There’s so many things to do in Newcastle, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t visit this underrated city in the Hunter region sooner!
Known for being home to plenty of amazing beaches, and some of the best surf I’ve personally seen in Australia, the Newcastle coastline shouldn’t be overlooked. Think Newcastle Beach, the famous Merewether Ocean Baths, the sea caves at Caves Beach and so much more.
We visit Newcastle often as Steve’s family live here, and we have personally spent about nine months living in this city to bring you this guide. So in my experience, I hope you find some amazing things to do here!
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 this city, in my experience there’s a lot more to it than you might think.
The beaches are amazing here (check out our best beaches in Newcastle guide), and not anywhere as busy as Sydney beaches. There’s also a good foodies scene in Newcastle as well and the locals alike are super friendly.
To get your head around the Newcastle area, there’s not really a centre of town when it comes to shopping areas. Most shops are now located at Kotara and Charlestown Westfields.
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 the Sydney Broadsheet, and has all of the most up to date information about what’s going on in Newcastle.
Honestly download it now.
Best things to do in Newcastle NSW
So we’re going to share the best things to do 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.
1. Feed alpacas and farm animals
Head over to this alpaca farm and feed up to 70 alpacas and four llamas at a local Newcastle farm for the day! Families, friends and couples will love meeting the friendly alpacas, perfect for a good Instagram shoot as well!
2. Go on a Newcastle crime tour
If you’re looking for things to do at night in Newcastle, book this 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 while learning all about Newcastle history. It’s also super affordable so you can relax and have a good evening on this guided walking tour.
3. Go on a whale watching tour in Newcastle
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 this whale watching tour is pretty good. The whale migration season takes place from June – November across East Coast of Australia.
4. Go skydiving over Newcastle Beaches
There are just a few places up the East Coast of Australia where you can go skydiving, Newcastle being one of them! Be in safe hands with a professional skydiving team and enjoy this bucket list opportunity to skydive over some of the best beaches in NSW! Pre-book your sky diving experience here.
5. Newcastle Bike Tour
Fancy a trip around Newcastle on this bike tour? Learn all about the port city and historic sites, discover the best places to eat in Newcastle and pass by the best attractions such as Fort Scratchley, Nobbys Beach, Newcastle museum, Anzac memorial walk, King Edward Park, Newcastle Beach, the ocean baths, admire the street art and visit a distillery.
6. Go on a Newcastle sight seeing cruise
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Newcastle, 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, history and see many attractions from the boat.
7. Go to best yoga in Newcastle Infuse Health
Our absolute favourite place in Newcastle is Infuse Health. It’s an Iyengar yoga and movement studio (the one where you use props) 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. 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 0ver 75 FYI!).
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, walk or bike ride along the beach from Merewether Ocean Baths to the Breakwall, and finish up back up Bar Beach for yoga and a swim while taking in the stunning views year round.
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. 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.
This is the time we truely appreciate how wonderful it is to live in Newcastle.
9. Sunset walk down to The Break Wall
If you’re looking for things to do in Newcastle, go out for a sunset scenic 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 water and all around serenity of the place. We often go for a sunset walk here which is stunning and easily one of the best walking trails around.
10. Cycle or run along the Fernleigh Track
If you’re looking for outdoor activities, you can go wrong with the Fernleigh Track. It’s one of the best things to do in Newcastle which has fantastic walking trails but is also great for running and cycling too. 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 two 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.
11. Go to The Regal Cinema in Newcastle (temporarily closed)
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 and probably one of the best in New South Wales.
Run by volunteers and only open on weekends, The Regal Cinema is like no other. When you walk in, it looks like an authentic old Australian cinema which is basically located inside a community hall. It’s decked out in a lovely kitsch way.
At the time of writing, tickets cost us just $8 and this is what was included:
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.
12. Check out the Bogey Hole
The Bogey Hole is an iconic ocean baths in Newcastle that you have to visit. 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, without realising it was there.
13. Go for a swim at Dudley Beach
Dudley Beach is one of the best beaches in Newcastle! It’s kinda mad to think that there are wild and rugged beaches like this, 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 it will definitely make you feel like you could be in a National Park!
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 here with a cafe and toilets.
14. Check out Newcastle Art Gallery
We used to go to Newcastle Library to work remotely from, 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 as they have some special exhibitions on from time to time.
15. Sunrise at Merewether Baths
Get up for sunrise at the famous Merewether Baths, because it sure is special here! 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!
Interestingly, it’s mind boggling to think that just around the corner from Merewether is Glen State park, completely rugged and untouched beaches.
16. Go for a hike or bike ride in Glenrock State Conservation Area
As mentioned above Glenrock is a brilliant park to explore the great outdoors. 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 golden beaches to pass by whether you’re hiking or cycling through it. And that said, there are some fantastic mountain biking trails here to be done too.
17. Find the fairy garden in Newcastle
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 located in Broadmeadow on Australia Road near the Newcastle Showground.
18. 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.
19. Go for a walk at Blackbutt Reserve
Blackbutt Reserve is a bit like a wildlife park in the middle of Newcastle. You can get up close to loads of Australian animals and even participate in the feeding times for wombats, bird brunch, koalas and more!
20. Find the caves at Caves Beach
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.
21. 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.
22. Shop on Darby Street
Darby Street is known for its 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. There’s some great independent shops on Darby Street and some of our favourites include Abicus and Blackbird Corner.
23. Get amongst the trees at TreeTops
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). If you’ve not been to a Teetops before, then you must! We’ve been to one and it was awesome!
24. Discover the beautiful Susan Gilmore beach
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 at low tide. It’s absolutely beautiful and one of our favourites!
25. Visit the Hunter Valley
Although it’s an obvious one, make sure you check out our Best Thing To Do In Hunter Valley guide as we’ve found some awesome, affordable restaurants and cafes as well as fun activities 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.
Prefer to visit Hunter Valley from Sydney instead? Book this tour from Sydney directly to the Hunter Valley which includes three vineyards, lunch as well as transfers, which is one of the best guided tours to see everything.
26. Have fun in Port Stephens
Port Stephens is an awesome getaway from Sydney, especially if you have kids, making it one of the best things to do in Newcastle, even if it is a day trip. There’s so much going on there but our main highlight is you must book this sand boarding tour on the South Hemisphere’s largest sand dunes!
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!). Check out our popular Things To Do In Port Stephens Guide before you go as it’s jammed packed with how to see everything.
27. Head up to Seal Rocks to get away from it all
If you’re spending a good few days in the area and looking for more things to do in Newcastle, I 100% recommend heading up to Seal Rocks. Located just under a 2hr drive away, it’s the perfect distance for either a day trip or a weekend getaway (even from Sydney too).
Seal Rocks is a stunning place, complete with campgrounds on the beach with not much else around. There’s a little shop to buy an essentials, but apart from that, you’re literally away from it all. Check out our Reasons To Visit Seal Rocks guide, and make sure you visit the nearby Bluey’s Beach in Pacific Palms as well – heaven!
Wondering where to stay in Newcastle? Here’s our ultimate guide!