First-timer's guide to Newcastle
First of all – welcome! It’s fantastic that you’ve decided to visit this wonderful city of ours. We know you’ll love it as much as we do, and to help you have THE best time possible, we’ve put together this first-timer’s guide to Newcastle.
Morning Swim in Ocean Baths
The perfect way to start the day! Newcastle has two iconic ocean baths, at Newcastle Beach and Merewether Beach, both of which date back to the early 1900s. Jump in for an energetic start to the day, and enjoy the spectacular views while you do.
Must see: The Art Deco bathing pavilion at Newcastle Ocean Baths.
Must do: The morning swim. It’s a Newcastle tradition.
Must Insta: The view from Newcastle Baths, or the iconic lane numbers at Merewether.
Stroll along the Bathers Way
Bathers Way runs for 6km along the coastline, from Nobbys Headland to the Glenrock Reserve, and it’s the best way to appreciate the array of beaches and spectacular views Newcastle has to offer. A perfect place to run or cycle too, if it’s your first time we recommend you take it easy and savour the view!
Must see: Dolphins! Keep your eyes peeled, and you could be lucky (from June to November, keep an eye out for humpback whales as they migrate for the season).
Must do: Join the locals and stop for coffee or refreshments at one of the beachfront coffee kiosks or surf clubs along the way.
Must Insta: The ‘Amazing Merewether Aquarium’. Keep your eyes peeled … just behind Merewether surf club, this pop-art underwater world by local artist Trevor Dickinson is colourful, imaginative and full of detail!
Walk the Anzac Memorial Bridge
A breathtaking piece of architecture that pays tribute to the Anzacs, the Anzac Memorial Walk is located at the Strzelecki Lookout and is part of Bathers Way. Offering 360-degree views of the city, Pacific Ocean and all the way to the Hunter Valley, the 450m bridge is a remarkable tribute to the people of the Hunter region and has quickly become a focal point for locals and visitors alike.
Must see: The steel silhouettes. Spectacularly haunting.
Must do: Take time to read the inscriptions that detail information of the war.
Must Insta: The steel silhouettes of soldiers against a backdrop of the ocean.
Take a trip back in time at the Museum
The Newcastle Museum at Honeysuckle is a favourite among locals and visitors alike. The permanent exhibitions about the city’s rich history are complemented by the permanent science centre, Supernova, while visiting exhibits ensure there’s always something new to see.
Must see: The Fire and Earth exhibition – travel back in time to celebrate Newcastle’s rich ‘steel city’ heritage, and get a near-life experience of what it was like to work in the city’s steel and coal industries.
Must do: Take a walk around the Newcastle Story exhibition, celebrating the people and events that shaped the city.
Must Insta: The iconic ‘Most Attractive Couple in Newcastle’ street art on the Museum wall, created by adopted Novocastrian Trevor Dickinson.
Soak up some culture at the Art Gallery
The Newcastle Art Gallery houses over 6000 works of art, and has the perfect mix of permanent and visiting exhibitions. Check the website ahead of your visit for upcoming events and exhibitions.
Must see: The stunning ceiling painting, The Sea Sun of 5 Bells by John Olsen. Eyes up!
Must do: Remember to take a walk around the Sculpture Garden – home to seven sculptures from local and national artists.
Must Insta: Black Totem II, one of only two large sculptures ever produced by the late Australian artist, Brett Whiteley, which stands 11m high in the gallery forecourt.
Enjoy a piece of history
Newcastle has a rich history, and there’s so much to see, explore and learn. Visit Fort Scratchley, which kept the city and its people safe during war, The Lock-Up – the gaol turned art space, the Convict Lumber Yard, Nobbys Lighthouse, Newcastle Museum and the Anzac Memorial Walk for a glimpse into Newcastle’s past.
Must see: The 360-degree views of the city, harbour and Nobbys Headland from the top of Fort Scratchley.
Must do: Book a tour to explore the underground tunnels at Fort Scratchley.
Must Insta: The haunting inscriptions on the walls of the former cells in the Lock-Up.
Get up close and personal with nature
For a close-by escape from the city head to Blackbutt Reserve. A beautiful nature reserve with rainforest walks, animal displays, barbecues and play areas, it’s a great place to get away from city life – while you’re still in the city!
Must see: The wallabies and the emus – up close.
Must do: Take a rainforest bushwalk – there are around 16km of tracks to explore.
Must Insta: Feeding an emu – capture the fun!
Go shopping on Darby Street
Home to over 100 independent boutiques, Darby Street is a treasure trove of artisan products, quirky fashion and homewares, in fact, all manner of interesting gifts and products. It’s also a haven for food, coffee, chocolate and craft beer too!
Must see: At least two Australian designers have their flagship store on Darby Street. Pop in and say ‘Hi’!
Must do: Refuel at one of the many cosy, quirky and delicious restaurants, coffee shops or bars along the way.
Must Insta: The street art in the laneway next to 137 Darby Street.
Take in Honeysuckle
With spectacular harbour views, Honeysuckle is a destination in its own right. Honeysuckle brings together the perfect combination of accommodation, restaurants, bars, and businesses. Take a stroll along the foreshore, and keep going towards Nobbys Lighthouse.
Must see: The Mercantile Marine Memorial, honouring the many merchant mariners who lost their lives during war.
Must do: Stop for coffee and enjoy the view!
Must Insta: The view towards the lighthouse, or the Stockton ferry.
Catch a show at the Civic
The Civic Theatre is our premier performance venue, and was built in 1929, designed by one of Australia’s most prolific theatre architects, Henry Eli White. The Baroque-style interior provides a beautiful backdrop to the many theatre productions and shows that take place here every week, so taking in a show is a must. Check out what's on.
Must see: Whatever’s showing when you visit!
Must do: Enjoy pre-show drinks and a bite to eat at Civic Digest.
Must Insta: The stunning architecture inside the theatre. The detail in the design is breathtaking.