Newcastle in NSW is one of those cities that is underrated, and you need to visit. You’ve been to the top Australian destinations – Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, right? Well, there are tons of other insta-worthy backdrops in Australia, such as Newcastle, that don’t cost the earth to get to and offer plenty of things to see and do in a short time.
So when is the best time to visit Newcastle?
The quick answer is anytime. Whether you prefer beach weather or looking for a short winter getaway – there are loads of bucket-list-worthy Newcastle experiences throughout the year. Visiting Newcastle depends on whether you want to do some whale watching, relax by the ocean or see the leaves change from green to amber. No matter what time of year you visit Newcastle, this city will not disappoint.
1. Getting To Newcastle
Newcastle is Australia’s sixth-largest regional airport. Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia deliver direct flights from major Australia centres from Ballina, Brisbane, Canberra, Dubbo, Gold Coast, Lord Howe Island, Melbourne, Port Macquarie, Sunshine Coast and Sydney. Other small regional airline partners – Eastern Air Services, FlyPelican, Link Airways, and Regional Express (REX) offer Newcastle flights.
2. RAAF Air Base
If you are lucky, you may be welcomed to Newcastle with a noisy flyover from the Royal Australian Air Force. The RAAF Williamtown base formed in 1941 is just 3km from Newcastle airport. It continues to be Australia’s premier fighter pilot training centre and home to the tactical fighter element of the Air Combat Group. Monthly flight schedules are published on the RAAF Base Williamtown website to better inform local communities of their fast jet flying activities.
Getting Around Newcastle
3. Newcastle Airport Transport
Visitors have access to a range of transport options from Newcastle Airport. It is easy to get to and from the airport using public transport, taxi or rideshare. Two public bus companies (Hunter Valley Buses and Port Stephens Coaches) provide 7-day services to and from Newcastle Airport. Buses accept Opal Card and credit card payment; however, Opal cards are not sold at the airport. Whether you use an Opal Card or credit card, remember always tap on and off to pay your fare.
4. Rideshare Services
Rideshare services are available at the airport via the Uber, DiDi and Ola apps. The designated pick-up area for rideshare services is out the front of the arrivals end of the terminal. To minimise your wait time, order your ride before proceeding to the designated pick-up area. The taxi rank is located adjacent to the end of the departures terminal, or you can book a taxi any time by calling 131 008.
5. Car Rentals
If you plan to visit some Hunter Valley wineries and Maitland Jail, then a car rental is your best option. It is wise to prebook your car with RentalCars.com who offer great rates from Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot/Enterprise and Thrifty.
6. Light Rail and Trains
The 2.7km light rail connects the CBD to Newcastle East. There are several stops – Civic Theatre, City Hall and Newcastle University City Campus, with the final stop close to Newcastle Beach. Trains run regularly to the suburbs from the interchange.
7. Easy Ride Cycle Hire
BYKKO e-bike your way around the streets of Newcastle and cycle past the traffic and people waiting for the next light rail, bus or train. There are currently 19 bike hire stations throughout Newcastle’s CBD, Honeysuckle, Newcastle West, Wickham, The Junction, and Bar Beach. Simply register online and scan the Q code on the station. A TIP: If you have a BYKKO membership card, you only have to tap on at any e-bike station to hire an e-bike.
Best Things To Do In Newcastle NSW
Newcastle is brimming with memorable experiences from stunning natural attractions, ocean baths, beaches, coastal walks, historical sites to fabulous restaurants and cafes. You’ll find incredible things to see and do in Newcastle all year round
What’s To Do In Newcastle?
8. Bathers Way Coastal Walk
Merewether Baths are the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere. The large ocean pools opened in 1935 and comprise the main pool and an adjacent childrens pool. The Bathers Way coastal walk is 6 km long – stretching from Merewether Baths in the south to Nobbys Beach in the north. Enjoy spectacular views from start to finish with stunning coastal panoramas from Strzelecki Lookout and along the iconic stretch of sand that leads to Nobbys Lighthouse. After a swim or surf, be sure to stop for a beer or lunch from one of the beachside kiosks or cafes or pack a picnic and just sit back and take it all in!
9. Newcastle Memorial Walk
1.3km north from Merewether Beach is Bar Beach and the start of the Newcastle Memorial Walk. The walk follows the stunning coastline to Strzelecki Lookout with glimpses of Newcastle city. The 450m walkway was built in 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing in Gallipoli. From Bar Beach, climb the 137 steps to the bridge or start from the other end of the walk for an easier stroll. Over 10,000 Hunter Valley service personnel who served during World War One are remembered and have their names inscribed on steel soldier silhouettes.
Beware the stretch between Merewether and Bar beaches can be challenging on the legs. This part of the path climbs up past Dixon Park Beach to the headland above. It’s well worth the effort, especially during the whale watching season. Dixon Park Beach is perfect for surfing and swimming with a large park, childrens playground and off-leash area for dogs just opposite.
10. Strzelecki Lookout
The scenic lookout was named after the 19th-century explorer/scientist Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (1797-1873). It is a popular launching site for hang gliders and paragliders and offers some of the best views over the coast and Newcastle.
11. Nobbys Lighthouse
Along the way to Nobbys Lighthouse, there are plenty of places to stop and take in the beauty of Newcastle, including more ocean baths, parks and beaches. Bogey Hole is a convict-built bath built in 1819 and situated at the foot of Shepherds Hill headland and accessible by the coastal stairs. It is a popular swimming spot with spectacular ocean views and is the first recorded European purpose-built ocean pool on the NSW coast.
12. Newcastle Architecture
If exploring Newcastle’s architecture is on your to-do list, then pack comfortable walking shoes. The City of Newcastle has self-guided walking tours showcasing a rich diversity of architectural styles that reflect the growth and success throughout the last two centuries.
This tour explores buildings and monuments of cultural significates, political, industrial mining and shipbuilding. For more than 200 years, the mining industry has played an important role in the economic development in Newcastle and the nearby region mining areas. Providing jobs, security and prosperity to the people of Newcastle, Hunter Valley and beyond.
Civic Park is home to the James Cook Memorial Fountain and below the Newcastle Art Gallery. Interesting sculptures are scattered in public places, such as Constance the Camel outside the Newcastle Museum.
13. Newcastle’s Creative Hub
What’s on Newcastle NSW?
Newcastle may well be known for its beautiful city beaches; however, the city is emerging as a creative hub for local and visiting artists.
Newcastle Art Gallery
The Newcastle Art Gallery has one of Australia’s finest public art collections, and the city plays host to various festivals, exhibitions and theatre performances each year.
NSW’s second-biggest city has had its fair share of success stories from international music artists such as Silverchair, painters, sculptors (William Dobell, Brett Whiteley, Emily Kame) and Tap Dog choreographer (Dein Perry). The Art Gallery is free to enter, and free guided tours operate on weekends at 11am.
Creative Village Newcastle at Charlestown Square is the brainchild of Leah Fawthrop and a creative collaboration of artists and makers from Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. It was decided by Ms Fawthrop that it was smarter to work together rather than as individual artists. The space allows artists to showcase their talents with other passionate and creative artists in their own community while encouraging people and visitors to shop locally.
The Lock Up
In the heritage-listed former police station (1861-1982), east of Civic Park is The Lock-Up. A cultural centre of art, music and creative ideas. The Lock Up holds regular multidisciplinary contemporary exhibitions and art shows.
Small galleries worthy of a visit include Timeless Textiles, the only commercial gallery in Australia dedicated exclusively to fibre art. Also, Curve Gallery and CStudios which is housed within the former Bellevue Hotel in the edgy West End precinct.
Newcastle Treasure Map
Established in 2019, Makers and Traders are a collection of local businesses within the inner-city of Newcastle that shares a commitment to promote the creative community. Discover and learn more about the creative people of Newcastle via a dedicated “Treasure Map” divided into three areas – central, east and west. Download the artists’ city map HERE or the City of Newcastle app via the Apple Store and Google Play.
14. Foodies | Eat & Drink
Where to eat in Newcastle?
Newcastle is much more than its industrial footprint. There is a long list of great cafes, restaurants and bars to discover, where fabulous foods blend with the relaxed coastal vibe. Whether you’re after smashed avo on sourdough for breakfast or fish n chips by the beach, there is somewhere special to dine in Newcastle.
Start with breakfast at the Blue Door within the historic Fred Ash building in Wheeler Place or just opposite the Civic Theatre café, both on Hunter Street. A little east on Hunter Street is The Umbrian café specialising in handmade Italian flatbreads (piadini), delicious sweets and excellent barista coffees.
15. Lunch and Op-Shopping
Are you an op shop connoisseur who enjoys rummaging through charity shops, antique and secondhand stores? Catch the local bus to Hamilton, about 15 minutes from Newcastle CBD. Hop off the bus on Maitland Street and stroll to Beaumont Street for lunch at The Village or The Beaumont Cafe-Bar before hitting the shops. There are several antique, secondhand and vintage fashion shops on Maitland Road, Hudson and Beaumont Streets.
25 minutes walk from Beaumont Street is Secondhand City on Clyde Street, Newcastle’s largest secondhand furniture, antiques and collectables one-stop-shop. Lifeline, Revamped on Clyde, Georgetown 2nd Hand, Secondary and Intown Secondhand are located on the same Street. The secondhand district specialises in recycling, revamping and rehoming unique pieces from furniture, vintage clothing, homewares to books. Whether you are a novice, a die-hard frugal shopper or just like experiencing different things, get out to the Newcastle suburbs and enjoy a unique experience.
16. Dinner at Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle is a thriving district of bars, restaurants and cafes offering stunning harbour and water views. Take to the water aboard a luxury catamaran, ferry or whale-watching vessel and cruise past the working port and picturesque foreshore. This is the perfect way to see the harbours coal loading facilities, tug boats and big ships up-close.
Honeysuckle SOCIAL presents a vibrant scene – ideal for foodies and cocktail enthusiasts. Soak up the shimmering harbour views whilst enjoying lunch or dinner with friends. Relax with an afternoon cocktail and watch a stunning sunset across the Hunter River and iconic coastal skyline. The food and drink menus are as impressive as the décor. Honeysuckle SOCIAL holds regular special events for the girls, guys, couples and friends. Join the Social Circle and stay up to date on their upcoming events and specials. Sign up HERE.
17. Darby Street
Like most large cities, there is a street dedicated to quirky cafes, and restaurants and Newcastle is no different. Darby Street at Cooks Hill is one of Newcastle’s best-known streets for great coffee, delicious meals, drinks, local art, fashion and homewares. The Street is lively day or night with locals and visitors hanging out in restaurants or shopping for alternate music, designer clothing, one-off jewellery pieces and unique gifts. Make sure you leave enough time to explore this leafy suburb for all the wonderful things it has to offer.
Breakfast lovers must head to Goldberg’s Coffee House, a popular place that has stood the test of time. The quirky café has an excellent reputation for service and been serving hearty meals since 1995. At Goldy’s, you can chill out-back and off the Street or sit beneath the shady trees on the footpath or relax inside under the enormous wooden chandelier. Meals are well-priced, and everything is made fresh from scratch.
The Etna on Darby is a small authentic Italian restaurant serving delicious pasta dishes and crispy thin pizzas. Well known for its generous portions and friendly service. Open for lunch and dinner; BYO and corkage is free.
18. Beer O’Clock
FogHorn Brewery is Newcastle’s only venue with an on-site brewery, brewing craft beers and serving great pub-style food since 2015. The art deco warehouse with exposed roof trusses plays a part in the town’s industrial roots and now houses an 1800 litre brewery. With 16 beers on tap and a selection of wines, spirits and cider, you are sure to find a drink to relax and unwind with. FogHorn Brewery tours run every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm or by appointment.
The Grain Store is located in the historic Newcastle East district and was originally built by Tooheys Brewery as a grain and keg store facility in 1885. Today the beautifully restored restaurant and craft beer café boast 21 beers on tap with high ceilings, timber floors and art deco tiles. A key feature on display is the original elevator shaft to the underground basement. So whether it’s a hoppy IPA, crisp pilsner, dry stout or some other brew, there’s a beer for you to pair with the tasty food on offer.
19. Stockton Ferry
Just 2km and 5-minutes by ferry across the Hunter River from Queens Wharf is the beachside suburb of Stockton, nick-named “Manly of the North.” From the ferry, be sure to take in the spectacular views of the headland and Nobbys Lighthouse. The kids will love visiting the “South Stockton Active Hub”, a $2M playground and skatepark. The “Hub” opened in April 2019 and is one of the biggest in Newcastle, offering something special for all ages. Be sure to stop by Café on Mitchell for great coffee and service.
20. Where To Stay in Newcastle?
Booking.com has over 140 accommodation options across Newcastle NSW, including pet-friendly.
5 Stars – Arena Luxury Beachfront Apartment is close to everything and has stunning ocean views from the balcony and comforts of the apartment. The beachfront apartment is impeccably maintained with every modern convenience conceivable, including designer furniture, quality linen, Weber BBQ and a selection of freebies for a comfortable stay. Situated a short walking distance from a variety of restaurants, bars and surf beaches.
The apartment also features free Wi-Fi, Smart TVs with free to air channels, Netflix and YouTube in the bedrooms, plus cable channels in the lounge area. Secure private parking is available.
4 Stars – Terminus Apartment Hotel (formerly Quality Apartments City Centre Newcastle) offers breath-taking balcony harbour and beach views from 1, 2 and studio apartments. This one of a kind waterfront hotel is in Newcastle CBD’s heart and mere minutes away by foot to some of Australia’s best surf beaches.
Each room is unique and like no other, with incredible coastal panoramas, layout, artwork and décor. The Terminus Apartment Hotel promises an unforgettable four-star experience where you can enjoy exceptional customer service, free ultra-fast Wi-Fi and Netflix in every room.
3 Stars – Clarendon Hotel on Hunter Street is in the CBD’s heart and within walking distance to Darby Street, Honeysuckle and harbour districts. The Civic Theatre, Newcastle City Hall and Light Rail station are located within 2 minutes’ walk, and Merewether ocean baths are just a 3.6km walk away from the property.
This 3-4 Star hotel provides above-average amenities, good customer service and features a restaurant and an art-deco style bar creating a contemporary and relaxed atmosphere. The Clarendon Hotel is also a dog-friendly bar with a spacious courtyard where your pup can refresh at the “Puppy Bar!”
Weekends at the Clarendon Hotel are lively featuring live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. If you are a light sleeper, then the City Hall clock chiming on the hour maybe a concern!
21. Dog-Friendly Newcastle?
Looking for a great place in Newcastle to bring your pup? This should help! Featured below are some favourite dog- friendly hotels, restaurants, and activities to explore in Newcastle.
If you’re considering taking your four-legged friends on holiday with you, there are a few things you need to consider beforehand. The K9 Traveller has published several great pet-friendly travel articles worth a read, such as The Ultimate Tips For Travelling With A Dog in Australia and Pet Theft in Australia | What You Can Do If your Pet Is Stolen Or Lost.
The Hunter Hunter website is another place to visit to find out where your pup is as welcomed to Newcastle as you are. There are over 15 dog-friendly cafés and bars across Newcastle where you and your dog can eat and drink in comfort. Click on the Hunter Hunter link above for the list of dog-friendly venues in Newcastle.
There are dozens of dog-friendly places to stay in Newcastle. Here are 10 to help you decide where to stay with your dog. Browse these to find the paw-fect spot and read the pet policy information and terms/conditions before booking.
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