Newcastle on the NSW North Coast has become the new capital of cool. Once a working-class, no-nonsense destination, it’s now a culinary and artistic hot-spot that’s also home to some of the best beaches in the whole country. There’s plenty to do here, for both indoor and outdoor types

Eat and drink

Food and drink lovers are in for a treat. There’s a delicious range of waterside bars, cafes and restaurants on the harbour foreshore promenade. Have lunch by the ocean at the chic Merewether Surfhouse. You’ll find restaurants all over the city, with one street alone (Darby Street) home to over 25 cafes and restaurants. Or pick up fresh local produce at the weekly Newcastle City Farmers Market on Sundays.

People on a CoastXP tour watching a humpback whale slaps its tail off the Newcastle coastline

Things to do

The best way to explore the stunning Newcastle coastline is to take the Bathers Way, a scenic walk from historic Nobbys Head Lighthouse to Glenrock State Conservation Area. Stop for a swim at the art deco Newcastle Ocean Baths and the Bogey Hole, a rock pool built by convicts in 1819.

For more outdoor adventure, soar on zip-lines at the TreeTop Adventure Park or learn to surf at the Newcastle Surf School. Wildlife experiences include meeting koalas at Blackbutt Reserve, or whale watching with CoastXP and Nova Cruises during the migration season from May to November.

Newcastle is a city of fabulous events too. The sporting calendar is jam-packed, from the biggest surfing festival in Australia, Surfest, in February to the Newcastle 500 supercars in November. Music lovers also have regular concerts and the Newcastle Jazz Festival in August.

People enjoying a walk along Merewether Beach in Newcastle

History and heritage

Start with a visit to the excellent Newcastle Museum and the Newcastle Art Gallery. Find out more about the city’s history and heritage on guided tours, including Aboriginal-led tours, walking tours and harbour cruises. There are regular tours of the Fort Scratchley Historic Site, Australia’s only coastal fortification to fire upon a World War II Japanese submarine.

Two convenient ways to travel between the historical attractions and the gorgeous beaches are the Newcastle Coastal Explorer and Newcastle’s Famous Tram, a replica 1932 tram. Alternatively, bring your bicycle or hire one and pedal from the heart of the city to the beaches and along the coast.

Newcastle Memorial Walk

Getting there and where to stay

Newcastle is a two-hour drive north of Sydney along the Pacific Highway. Newcastle Airport is only 25km from the city centre and has regular direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.  You can also catch a train or bus direct from Sydney’s Central Station to Newcastle and the journey takes just under three hours.

Accommodation options suit all budgets, from backpacker hostels and self-catering apartments to luxury hotels and resorts. Newcastle will get its first five-star hotel, Kingsley, in late 2020. Families will love NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park where they can pitch a tent right next to Stockton Beach.

Newcastle Airport

Fly into Newcastle Airport

Newcastle Airport is only 25km from the city centre. Choose from a range of transport services on arrival, including car rental, limousine and door-to-door shuttle buses. Public buses operate from the airport to the city, Stockton Ferry Wharf, Nelson Bay, Greenhills and Raymond Terrace. There are also public transport options to the Hunter Valley. Please check the timetable.

Newcastle Airport offers direct flights to and from east coast cities and Adelaide.

Jetstar flies direct to and from Melbourne, the Gold Coast, and Brisbane. QantasLink operates direct flights to and from Brisbane. Virgin Australia flies direct to and from Brisbane and Melbourne. Link Airways operates direct flights between Canberra and Newcastle three days a week. FlyPelican operates direct flights to and from Adelaide, Dubbo, Mudgee, Ballina-Byron Bay, Canberra and Sydney. Regional Express also flies to and from Sydney.

Things to do and places to stay