This post was first published in 2018 but has been updated in 2019 with the most recent information about Things To Do in Newcastle, NSW.
It took us 5 years to visit Newcastle despite the fact that we had been living in Brisbane for the last 2 years. Shameful, we know. We had heard there were fun things to do in Newcastle, NSW but there always seemed to be other places to explore. When it came to finding new places to visit, Newcastle, NSW wasn’t an idea we put a lot of thought in at first.
But we finally decided that it was now or never and added a stop in Newcastle on our way back from a weekend in the Hunter Valley.
We didn’t expect Newcastle to dazzle us with its good looks. After all, it has always been known as the industrial centre of Australia, famous for its steel, copper, and coal manufacturing. It wasn’t until recently that Newcastle started attracting crowd’s thanks to its funky atmosphere and the developing artistic side.
Best Time to Visit Newcastle, NSW
Any time of the year will do well enough, as Newcastle is in one of the more temperate regions, so it’s less prone to getting wild weather. However, we would recommend visiting in the spring if you want to avoid and scorching weather. But if you live in the northern hemisphere, remember that Australia is in the southern hemisphere. Spring in Australia doesn’t happen at the same time as it does in the northern hemisphere.
Things To Do in Newcastle, NSW
Enjoy a Sunset Over Newcastle
We arrived with no expectations. After checking into our hotel we drove straight to Bar Beach, a Newcastle suburb and sandy beach, for a chance to snap a few sunset shots over the city. We took a stroll along the Esplanade and ended up on Memorial Drive, and were taken aback by the stunning views of the ocean from the top of the cliffs.
The sun was setting over the city, casting a beautiful golden glow onto the misty beach. Surfers were catching their last waves of the day, families were enjoying the last sun rays, and dozens of groups picnicking in the grass waiting for the sun to do its daily magic show. It didn’t take us long to realize why watching the sunset is one of the top things to do in Newcastle, NSW.
We couldn’t stop snapping away long after the sun disappeared behind the horizon.
Visit Newcastle’s Top Sights
Christ Church Cathedral
First up was the Christ Church Cathedral, a beautiful architectural structure that dominates the Newcastle skyline. The original church dates back to 1804, with many additions and expansions set in motion over the years.
Today it stands over 36 metres tall and provides regular worship services, along with wedding and baptism ceremonies. It was once possible to climb to the top of the cathedral to take in breathtaking views of the city, but unfortunately, that is no longer an option. The viewing platform has been closed for 6 years.
Next up was Newcastle’s best attraction – Fort Scratchley. Often misinterpreted as a site for school groups and oldies, it’s a historical site that isn’t just for history buffs but the creme de la creme of Newcastle activities. We thoroughly enjoyed roaming through the rooms inside the Fort Scratchley Museum, listening to War stories and learning about Newcastle’s role as Australia’s second settlement.
Fort Scratchley is situated at the top of Flagstaff Hill and offers 360-degree views of Newcastle, incorporating Nobby’s Beach to Newcastle Rock Pools, and through to the heart of the city centre. If nothing else, head to the Fort to snap some photos and sit back and enjoy the views.
Although we didn’t have enough time to visit, we would recommend you add a trip to Lake Macquarie to your list of fun things to do in Newcastle, NSW. The saltwater lake is located just south of Newcastle and is connected to the Tasman Sea by a channel.
Relaxing on the banks of the lake is one of the top free things to do in Newcastle, NSW. It’s a great place for picnicking or watching the sunset. Otherwise, there are plenty of opportunities for sailing, stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking on the lake.
Inside the city limits, check out King Edwards Park, another one of the top free things to do in Newcastle, NSW, and one of the must-see places to visit in Newcastle.
The recreational park offers stunning views of the ocean, gardens galore, and a plethora of pines dotted throughout the park. The park was once used by the military. But these days, the historic military cottages, and batteries can be admired on the southern border of the park.
Visit the Hunter Valley
Located just an hour north of Newcastle is the stunning Hunter Valley wine region. The area produces world-class Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir wines.
The Hunter Valley turned out to be our favourite wine region in Australia. While we were there, we discovered that there is so much more to do in the region than just drinking wine. We highly recommend you commit to at the very least a day trip from Newcastle; you can’t go wrong with a wine-tasting.
Read Next: Best Wine Regions In Australia
Attend a Festival
One of the highlights of things to do in Newcastle, NSW is the Newcastle Music Festival, which takes place every August.
Visit the Best Beaches in Newcastle, NSW
Our time was crammed with Newcastle activities, but we absolutely had to pause and enjoy some time bumming around on Nobby’s Beach. The beaches were some of our favourite places to visit in Newcastle. After seeing it in all of its glory from the top of Fort Scratchley, we couldn’t wait to get down and sink my feet in the sand.
Nobby’s is the perfect beach for families and general sunning, swimming, and lazing around. Which is why it always ranks among the top things to do in Newcastle, NSW.
Bar Beach is another great option that features a patrolled swimming area and sheltered rock pools.
Newcastle Beach is known as one of the best surf locations in Australia and is definitely more appealing to the adventurous souls, which we totally are… in theory. But, if you’re looking for a beach with a more relaxed atmosphere, Newcastle Beach might be a bit much for you.
If you feel like skipping the sand, check out the Merewether Ocean Baths in the small suburb of Merewether. The complex is the largest ocean baths in Australia and a great place to rub shoulders with locals.
Best Hotels in Newcastle, NSW
Stay close to Newcastle’s biggest attractions, like Nobby Beach, by booking accommodation in Newcastle’s Central Business District or the CBD. Hunter Street is centrally located and close to most attractions and nightlife options in the CBD.
Otherwise choose accommodation close to Darby or Hamilton Street, the city’s trendiest pockets, and be close to food and dining options.
Eco Hotels in Newcastle, NSW
The Ibis and Novotel in Newcastle are both parts of the Accor Hotels family, and silver starred members of the Accor Planet 21 program. The program supports initiatives to promote environmental protection, the fight against sexual exploitation, eco-design and healthy and sustainable food in their restaurants.
The Ibis hotel offers clean, basic accommodation centrally located on Hunter Street.
Novotel offers contemporary rooms, with great service, close to Nobby beach. Most rooms have sea-views.
About an hour outside of Newcastle in the Hunter Valley wine region, Somewhere Unique, deserves a mention for their exemplary green practices. Their two-person cabins are perfect for a romantic getaway.
Best Restaurants in Newcastle, NSW
The majority of restaurants in Newcastle, NSW can be found on Beaumont Street in Hamilton and Darby Street in Cooks Hill. Both streets are lined with an impressive array of restaurants, cafes, shops, and unique boutiques. It’s worth a visit just for the cultural value, even if you decide to eat at home.
Darby Street Restaurants
We tried our luck with Darby Street restaurants, poking our heads into every restaurant in search of the best eats in town. There were lots of bars and a few fancy establishments, but nothing really impressed us at dinner time. We went back to Darby Street again the next day to experience its lunch scene.
The light of day and the daytime buzz made it a whole lot more appealing. Our favourite spot was Frankie’s Place with its retro decor of record covers, a cute courtyard, and a great lunch and nibbles menu.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Newcastle, NSW
Vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Newcastle NSW are relatively new. However, the ones that are trailblazing the scene are truly special. Here are a few of our favourites.
Blue Door Club is one of the iconic restaurants in Newcastle, NSW. They serve delicious vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free meals starting at 7 am every day in the CBD. They are passionate about simplicity when it comes to their creations.
Part cafe, part organic grocer, Goodness Me Organics is located in the suburb of Adamstown. They offer a seasonal menu and aim to please regardless of dietary restrictions.
Bonta Vera cafe prides itself on being the only 100% vegan restaurant in Newcastle. They are located on the outskirts of the city in Minmi and offer unreal vegan burgers.
Momo Wholefoods Cafe, located on Hunter Street, has a 100% veg menu, laden with vegan options. Try their vegan sweets or daily salad!
The Bhakti Tree is part yoga and meditation centre, part community centre, part cooking school, and part vegetarian restaurant in Newcastle, NSW. They are located in the suburb of Mayfield and specialize in South Asian cuisine.
Talulah, located in the Junction, ensures all their food has been ethically sourced. They have lots of dinner-time sharing, plates like their delicious panko-crumbed mushrooms.
Check out Your Vegan Guide to The Hunter, for a comprehensive list of restaurants in Newcastle, NSW with vegan options, by food type!
The Newcastle Farmers Market
If you are visiting on the weekend, the Newcastle City Farmers Markets, held at the Newcastle Showgrounds on most Sundays is another great place for a bite to eat, and in itself, one of our favourite Newcastle activities.
Try the Rustic Flair Food Truck, it won us over with their porkwich, burritos, and smoothie options. If you can’t make it to the market, check here to learn where you can find the truck around the city.
The Newcastle City Farmers Market is open from 8 am until 1 pm, and offers a great selection of fruits/veggies, local produce, food stalls, clothing, and accessories shops.
Not only do the markets make for a fun afternoon, but buying local is good for the environment, too. Most food travels over 2000 kilometres from field to plate… but not at the farmers market. When it comes to food, generally, stall owners are local smaller-scale farmers, who are less dependent on the use of pesticides in their fields. If you have any questions, producers are usually happy to chat about their products and cultivation practices. Look for organic goods too!
Nightlife and Patio Drinks
Beaumont Street, Hunter Street, and Honeysuckle Drive in Hamilton often fight it out for the best area for entertainment. While lots of bars did look quite appealing, we opted for a drink with a view instead.
Queens Wharf Hotel is a great little hangout spot that offered a selection of home-brewed beers, good wine options, and a lovely view from the outdoor beer garden on the jetty. We took our time strolling down Wharf Street enjoying the views of the Hunter River. It’s a lovely walk across the Foreshore down to Nobby’s Beach Reserve.
For live music, check out Newcastle Live for information on Newcastle’s thriving underground music scene, and upcoming gigs around the city.
How Much Time Do You Need In Newcastle, NSW?
You’ll find plenty to do in and around Newcastle, along with a great atmosphere while you’re there. If you want everything to keep feeling fresh the whole time you’re there, then a week will most likely give you plenty of time to see everything you want to see without feeling stale.
At the end of the day, it really wasn’t Newcastle sights that lured us in. It was the perfect balance of the small-town feel, the laid-back beach lifestyle, and the cute boutique vibe combined with a beautiful natural setting that made us so grateful for a chance to visit Newcastle.
Tourists don’t flock to this city and maybe that’s exactly why Newcastle is sometimes referred to as the most underrated city in Australia. You just don’t expect it to be so lovely…
Max fell in love with Newcastle, announcing that if we ever wanted to move away from Brisbane, this is where he would want to be based (Ok, I kind of really liked it too). Instead, we ended up in Costa Rica.. but hey, with us, you just never know…