There’s so many things to do in Newcastle, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t visit this underrated city near Sydney sooner!
Steve’s family live up here, so when we came back from our travels around the world, we thought we’d try out something different and see what it’s like living in Newcastle (or known as Newy to the locals), which is just a two hour drive from Sydney.
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If you’re wondering what to do in Newcastle, there’s actually a fair bit going on. I don’t know why some Sydney people seem to underestimate Newy, it’s not a bad city to live in at all. The beaches are amazing here (you can read our guide to the best beaches in Newcastle), and not anywhere as busy as Sydney beaches. There’s also a good foodies scene in Newcastle as well and the locals are super friendly.
To get your head around Newcastle, especially if you’re British because we like to know where the main high street is within a city, the shopping areas are mainly now located in the Westfield’s at Kotara and Charlestown. The old main shopping streets of King St and Hunter St are finally becoming a bit more vibrant again with many awesome restaurants, shops and pubs opening up.
There’s also a few suburbs that have a bit going on like The Junction and Hamilton as well.
How to get to Newcastle
If you’re coming up to Newcastle for the weekend, hire a car from here so you can get around easily.
Otherwise you can take the train up to Newcastle Interchange which takes around 2.5 hours from Sydney.
Download Hunter Hunter App
If you’re living in Newcastle or visiting for the weekend, download the Hunter Hunter app. I wish I knew about Hunter Hunter ages ago because it’s a bit like Sydney’s Broadsheet that has all of the most up to date information about what’s going on in Newcastle.
Honestly download it now.
The best 38 things to do in Newcastle NSW
So we’re going to show you all of the awesome things we’ve done in Newcastle and why you need to make the effort to visit. If you already live in Newcastle, hopefully this post might inspire you too.
Our absolute favourite place in Newcastle is Infuse Health.
It’s an Iyengar yoga (the one where you use props) and movement studio offering up classes from some of the best teachers and nicest people we’ve come across in the whole of Australia. That’s putting it up there, but it’s true. We always, always say we want to live somewhere that just has these people all around us all the time. After a class, you feel like you’re the best version of yourself. It doesn’t get much better!
They offer specialised yoga and movement classes for the over 50s so we got Steve’s mum into it and she loves it (she’s nearly 75 FYI!).
If you’re living in Newcastle, you’d be mad not to go to Infuse Health, it’s the best yoga studio in Newcastle!
2. Swim at Bar Beach in Newcastle
My favourite beach in Newcastle is Bar Beach. If you’re visiting Newcastle for the first time, it’s a bit confusing with the beaches because technically Bar Beach, Dixon Park Beach and Mereweather Beach are all one long beach that’s broken up into sections.
Every morning we’ll go for a run along the beach (Merweather to the Breakwall is a good run) and finish up back up Bar Beach for yoga and a swim.
We scoped out loads of places to do some yoga on the beach without the morning walkers being able to cop an eye full of my downward dog. (That’s a sight no one wants to see, trust me!). Turns out there’s a fab spot at Bar Beach by the picnic tables right down on the left hand side of the beach which is out of sight from the road.
After a bit of yoga we go for a dip in the ocean.
This is the time we truely appreciate how wonderful it is to live in Newcastle.
3. Sunset walk down to The Break Wall
If you’re looking for things to do in Newcastle, go out for a sunset walk along The Break Wall next to Nobby’s Beach. It’s nearly 3KM return and totally worth it for the views of the ocean and all around serenity of the place. We often go for a sunset walk here which is stunning.
4. Cycle or run along the Fernleigh Track
One of the best things to do in Newcastle which also happens to be near to where we live is to cycle the Fernleigh Track. It’s an old railway track that’s since been converted into a cycle path and it honestly takes you into what feels like being a million miles away from the city.
The Fernleigh Track starts from Adamstown and ends at Belmont and it took us about 2 hours to complete the return trip. Make sure you bring enough water and food with you on this bike ride. We did see a cafe mid way and near to the Adamstown end there’s the Fernleigh Cafe which is just off the track serving up some brilliant food. Check for opening and closing timings as I think they close around 2pm during the day.
Some of the stand outs along this track include the Fernleigh Tunnel and further down to Belmont really feels like you’re properly in the countryside.
5. Go to The Regal Cinema in Newcastle
Honestly another fantastic place to visit in Newcastle is The Regal Cinema. I’ve talked about this place to so many people because it’s much, much more than a cinema.
Run by volunteers and only open on weekends, The Regal Cinema is like no other. When you walk in, it looks like a proper old Aussie cinema which looks like it’s in a community hall. But it’s decked out in a lovely kitsch way.
This is what’s included for just $8 per person:
Help yourself to tea (in kitsch Royal’s tea cups)
Help yourself to a glass of vino (red or white of course)
Help yourself to whatever is on the menu for the movie which could be a ploughmans, sweets, scones…
A glass of port before the movie starts.
How they managed to include all of this just for $8 is beyond me. It’s the sort of place that really feels like a great community led cinema.There’s also a stand up before each screening where the owner is this awesome American guy who knows how to entertain a crowd. He usually pulls someone out of the crowd to chat up on stage which actually happened to me once as we went to watch Mary Queen of Scots and I was the only Brit in the audience.
Basically, you NEED to go to The Regal Cinema. You won’t have had as much fun at the cinema ever before!
You can book for the movie if there’s quite a few of you, but just turn up about 15 minutes before it starts to get in. Make sure you bring cash as I don’t think they take cards. There’s parking on site and they do sell the classic choc tops for like $2. The movies don’t alternate as often as a big cinema but that’s understandable as this is not your average soulless cinema.
If you’re looking for things to do at night in Newcastle, join the crime tour, which takes 90 minutes and takes you around the oldest and most historic areas of the city. You’ll learn all about the infamous criminals in the city and would be a something different to experience.
Best of all, it costs just $34. Check availability to go on the Crime Tour here.
7. Check out the Bogey Hole
I couldn’t believe how I never knew the Bogey Hole existed until we moved to Newcastle and I had literally ran past it every time we stayed over on weekends.
The Bogey Hole is an iconic ocean baths in Newcastle that you have to visit.
8. Go on a whale watching tour
We’ve been fortunate enough to see whales from the shoreline in Newcastle so the likely-hood of being able to see them up close on a whale watching tour is pretty good. The whale migration season takes place from June – November across East Coast of Australia.
The two takes 2 hours and costs $95 per person. Book this tour here.
9. Tandem paragliding over Newcastle Beaches
Paragliding over the Newcastle coast line is a very popular thing to do and you can too if you’re under 105kg. A 20-30 minute tandem flight costs $185 and you can book the experience here with the Newcastle Paragliding Club.
10. Jump on the new light rail
The Newcastle Light Rail is a new addition to the city as for some reason they decided to close Newcastle Train Station for good and built a tram line instead. It only opened February 2019 but it would be fun to go on with the kids and it goes from Newcastle Interchange right to Newcastle Beach. This is a good option to use if you’re visiting via the train.
There are some awesome craft breweries in Newcastle but if you’re new to town and have no idea where to go, jump on a three hour pub walking tour so you can learn all about the cool places to drink in the city.
Dudley Beach is one of our favourite beaches in Newcastle. It’s kinda mad to think that there are wild and rugged beaches like this in Newcastle, something you’ll appreciate if you’re used to living in the middle of Sydney.
It’s a quieter beach and known for surfing but there’s something pretty special about Dudley Beach that you must make the effort to visit.
We also must mention Redhead Beach next door which is also a fantastic beach and has more amenities and would be more appropriate for families as there’s a surf club there with a cafe and toilets.
13. Check out Newcastle Art Gallery
We used to go to Newcastle Library to work in which is next door to Newcastle Art Gallery (FYI it’s a great place if you want to work somewhere quiet with the use of free wifi. Go upstairs and you’ll find loads of desks!).
So when we went to visit the Newcastle Art Gallery we were so surprised on how good it actually is. They hold some fun music nights there, so check out what’s on here.
14. Sunrise at Merewether Baths
Sunrise at the famous Merewether Baths is something you have to make sure you do when visiting Newcastle. There’s something that’s so beautiful about watching the sun rise over the beach that you’ll make it a daily occurrence. You’ll be surprised how many people are up and about at sunrise at the beach!
Make sure you go for a swim in Merewether Baths, it’s an iconic location.
Interestingly, it’s mind boggling to think that just around the corner from Merewether is Glen State park, completely rugged and untouched beaches.
15. Go for a hike or bike ride in Glenrock State Conservation Area
As mentioned above Glenrock is a brilliant park to explore. You be gobsmacked at how untouched it is considering it’s next door to Merewether Beach. You can access the park via different ways but there’s some beautiful and untouched beaches to pass by whether you’re hiking or cycling through it.
16. Find the fairy garden in Newcastle
Merv Moyle in his Fairy Garden he created for his daughters in the 70s.
How we’ve never known about The Fairy Garden is beyond me. What looks like an awesome little spot for kids to really have a lot of fun in was created by Merv Moyle for his kids back in the seventies.
It’s based in Broadmeadow on Australia Road near the Newcastle Showground.
17. Check out Newcastle Markets to buy cheap fruit and veg
We were on the lookout to buy some cheap bananas because the prices vary so much and we found Newcastle Markets which is open only on Friday mornings at 9:30am to the public.
If you wait until they are literally packing up, you can get fruit & veg in bulk for super cheap. We ended up buy a huge crate of bananas for $20. If you’re wondering what we do with them all, we peel them and freeze most of them to make smoothies 😉 You’re welcome!
Having been to Caves Beach plenty of times before, I had never been to the actual caves until recently. The caves are located on the far right of the beach but it’s not a long walk to get to them. You’ll be able to walk through a couple of them, they aren’t massive but worth a visit when you’re in the area.
You’ll want to pop along to Caves Coastal Bar for lunch which we mention further down in this post so it ties in nicely. 😉
20. Go for a sunset walk along Anzac Bridge
We also love the Anzac Memorial Bridge which is an awesome walking path over the beaches in Newcastle. It’s a great spot to see the sunset or to go for a morning walk.
On a side note, we love the grassy spot by Bar Beach for sunset too. Bring a picnic and hang out here with a bottle of vino.
21. Shop on Darby Street
Darby Street is known for it’s abundance of shops, cafes and restaurants, and is probably Newcastle’s most happening street. Squint and you’ll almost feel like you could be in Melbourne with the cafe’s spilling out onto the street.
If you’re up for swinging in the trees then go check out the forest canopy at TreeTops located at Blue Gums Regional Park (40min drive West of Newcastle). There’s over 96 challenges to choose from and it costs around $48 per adult and $28 per child (up to 9 years).
I heard Susan Gilmore Beach is a nudist beach although when we visited there was only one other fully clothed couple around. The point is, it’s a stunning beach and we couldn’t believe how deserted it was compared to the busy Bar Beach next door.
To get here, check the tides and walk around the rocks by Bar Beach. It’s an absolutely beautiful beach and one of our favourites!
24. Go on a Newcastle sight seeing cruise
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Newcastle then we recommend going on a two and a half hour sightseeing cruise which will take you along 30km of the coast. Here you’ll learn all about Newcastle’s famous landmarks and history.
The tour costs $95 per person and you can book it here.
Places to visit near Newcastle
Newcastle is a great city to base yourself whilst you head out on some days trips. There are loads of places to visit nearby, so here’s some of our favourites!
25. Visit the amazing beaches in Mumorah State Conservation Area
40 minute drive from Newcastle
Hanging out at the rock pools overlooking Frazer Park beach.
We honestly think Mumorah State Conservation Area is home to some of the best beaches in NSW. Our favourites include Bongon Beach, Frazer Park and around the corner at Catherine Hill Bay.
Catherine Hill Bay and Bongon Beach are both great beaches for swimming and have mostly calm waters. Frazer Park has some brilliant rock pools to discover. There’s also some amazing sea caves to discover in Mumorah but you really need to know where you’re going to get to them. Just don’t put yourself in any danger if you attempt to find the sea caves.
26. Visit the Hunter Valley
1 hour drive from Newcastle
Although it’s an obvious one, make sure you check out our Hunter Valley budget guide here as we’ve found some awesome, affordable restaurants and cafes as well as fun things to do in Hunter Valley that you’ll want to come back time and time again.
If wine isn’t your thing, we recommend this brewery tour which is a return trip to Newcastle.
Travelling up from Sydney? Take this tour from Sydney directly to the Hunter Valley which includes, three vineyards and lunch as well as transfers.
27. Have fun in Port Stephens
1 hour drive from Newcastle
Port Stephens is an awesome getaway from Sydney, especially if you have kids. There’s so much going on there but our main highlight is sand boarding on the South Hemisphere’s largest dunes which you can book here.
It’s a great holiday destination and when you drive into Shoal Bay, you might even think you landscape looks a bit similar to being in Thailand (well we did!).
If you’re going to stay in Port Stephens, we recommend staying at Bannisters here.
28. Discover the amazing beaches at Seal Rocks and Pacific Palms
2 hour drive north Newcastle
One of our absolute favourite places in NSW is the area of Pacific Palms. Here you’ll find a local’s holiday gem that has some of the best beaches in NSW. We love Seal Rocks, Elizabeth Beach and Shelly Beach in Pacific Palms the most. Kick back, stay for a couple of nights and enjoy the serenity.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Pacific Palms, stay at this airbnb. It’s right next to the beach, affordable and worth the money.
29. Barrington Tops
Approx. 2 hours drive from Newcastle
On the way to Barrington Tops National Park.
If you want to go hiking in Newcastle, head up to Barrington Tops which is easily one of the most impressive National Parks in NSW, if not Australia. It’s part of the Gondwana Rainforest which is 1 million years old, a mind blowing fact in itself.
When you start driving into the park, you’ll instantly see how the landscape is so incredible, but what’s more so is that it’s absolutely quiet. When we’ve visited, we did the Beech Forest Walk which took us around 2 hours and we only saw one group of people on the entire track.
Where to eat in Newcastle
There’s a big foodie scene in Newcastle but some of the stand outs for us are below.
Where to go for breakfast or brunch in Newcastle
Estabar is well known for their eggs and is in a great spot opposite Newcastle Beach. If you’re visiting on a chilly day, bring a jacket as they tend to open the cafe up so you can experience the views of the ocean.
31. Blue Door
We love Blue Door which is located in Hunter Street and on Merewether Beach. Head over to the Merewether kiosk and order one of their legendary acai bowls. They aren’t cheap, but they are oh so worth it! Plus! You’ll get the prime position of the beach as well.
32. The Barn in Adamstown
The Barn is an awesome cafe serving up some of the best food in Newcastle. Seriously, it’s one of our favourite places to go. We love the miss-matched vintage furniture and hipster vibe, but with normal people hanging out there. If there’s one place you need to try in Newcastle, it’s here.
Where to get lunch in Newcastle
33. Fast Fuel at Newcastle Uni (Hunter St)
It’s a bit of a random one but if you’re in Newcastle during the week, pop into Newcastle Uni on Hunter Street and head over to the cafe on the ground floor. They serve food from a company called Fuel and it’s so good, it’s the best healthy fast food sort out place we’ve found in Newy. Order the chicken and macadamia wrap and a chocolate granola bar.
34. Caves Coastal Bar
Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows is one of the best places to eat in the Newcastle area. They’ve got a great outdoors area, serve up decent food and of course you’ll be right next to the beach. Make sure you head down to the caves to walk off lunch afterwards!
35. Momo Wholefoods
If you’re into healthy food, head over to Momo Wholefood as it’s one of the best healthy food options in Newcastle. They serve mainly vegetarian food but it’s an amazing place to eat at.
36. Lunch or dinner at the rooftop at Kotara Westfield
Another random one but the Kotara Westfield has a decent rooftop you could easily go for lunch or dinner at. We love the Thai Restaurant and of course Healthy Burgers.
Another tip is to check out the Zara at Kotara Westfield, it’s so much better than the one in Pitt St Mall in Sydney!
Where to eat dinner in Newcastle
37. Dinner at Ginger Megs
Ginger Megs is one of those places that when you enter the restaurant you think you’ve been transported to Melbourne, it’s that cool. The Asian restaurant is downstairs but make sure you book because they book up fast. Upstairs is the bar area but you can order Asian bar food if you can find a table.
38. Parry St Garage
Parry St Garage is another super cool restaurant in the middle of Newcastle. This Italian restaurant comprises of bar area as well which is definitely worth popping into for a drink. The food is very good as well.
If you’re looking for budget accommodation we recommend staying at Newcastle YHA. We stay in YHA’s all around Australia and love them.
Newcastle YHA: Approx $42 for a bed in a dorm, $96 for a double, or $129 for a family room (for 4). Book here >
If you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket, then Rydges has our vote which is located on the waterfront of the Honeysuckle Precinct.
Rydges Newcastle: Approx $242 for a king suite. Book here >
Hopefully this post has inspired you to visit Newcastle NSW! What’s your favourite thing to do in Newcastle? Let us know in the comments below.
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