Ex­plore New­cas­tle

Only two hours north of Syd­ney, the hid­den gems of sunny New­cas­tle are well worth the road trip. By Jes­sica Feen­stra

Where Sydney - - Contents -

AS WE WAVE GOOD­BYE to those balmy nights for the year, now is the per­fect time to hit the road and ven­ture north of Syd­ney, to ex­plore the beau­ti­fully un­der­rated and of­ten mis­un­der­stood port city of New­cas­tle.

Con­ve­niently lo­cated in the heart of the Hunter Re­gion, New­cas­tle is Aus­tralia’s sev­enth largest city, and the sec­ond most pop­u­lated city in New South Wales, sec­ond only to its bustling sis­ter city, Syd­ney. How­ever, rewind to 10 years ago and you wouldn’t think this would be the case, with more than 150 empty shopfronts lin­ing the city cen­tre cre­at­ing a ghost town.

To­day, cafés and restau­rants spill out onto art cov­ered streets alive with lo­cals and vis­i­tors shar­ing ar­guably some of the best cof­fee blends, healthy brunch bowls or drinks into the night. Mar­ket­go­ers stroll through laneways with bags full of lo­cal home­made pur­chases, while surfers bee­line bare­foot to and from the ex­pan­sive beaches.

This re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion be­gan in 2008 with a non-profit ini­tia­tive called Re­new New­cas­tle, founded by Novo­cas­trian Mar­cus West­bury. A mere three years later New­cas­tle could be found on Lonely Planet’s list of the top 10 cities to visit in the world. Add to this a golden sandy coast­line dot­ted with stun­ning beaches—merewether Beach in New­cas­tle has taken out the ti­tle of ‘best city beach’ over Bondi Beach in 2018— and stun­ning walks to take it all in, and it’s not hard to see why New­cas­tle is climb­ing the lad­der in pop­u­lar­ity.

EAT AND DRINK

The din­ing scene of New­cas­tle has boomed in the past few years, you can find ev­ery­thing from quick and easy take­away for a day on the beach, to fine din­ing op­tions over­look­ing one! Head to one of New­cas­tle’s main hubs, the ever-quaint Darby Street, to the many op­tions on of­fer. Three Mon­keys Café (131 Darby Street, Cooks Hill. 4926 3779) will spoil your taste­buds with one of the long­est and de­li­cious smoothie menus in the area. The Choc­cy­nanan­nut is a par­tic­u­lar favourite; with choco­late, peanut but­ter and banana, pair one with one of their gen­er­ous and hearty break­fasts.

To the east of the city sits East End Hub (3/3 King Street, New­cas­tle. 4929 1588) boast­ing al­fresco din­ing and an im­pres­sive va­ri­ety of gluten free op­tions al­ready on the menu. For lunch try the duck breast with hand-rolled gnoc­chi, spinach, beetroot, goats cheese and pine nuts.

To soak up the coastal views New­cas­tle is fa­mous for, Merewether Surf­house (5 Hen­der­son Pa­rade, New­cas­tle. 4918 0000) has you cov­ered. Perched right on Merewether Beach, floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows give way to panoramic views right down the strip. Cock­tails, drinks and an à la carte menu can be found up­stairs, while down­stairs the pizza kiosk is per­fect for more ca­sual catch ups over cof­fee or wood-fire pizza.

If you’re af­ter a drink at the end of a long day, or­der a cock­tail at 5 Sawyers (115 Darby Street, New­cas­tle. 4927 0070). Sit back and re­lax while tak­ing in the eclec­tic art that dec­o­rates the in­te­rior and pays per­fect homage to the his­tory of New­cas­tle.

SEE AND DO

Un­like Syd­ney, check­ing out the sites and scenery that New­cas­tle has to of­fer needn’t be a war for park­ing through the bat­tle of traf­fic. You won’t have to push through crowds and wait your turn to take a selfie.

While the wa­ter is still warm fol­low­ing the end of sum­mer, it would be a mis­take not to head in for a dip. The Bo­gey Hole is a swim­ming hole in the city with an in­ter­est­ing story. Cut into the rock face by con­victs in 1819, this her­itage-listed pool is per­fect for those want­ing to keep the sand out of their pants. But be aware of the tides, at high tide the waves come crash­ing over the side into the pool, mak­ing for both a fun and some­times dan­ger­ous swim. The crys­tal clear wa­ters at Merewether Ocean Baths are pop­u­lar with lo­cals, or for a swim slightly out­side the city, Red­head Beach is a must, nes­tled up against a beau­ti­ful red cliff face to one side and with an ex­pan­sive dog beach on the other.

To get your his­tory fix and take in a spec­tac­u­lar view at the same time, the head­land known as Fort Scratch­ley is the place to visit. Built in 1882, Fort Scratch­ley is most pop­u­larly known for its role as a coastal de­fence in­stal­la­tion against pos­si­ble Rus­sian at­tack, thanks to its strate­gic po­si­tion over­look­ing the har­bour. This po­si­tion­ing also gives the site one of the most unique and breath­tak­ing views over the city.

Held on the first Satur­day of the month is the Olive Tree Mar­ket, the lead­ing con­tem­po­rary hand­made art and de­sign mar­ket in New­cas­tle, wow­ing vis­i­tors with its fes­ti­val at­mos­phere and high-qual­ity work on of­fer. The Hunt and Gather Mar­ket, held on the third Satur­day of the month, is an­other must-visit. More than just a mar­ket, you will find lo­cals here so­cial­is­ing, in­dulging in great food, and laz­ing around on blan­kets un­der the trees lis­ten­ing to live mu­sic. If you are in town over th­ese dates the mar­kets should be on your list.

To get your blood flow­ing and tick some ex­er­cise off the list, one way to check out all of the above is Bathers Way, New­cas­tle’s scenic 5-kilo­me­tre walk that stretches all the way from the light­house at Nob­bys Head­land to the leafy wilder­ness of Glen­rock Re­serve. This walk in­cludes the re­cently con­structed AN­ZAC Memorial Walk, built to com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the AN­ZAC land­ing at Gal­lipoli in 1915, act­ing as a mag­nif­i­cent memorial, with spec­tac­u­lar sprawl­ing views over the city and the coast­line.

GET­TING THERE: New­cas­tle is a two-hour drive from Syd­ney (east­coast­car­rentals.com.au, avis.com.au) or a 2.5hr train jour­ney from Syd­ney’s Cen­tral Sta­tion.

Nob­bys Break­wall. Photo: Hay­ley Feen­stra.

New­cas­tle AN­ZAC Memorial Walk. Photo: Hay­ley Feen­stra.

Hunt and Gather Mar­kets. Photo: Hay­ley Feen­stra.

East End Hub. Photo: Hay­ley Feen­stra.

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