An Unexpected Adventure: Newcastle for Couples
An unexpected adventure for loved-up couples in Newcastle
A romantic weekend in Newcastle? Shake off all your preconceptions about Newy – it’s having a moment right now and makes the ideal location for a weekend of food, drink and canoodling.
NSW’s second-largest city, Newcastle, might have an industrial past built on steel and coal but more recently, thanks to major infrastructure and revitalisation works, it has become one of Australia’s coolest destinations. The easily navigable compact city is home to great beaches, world-class ocean baths, street art that will stop you in your tracks and incredible coffee and cocktails – so why not show the city a little love (with the one you love).
Eats & drinks
Settle into one precinct or go for a crawl with the help of the six stops along the city’s recently opened light rail system. The harbourfront precinct of Honeysuckle is the Newcastle equivalent of Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Settle into the well-regarded restaurant Nagisa to snack on Wagyu beef tataki, smoky salmon carpaccio and Sydney rock oysters crowned with lychee wasabi granita, before sampling intriguing desserts such as yuzu sorbet and banoffee or apple pie gyoza.
A short swagger from the Honeysuckle light-rail station is, a larger offshoot of the Melbourne original. Make like a puffing pirate in the cigar lounge, dive into the Caribbean-themed snacks (jerk chicken, anyone?), knock back a rum cocktail or two and try Red Stripe, the iconic Jamaican lager.
From the light rail, it’s an easy stroll along the eat street of Darby Street to reach Coal River & Co, known for mouth-watering house-made pasta dishes (think fettuccine with blue crab, spiral pasta with blue cheese, fig, prosciutto and walnuts, and beetroot spiral pasta with roast pumpkin, caramelised onion and goat’s cheese).
Want to snuggle into one of the city’s growing number of interesting small bars? Head toin Hunter Street Mall – the tiki bar specialises in exotic rums and lively music. In the East End, hunker down in Saints Bar, dedicated to all things gin.
Hop into a cab for the 5 min drive to Flotilla in inner-city Wickham. Former Silverchair bassist Chris Joannou is one of the forces behind this casual neighbourhood eatery that fuses Japanese flavours with French technique. Drop in for dinner – think miso lamb with black garlic and hay-baked celeriac – or try the set-course Sunday lunch.
Need a good, strong caffeine hit to start the day? Point yourselves towards Xtraction Espresso in the East End to satisfy your cold-brew and single-origin needs. It also serves specialty Chinese teas along with intriguing breakfast items such as bolognaise and tacos. New Slang Coffee Brewers, right by the Civic light rail stop, is known for consistently great coffee and inventive toasties (vegetarians, take note of the artichoke and three cheeses number).
Up for venturing into the neighbourhoods? Head to Covered in Crumbs, a patisserie in East Mayfield, for sourdough and next-level sweet treats such as black sesame, orange and caramel cake or the gluten-free lime curd, coconut and yoghurt cake.
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 Merewether Ocean Baths which opened in 1935 and are the largest seawater baths of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Refuel and rehydrate at the chic three-level, where an Italian-themed menu offers the likes of fritto misto (fried mixed seafood), kingfish crudo and chargrilled sardines.
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”. Pose within the painted wedding altar and ask a passer-by to snap your picture. The Museum Park precinct (behind Newcastle Museum) is home to muralist Fintan Magee’s large-scale work, Shadow.
Where to stay
Newcastle is in the midst of welcoming a trio of new luxury hotels. Crystalbrook Kingsley is first off the block. It became the city’s first five-star hotel when it opened in June 2021 in 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. Book a table at the rooftop restaurant, where the wine list will celebrate the best drops from the nearby Hunter Valley, or head to the rooftop bar Romberg’s (named for the building’s original architect) for a cocktail that can be enjoyed along with cinematic views over the city. The hotel will be a cash-free operation.
QT Newcastle will open in late 2021 within the heritage David Jones building on Hunter Street in the East End precinct. Expect another fabulous rooftop bar (with views over the working harbour), a signature restaurant and the brand’s usual fun design quirks. The Little National Hotel Newcastle will bring its compact, value-for-money rooms to Honeysuckle Drive in 2022.
Established accommodation options include Rydges Newcastle on the Honeysuckle promenade. For the best views, book into a harbourside balcony suite.