Urban Walkabout - By Juhi Vaghela

Australia’s second oldest city has maintained an aura of mystery that only those in the know have managed to uncover. But the secret is now out and, a place formerly known for its coal exportation has recently fast-tracked its way onto everybody’s destination bucket list. Blessed with virtually unspoilt landscapes, Newcastle is host to a multitude of activities and home to a spirited community, giving it all of the allure of coastal destinations around the world, while remaining unfettered by the trappings that most tourist spots come with. Choose Newcastle for your next getaway, and discover why it made the top of our bucket list.

A Booming Arts Scene

It may come as a surprise that Newcastle is among the most artistically thriving cities in the country, having launched the careers of a fleet of creatives such as Rhys Muldoon, the director of Bell Shakespeare. With a number of galleries and museums dotted around the city, you’ll want to make Newcastle Art Gallery your first stop. Over 6,100 works are housed within, making up the second largest art collection in all of NSW. After that, take a self-guided tour around the city - Newcastle’s street art scene is seriously insane, with over 25 murals bringing a modern edge to the surrounding Victorian style terraces and heritage buildings.  

Street art, Newcastle

A Rich History

History buffs will love to see this side of Newcastle. A city steeped in so much history, Newcastle has seen itself transformed from a town under military rule, to a Steel City, and now to its contemporary incarnation - a bustling metropolis rich with culture. Chronicling the city’s past, present and future is Newcastle Museum, an institution housed within three different heritage buildings, which alone makes it well worth the visit. A guided tour of Fort Scratchley, on the other hand, will take you on a tour of Newcastle’s headland tunnels, with a guide who will narrate the city’s maritime history. Fun fact: Fort Scratchley remains the only coastal fort in Australia to have ever fired on an enemy vessel.

Fort Scratchley, Newcastle

Buzzing Bar Scene

There’s no better way to describe Newcastle’s nightlife than electric. Small bars are constantly popping up all over the city, while some old favourites have truly kicked things up a notch. For expertly crafted cocktails and live music, head to The Edwards, an industrial chic bar situated in Newcastle’s West End, or to Coal & Cedar, a New York style speakeasy that’s dark, sultry and hidden in plain sight. Bronx Pizza, one of Newcastle’s latest additions, also deserves a mention for its dive bar vibes and irresistible pizzas.

The Edwards Bar, Newcastle

Cafes That Serve Up Next-Level Brunch

Newcastle’s culinary awakening might just be one of the best things to happen to the city, with cafes serving increasingly innovative and inspired dishes. So when we say Newcastle knows how to do brunch, we’re not joking. Estabar, which overlooks Newcastle Beach, makes bircher muesli to die for, and offers other creative dishes like Tuna Cous Cous with avocado and herbs. If you’re after something a little exotic, head to Moor East, where Middle Eastern and North African flavours come together in an aromatic explosion of colour. Expect dishes like Shakshuka, Soft Eggs in Tomato and Herb Sauce with Warm Pita and Labne. Alternatively, check out Three Bears Kitchen for the best porridge in the city, a creation that features red rice, quinoa, rhubarb, berries, fig and pistachios served in almond milk.

Brunch at Moor East, Newcastle

Craft Beer Heaven

Beer aficionados will not be disappointed by the selection of boutique beer bars Newcastle has to offer. The Grain Store in Newcastle East boasts the largest selection of independent Australian craft beers in the world. For beer straight from the source, head to FogHorn Brewhouse, the only venue in all of Newcastle to feature an in-house brewery. Both bars have a menu inspired by old school American diner foods, but if you’re looking for some variety, The Hop Factory offers a mish-mash of flavours, and provides suggestions of which beers pair perfectly with each main.

Foghorn Brewhouse, Newcastle

Design-led Shopping

Retail in Newcastle has a distinctly artisan feel, so if there’s one thing you can’t leave without doing, it’s going shopping in this unique city. The market for furniture and homewares is especially impressive, with boutiques like PapaSven and Monsoon Living setting the tone for what you can expect out of Newcastle. Achieve the Scandi-cool look in your very own home with a stopover at PapaSven, where minimalist design meets bold colours and natural fibers. If your tastes are a little more eclectic, Monsoon Living has everything from Oriental statement pieces to antique Turkish copper wares. If you’re in Newcastle at the start of the month, don’t miss the ever-popular Olive Tree Market, an outdoor market in Civic Park where designers and artists come together in one of the biggest displays of creativity Newcastle has ever seen.

Marimekko homewares and furniture at Papa Sven, Newcastle

It’s Bike-friendly

To really make the most of your stay in Newcastle, why not ditch your car and see the city by bike instead? Among other bike rental companies like Newcastle Electric Bikes and Boomerang Bikes, Spinway offers bikes for hire for as little as $33 per day. Snake your way from Adamstown to Belmont on the historic Fernleigh Track; with so much natural beauty along the way, it’s easy to forget how close to civilization you actually are. If you are keen for a 360 view of the harbour and coastline, jump on the ferry to Stockton and cruise the coastline cycleway.

Local cyclist along Bathers Way, Newcastle

Picturesque Views

With magnificent stretches of natural beauty to behold, there’s nothing quite like soaking in the landscape over lunch. Stock up on some locally sourced produce and choose from Newcastle’s endless supply of destinations for a picnic. Bathers Way is one of the most beautiful coastal walks in the country, with rock pools and swimming spots dotted amongst amazing white sand beaches. If you’re looking for something a little less sandy without compromising on any ocean views, King Edward Park is the way to go. The park features Norfolk Island Pines, remains of Newcastle’s interesting past, and a sunken garden bursting with colour. One thing’s for sure, a trip to Newcastle will provide ample opportunity for taking happy snaps that will make even your most well-travelled friends green with envy.