10 reasons to visit Newcastle
Offering that perfect combo of beachy vibes, cultural cool and creative buzz, Newcastle ticks a lot of holiday boxes. And it’s only getting better.
With a freshly renovated airport, glitzy new places to stay, and a never-ending roll call of unique places to eat, drink and shop, NSW’s second biggest city makes an idyllic weekender you’ll be reminiscing about for months. Whether you’re on a family adventure or couple’s retreat, grab your bags, pack a swimsuit and get your holiday glow on with these 10 revitalising things to do in Newy.
Take a dip in the world’s largest ocean pool
There’s nothing more soul-cleansing than diving into the blue, and Newcastle’s sparkling coastline has plenty of places to let it all wash away. As well as world-class surf breaks, Newcastle’s ocean pools are protected swimming areas that make the most of the crystal-clear water. Do some laps in the Merewether Ocean Baths, the largest ocean pool in the Southern Hemisphere, or simply catch some rays and have a chat on the steps leading into the water – known to the locals as the ‘Steps of Knowledge’.
Nearby, the Newcastle Ocean Baths are surrounded by a beautiful, heritage-listed art deco pavilion, with the family-friendly Canoe Pool next door. Don’t leave Newy without seeking out the Bogey Hole. A local favourite and Instagrammer’s dream, it is potentially the very first man-made ocean pool in Australia, hand-hewn by convicts in 1819.
Sweeten up with some MasterChef-worthy desserts
Former MasterChef contestant Reece Hignell has launched his sweetest project yet: Cakeboi, a takeaway dessert shop dishing out his twist on his nan’s traditional cakes and bakes. Pick up a jam-drizzled lamington, order a wedge of cream-filled Victoria sponge, a sliver of scorched crème brûlée tart and more nice slices. The menu changes daily, so there’s always a reason to go back for a second serving.
Laugh, cry or sing the night away at the Civic Theatre
Enter the elegant baroque halls and stroll up the red velvet staircase to find some of the world’s best performers taking the stage at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre. Opened in 1929, this heritage-listed city icon is a place where magic happens – The Civic is where you’ll find all the best live music, comedy, dance and theatre performances to make a night of it.
Feel inspiration hit with a modern art marathon
When it comes to creativity, Newcastle paints outside the box. With its colourful street murals, flashy annual art festival and contemporary art galleries tucked in every corner, there’s no shortage of inspiration in this city. Visit the Newcastle Art Gallery for two floors of curated modern art exhibits; the permanent collection comprises 7,000 artworks, including those by Brett Whitley, Emily Kame Kngwarreye and John Olsen. If you’re keen to explore more, visit The Lock-Up, a collection of galleries held within the city’s former police station cells, plus Cooks Hill Gallery, Gallery 139 and CStudios.
Taste fine-dining food that looks like fine art
Beauty isn’t just on the wall in Newcastle; the city’s dining scene has stepped up to offer some of the most creative plates in the state. At Flotilla, in the up-and-coming Wickham neighbourhood, an artistic and thoughtful menu shows off Australian produce; Signal Box offers made-from-scratch ingredients and premium wine in a bright and breezy wharfside locale; Rustica puts a twist on Mediterranean using local produce such as Port Stephens oysters and Upper Hunter lamb; and Ginger Megs brings a vibrant taste of Southeast Asia.
Discover natural wonderlands just minutes from the city centre
In Newcastle you can go from city streets to secluded wilderness in just minutes. The Carrington Mangrove Boardwalk is a stunning local secret, a sunlit boarded path that takes you through lush mangroves all the way to a viewing platform over Throsby Creek. Just 15min from the beach, Glenrock S feels a world away. Hike through lush rainforest or bring your bike and speed past red gums, wildflowers and waterfalls on the 14km purpose-built mountain bike trail. For ultimate coastal views, the ANZAC Memorial Walk is a 450m clifftop walkway that links the impressive Strzelecki Lookout to Bar Beach.
Say g’day to wildlife in the trees and underwater
With pristine natural beauty stretching out in almost every direction from Newcastle, there’s no wonder plenty of wildlife call this region home. Head out into the sparkling blue bay, where you can watch pods of friendly dolphins leap through the waves on a CoastXP tour or go whale watching with Spitfire Pilot Boats. If you’d like to experience the marine world without testing your sea legs, the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters in nearby Port Stephens offer an educational, interactive and fun environment to meet these often misunderstood sea creatures. On land, experience the new Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary, which allows you to get up close to rescued koalas on a 250m immersive story walk.
See the world from a different perspective
Housed in the historic Honeysuckle Railway Workshops, the Newcastle Museum is a chance to step back in time and see how the world began. Browse the permanent collections, rotating exhibits and visit the Supernova Science Centre for a hands-on experience that teaches kids (and adults) scientific concepts in an interactive way: lift a car, create a tornado, play in a magnetic field and more.
Find something outside the box to take home
Tea towels and fridge magnets are no longer the standard souvenir. Lift your gifting game with a bottle of Newcastle-made gin from Earp Distilling Co. Tour the distillery, have a sip of the different styles in the Tasting Bar, and become a distiller for a day at a Gin School Class, before taking your favourite home with you. For a gift with Scandi style, Pappa Sven sells Nordic homewares, fashion, books and more.
Live the luxe life, if only for a weekend
If a long weekend is meant to refresh, you’re going to need a pretty special place to go to rest your head each night. With king-sized beds, 360-degree views and a multimillion-dollar fit out, Newcastle’s first five-star hotel, Crystalbrook Kingsley, is the place to do it. The brand new 130-room palace was designed with sustainability in mind, and features rooftop restaurant Roundhouse, serving distinctly modern Australian cuisine alongside a Hunter Valley-focused wine list.