From steel city, to city of style, sass and substance, Newcastle is a region that has been well and truly revitalised.
The city of Newcastle has it all, from beautiful beaches and ocean baths, to cutting-edge cafes, bars and restaurants, bohemian boutiques, excellent surf and striking nature reserves that are perfect for forest bathing. Here are 10 of the best things to do in Newcastle.
Join locals for some laps at one of the ocean pools
While staying in Newcastle, set yourself a daily schedule that involves doing some laps at the 100-metre long Merewether Ocean Baths or Newcastle Ocean Baths. While Mereweather Ocean Baths is known for being the largest ocean baths in the southern hemisphere, Newcastle Ocean Baths is distinctive for its architecturally significant pavilion, which pops up regularly on residents’ Instagram feeds. The convict-built Bogey Holeis the oldest ocean pool on Australia’s east coast.
Learn about the ‘Steel City’s proud history
Newcastle is a destination for its historic architecture, from its red-brick factories to beautiful Victorian terrace houses, Gothic Revival cathedral and heritage-listed City Hall. Discover a rich diversity of architectural styles on a self-guided walking tour of the city that takes in landmark buildings dotted around the city such as the Baptist Tabernacle, which opened in 1890 and the Art Deco beauty that is NESCA House.
Stride out along the Bather’s Way
The Bather’s Way walk stretches six kilometres from Merewether Ocean Baths all the way to Nobbys Beach, where you will find Nobby’s Lighthouse, which has been protecting this part of the coastline for centuries. It also snakes past the convict-built Bogey Hole, the oldest ocean pool on Australia’s East Coast. The Anzac Memorial Walk is part of Bather’s Way, which as well as being a tribute to the city’s Anzacs, proudly celebrates the city’s heritage as a steelmaking port.
See some street art
The city of Newcastle beckons for admirers of street art and you can hear all about the art and artists on a Street Art Walking Tour with Newcastle Afoot. Hotfoot it along the two-kilometre guided walk to large-scale examples of street art such as the Tattooed Woman by Inari, which looms over the University of Newcastle, to Fintan Magee’s hyper-coloured Shadow. The guided tour will steer you toward the best of Newie’s crowd-pleasing works.
Shop for treasures
Shopping remains a central attraction in Newcastle where it’s all at your fingertips – from inspired paper products to artisanal coffee, designer dresses, unique homewares, hand-hammered jewellery and local artworks. Grab gourmet goods such as Over the Moon Milk and Oysters Direct from the Newcastle City Farmers’ Market, pick up some sustainable fashion from The Retro Wardrobe and bounce between boutiques on Beaumont St, home to some of the city’s top retailers.
Stroll around King Edward Park
King Edward Park is paradise for active travellers in search of green space and a good view over the ocean. King Edward Park is a stone’s throw from the Bogey Hole, the convict-hewn sea pool at the bottom of the cliff face that flanks the recreational park and has, at its heart, an Obelisk built as a navigational marker in 1850. The spectacular park, which was earmarked as a recreational reserve in 1863, is a popular spot for a picnic or barbecue.
Wander along the Stockton Shipwreck Walk
The two-kilometre walk along the Stockton Shipwreck Breakwall gives visitors a bit of a nudge about Newcastle’s maritime history with its interpretative signage along the way. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, many ships were wrecked trying to navigate their way into Newcastle Harbour. Whether you walk, ride your bike or skate, the level foreshore walk is one of the easiest in the city to accomplish for those with little legs.
Go for a surf
The beaches off Newcastle are busy from dusk to dawn with Novocastrians who enjoy surfing. Although Newcastle has six beautiful beaches to choose from, Newcastle Point is one of the preferred spots to catch a wave. Merewether Beach is also a magnet for surfers and, as one of Australia’s National Surfing Reserves, it’s where you might find high-profile surfers jostling for position in the line-up. Can’t surf? Get a lesson with Phillipa Anderson Surf School.
Visit Newcastle Museum and Art Gallery
As well as showcasing world-class collections, Newcastle Museum and Newcastle Art Gallery both work to fire up the imagination. Visit Newcastle Gallery to see exhibitions such as The Art of Protest, comprising works from politically engaged artists and the monumental Hearabout which dominates the gallery’s Sculpture Garden. A Newcastle Story at the Newcastle Museum is also a must when looking at the city’s past. The Lock-Up, the city’s first gaol, is another inspired art space.
Enjoy a bout of forest bathing
Blackbutt Reserve offers 182 hectares of urban respite just six kilometres from Newcastle’s CBD. The undulating environment, which is like a green blanket thrown in a heap, is a family-friendly park that includes wildlife exhibits of animals such as koalas, wombats, emus and kangaroos. Committed tree-huggers should head to the park’s eucalypt forest and pocket of restored rainforest, while birdwatchers need to make a beeline for Hunter Wetlands National Park.
Australian Traveller acknowledges the Awabakal and Worimi people as the traditional custodians of the land.
For more great travel tips read our Ultimate guide to Newcastle Holidays.