Newcastle arts and culture

Though perhaps most famous for its stunning city beaches, Newcastle on the NSW North Coast has emerged as a creative centre. From one of Australia’s finest public art collections to its theatres, festivals and exhibitions, Newcastle is home to a world-class arts scene and a packed events calendar.

Many success stories began here in NSW’s second-biggest city, from great painters to international music stars. Painter/sculptor, William Dobell, Tap Dogs creator and choreographer Dein Perry, and world famous rock band Silverchair, are just some of Newcastle’s born-and-bred stars.

People enjoying the scenic walk along the Newcastle Memorial Walk, dedicated to WWI soldiers

Art galleries

The Newcastle Art Gallery curates the second-largest collection of art in the State. Among more than 6,100 works is Dobell’s Portrait of a Strapper (1941), Brett Whitley’s Summer at Carcoar (1977), Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Summer storm (1992) and a large range of Aboriginal bark paintings. Entry is free and free guided tours run on weekends at 11am.

The Lock-Up, a cultural centre of art, music and ideas, puts on regular contemporary exhibitions and shows in a heritage-listed old police station east of Civic Park. Other small galleries to add to your itinerary include the Cooks Hill Galleries, Gallery 139 specialising in local artists, CStudios

You’ll find intriguing sculptures and art in public places, from the James Cook Memorial Fountain in pretty Civic Park to Constance the Camel outside the Newcastle Museum. Don’t miss the striking steel silhouettes of soldiers along the Newcastle Memorial Walk engraved with the names of people from the region who served in WWI.

Friends walking through Newcastle city, Newcastle

Theatre and music

The Spanish baroque-inspired Civic Theatre is right in the centre of the city it’s a great venue for concerts, theatre and comedy. Nearby is the Newcastle City Hall, built in 1929, that hosts many performances and talks. Look out for the murals by famous painters. Newcastle local John Olsen’s Climbing Sun Over The Hunter is the star art work in the foyer.

Festivals and events

For avant-garde creations, This is Not Art is a national festival of experimental and emerging arts held on the October long weekend. In August, you can catch performances across the city at the Newcastle Music Festival and the Newcastle Jazz Festival. The monthly Olive Tree Market specialises in contemporary art and design from local makers.

Explore the Newcastle Arts Scene