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14 Reasons to Visit Newcastle in 2014

February 19, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

 Newcastle is a burgeoning getaway for weekending Sydneysiders and interstate tourists wishing to escape the urban jungle. Here are 14 (and there are many more…) top tips for making the most of the city in 2014.

1. Get amongst it: art, culture and history

Newcastle Art Gallery2Sydney may possess permatanned Bondi beach gods, but the state’s second largest city enjoys a creative and cultural scene that’s red hot. A stroll through the city’s urban East End reveals plenty of haunts that are home to emerging artists, such as Curve Gallery, Cooks Hill Galleries and The Lock Up Cultural Centre; while the Newcastle Art Gallery boasts nearly 5000 artefacts and a reputation for holding one of Australia’s finest regional collections. Immerse yourself in the area’s indigenous heritage via the hands-on exhibits and interactive demonstrations at the Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre.  To see Newcastle’s artistic flair at its best, visit during the This is Not Art (affectionately known locally as TINA) festival – Australia’s premier independent arts and music festival. In its second year, the Newcastle Writers Festival runs from 4-6 April, hosts more than 70 writers from across the world and is the perfect gathering for both literary types and enthusiasts alike.

2. Taste the region’s fare

One Penny Black Cafe 01Australia is fast becoming known for its superb dining, and more and more domestic and international visitors are planning their itineraries around destinations that have a diverse food and wine offering. Newcastle is the epicentre of culinary development in NSW. Hatted restaurants, waterfront dining, door-in-the-wall eateries, chic cafes, cellar doors, and boutique breweries are hallmarks of Newcastle’s rich food and dining scene – cementing the city’s reputation as one of Australia’s  must-visit regional foodie destinations.  For quirky cafes with a roasted drop that’s hard to beat, hit Darby Street or Hunter Street Mall; enjoy delectable and multicultural cuisine along Beaumont Street, or sip a Moscow Mule in the afternoon sunshine at the Honeysuckle waterfront precinct. Why not treat your palate to Newcastle’s best tastes and a tipple in one spot during Newcastle’s three day Food & Wine Expo (held during the last week of August) at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre.

3. Top-drawer sporting fixtures during It’s ON! in Newcastle and the Hunter

It’s ON! in Newcastle and The Hunter runs from February 1st to March 22nd, featuring everything from lively A-league clashes to world-class skateboarding to an epic white surf contest – with action aplenty both on and off the sidelines. Why not escape the crowds of Sydney’s bottlenecked streets and catch a Newcastle Jets A-League game or Super Rugby with atmosphere on tap at their home, the Hunter Stadium?

Newcastle - view towards Nobbys Lighthouse in the evening4. Historic hot spots

As Australia’s second oldest city, it’s little surprise that Newcastle has many historic hot spots waiting to be found by hungry culture vultures and previous visitors to Newcastle alike. Get the inside story on the region’s iconic history at the heart of Australian steel manufacturing and coal production at the Newcastle Museum – which is celebrating its 3rd birthday this year – or delve into stories of wrecks and rescues at the Newcastle Maritime Centre. Built in 1882 to defend Newcastle from the threat of a Russian invasion, Fort Scratchley, a labyrinth of tunnels beneath Newcastle, offers the public a great opportunity to experience how the installation helped defend Australia during the darkest moments of World War Two. Or, if you’re into a fright or two, why not enjoy a gooly ghost tour? This year, East End Dark History Ghost Walks feature a decent dollop of history accompanied by lashings of spooky tales. If a harmless fright or two is your idea of a good time, details for private bookings can be find on via the website.

5. Live music

Whether you’re into hip-hop, dance, orchestral or jazz, Newcastle’s live music scene has you covered.  Pair fantastic food, quality wine and craft beer with top notch cover bands and DJ sets at The Landing Bar and Kitchen, King Street Hotel, Bar Petite, Lizottes Newcastle, The Cambridge Hotel and The Great Northern Hotel. Or, head to The Newcastle Entertainment Centre for a world class gig, featuring the likes of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in March and Jason Derulo in May.

6. Chic boutiques

You can’t afford to walk on by Newcastle’s unique East End for chic boutique shopping. Favourites along ultra cool Darby Street include indie store Honey Bee and one-of-a-kind Abicus, where you’ll find everything from raw gear for guys and girls to retro vinyl and tapes. Around the corner, Hunter Street is home to Studio Melt, the home of understatedly confident jewellery for any occasion, and Make Space, a hub for handcrafted homewares, womenswear, kids clothes and toys.

7.  Markets

Whether you want to fill your basket with fresh local produce, handcrafted clothing, artisan accessories, local arts and crafts or pre-loved bargains, one of Newcastle’s many markets has you covered. For retro finds, try Adamstown or Islington Flea markets, or for artisan wares and organic foods browse through Olive Tree or the City Craft and Farmers Markets. Why not subtly schedule a visit to one of the markets and unearth a romantic antique for your smitten sweetheart in any one of the independent outlets? On the second and forth Friday of each month, discover Newcastle’s brand new night markets in the Hunter Street Mall.

8.  Theatre and Entertainment

From the stunning 1920’s decor of the Newcastle Civic Theatre to the curtained stage and intimate ambience of renowned theatrical restaurant Lizottes, catching a show in Newcastle is an experience not to be missed by either the theatre lover nor the enthusiast. Upcoming not to be missed performances include The Anatomy of Buzz (February 5-22), a contemporary comedy from Newcastle’s award winning playwright Carl Caulfield, a rendition of George Orwell’s 1984 (March 27) and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow (6-8 June), both at the Civic Theatre, and Through These Lines, a raw account of the female position in war at The Fort Scratchley Tunnels (24-29 July and 31 July-5 August). For spectators of Surfest, Tantrum Theatre will perform Diving off the Edge of the World (14-15 & 21-22 February), a vibrant theatrical journey designed to encourage young people to explore foreign cultures and embark on overseas travel.

9.  Outdoor pursuits

Whether you’re at home in a puddle of mud or prefer the freedom of a sheer cliff face, Newcastle’s spectrum of outdoor activities will keep you going from dawn until dusk, seven days a week. If you prefer a casual pace, absorb the city’s sights and stories on a Newcastle Walking Tour, or cycle along the city’s magnificent coastline along the Bathers Way track.  For an extraordinary view, join a Segway tour of the Hunter Wetlands Centre, or take to the woods after dark on a spotlight tour of the Blackbutt Nature Reserve.  Marvel at nature’s largess on a whale watching cruise, swing through the trees on a flying fox at Treetop Adventure Park or take your inner adrenaline-junkie for a sand dune spin at Stockton on a quad bike. Why not enjoy a leisurely guided tour of Newcastle’s iconic harbour with Newcastle Kayak Tours? Tours start at 8am and at 11am; group discounts available. Avid cyclists, ecotourists and enthusiasts will rejoice at the news that the MTB Port to Port four day cycling race is now accepting registrations for the event that runs from 29 May – 1 June. The tour will take in some of the finest scenery from Port Stephens, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

You might come away from Newcastle needing a holiday, but knowing you’ve had an action-packed break.

10. Beautiful beaches

Feel the cool sea breeze against your cheeks by visiting one of Newcastle’s three pristine beaches, highly commended by Keep Australia Beautiful NSW in its Clean Beaches program, that are interlinked by Bathers Way, a stunning coastal walk. From Nobbys in the north to Merewether in the south, total walking time at a medium pace is approximately three hours – perfect for a long walk on a temperate summer evening or a romantic stroll after dinner. Bathers Way showcases Newcastle’s attractive coastline where rugged cliff faces bisect reefs, rock pools and sizeable salt water ocean baths. From the shores of spectacular Stockton Beach to the much-loved year-round safe swimming beach at Nobbys, to the wave chasers’ favourite Bar Beach and Merewether, Newcastle’s many miles of pristine beaches have something for everyone – from sun gods to surfers to sandcastle builders, and everyone in between. Witness white surf battles and hard fought wins at this year’s Surfest, an 11-day surfing bonanza (13-23 February) at Merewether. Or learn how to do it like a pro at Newcastle Kiteschool or at the iSurf Newcastle Surf School.

11. City Evolutions

Newcastle’s historic Watt Street comes to life each evening through an electric, interactive multimedia light display set to transport visitors through time and place. A joint initiative between The City of Newcastle, Newcastle NOW and the University of Newcastle, City Evolutions sees heritage listed buildings, historic townhouses and Victorian terraces along Newcastle’s oldest street brought to life through colourful cinematography, lavish light ups and interactive installations. City Evolutions now has new summer content which includes event footage and images to celebrate our busy season of sporting and cultural events.

12. Relaxation and restoration

Nose to the grindstone? Getting away from the daily grind, fluorescent lights of the office and the endless churning of the morning commute is essential. Relax and revive with a spa treatment (or many) or retreat to one of Newcastle’s alternative health and fitness centres or sumptuous day spas. Combine the best of both worlds at Yoga Loft, which offers a full schedule of yoga classes, plus spa treatments, all with the added benefit of incredible ocean views. 

13. A roasted drop that’s hard to beat

Newcastle is a serious challenger for recognition as Australia’s coffee capital. The back-to-basics layout of newly opened Saluna Coffee + Kitchen is reminiscent of eclectic European cafes of yesteryear. Its key selling point is the perfectly crafted drop from carefully ground coffee beans and unbeatable organic produce. Along with Newcastle’s other nostalgic cafe haunts, Sprocket Roasters, Wickhams Motorcycles, Frankie’s on Darby, Saluna and Soul Foods are perennially filled with interesting people, colourful conversation and delicious breakfast and lunch options sourced from local producers.

14. Easy accessibility

Located just off the M1 motorway, Newcastle is incredibly easy to visit from anywhere in Australia, whether by car, bus (via Greyhound Buses), train (via Sydney Trains and TrainLink) or plane. Newcastle Airport is served by Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Regional Express with regular services between all Eastern major metro hubs. With time on your hands, though, why not take the coastal Pacific Highway?

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