72 hours in Newcastle for foodies
Ready to explore one of NSW’s newest foodie havens? Here’s your guide to must-try eats and drinks, from baked goodies to boutique brews, in the city of Newcastle.
Too long overlooked, a revamped and revived Newcastle has come into its own, and not just thanks to its historic city centre, glorious beaches and lively arts renaissance. The food scene has blossomed too, with entire food streets, a humming bar scene, breweries, hipster cafes, bakeries and top-notch restaurants turning Australia’s second-oldest city into a must-try destination for foodies.
- Relax at great restaurants with dazzling water views
- Get acquainted with up-and-coming inner-city suburbs
- Soak up the vibe of food strips such as Darby and Beaumont streets
- Explore the energetic, varied bar scene
- Enjoy the city’s heritage centre and magnificent coastline
Newcastle is an easy drive north of Sydney on the M1 (Pacific Highway) – you’ll barely have to make a single turn. Stay at Rydges Newcastle, which has a great outdoor pool and is within walking distance of the city centre. It sits on the harbourfront on the Honeysuckle promenade, which is lined with pubs, bars and restaurants.
Newcastle’s greatest asset is its stunning coastal setting, so get a scenic workout on the 6km Bathers Way, which you can join at Nobbys Beach and walk as far as Merewether Beach. You might want a swim first in the art deco Newcastle Ocean Baths or further on at Bogey Hole, a 200-year-old ocean pool hand carved by convicts.
Your reward for the hike isn’t just great scenery but finishing at Merewether Surfhouse, one of the social drawcards of Newcastle beach life. The striking glass building has dazzling views and houses an Italian restaurant, cafe, pizza kiosk and cocktail bar. Tuck into sardines with fennel and orange, slow-cooked duck or pasta with lamb ragu – and save room for Sicilian pistachio cake.
Return to the start of the Bathers Way and explore the scenic point between the ocean and the Hunter River that ends with Nobbys Lighthouse. Nearby Fort Scratchley Historic Site is interesting for its military history. This East End of the city has numerous bars and restaurants, so as the sun sinks, head to Grain Store Newcastle for a great range of Australian boutique beers (21 of which are on tap), or to Saints Bar for its menu of 50-plus gins and great cocktails. FogHorn Brewhouse serves classic American-style wings and burgers to accompany its impressive range of tap beers brewed onsite, while Basement on Market St has an extensive wine and cocktail list and moreish antipasti plates.
For dinner, the wine barrels and flamenco music at Rustica Newcastle Beach might remind you of Spain, but the menu is pan-Mediterranean. If you’re up for it, finish the evening over late-night rum at Blue Kahunas. or craft beer at Modus Mereweather.
Spend the morning investigating the city’s history at Newcastle Museum and admire the artworks at Newcastle Art Gallery, which has extensive collections of indigenous and other Australian art. Then wander along Darby Street to inner-city suburb Cooks Hill for your lunchtime inspiration. The leafy, bohemian quarter is full of quirky boutiques, galleries and some 25 cafes and eateries. Among them is Beach Burrito Co with its kickback courtyard and flavour-filled tacos and Mexican-inspired salads, and The Autumn Rooms, a relaxed spot with sophisticated cafe-style dishes.
Wine lovers will want to stop by Inner City Winemakers, an urban cellar door in Wickham where you can taste blended wine styles from grapes harvested from around NSW. North of here, Maryville, Tighes Hill and Mayfield are vibrant, emerging suburbs that are worthy of a visit not just for their homewares, antiques and fashion stores, but for their creative food scenes. It’s hard to resist a restorative afternoon pastry from Uprising Bakery & Kitchen or coffee from Praise Joe Urban Pantry as you explore. A great way to discover more is on a private tour with Newcastle Afoot Walking Tours.
The suburb of Hamilton first saw the emergence of Newcastle’s coffee scene thanks to its Italian and Greek immigrants. It has now morphed into a cosmopolitan restaurant and bar strip. Start off with a craft beer at The Blind Monk or cocktail at Swill Bar in the transformed Exchange Hotel. Take your pick for dinner. Beaumont Street leans towards the Mediterranean but also offers food from around the world with the likes of Naka Noodle getting rave reviews for dumplings and soup noodles, and Eight Buns for handmade dumplings and dim sum.
Consider driving back to Sydney on the more scenic route along the A49 and A43, which wind between Lake Macquarie, Tuggerah Lake and along the coast as far as The Entrance, where you can turn inland and join the Pacific Highway.
Stop first at Redhead Beach, Newcastle’s most fabulous sweep of sand, for a walk, quick swim or spot of bird-watching. Nearby Belmont, overlooking Lake Macquarie on the southern edge of Newcastle, could be your lunch stop. Consider Crusoe’s on the Lake for seafood-focused contemporary pub food with a side of splendid water views, or Salina Restaurant for classic Italian. Alternatively, a little further on at Caves Beach is Boffee Cafe, a perfect spot for brunch.
Spend the afternoon at The Entrance, which has waterfront walks, cycle paths, and Wyrrabalong National Park for fishing, surfing, whale watching and clifftop bushwalks. After all, with coastal pleasures this good, what’s the hurry to get home?