NSW's second-largest city, Newcastle offers a blend of relaxed beach vibes and cosmopolitan swagger... perfect for a romantic interlude. Explore trendy restaurants and bars, then indulge in spectacular ocean baths before relaxing in an oh-so-cool hotel.
Where to eat – well
Whether you fancy restaurant hopping across the city or prefer to base yourself in one neighbourhood, you’ve come to the right place. The harbourfront precinct of Honeysuckle is the Newcastle equivalent of Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Here, you’ll find a parade of relaxed cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars offering stunning views over the Hunter River. Try Nagisa for top Japanese teppanyaki, Casa Nova for drool-worthy Italian, and Kingfish for seafood platters piled high with local produce.
It's a short commute to the inner suburb of Wickham, where Flotilla remains one of the city’s hottest restaurants, showcasing an artistic and thoughtful menu that brings out the best in Australian fresh produce. The dishes change with the seasons, and you can watch chefs prepare your meal in the open kitchen. Subo also gets rave reviews for its small (but well-curated) menu, which changes twice a season and might feature steamed snapper with black and white fungus, or duck confit with rhubarb.
You’re beside the ocean, so it makes sense to indulge in a meal that heroes seafood – plus, who doesn’t love swoon-worthy sea views? Scottie’s is a Newcastle institution that champions sustainable seafood, sourced locally where possible. Indulge in everything from mud-crab dumplings to sea urchin carbonara, as well as takeaway staples like classic fish burgers, king dory fish and chips, and salt and vinegar battered mussels.
The Junction, near Dixon Park Beach and Bar Beach, is another popular area for dining and drinking. Just south of The Junction is the Merewether Surfhouse’s terrace bar and restaurant with its sweeping views of Merewether’s surfing beach. Love at first sight.
Where to order a cocktail
Newcastle buzzes with small bars and craft breweries. Visit Earp Distilling Co. for a tour of the distillery followed by a gin tasting or cocktail in the bar – you can also become a distiller for the day at the on-site Spirit School. Everything you drink here is made using organic ingredients.
Just outside of town, Newy Distillery makes multi-award winning gins plus more than 50 flavoured, fruit infused and coloured vodkas. There are free tastings, or you can enjoy them in cocktails at the distillery’s pop-up bar at Westfield Shopping Centre in Kotara.
For cocktails, try the dark and moody Koutetsu, which also offers cocktail classes should you feel inspired by the oh-so-cool bartenders. Coal & Cedar is an award-winning speakeasy with a huge selection of whiskies on offer – you need a code to enter the underground space. And then there’s the sophisticated Market St Basement, which specialises in delish Italian food complemented by a carefully curated selection of cocktails, local and international wines as well as craft beers.
Where to find a nice glass of wine
Newcastle is within easy reach of the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s most acclaimed grape-growing regions. So it makes sense that the city has seriously good wine bars. Welcome to Humbug, an institution where the focus is on interesting, small-batch wines produced locally and sustainably. It doesn’t hurt that you can order homemade pastas to go with your drink of choice. For a more lofty experience, head to Romberg’s atop the Crystalbrook Kingsley hotel, where you can sip fine wines while enjoying stellar views over the Newcastle skyline.
Where to order a beer paddle
Beer available on 21 taps? It’s a reality at The Grain Store, a specialised restaurant that is focused on showcasing the best independent beer Australia has to offer. The food menu, meanwhile, has taken inspiration from the classic American diner with a own quirky twist.
You can take a tour of FogHorn Brewery before you choose one of the 16 beers on tap to sip. You can also get a taste for craft beer at Modus Merewether, an eco-friendly brewery where 36 taps offer a rotation of the Modus core beers, including their non-alcoholic NORT range and limited-edition sour, lager and dark beers.
Where to get outdoors
Work off all those gastronomic indulgences with a very long stroll along The Bathers Way, a scenic 6km coastal walk connecting the 19th-century beacon of Nobbys Lighthouse and the Glenrock State Conservation Area, home to the region’s last pocket of coastal rainforest. The landmark lighthouse once stood on an island but this was connected to the mainland with a causeway known as Macquarie Pier.
One of the highlights of the walk is Fort Scratchley, which was built at the entrance to the Hunter River in the 1880s to protect Australia against a possible Russian attack. In 1942 it finally fired its guns at a Japanese submarine, becoming the only Australian fort to engage the enemy in a maritime attack (today, the guns are still fired at 1pm from Wednesday to Monday).
You can live up to the Bathers Way’s name by diving into the Newcastle Ocean Baths (but stop to admire its stunning Art Deco pavilion first) or the Bogey Hole – a remarkable ocean pool carved into a rock platform by convicts in 1819 for Major James Morisset’s personal use. At the walk’s end, take another dip at , which opened in 1935 and are the largest seawater baths of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Where to find entertainment
If you’re into street art, Newcastle is the place for you – it even boasts a spot especially designed for loved-up couples. The Honeysuckle precinct is home to an artwork that frames ‘the most attractive couple in Newcastle’. Meanwhile, the Newcastle Art Gallery is located in the bohemian inner-city suburb of Cooks Hill, a magnet for creatives – walk the surrounding streets to discover an eclectic precinct celebrating diversity and culture in all forms. Here you’ll find the heritage-listed former police station, which today houses The Lock-Up, a cultural centre of art, music and ideas that offers a diverse program of exhibitions, events, installations and workshops. Other small art galleries to add to your itinerary include , Gallery 139 and CStudios.
The heritage-listed Civic Theatre is right in the centre of the city, and offers a regular program of concerts, theatre and comedy shows. Nearby is the heritage-listed Newcastle City Hall, built in 1929, which also hosts concerts and other cultural events.
Where to stay
Newcastle is home to some of NSW’s sexiest hotels, not in the least the Crystalbrook Kingsley. It became the city’s first five-star hotel when it opened in June 2021, occupying the landmark brutalist-style Roundhouse building in the city centre. The name, if you’re curious, is a nod to the city’s earlier name of Kingstown. The rooms’ colour palette, which includes bright pops of yellow, has been inspired by the ‘black canary’ – a reference to the area’s coal-mining history.
QT Newcastle occupies the heritage David Jones building on Hunter Street in the East End precinct. There’s a fabulous rooftop bar with views over the working harbour, a signature restaurant and the brand’s usual fun design quirks, which nod to the hotel’s coastal location.