting. Make sure to have some bruscetta at the beach bar after, they were pretty awesome!
EAT AND DRINK
And now for the important stuff, the food! I just loved the restaurant scene in Newcastle and was very grateful to be able to try quite a few. Get ready to make some difficult decisions!
52 Glebe Street
Alright let’s start off with one of my and my friend’s absolute favorites, Talulah. A place known for it’s coffee, it also serves excellent food in a beautiful setting. With their added bonus of having wifi, this is one of those places where you kind of move in. Have another coffee and then fall into lunch. They used to close quite early but it seems that they are now also open for dinner, which I’m sure will be delicious as well. Their menu changes with the seasons and is a little bit more on the expensive side, so maybe not the place for every day. Unless you’re a fan like many of their loyal clientele.
5/50 Glebe Street
Also on the Junction, Lotus might not look as hip as it’s across the street neighbor, Talulah, but deserves it’s spot on this. Reluctantly I dragged my Talaluh loyal to this place and even he had to admit that the breaky was pretty damn fine. We also had some dinner here at one stage and that was also pretty lovely. Grab a seat at the outside windows and watch your sunday go by.
Hood Milk Bar
188 Union Street
When it came to working with a coffee in hand, this was my favorite spot. For the longest time the name actually deceived us into thinking they didn’t serve food. Their big open space offers everything from coffee, to ice cream and macaroni and cheese (a great one for a rough sunday evening) and everything in between. It might seem very odd but it definitely works. Hide in one of their booths in the back or enjoy the atmosphere right in the middle of the space.
103 Hunter Street
Oh the excellent food one can eat at this place. We came back twice as my travel buddy was a regular. Even though the interior didn’t appeal to me massively, the food and coffee make you forget about that. If you only have the chance to go once, make sure to get their shakshuka. Shakshuka is a traditional Israeli dish where eggs are cooked in tomato sauce. Might not sound like your normal breaky but it’s perfect for the morning after. I’m always very excited when I see this on the menu and this place makes it verrrry well! good Definitely also check out the vintage photos of Newcastle in the bathroom. Let’s say the city looks very different when people still got around in horse and buggy.
61 Shortland Esplanade
More known for its coffee than its food, Estabar is a great spot. Yet another place with such a good view over the ocean (are you sick of it yet?) and over the Newcastle Ocean Baths. Come here for a break in your busy day or after walking the Newcastle Memorial Walk.
50 Glebe Road
Looking for healthy burgers, then Grill’d is the place to be. As I don’t eat meat or poultry, I’m usually not the biggest fan of visiting burger restaurants. However, their vegetarian burger with a portobello mushroom as the patty was absolutely amazing! I would even go back. Which means a lot from someone who usually avoids burger spots. Make sure to choose a charity of your choice with the coins they give you with your order!
148 Parry Street
The design of this restaurant is probably one of my favorites in this list. As a converted warehouse and old laundromat, Tim Leveson interiors incorporated the location’s past very ingeniously into the current design and I do love me some white tiles. The old washing drums are now used to diffuse the light into the space and you can still spot the old piping on the ceiling. The food is a selection of seasonal produce that are sustainability sourced. The emphasis was a little bit too much on meat for me as I struggled to find something I could eat but the meat lovers were all super happy. The Edwards is more than a restaurant though, it rents out event space, does amazing cocktails, has a vintage record store and even has a brand new functioning laundromat! Creativity at its best.
The Lucky Hotel
237 Hunter Street
A much frequented bar by locals, it’s space also allows for big groups. They serve good bar food and all kinds of craft beers and wines. I especially love their outdoor area as it has the coolest projections on their bare brick wall and plenty of greenery around. As it rarely cools down in Australian summers, this is a great spot to be.
Perfect for sunday afternoons with arguably one of the finest views in town. This place serves as a classy yet relaxed venue prefect for beloved Australian sunday sessions (any excuse for day drinking). I spent several visits here and always hoped I would be able to spot some dolphins in the distance. I took satisfaction with the surfers and the beautiful sound of the waves. A must on your visit to Newcastle!
115 Darby Street
One cannot leave Australia without drinking an espresso martini and this is the place to drink them. Right in the heart of Newy, 5 Sawyers is a cocktail bar pur sang. As this place stays open quite late, it is a popular spot for later nights.
Lee Warf C Honeysuckle Drive
Another one with an “only in Australia” view right next to the water and great drinks to booth. Come here for a dance on live music or to get the night started.
Finnigan’s Hotel, Hotel Delany and The Argyle House
Places that are definitely meant for when you’ve already lost a bit of your dignity thanks too many espresso martinis. When you’re still not ready to go home, these places will keep you entertained. Make sure to take your (valid) ID and dress smartly. These bouncers will take any excuse not to let you in. Please skip Kings Street Hotel unless you like hanging out with very young party-goers.
There is so much more to discover in Newy. Due to acute brokeness I didn’t have the chance to go shopping at all and there is still a lot of food and coffee to be had! Other places that I didn’t visit personally but are on my list for the next time are fish and chips at Scotties, breaky at Three Monkeys and Blue Door, coffee at One Penny Black and Sprocket Roasters and so much more!
I really hope you enjoyed my travel guide to Newcastle, New South Wales. If you have any other tips, let me know. Or maybe you want to find even more spots? I can highly recommend the Urban Walkabout guides and the local Newcastle guide, Hunter Hunter! I also found an amazing other city guide by a fellow blogger He Needs Food.