It’s no secret that Newcastle has been in a period of radical change over the past few years, particularly when it comes to its nightlife. You’ll now find an eclectic roll call of options, including sophisticated restaurants, hip subterranean bars and lively brewhouses.
It may be Australia’s second-oldest city, but Newcastle surely doesn’t act like it after dark.
Sitting on one of the country’s most beautiful coastlines, with a thriving harbour and a city centre that combines heritage architecture, funky streetscapes and beautified spaces, Newcastle’s nightlife is an idyllic balance between urban buzz and coastal cool.
Many clever tastemakers have injected life into the former steel city over the years, and the multi-million-dollar makeovers of renowned pubs The Criterion and The Great Northern Hotel really raised the bar – no pun intended – for the city’s after-dark offering.
Sip your drink in the sunshine at The Great Northern Hotel.
Owners of The Criterion, Chris Joannou and Zach Scholtz, had barely finished the transformation of the much-loved pub when they turned their attention to a new dining venue tucked away in Wickham.
With an aesthetic inspired by California’s Venice Beach, a beachside suburb that Joannou likens to Newcastle, Flotilla serves a set seasonal menu and well-rounded beverage list focusing on minimal intervention wines.
The now-hatted restaurant hit the ground running, quickly becoming a renowned dining hotspot.
Pair minimal intervention wines with a seasonal menu at Flotilla.
Until Flotilla’s arrival, Subo was Newcastle’s only hatted restaurant (in fact, it was most recently awarded two Chef Hats by Australian Good Food Guide).
The contemporary bistro on Hunter Street has maintained an excellent reputation since opening in 2011; serving a seasonal six-course menu, Subo is a refined dining experience in an understated (almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-it) setting.
While Subo is understated, small bar Coal and Cedar is practically under the radar, just as a speakeasy should be.
With no signage and no doorbell, it’s like the good ol’ prohibition days (but instead of a secret knock you’ll need a secret code to text). It’s the ideal bolthole for late-night revelry.
Text the secret code to enter the speakeasy-style bar, Coal and Cedar.
Staying subterranean, The Underground is located under The Grand Hotel, another pub that’s been given a loving transformation.
You can enter via the almost-ominous stairs from street level, or from inside the hotel. Once inside the dimly lit bar, you’ll be transported to the 1920s, especially on Tuesdays, when live jazz music completes the scene.
For more live music visit Bar Petite, which hosts local musicians every Friday and Saturday. Located under the Novotel in Newcastle’s East End, this small bar offers a tapas menu and rustic French ambience.
From small bar to small-batch brewing, the city’s newest craft brewery has settled in at Islington, in the West End.
Taste test limited edition brews, made locally at Method Brewing.
The passion project of three local blokes – who also pour the beers, clear the tables and pack the orders – Method Brewing has a core range as well as limited edition brews, including the recent citrus-flavoured Yuzu NEIPA and an oatmeal stout.
There’s also a rotating presence of food trucks to keep hunger at bay (think loaded burgers, fried chicken and woodfired pizzas).
Over in Merewether, another brewhouse has been making waves; Modus Brewing has 36 beers on tap, as well as cocktails, wine and spirits, alongside a casual menu of pub fare with a Mexican twist.
The sleek brewery offers tours for the grown-ups and a playground to keep the littlest customers happy (and parents happier).
It’s just a few blocks from Merewether Beach, and is around the corner from other popular venues such as The Burwood Inn, The Prince of Merewether, and seaside favourite The Beach Hotel (known as ‘The Beaches’ to locals).
Discover Bar Mellow, housed in a 1920s building.
While the Modus Brewing space is ultra-sleek and contemporary, there’s also a growing number of small bars and restaurants popping up in lovingly restored heritage buildings.
Wine and cocktail venue Bar Mellow is housed within a 1920s building known as Bank Corner, notable for its ornate curved façade and charming original doors.
It’s an intimate space where old meets new, featuring comfy leather booths, funky wall murals, an old bank vault, and a menu of tasty morsels such as olives, cheese platters and cured meats.
Delight your tastebuds at Lock’s Paddock. (Image: David Griffen)
Inspired by local history, Lock’s Paddock pays tribute to an old stonemason’s yard on which Miss Porter’s House (a well-known National Trust building) once sat.
The restaurant has a country-style interior mixed with antiques and offers a seasonal share menu. Be sure to try the carbonara or cacio e pepe for a memorable visual experience.
Marvel at a delicious dinner with unbeatable views from the Roundhouse.
Another local landmark is the 1970s Brutalist-style Roundhouse, whose recent incarnation as the luxurious Crystalbrook Kingsley is a warm and lively divergence from its former life as council administration offices.
The Roundhouse restaurant comes with arguably the best views in the city – from coast and harbour to the Hunter Valley – accompanied by a modern Australian menu and a wine list that allows local drops to shine.
The Crystalbrook Kingsley may have been the city’s only five-star hotel when it opened in June 2021, but this title was short-lived when QT Newcastle came onto the scene barely a year later, well and truly shaking up the accommodation offering.
Housed in the iconic 113-year-old heritage-listed former David Jones building, its Rooftop at QT is an uber-chic perch for sunset drinks as the sky changes colour behind the city skyline.
Enjoy an uber-chic setting while you sip on cocktails at QT’s rooftop bar.
The Japanese-inspired menu is amplified with a large selection of whiskys and sake; gin lovers can browse more than 20 varieties, while beer fiends have ample choice of mostly local ales. It’s a menu almost as extensive as Newcastle’s nightlife itself.