The city of Newcastle’s drinks scene has come of age. Here are some top places for a tipple.
A few decades ago, knock-off drinks in Newcastle amounted to little more than a few full-strength schooners at the pub on a Friday arvo. Oh, how the Steel City has evolved. Nowadays, Newcastle is threaded together with everything from ambitious sake bars to swanky waterfront lounges, old-school pubs and atmospheric craft beer halls. Here are a handful of Newcastle’s best pubs, bars and breweries to add to your must-try list.
The best bars in Newcastle
Consider a drink at Romberg’s on the rooftop to be an extension of a stay at the Crystalbrook Kingsley, one of the best hotels in Newcastle. The name is a nod to Frederick Romberg, the leading figure in the development of modernist architecture in Australia and the architect behind the iconic Roundhouse building.
Take in the views from the rooftop with a drink in hand.
Toast to Frederick with a wine chosen from a list that showcases the breadth of the Hunter region’s wine varietals. Or shake it up with a signature Kingsley Fashioned cocktail.
Sink into the booths at Romberg’s.
2. Ms Mary
Ms Mary Eckford was a convict who was sent to Australia after stealing an apron and handkerchief. She went on to become one of Newcastle’s celebrated pioneers.
While you might have had your morning Zoom here, the bar flips the switch to become a lounge worth lingering in between Fridays and Mondays. Buying drinks for the boss? Order Bloody Marys all round, obviously.
Sink into a cold one at Ms Mary.
3. Rooftop at QT
What better place to perch to enjoy a cold drink with a stunning view than the Rooftop at QT. Inspired by innovative izakaya you might stumble into in Tokyo, the rooftop bar has the city’s largest collection of Japanese whisky.
Whisky lovers should make a beeline for Rooftop at QT.
It’s also got a lot of that quintessential QT quirk. Bending the elbow here is an immersive experience. Don’t forget to look up to admire the perforated reflective ceiling and pendant lighting.
Dine on Japanese fare.
4. The Edwards
The band Silverchair was one of Newcastle’s most successful exports and former bassist Chris Joannou remains one of the city’s most successful sons. When his parents retired their commercial laundrette in Newcastle West, the ex-muso turned hospitality star transformed it into The Edwards where locals go to sing themselves hoarse cheering on live bands. Joannou also co-owns Flotilla, located in the back streets of Wickham and The Criterion in Carrington – also a great place for a meal.
Expect good times and quality brews on tap.
5. Rooftop Coal & Cedar
Text a special code to a number on the wall outside this hidden speakeasy to gain entry to Coal & Cedar. The dimly lit speakeasy-style whisky bar is all scuffed-up walls and dark timber tones. The drinks are made with attention to detail. And the customers look like they’ve all filed in from The Lincoln Room Barbershop & Shaving Parlour next door.
6. The Rum Diary Bar
Set yourself a reminder to visit The Rum Diary on International Talk Like A Pirate Day and you will feel right at home. This slightly bonkers bar looks like it has been furnished with the salvaged contents of a ship wrecked on the nearby seawall. Order the ‘dark and stormy’ and enjoy it with artful excess in the First Ship Captain’s Cigar Lounge.
7. The Koutetsu
The Koutetsu is a small speakeasy bar that has made a ho-hum section of Hunter St hipper. Koutetsu means ‘steel’ in Japanese and is a nod to both the bar’s décor and the city’s history as a site for steelworks. Look for the neon sign that whispers ‘TK’ to passers-by and head in past the original window filled with junk and ephemera that celebrates the building’s past as a pawnbroker.
The Koutetsu is a small small speakeasy bar that’s big on vibes. (Image: Jordan Reynolds @PhoenixMediaProductions)
8. Market St Basement
Step inside Market St Basement and you will feel like you have fallen into one of your nonna’s sepia-toned photographs from life back in Rome. Located in Newcastle’s hip and happening East End, Market St Basement is all framed photographs and hanging greenery; bunker down in the basement bar for crowd-pleasing cocktails and antipasto.
9. The Falcon
The Falcon has landed. And it’s taken the scenic route via Florida in the US where chef Brendhan Bennison hails from. Create a Venn diagram of all that The Falcon offers and you’ll find common elements such as great food, drinks and vibes intersecting in the circles.
The interior of The Falcon looks classy.
The popular Newcastle East haunt, which is famed for its jambalaya, has a sister venue where you can drop anchor in the form of the Ship Inn.
Don’t pass up the chance to try the renowned jambalaya.
10. Merewether Surfhouse Bar
Make your way to Merewether Surfhouse after hitting the beach for a surf, walk or swim. The bar has one of the best beach views in Newcastle and is a great example of how Newcastle is morphing to accommodate a whole new demographic.
Soak up the warm ocean breeze at Merewether Surfhouse.
Order spritzers with a side of pizza during Aperitivo Hour from 3.30pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Snag a spot for afternoon drinks at Merewether Surfhouse.
The best pubs in Newcastle
11. The Beach Hotel
The Beach Hotel is a beloved beachside gem that has been given a makeover influenced by its idyllic location in the heart of Merewether Beach. The coastal venue offers big-sky views over Merewether, Dixon Park and Bar beaches: sit and sip by the sea on coconut coladas or craft beers paired with hearty fare such as schnitties, steaks, ribs and burgers at the main pub. You can also get a taste of Newcastle’s community spirit at the Beachie’s new seaside restaurant Peregrin. Or enjoy grab-and-go options at retro beachside kiosk, Larrie’s named in honour of the great Australian larrikin.
12. Customs House Hotel
An architecture geek’s guide to Newcastle would surely include a pint and a plate of Appellation oysters at the Customs House Hotel in Newcastle.
Soak up the atmosphere at Customs House Hotel. (Image: Daina Marie Photography)
Designed in 1877, the Customs House building now houses a bar, restaurant and function centre and, with nearly 150 years as a landmark building in Newcastle, is a great way to tap into the city’s history.
Find an extensive cocktail range to choose from. (Image: Sophie Tyler)
13. The Prince of Merewether Hotel
Pubs are as ubiquitous as seeing salty-haired surfers in Newcastle. But they’re not all created equal. The Prince of Merewether, or The Prince as it’s known locally, has been a much-loved alehouse since 1876. Sink a few schooners of Old-School IPA on the breezy Balcony Bar of the newly renovated pub while watching much of Mereweather go by. The neighbourhood local is a top spot for pub grub.
14. The Bennett
Colourful yellow beach umbrellas, shady picnic benches, breeze blocks, communal tables, and potted plants are just a few of the reasons to plonk yourself down in the courtyard at The Bennett.
Spend a sunny afternoon enjoying drinks in the courtyard.
The newly renovated pub is regarded as one of the reasons the suburb of Hamilton is so hot. Oh, and they stock a selection of locally brewed beers and Hunter Valley wines.
Try your best not to drift into a food coma after indulging at The Bennett.
15. The Great Northern Hotel
No guide to Newcastle’s pubs would be complete without a mention of The Great Northern Hotel. Despite being built in 1864, renovated in 1906 and rebuilt in the 1920s, the now Art Deco-style pub has stood its ground and is a smart space that serves classic pub grub and a varied selection of beers, wines and spirits. Lovers of live music are also well-catered for.
16. The Burwood Inn
The Burwood Inn is the sort of old-school pub where you can buy a few raffle tickets for a meat tray, gather with your mates to watch the footy and enjoy a couple of ales in the smart courtyard where all the action is on a sunny day. This Merewether inn is heaven for carnivores: think rumps, sirloins, scotch fillets and rib eyes and has a well-thought-out drinks list.
17. The Greenroof
Look out for the pots of cascading greenery outside The Greenroof Hotel in Hamilton, an old-timer’s pub that has had a mini makeover that extends to its menu. The Greeny is a favourite place to gather for off-duty bartenders on Hospo Nights and it’s just as a pub should be in the front room on a Friday, which is a friendly and unpretentious place for a gatho.
18. The Cricketers Arms
In addition to its large, wrap-around bar, The Cricketers Arms in Cooks Hill has one of the best beer gardens in Newcastle. The cricket-themed menu knocks it out of the park with offerings such as the Bradman of Schnitzels paired with a premium selection of beer and other beverages.
19. The Grain Store
Corey and Kristy Crooks are credited with kicking off the craft beer revolution in Newcastle.
After transforming The Albion into Australia’s first 100 per cent craft beer venue, the husband-and-wife team built The Grain Store, which has been feeding and watering Novocastrians since 2013. All up there are 21 taps of independently owned Aussie craft beer and cider for sale.
Find a spot in the dimly lit interior. (Image: Emily Jane)
20. The Lucky Hotel
There’s a cosy enclosed courtyard festooned with lights and greenery hidden away beyond the faithfully restored facade of the old CBD pub. The Lucky was previously The Lucky Country Hotel, built in the 1800s. And it’s full of quirky design touches from brothel-red velvet banquettes to drum-kit chandeliers.
21. Queen’s Wharf Hotel
Queen’s Wharf Hotel provides fine food and a front-row seat to the panoramic beauty of Newcastle Wharf. A lunchtime balcony table is the best way to make the most of the fresh air and views, best enjoyed with a plate of tasty seafood.
Enjoy drinks on the waterfront balcony.
Fish and chips, swordfish, mussels and spaghetti marinara are just the tip of the iceberg, with plenty of other menu items bound to impress.
There’s also a stylish indoor dining area at Queen’s Wharf Hotel.
Best breweries and brewery bars in Newcastle
22. Modus Merewether
The modus operandi for a good time at Modus is simple. Gather your tribe, and head here for happy hour between 4pm and 6pm on a weeknight.
Pair your beer with a serving of habanero hot wings.
There’s no better place to get raucous with a cold one than at a brewery bar. Geek out on a brewery tour to see how that fresh schooner of Modus was made. Order a few pulled beef rib tostadas and habanero hot wings and that’s you for the day.
23. Rogue Scholar Brewing
Step inside the dimly lit Rogue Scholar Brewing and bar venue and you’ll find it’s as much about the music and open-mic nights as the beer.
Soak up the good vibes at Rogue Scholar Brewing.
Grab a pie and an amber ale at the swill house in Newcastle West, which has 12 taps and four hand pumps on rotation. Make time to admire the walls plastered with classic concert posters.
24. Styx Brewery
Styx Brewery is named after the creek that leads to Newcastle’s old gasworks. The small-batch brewery is housed in an old coal-testing facility in Carrington. And it produces two core beers – an IPA and Pale Ale – without the use of preservatives or additives. Crack open a few cans during a tasting at the brewery.
But wait there’s more …
Still thirsty to find the best bars and pubs in Newcastle? We recommend all-rounders such as The Exchange, The Junction Hotel, where you can eat, drink and sleep. Young Street Hotel also gets top billing for its beer garden. And Maryville Tavern is much-loved by locals.