Your essential guide to all the best bits of NSW’s second city: from speakeasy cocktail bars to brunch spots and heritage-listed ocean baths.
As the second biggest city in NSW, Newcastle is slowly (but surely) becoming Sydneysiders’ choice for a sea-change location – and for good reason.
This fast-growing city is offering both locals and tourists the best of both worlds. And with a booming hospitality sector, stunning coastline and some of Australia’s best beaches, as well as being only a short drive to the Hunter Valley wine region, there’s no shortage of things to fill your itinerary with.
If you are travelling with the little one’s in tow, you may want our guide to Newcastle for families.
Here are our picks.
The Flotilla, Wickham
Recently opened in the booming suburb of Wickham, The Flotilla is the third Newcastle dining venue from ex-Silverchair musician Chris Joannou and his business partner Zack Scholtz.
Following the success of The Edwards and The Criterion, The Flotilla was inspired by the Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Venice Beach in California.
Newcastle locals are flocking to the cosy, luxurious restaurant, so make sure you book ahead and skip the queues.
Address: 9 Albert Street, Wickham, NSW 2293
M Bar & Restaurant, Cooks Hill
Originally based in Honeysuckle, this Brazilian churrasco-styled restaurant has made the move to the buzzing Darby Street, offering a New York-styled space with world-class culinary delights.
Offering both bar and dining areas, you can call in for nibbles and drink by the bar or head to the back for the full restaurant experience.
Address: 9 Darby Street, NSW 2300
Bella Italia, city
Bella Italia is owned and operated by Nico and Andrea: two Italian born and bred mates with a passion for creating traditional Italian cuisine.
The interior boasts exposed brick walls, lush greenery and dim lighting all adding to that authentic Italian experience.
There’s also a dedicated vegan menu that offers up its own meringue. And trust us, it tastes exactly like the real thing.
Address: 545 Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Headed up by former Lexus Australian Young Chef of the Year Beau Vincent and his wife Suzie, Subo is Novocastrians’ go-to for a real dining experience treat.
The contemporary bistro serves a five-course modern Australian set menu, rotating twice each season.
But with only 24 seats and limited opening hours, you need to book ahead.
Address: 551D Hunter Street, Newcastle West, NSW 2300
Taste buds craving a Mexican fiesta? Check out this industrial space on Steel Street that serves the best of bustling street food.
The tasty diner bursts with authentic street food flavours, with everything made from scratch (even the tortillas)!
Address: 11 Steel Street, Newcastle West, NSW 2302
Talulah Bar, The Junction
With all-day brekkie, global tapas and cocktails, Talulah Cafe is located right in the centre of The Junction.
Great for a lazy weekend brunch, family dinners and even catch-ups with friends, Talulah Bar ticks all of the boxes.
Whether you’re ordering in the morning, day or evening, get your phone ready because each and every dish is presented to the nines and is 100 per cent Instagrammable.
Address: 52 Glebe Road, The Junction, NSW 2291
Ginger Meg’s, city
Cocktail connoisseurs listen up! Ginger Meg’s might be an Asian-fusion restaurant, but it’s the cocktails you’ll be heading there for.
Can we tempt you with a Vietnamese Espresso Martini? Or maybe the Five Spice Margarita or Cherry Blossom? If you head in at 6pm you can get them all for only $10 each.
Address: 212 King Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
This Art Deco-inspired bar and restaurant is set to wow visitors with its high, vaulted ceilings and exuberant chandeliers.
Babylon oozes suave and sexy, with a to-die-for beverage list that seems to go on and on (we’re not complaining).
Its specialty is whisky, with hundreds to choose from and varieties from across the globe, as well as an extensive cocktail and craft beer list.
Address: 145 King Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Basement on Market Street, East End
Known for its tapas and cocktails, Basement on Market Street is a favourite among locals as the perfect date spot.
Serving up the bartender’s creative collection of cocktails alongside classics; what more could you want?
Address: 2/2 Market Street, Newcastle East, NSW 2300
Blue Kahunas, East End
There’s a tiki bar in Newcastle! Blue Kahunas only recently opened in the city and has been busy pouring elaborate rum-based cocktails for locals and visitors alike ever since.
A tropical getaway awaits you in the Hunter Street Mall with an interior full of cane chairs, bamboo furniture and leis.
Check out the staff, they’re even dressed in tropical t-shirts!
Address: 3/146 Hunter Street, Newcastle East, NSW 2300
The Koutetsu, city
Look out for the colourful, junk-filled window front on Hunter Street and you might have found one of Newcastle’s very own secret bars (yes, there is more than one)!
Wondering where the menu is? Check out the CD case that’s sitting right in front of you. This quirky, intimate spot will make you feel like you’ve just teleported to London or New York.
Address: 555 Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Coal and Cedar, city
Newcastle’s second secret bar is a little bit harder to find, but well worth the effort.
With no signage and no doorbell, visitors need to text a special code to a number on the wall before being invited in.
Winning best regional bar in Australia in 2016, Coal & Cedar’s moody and eclectic speakeasy is one worth visiting.
Address: 380-382 Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
The Olive Tree Market, Cooks Hill
Held once a month in Newcastle’s Civic Park, this market is the city’s leading contemporary and design stop.
It comes alive with over 150 stalls ranging from fashion, plants, art, jewellery, homewares, an extensive food truck offering, and so much more.
To check when the next market is, head here
Experience Newcastle from the water and jump aboard CoastXP’s Atmos for whale-watching and sightseeing tours.
They showcase the breathtaking coastline of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie with a focus not only on marine life, but also on local geology, Indigenous heritage and unique destination landmarks such as wrecks, cliffs, islands, sea caves and ships.
Newcastle has recently welcomed electric bike-sharing public-transport service, Bykko.
Cycling around hilly Newcastle has never been easier with the electric bikes zooming you around town in no time at all. There are over 100 electric bikes available with 19 docking stations across the city centre.
Newcastle and Merewether ocean baths
If you’re in town in the warmer months, head along to two of the most popular swimming spots.
Newcastle and Merewether ocean baths sit on Newcastle’s coastline and are open to the public to enjoy all year round.
Bogey Hole, Newcastle East
The heritage-listed sea bath is thought to be the oldest surviving European construction in the city and has never dropped in popularity.
Sitting below Shepherds Hill, the Bogey Hole on a clear day provides a unique vantage point from which to admire the city’s coastline.
Darby Street Shopping, Cooks Hill
With an array of shopping boutiques, a wander down Darby Street will lead you to find all sorts of treasures.
Get your hands on some new clothes from Abicus, Scout by Abicus, Steel & Anchor, High Tea with Mrs Woo or Betty Mim.
Check out homewares store Willows Home Traders or call into Cooks Hill Books to get your hands on some second-hand literature.
Boutique Shopping, surrounding suburbs
There’s plenty of boutique shopping across the city and surrounding suburbs and if you’re a shopaholic you won’t want to miss out on the best spots.
Explore The Grateful in Carrington for a feel-good shopping experience, or head to Maker or Cocowillow in Adamstown for all of your fashion, jewellery and floral needs. If you’re in the Islington area and in the market for a new bag, call into leather goods and vintage store Hide + Seeker.
If it’s something for the home that you’re after, design and art lover Nina from MiiO in Tighes Hill has beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces. The Layered Home in The Junction is full of textures for the coastal home, and Wickham-based House of Lita is a boho lover’s dream.
Brunswick Mews, Cooks Hill
Brunswick Mews is a 130-year-old classic Victorian terrace on Darby Street. The three-bedroom luxury terrace sits right on the cusp of all the action. Rates from $295 per night.
Address: 224 Darby St, Cooks Hill, NSW 2300
The Beach House at Merewether, Merewether
Located smack bang on the beach, this luxurious villa sleeps nine and is perfect for a group that wants to experience nothing but the best Newcastle has to offer. Rates from $1000 per night.
Address: 22 John Parade, Merewether, NSW 2291
Quest Newcastle West
Quest Newcastle West offers one- two- and three-bedroom self-serviced apartments, each with its own private balcony. Rates from $207 per room, per night.
Address: 787 Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW 2302
Novotel Newcastle Beach
Novotel Newcastle Beach is located in the city’s beautiful East End, just metres from one of Australia’s most magnificent beaches. Overnight stays start from $179 per room.
Address: 5 King St, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Check out our 9 best places to stay in Newcastle for more.