Newcastle is undergoing a transformation and the word about its award-winning restaurants, popular art precincts, ideal surfing conditions and regular food and music festivals is getting out.
There is a new light rail line and a multi-modal transport interchange as part of the Revitalising Newcastle program and while there is some disruption due to the light rail construction but don’t let that stop you visiting, Newcastle remains open for business.
This easy guide is to designed to help you make the most of your time in Newcastle and the Hunter.
1. Tuck into breakfast at Mockingbird Café
Mockingbird Cafe in Beaumont Street is fast becoming a favourite breakfast spot for locals and visitors alike. Here you’ll find a menu that contains all kinds of tasty breakfast options including velvet pancakes, generous poke bowls, giant portobello mushrooms and an extensive selection of juices and drinks.
If you’re extra hungry, make sure you order their signature pork croquettes – it’s one of the most popular dishes on the menu.
- Where: Mockingbird Cafe, 131 Beaumont St, Hamilton
- Hours: Open 7 days a week 7.30am until 3pm
- Getting there: From Hamilton Station walk 10 minutes down Beaumont Street
- More info: facebook.com/mockingbird.thecafe
2. Explore the interactive exhibitions at Newcastle Museum
The award winning museum is home to a variety of permanent and special exhibitions that will entertain and enthrall the whole family.
With a wide range of events throughout the year, it’s best to check ahead to see what’s coming up. Some of the biggest shows are often scheduled during the school holiday period, so it’s a great day out of the whole family.
One of the most popular is the permanent exhibitions however, is titled Supernova. Here you’re encouraged to investigate the fascinating world of science. Try your hand and making your own tornado, play within a magnetic field and find out just how strong magnets can really be.
There’s also the Fire and Earth presentation which showcases the dramatic steel making process, in a lively audiovisual show. Here’s a little preview of what you can expect.
Best of all, visiting these general exhibitions is completely free no matter how old you are. It’s just one of the many reasons why a trip to the Newcastle Museum should be high on your list of things to do.
- Where: Newcastle Museum, 6 Workshop Way, Newcastle
- Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm
- Getting there: From Newcastle Interchange take the 110 city shuttle bus to the Maritime Museum stop at Honeysuckle Drive, and then walk 160 metres to Newcastle Museum on Worksop way (travel time 10 minutes).
- More info: newcastlemuseum.com.au
3. Be inspired at the Newcastle Art Gallery
The Newcastle Art Gallery is home to an impressive 6,200 works of art spanning a whole range of eras and mediums many of which are from the region itself.
Newcastle has long and rich association with the arts, in fact iconic artists William Dobell, John Olsen, William Rose and Tom Gleghorn were all born in the area and went on to become household names in the Australian art world. Newcastle’s pristine beaches, unique architecture and expansive harbour have provided inspiration for hundreds of artists over the years.
Admission to the gallery is free, although some special exhibitions and events may incur a small charge. The gallery is also located in the heart of Newcastle’s popular coffee and dining district. After you’ve finished your visit and worked up an appetite, take some time to explore the area around Darby St for some great restaurants and cafes.
- Where: Newcastle Art Gallery, 1 Laman Street Newcastle
- Hours: Open from 10am until 5pm Tuesday to Sunday
- Getting there: From Newcastle Interchange take the 11 bus to King Street after Union Street and walk 260 metres to the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery on Laman Street.
- More info: nag.org.au/Exhibitionst
4. Grab a tasty lunch at Lulus Café
Located just a short walk from Newcastle Museum is Lulu’s Cafe on Crown Street. Famous for its Poke Bowls, you’ll find plenty of healthy options that are not only good for you but taste great too.
For the best experience, order at the counter and then grab a table outside in the shade – it’s the perfect spot to have a lazy lunch over the weekend.
- Where: Lulu’s Cafe 3/5 Crown St, Newcastle
- Hours: Open 7 days a week from 7.30am until 3pm
- Getting there: From the Newcastle Interchange take the B110 bus service for 5 stops and hop off at King St at Perkins St. Then walk 2 minutes to Lulu’s Cafe. Total travel time 17 minutes.
- More info: facebook.com/lulus.cafe.poke/menu
5. Step into the cockpit of a Fighter Jet at the Fighter World Aviation Museum
Located in Williamtown is Fighter World, an large aviation museum dedicated to preserving the famous RAAF fighter aircraft. But what makes it so much fun is your ability to get up close and personal with the jets themselves. You can even sit in the cockpit and image yourself up in the air avoiding enemy fire.
First opening in the early 1980s, the museum has gone on to become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. You’ll find 19 aircraft on display, including including a replica of the Messerschmitt BF109F a German fighter aircraft from World War II.
Two of the most popular aircraft on display are the CAC CA27 Avon Sabre with its sleek design and the camouflaged F-111C fight jet.
The people of Newcastle and the Hunter have a long association with these aircraft and their crews. The Fight World Museum is a fitting way to understand the historical significance that these aircraft played in the defence of Australia.
- Where: Fighter World 49 Medowie Rd, Williamtown
- Hours: Open 7 days a week from 10am until 4pm
- Getting there: From Waratah Train Station walk 11 minutes to Maitland Rd before Hanbury Street and catch the B131 Fingal Bay bus. Hop off at Nelson Bay Road (21st stop) and walk 650M to Fighter World. Total travel time is 38 minutes.
- More info: fighterworld.com.au
6. Say hello to the Koala’s at Blackbutt Nature Reserve
Spanning an impressive 182 hectares of natural surrounds, Blackbutt Nature Reserve is a great spot to go for a bush walk, explore a nature trail or take the family to see the wildlife exhibits.
The Grey-headed flying fox is listed as a vulnerable species in New South Wales, but safely housed within the rainforest you’ll find 15,000 of them hanging about. There are three species of large nectar and fruit eating bats that call Blackbutt rainforest their home. In addition to the Grey-headed flying fox there is also a Black flying fox and a Red flying fox.
Also located within the expansive reserve is a playground, various picnic shelters (it’s worth booking these ahead) and BBQ grills which are ideal for those long summer days. Although small, the Blackbutt Kiosk offers cold drinks, tea, coffee and small gifts and souvenirs on site. Entry is free.
- Where: Blackbutt Nature Reserve, Carnley Ave, Kotara
- Hours: Open 7 days a week from 7am until 7pm
- Getting there: From Kotara Station walk for 15 minutes (1.1km) along Carnley Avenue into the Blackbutt Nature Reserve.
- More info: newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Blackbutt-Reserve/
7. Cool off in the famous Merewether Ocean Baths
Whether you need to cool off on a hot summers afternoon or need a refreshing start to your day, a trip the popular Merewether Baths is highly recommended. These ocean baths were first opened in 1935, providing a safe place to swim free from strong currents and dangerous rips. The view is spectacular too.
There’s often a lifeguard available although their hours can vary depending on the time of year. Just remember to pack a towel and some sunscreen!
- Where: Merewether Ocean Baths, 5 Henderson Parade, Merewether
- Hours: Open weekdays 8.30am until 5pm
- Getting there: From the Newcastle Interchange walk 2 minutes and catch the B12 Merewether bus at Hunter St at Cooper St. Hop off after 12 spots on Watkins Street and walk 500m down to the baths. Total travel time 28 minutes.
- More info: newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Ocean-baths
8. Enjoy dinner at Nagisa Japanese Restaurant
After a long day exploring the best of Newcastle and the Hunter, why not head to Nagisa for dinner? Here you’ll find popular Japanese dishes with a modern twist, housed in a casual eatery with draped walls and minimalist decor. Expect to pay around $16 for most dishes, although you might find the tasting banquet better value.
Expect a lot of hustle and bustle here on Friday and Saturday nights, so take our advice and skip the wait by booking a few days ahead.
- Where: Nagisa Japanese Restaurant, N2/1 Honeysuckle Dr, Newcastle
- Hours: Open 7 days week fro 11.30am until 9.30pm (3pm on Sunday)
- Getting there: From the Newcastle Interchange take the B110 Custom House bus for 2 stops before getting off at the Newcastle Maritime Museum. Nagisa is just next door along the Honeysuckle Boardwalk. Total travel time is 11 minutes.
- More info: nagisa.com.au