Discovered in 1797, Newcastle is the site of the second European settlement in Australia. A city with a rich historical tapestry, a visit provides countless opportunities to uncover our diverse past.
Perched high above Newcastle Harbour is Fort Scratchley, constructed during the Crimean War to defend the city from invasion. In 1942, during the darkest moments of World War Two, the fort returned fire at a Japanese submarine, the only fort in Australia to have engaged the enemy in a maritime attack. And for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, Newcastle played a huge part in coal and steel production as well as becoming known for its soap and copper.
Today, the city is best known as a tourist destination and a surfer's paradise. As the gateway to the Hunter region, Newcastle reaches out to the Pacific Ocean, creating Australia’s only city centre bound by pristine beaches and an active working harbour.
And with its spectacular seaside location there are a few things people have grown to expect from Newcastle. Breathtaking beaches, tick. Laidback surf culture, tick. Plenty of action outdoors, tick.
But for the visitor seeking something different, Newcastle also delivers an eclectic arts and cultural experience. It’s not as shiny as Sydney, nor as consciously cool as Melbourne. But it is this lack of ego which gives the destination its raw authenticity.
No longer the rough and ready coal town of years gone by, Newcastle has reinvented itself and is emerging as one of Australia’s most dynamic destinations.
This is not a transformation that has happened by chance, but part of a strategic plan to revitalise the city by celebrating Newcastle’s creative communities in fashion, food and the arts.
The Newcastle of now is an unexpected juxtaposition between old and new. Think shopping and shipping. Food plus Fort. Innovative yet industrial.
It’s a little known fact that Newcastle boasts more artists and designers per capita than any other Australian city, but walking along the streets of “Newie” the mark of the city’s early artistry can be easily seen.
Precinct by Precinct: The city's unique geography and 200 year story have contributed to the creation of a number of distinct hubs. Explore and uncover the flavour and allure of the city's streetscapes and waterfronts each with its own unique feel and character - from Hamilton to Cooks Hill, Merewether to Stockton.
Newcastle East: Where the city meets the ocean and harbour. This is the birthplace of Newcastle. This precinct was the original town site and affords incredible contrasts of architectural diversity. Take the time to wander the laneways or explore via the sign posted Heritage Walk. In Australia’s second oldest city and the state's second most populous, the urban lansdcape abounds with gracious heritage buildings and Newcastle East showcases some of the state's most significant sites, including Fort Scratchley - undoubtedly Newcastle’s most spectacular vantage point and instrumental in protecting Australia's east coast in times of war.
City Centre: A place of revitalisation and transition, a mixture of the raw and refined. Like countless cities across the world, Newcastle's heart has witnessed a migration of businesses into the suburbs. That trend, however, is now being reversed. New developments, shops, restaurants and cultural projects are bringing life back to the centre through pop up shops, regeneration of the David Jones building and art installations.
Civic Cultural Precinct: The soul of the city, the place where artists play. Featuring the city’s most prestigious assets including City Hall and the Art Deco Civic Theatre, both built in the 1920s. On the other side of Civic Park is the Regional Art Gallery housing a impressive collection and attracting a varied schedule of exhibitions each year.
Honeysuckle and the Harbour: Connecting the harbour to the heart of the city. The harbour is home to Honeysuckle, a major waterfront rejuvenation project transforming Newcastle with the creation of foreshore promenades and open squares offering waterfront cafes and restaurants with unparalleled views. The Promenade along the foreshore is an integrated shared pathway suitable for all users.
The Junction: Newcastle’s prestigious shopping village by the sea. The Junction is so called because originally it was the junction point for trains converging on the way to the port from distant coalmines. Today, this area is a conglomeration of designer labels, fascinating jewellery and perfectly balanced home wares. A popular shopping precinct, The Junction has a number of fine restaurants and cafes to enjoy.
Hamilton: The cosmopolitan heart of Newcastle. Beaumont Street is the centre of all the action after its refurbishment following the 1989 earthquake. This precinct was home to some of Newcastle’s earliest Italian and Greek arrivals and there is still a strong Mediterranean culture here. With many sidewalk cafes and a thriving pub-scene, this is a favourite spot with locals and visitors alike. Islington, at the corner of Beaumont Street and Maitland Road, is the place to discover curios, fine antiques and second hand bargains.
Cooks Hill: The lifeblood of cool inner city culture. Discover shops, galleries and food delights - many of which are hidden gems and can be found just off of Darby Street. Choices abound for dining from buzzy street-side cafes to fine dining. Buy the latest street designer wear, alternate music, second-hand books, quirky home wares and jewellery. Cooks Hill is peppered with private art galleries where you'll find local artists, designers and curators - perfect to explore the leafy back lanes to discover priceless art piece.
Breathtaking beaches: From surfing hotspots to spectacular ocean baths, family-friendly rock pools to expansive beaches, you could spend every day of your holiday testing the water at one of Newcastle’s many magnificent swimming holes. The iconic Newcastle Ocean Baths, with its Art Deco pavilion, gorgeous location and year round lifeguard patrols, is an absolute must; while the sheer size of Merewether Ocean Baths – the southern hemisphere’s largest – is sure to impress. Younger children won’t want to leave the sheltered rock pool and patrolled swimming spots at Bar Beach, and all ages will love fish and chips and a stroll at Nobbys – so synonymous with Newcastle it’s a given on any itinerary.