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Newcastle (New South Wales)

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Hunter Valley : Newcastle
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Nobbys Head and Nobbys Beach

Newcastle [1] is at the mouth of the Hunter River, approximately 150 km north of Sydney in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia. The second largest city in the state of NSW and sixth largest in Australia, Newcastle city had a population of 153,000 in 2008 and the suburban area had over 500,000. The city is the focal point for a diverse district that encompasses beaches and mountains, restaurants and wineries.

Understand

Newcastle is Australia's oldest sea port, currently the second most important in the country in terms of overall tonnage. It is also the world's largest coal exporter.The city of Newcastle is the hub for exploring the many activities and sights that surround the city. In the north is Stockton beach, miles and miles of uninhabited beaches that stretch up to Nelson bay. The wreck of the Signa can be seen from Fort Scratchley, which was Newcastle's maritime defence during the world wars. Travel westward to the wineries and taste some of Australia's best wines. Barrington Tops National Park in the north west has beautiful fresh water rivers and rain forests, a good place to spot a platypus. Newcastle is a great place for surfers, wine buffs, bush walkers, and anyone interested in Australian history.

Since the closure of the BHP steelworks, Hunter New England Health and The University of Newcastle have become the city's primary employers.

Many Novocastrians take an avid interest in sports, as participants, spectators or both. The local NRL Rugby League team, the Newcastle Knights are widely followed. Newcastle also hosts soccer, baseball, ice hockey, netball and various other sporting teams.

Tourist Information Centre

  • Newcastle Visitor Information Centre, Honeysuckle Wharf, Newcastle CBD (Now relocated to the Martime Centre, Honeysuckle Wharf), +61 2 4929 5948 (). M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 10AM-3PM.

Get in

By car

Newcastle is a two hour drive north of Sydney on the F3 freeway which starts at Wahroonga (close to Hornsby) on the Upper North Shore. The scenic freeway is in excellent condition and driving is normally not difficult. However, as a large number of people commute to Sydney daily from the Central Coast and even Newcastle, northbound travellers during the evening peak (5PM to 7PM) will encounter high speed and heavy traffic between Wahroonga and the Central Coast, with traffic easing off further north. The reverse applies to southbound traffic during the morning commute.

The F3 is on the Western side of Lake Macquarie. To travel up the Eastern side of Lake Macquarie (through Swansea) then take the "Charlestown" exit on the F3. This route is more scenic, more hilly, and less congested (though it takes a few minutes longer). If you follow this route you will eventually come to the "Charlestown Bypass" at Bennett's Green which you can take if you wish to head north-west (towards Lambton). Otherwise veer right to keep following the Pacific Highway until you reach Charlestown and then follow the signs to the city.

Traffic during holiday periods and long weekends is also affected, with heavy northbound traffic at the beginning of the period as Sydneysiders flee the city for the weekend, and heavy southbound traffic as they return.

By train

Sydney's Central, Strathfield, Epping and Hornsby stations have hourly Cityrail [2] trains to Newcastle Station via the Central Coast. Travelling time is about 2.5-3 hours.

Several Countrylink [3] services pass through Newcastle's Broadmeadow station (approximately 5 km from the CBD) daily from Sydney and the Central Coast to the south and from the Northern Rivers and New England. These trains are more expensive than Cityrail services and tickets must be booked in advance, but they are somewhat more comfortable and are also faster. Occasionally Countrylink discount tickets by up to 50% if booking tickets within 24 hours of travel, so it may be worth checking their fare.

By bus

  • McCafferty’s, 13 1499. Newcastle from Sydney.
  • Port Stephens Coaches, (02) 4982 2940, [4]. provides daily services from Port Stephens and Williamtown airport to Newcastle Railway Station.

By plane

Newcastle Airport (Williamtown) (IATA: NTL), [5] is a regional hub served by a number of domestic airlines:

  • Brindabella Airlines, [8]. flys to and from Canberra.
  • Aeropelican, [9]. flys to and from Sydney.

Flying may not the be fastest way to travel such a short distance as Sydney to Newcastle. However, the flight is particularly scenic, especially on a fine day, as there are stunning views of the northern beaches between Sydney and Newcastle. It can be well worth finding an excuse to fly if the cost is not an issue.

There is also a twice daily service from Sydney Harbour to Newcastle Harbour, operated by Sydney Seaplanes [10]. Expect to pay a premium, but the service is quick, scenic, and operates right into the centre of Newcastle.

Get around

  • Newcastle buses and ferries, [11].

Unlike Sydney buses, Newcastle buses operate using time-based fares. You buy a ticket which is valid for 1hr, 4hrs or 24hrs. You can catch as many buses as you like until your ticket expires. If you are still on a bus when your ticket expires you can stay on that same bus for as long as you like but you can't board another bus.

  • Newcastle Taxi Co-operative, 131008.
  • ARA Car Rental, 86 Belford St, Broadmeadow, 1800 243 122, [13]. Located near the Broadmeadow Train Station.
  • Europcar, 66 Hannell St, Wickham, 02 4940 0053, [14]. Closest rental outlet to city centre and also has an outlet at the airport.
  • Hertz, Unit 2, 122 Hannell Street, Newcastle (Wickham), New South Wales 2293, 02 49675223 (fax: 02 49608702), [15]. Mon-Fri 0800-1700, Sat 0800-1200, Sun Closed. Also has an outlet at Williamtown Airport (Newcastle Airport).
  • Budget, 107 Tudor St, Hamilton, 02 4927 6375, [16]. Bit further out from the CBD (not far from the Broadmeadow Train Station) and also has an airport outlet.
  • Newcastle Car & Truck Rental, 851 Hunter Street, Hamilton, NSW (Cnr Hunter & Selma Streets), 02 4940 0377, [18]. All sorts of vehicles to hire for all sorts of uses

See

Landmarks

  • Christ Church Cathedral. .See Newcastle's Cathedral. Pay a small fee and walk to the top for the best view of Newcastle city and beaches.
  • Heritage architecture. in and around the city. Notable buildings in the CBD area include the courthouse (top of Bolton St), former Customs House, Newcastle Railway Station, and Post Office (cnr of Hunter St and Bolton St).
  • Nobbys Head. . Nobbys island is connected to the mainland by a pier built using convict labour (completed in 1846). The pier is accessible to pedestrians, and is flanked by Nobbys Beach. It provides an excellent vantage point to take in views of the harbour and Stockton Beach across the water.
  • The Obelisk. .
  • Queen's Wharf Tower. Suggested as resembling a large phallic symbol but great views.

Museums and art galleries

  • Fort Scratchley, Nobbys Rd, +61 2 4974 5005, [19]. W-M 10AM-4PM. . A historic site which now houses a military museum. The fort defended Newcastle in 1942 when a Japanese submarine surfaced shelling the city. Fort Scratchley has recently been refurbished and is open to the public, great views to the north and over the city are a highlight as well as the history. Just east of the fort is Newcastle ocean baths a great place to swim and meet some local characters.
  • The Lock Up Cultural Centre, 90 Hunter St, +61 2 4925 2265, [20]. W-Th 10AM-4PM, F-Su 10AM-5PM. . Incoporates a Police Museum and the John Paynter Gallery, which hosts resident artists all year round. Gold coin entry.
  • The Maritime Centre, 3 Honeysuckle Dr, +61 2 4929 2588, [21]. T-Su 10AM-4PM. . $10.
  • Newcastle Region Art Gallery, 1 Laman St, +61 2 4974 5100 (), [22]. T-Su 10AM-5PM. Well worth a visit. The gallery houses a high quality collection of works by Australian artists and also stages its own and travelling exhibitions. Free.

Parks and gardens

  • The foreshore. Large grassed open spaces on the old goods marshalling yards at the eastern end with playground equipment for children. Bars, cafes and restaurants overlooking the harbour starting from Queens Wharf where live music can be listened to on the outdoor area over the water (Hunter River)but very little grassed areas.
  • King Edward Park. A great place for a picnic or a BBQ. Nice views of the ocean.
  • Mt Sugarloaf lookout.

Do

  • Hunter Wetlands Centre, Wallsend Rd, Sandgate, 02 4951 6466, [23]. 7 days, 9AM-5PM. A regenerated 45 ha wetlands area adjacent to Hexham Swamp. There are walking trails, a bicycle trail, a canoe trail, picnic and barbeque facilities, and a visitors' centre.
  • See some live music. The TE Guide, [24]. provides weekly entertainment listings and appears in Wednesday's "Post" free newspaper and Thursday's Newcastle Herald in print and online. The online version is not always kept up to date, so it is best to get hold of a print copy. Alternately, look for Uturn streetpress, which is widely distributed to shops and libraries around town.
  • Blackbutt Reserve. , is a 182ha reserve in suburban Newcastle. A natural bushland area which is full of native animals, picnic areas, wildlife exhibits, bushwalking trails, children's playgrounds. Don't miss the flying fox colony on the Rainforest trail. Main entrance is off Carnley Avenue, Kotara. Other entrances - Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights (on bus route) & Richley Reserve off Freyburg Street, New Lambton. On foot from Kotara train station, enter by the small trailhead opposite Grinsell Ave. on Carnley Ave., and stay to the right in the trail system to reach the info booth and animal displays at the Carnley Avenue entrance.
Nobbys Beach

Beaches

  • Bar Beach. is regarded by many as the best of a range of beaches which ring the city, although it can get crowded on warm summer days.
  • Surfing.
  • Kite surfing, Nobbys Beach.

Redhead Beach Located further from the inner city allows dogs as well Dudley Beach, a secluded beach great for surfing

Nobbys Beach: one of the safer Newcastle beaches to swim at, fairly close to the city and Newcastle train station.

Newcastle Ocean Baths

Ocean baths

No visit to Newcastle during the warmer months would be complete without taking a dip in the ocean baths. On sunny days you can sunbathe on the Grandstand on the Fort side of the Baths.

The baths are also open during the winter, for the more adventurous. The Newcastle baths are home to the "Newcastle Pirates", a winter swimming club not unlike the Icebergs or Polar Bears of other places.

  • Newcastle Ocean Baths. Close to the city centre, these historic baths were opened in 1922.
  • Merewether Ocean Baths. The largest ocean baths complex in the southern hemisphere.
  • The Bogey Hole. Carved out of the rock by convicts, this ocean pool at the bottom of King Edward Park is a great place for a relaxing dip.

Festivals and events

  • Mattara Festival, [25]. A week long series of events that commences each year during the Labour Day long weekend in late September/early October. The Mattara festival notably includes the Mattara Hillclimb, a car race held in scenic King Edward Park [26]. The festival also features a grand parade, concerts, family entertainment and market stalls.
  • This Is Not Art Festival, [27]. The festival is held in the same long weekend each year, and showcases the talents of young and emerging artists, writers, media makers and electronic musicians from around Australia.
  • The Shoot Out. 24 hour film making festival.
  • Carols by Candlelight. are held each December in many of Newcastle's parks.
  • Cultural Stomp, Civic Park. A one day celebration, bringing people together to celebrate the region's cultural diversity. Forums, panels, music, art, films, spoken word.

Learn

The University of Newcastle [29] is one of the major regional universities in New South Wales. Its academic program is quite broad and includes many liberal arts courses. Their undergraduate medicine degree is very highly regarded.

Buy

  • For locally made clothing with a quirky, hip look, try High Tea with Mrs Woo, 74 Darby Street, Cooks Hill, 4926 4883. Darby Street is also a good place to browse in the boutiques, although the options here aren't cheap.
  • Retro/Second-hand clothing: Newcastle has a range of interesting second-hand stores. some of which are priced very competitively when compared with their Sydney counterparts.
  • Patsan Dance Music Specialist, 301 Hunter St, 4925 3996.
  • Newcastle City Farmers Market, Newcastle Showground, Brown Road, Broadmeadow, 02 4930 5156, [30]. Most Sundays 8AM-1PM.
  • Hunter Street Markets, Hunter Street Mall, Newcastle, 02 9999 2226, [31]. Every Th-Sa 9AM-3PM. Also runs whenever a cruise ship is in town.

Eat

Most of the city's restaurants and cafés can be found along the two main eatery strips: Beaumont Street in Hamilton, and Darby Street in Cooks Hill.

Budget

  • Darby Street Take Away, 98 Darby St Cooks Hill, 4929 3406. A real value-for-money greasy spoon/sandwich bar. The "international burgers" ($6.50) are recommended.
  • Hooi's Recipe, Shop 1 55 Joslin Street Kotara, NSW, 0249523333. Excellent place for Malaysian, Chinese and Thai food. Price is reasonable and good service too. There's noodle special ($9.50) for dinner on Sunday till Thurs. A place that is highly recommended.
  • House of Peking. (Hotel Jesmond, Jesmond) is excellent value for Yum Cha (lunch and dinner, typically $10-$15/head).
  • Hunter Gourmet Pizza, 22 Beaumont St, Hamilton, 02 4961 5529. Very good take-away pizzeria. Large traditional-style pizzas $12, slightly more for gourmet varieties.

Cafés

There are numerous options along Beaumont St in Hamilton and Darby St in Cooks Hill. At Three Monkeys (Darby St Cooks Hill) coffee can be ordered by the bowl. Some of the best coffee in town can be found at Suspension (3 Beaumont St Islington). Euro Patisserie, 68 Orchardtown Rd, New Lambton, tel: 4957 7188, is deservedly popular for their award-winning cakes and pastries.

Other suggestions:

  • Goldbergs, 137 Darby St, Cooks Hill. A busy Darby St stalwart, offers large meals and a good location for people-watching.
  • Long Bench Café, Darby St, Cooks Hill. Open until late.
  • Swell Café. Merewether Surf Life Saving Club building. Overlooks Merewether beach.
  • Rolador. Hamilton Train Station Carpark.

Mid-range

  • Oriental Kitchen, 146 Denison St, Hamilton, 4940 0329. Serves up a wide range of Asian dishes. This restaurant, attached to the laid back Bennett Hotel, is popular with Hamilton locals. Open Tu-Su evenings.
  • Thong Thai, 74 Beaumont St, Hamilton, 4969 5655. Quality unpretentious Thai and Vietnamese food. M-W 11.30AM - 2PM, M-Su 5PM-9.30PM.
  • Café 16, 16 Watt St, Newcastle, 4927 5622. A café by day, Moroccan-style restaurant in the evening (mains $15-$22). Easygoing service.
  • Liquid Gold cafe, Opposite Newcastle beach, Newcastle. A friendly cafe with views to the ocean, relaxed feel, the Barista Tony makes a great coffee. Pizza and light snack available (mains $15-$22). Easygoing service.

Splurge

  • Restaurant II, 8 Bolton St, Newcastle, 4929 1233.
  • The Brewery Restaurant, The Boardwalk, off Honeysuckle Drive, 4929 5792.
  • Scratchleys on the Wharf, 200 Wharf Road, 4929 1111, [32].
  • Bacchus, 141 King Street, 02 4927 1332, [33].

Drink

  • Queens Wharf Brewery, [34]. On the foreshore is a popular spot for a drink. The pub sells its own beers and has harbour views. During the day and M and Tu nights the atmosphere is relaxed, whilst W-Su evenings can get very busy. There's also entertainment (generally DJs, top 40 cover bands, R&B soloists) on W-Su evenings. There is a large outdoor (beer garden style) area on a jetty over the river - great way to relax on a sunny day.
  • Silo Lounge Bar. is located in the new Honeysuckle development on the Harbour. A drawcard is the selection of Belgian beers available.
  • Northern Star Hotel, 112 Beaumont St, Hamilton, 02 4961 1087. An Irish pub in the middle of Hamilton's restaurant strip. The Northern Star regularly functions as a music venue - check the blackboard out the front to find out what's on.
  • Kent Hotel, 59 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, 02 4961 3303, [35]. A busy pub on Hamilton's restaurant strip. Check out the popular trivia night (each Wednesday, starts at 7.30PM).
  • Beach Hotel, Fredrick Street, Merewether, [36]. A Newcastle institution. The place to be on Sunday night is sitting on the front deck overlooking Merewether Beach at sunset with a locally brewed Bluetounge Beer.
  • Gateway Hotel, Maitland Rd, Islington. The local establishment frequented by Newcastle's gay & lesbian community. The venue features a rotating mix of local and Sydney DJ's, special events, drag shows and feature performers, featuring a nightclub (Club G), main bar and bistro.
  • Cambridge Hotel, 789 Hunter St Newcastle west 2302, 02 49622459, [37]. Newcastles premier live venue plays host to the best national and international touring bands. enjoy cheap drinks and great music while meeting friendly locals.
  • The Clarendon Hotel, 347 Hunter Street, Newcastle NSW 2300, (02) 4907 6700, [38]. Voted best pub style accommodation in Australia in 2009, this venue is a great place to have a drink or a meal at their restraunt that offers good food at reasonable prices. They also host the Sundae Fundaze event several times a year with a number of world class dance music acts.
  • MJ Finnegans Irish Pub, Cnr. Darby and King street, Newcastle. One of the most popular night spots on Friday and Saturday nights. Not really an Irish pub anymore.
  • Honeysuckle Hotel, Honeysuckle Drive Newcastle, NSW, 2300, 02 4929 1499, [39]. Mon - Thu 10am – 11pm Fri - Sat 10am – 12am Sunday 10am – 10pm. Overlooking Newcastle Harbour, Honeysuckle Hotel boasts a chic combination of modern pub food, state of the art TAB, an extensive beverage range and excellent customer service. Whether you're enjoying a sun-soaked lunch on the deck, an after work cocktail at the bar or a function on the mezzanine level, Honeysuckle Hotel is sure to impress.
  • The Squires Maiden, 11 Honeysuckle Dr Newcastle, New South Wales 2230, (02) 4929 7790, [40]. Waterfront bar and restaurant offering both contemporary and classic dishes changed to suit the seasons with a vast selection of James Squires beer range.
  • King Street Hotel, [41]. The best nightclub in Newcastle. Regularly attracting national and international acts! Open Friday 9pm-3.30am Saturday 9pm-3.30am Sunday 8pm-12am

Sleep

  • Quality Hotel Apollo International (Newcastle Accommodation), 290 Pacific Highway, Charlestown, Newcastle NSW, 2290 (Just minutes drive to the heart of Newcastle and 2 hours from Sydney via the F3 expressway. Unmistakable in appearance, the hotel is one of Newcastle’s highlights.), +(61) 2 4943 6733, [42]. Quality Hotel Apollo International is a four star boutique Newcastle hotel, located 10 minutes south of Newcastle CBD and providing easy access to the city and local beaches.

Stay safe

Dangerous tides occurs mainly in summer

Budget

  • Bimet Executive Lodge, 121 Union Street, +61 (02), [44]. An affordable option, and close to the restaurants and shops of Darby Street.
  • Backpackers by the Beach, Address, +61 (02) 4926 3472 (, fax: +61 (02) 4926 5210), [45]. Dorm beds: $21 per night, Twin room or double room: $50 per night. Discounts for weekly rates available..
  • Hotel Formule 1, 3-5 Thomas Street, Wallsend (cnr Link and Lake Roads), +61 (02) 49 500 244 (fax: +61 (02) 49 500 524). A reasonable option if driving - a little far out from the city centre, but convenient to the freeway. Twin room or double room: $59 per night..

Mid-range

  • Hotel Ibis Newcastle, 700 Hunter Street, +61 (02) 4925 2266 (fax: +61 (02) 4925 3377), [46]. Close to the heart of the Newcastle CBD, the hotel is an easy stroll to the Regional Museum, art galleries, Civic Theatre, Civic Playhouse, Newcastle's popular Honeysuckle and Queens Wharf harbour foreshore and retail precinct. $99-149.
  • Sovereign Inn Newcastle, 309 Maitland Road, Mayfield, [48]. With family, twin share and double rooms, plus cable TV, in-room Internet connectivity, direct dial phone, clock radio, coffee- and tea-making facilities. $94.

Splurge

  • The Clarendon Hotel, 347 Hunter Street, +61 (02) 49270966 (, fax: +61 (02) 4925 3900), [49]. Four and a half star boutique hotel centrally located in Newcastle's CBD. Serves excellent meals and many boutique beers. Has one of the few genuine beer gardens in the CBD at the rear where with live music Fri and Sat evenings.
  • The Sebel Newcastle Beach, 5 King Street, +61 2 4032 3700, [50]. The Sebel Newcastle Beach hotel is located 2 hours drive from Sydney and has convenient Newcastle accommodation.
  • Noah's on the Beach, Cnr Shortland Esplanade and Zaara St, Newcastle. Close to the CBD, views over Newcastle Beach. About $200 for a double.

Cope

  • The closest supermarket to the CBD is at Newcastle IGA (209 Hunter St, at northern end of mall), a compact little shop full of surprises for the interstate visitor. If you are feeling a little stressed you should walk to the seashore or Fletcher Park or the Obelisk to get things back into perspective.

Good walking shoes are required for the CBD as many streets are steep slopes. Use the walkways or footbridges to get to and from the CBD and the Foreshore. The Queen's Wharf Tower is ideal for calming restless children, they can run up and down the staircase or along the covered walkways nearby! Make sure you note the Historic Markers in the CBD as they make sense of the magic that is Newcastle.

  • Newcastle Regional Library, Laman Street, Newcastle,[53]. A large local library which also hosts exhibitions. This Library is a stunning War Memorial in a unique setting and style. Note also the curious bikestands outside the front steps. The Local Studies Library on the second floor will answer most questions about Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. A small library well done.

Get out

  • Sydney - Australia's most cosmopolitan city is easily reached by the Central Coast and Newcastle Cityrail lines.
  • Hunter Valley - Australia's oldest wine-producing region; the town of Cessnock, adjacent to the Lower Hunter wine region (including the Pokolbin district) is 50 minutes drive from the Newcastle CBD.
  • Port Stephens - featuring Nelson Bay, a 45 minute drive north and famous for its holiday lifestyle and beaches, and for whale and dolphin watching.






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