A local’s guide: The best of Newcastle

This article was first published on Onya Magazine on September 11, 2019. Images by Mick Ross.

With its laidback lifestyle, stunning beaches, creative culture, and great dining scene, there are plenty of reasons to visit Newcastle. The second-largest city in New South Wales is a two-hour drive north of Sydney and less than an hour-and-a-half flight from Melbourne and Brisbane direct to Newcastle Airport. Here’s a local’s guide of what to do and where to go in this cool coastal city.

Dine

From casual eateries to cool cafes to high-end dines – whatever your preference, Newcastle has you covered.

Start the morning right with breakfast (or brunch) at one of many local cafes putting their unique spin on the most important meal of the day. Housed in a beautiful old heritage building in the city, head to Momo Wholefood for healthy vegetarian fare. Also in the city, Good Brother and One Penny Black are much-loved local favourites to try.

Not too far out of town, check out Equium Social in Mayfield East, Mockingbird in Hamilton or Goodfriends Eatery in The Junction for tasty, seasonal food and great coffee.

If you happen to be visiting in during warmer weather, keep an eye out for Street Feast, a monthly outdoor night market that brings together food trucks and live music. Or grab fish and chips from local institution Scottie’s and lounge on the grass out front or overlooking Newcastle Beach.

No dinner plans? Grab tasty Mexican street food and margaritas at Antojitos in a big revamped industrial space in Newcastle West. While, nearby, recently re-opened restaurant and bar, The Edwards, is the place for good food, drinks and fun. Over in Islington, Pino’s, a small restaurant with a big following, is the go for delicious Italian vegan. Plus it’s BYO.

Fine dining fans should book ahead at the one-hatted Subo or Restaurant Mason. New arrival Flotilla in Wickham and the recently relocated Meet on Darby Street are also popular picks.

 

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Explore

Newcastle shines when the sun’s out. Its many beautiful beaches are ideal for surfing, swimming or just relaxing. You may even spot some dolphins out amongst the waves.

A great way to take in Newcastle’s beaches is to do The Bather’s Way, a six-kilometre coastal walk that stretches from the Merewether Ocean Baths to Nobbys Beach. Along the way, take a dip in the Art Deco Newcastle Ocean baths, opened in 1922, and the Bogey Hole, an ocean pool accessible from King Edwards Park that was hand-cut into the rock by convicts in 1819.

Connected to Bather’s Way is the Newcastle Memorial Walk. Take in spectacular views from the 450-metre-long cliff top walk, which was built in 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing in Gallipoli.

Those seeking a little retail therapy should head to Darby Street, home to great stores and boutiques like Abicus, Ramjet, High Tea with Mrs Woo and Cooks Hill Books. As well as in and around the city, where you’ll find the likes of plant shop High Swan Dive, homewares store Monsoon Living and The Maker Store for beautifully made local goods. Held monthly in Civic Park, The Olive Tree Market, which brings together over 130 artists, designers, makers, and food producers, is another one to look out for.

The Newcastle Art Gallery and the Newcastle Museum are also fun and free ways to spend an afternoon for all ages.

Drink

The Steel City is home to many a bar and pub to enjoy a drink or two at. Craft beer lovers will appreciate Foghorn Brewhouse, a sprawling restored factory on King Street with 16 beers on tap and American-inspired fare, and The Grain Store in the East End, where you’ll find hearty feeds and 21 independent Australian craft beers on tap.

If cocktails, fine wines and spirits are more your thing, visit Babylon, a beautiful Art Deco bar and restaurant in the city, and eclectic speakeasy bars, Coal & Cedar and The Koutetsu. Falcon, a cosy bar/restaurant in the East End, is a happy medium. Serving up a US-inspired menu alongside beer, natural wines and cocktails, grab a booth and settle in for the night.

Come summertime, Merewether Surfhouse is the place for watching the sun go down over the ocean with a glass of wine or Aperol spritz in hand.

Sleep

While there’s no shortage of hotels in Newcastle, some of the best places to stay are private rentals that offer a more boutique, personalised experience.

Stay ocean-side at the luxe Merewether Beach House B&B or The Beach House at Merewether. Or take in trendy Cooks Hill with a stylish stay at Flourish on Bull, the loft apartment of interior designer Morag Argiris, and Pappa Sven’s Summer Cabin or Apartment, run by local Nordic lifestyle store Pappa Sven.

Those after a low-key but comfortable place to rest their head should explore pub accommodation the likes of The Lucky Hotel in the city or The Criterion in Carrington. Both also serve up great feeds and beers.

Further afield

If you’re planning a long stay, about an hour’s drive out of the city, the Hunter Valley is home to world-class wineries, while the pristine beaches of Port Stephens make for an idyllic escape.