There are lots of things to do in Newcastle but it isn’t exactly a popular city in Australia. At least not for most foreigners. I myself had my doubts when I decided to go there for studying abroad. I really had no idea what was in Newcastle but when my advisor from the international student placement service told me that the University of Newcastle is ranked in top 250 world’s universities and it’s only three hours away from Sydney, I was sold.
So for about five months, I had a chance to discover Newcastle and really get to know the city. Let me just say, I did not regret coming and staying there. The city itself is not big and you don’t need weeks to explore everything. So if I were to have only a few hours or a day In Newcastle, These are the things I would definitely try not to miss.
Newcastle Memorial Walk
This really is a must-do in Newcastle. The walkway was built to commemorate the ANZAC soldiers who fought in the WWI. So aside from learning a little bit of Newcastle history, I got to enjoy incredible views both of the beaches surrounding Newy and the city itself! It could be a long 6 kilometers coastal walk, stretching from Nobbys Beach to Merewether Ocean Baths. But if you decide to walk along from start to finish, it will be worth it. Note: Try to come here a bit early or any time when it is not scorchingly hot, I learned my lesson the hard way.
Looking for food?
You could head to 3 monkeys (many of my local friends rave about this café and for a good reason!) for breakfast or lunch. They have a great menu with lots of healthy choices but my favorites are the thickshakes and eggs benedict. Another recommendation, if after the walk you ended up at Bar Beach, walk less than 15 minutes to Doughheads at Union St for some heavenly doughnuts. I’m talking about the kinds of doughnut that’s fully filled with Nutella or topped with real chunks of cookie dough here (Trust me they don’t stop there. There are many more tasty flavors and also some doughnuts are low in gluten), can’t say no!!
Pics with Australian wildlife animals or you haven’t been to Australia, right? Good news, it’s one of the things you can do here in Newcastle. At Blackbutt Reserve, under the natural rainforest, you can see all the animals from wombat, koala to kangaroos, and a lot of various kinds of birds while enjoying the nature trails and walks. The entrance and exhibitions of wildlife animals are free but you have to purchase a ticket if you want to see the animal shows. Personally, I’d skip the show but don’t miss out on hand feeding these animals yourself! You can see the schedule and information here. If you love animals, you should come here because the best part of Blackbutt Reserve are interacting and looking at these cute animals (especially the sleeping koala, I can’t!) while learning a lot about Australian flora and fauna.
Looking for food?
Blackbutt Reserve has a picnic and BBQ area. When I visited, I was there for an international students meetup so we kind of brought our own food there to eat together. I would suggest to have a picnic here, pack your lunch or snack and just savor it while looking at the beautiful greenery. But if you want to eat outside the site, there is a mall nearby with any kind of food you can imagine. I have two favorite places to eat in Westfield Kotara though (coincidentally, they’re both Mexican) which are Cantina de Mad Mex with their irresistible enchilada burrito (LOVE!) and San Churro Chocolateria for dessert because who can turn down a churro bowl? (plus, the chocolate sauce is to die for!)
I have never been to any ocean bath in my life. So swimming in Bogey Hole was definitely one of the best things to do in Newcastle for me. Swimming in a pool just right next to the ocean? Hell yes! the view and the experience are unbelievably amazing. Bogey Hole is a rock pool right on the cliff of the ocean. You can access it from King Edwards Park and there is going to be a stair that leads you right down to the pool. Be wary of the harsh ocean waves crashing into the rock of the pool!
Looking for food?
After dipping for a swim at Bogey Hole I had my flavorful smashed avocado on toasted bread at East End Hub. The location of Bogey Hole is actually near the Newcastle Memorial Walk. So you can walk to Darby St (Which is a street full of places to eat) where 3 Monkeys at and maybe try other restaurants and cafe there!
Newcastle museum offers all you need to know about Newcastle history in a fun way! Have you had any grumpy ghostly man named Harry told you how to make a steel? No? Well, Newcastle is known for its steel industry. So the museum has an exhibition that they named Fire and Earth, which is an audiovisual simulation of the steelmaking production. The presentation is dramatic, loud, entertainingly funny yet very educative.
Another exhibition that I enjoyed too was the Supernova Exhibition which is a hands-on science center (HAHA it’s confirmed, I’m a nerd). The exhibitions are so interactive, It involves visitors to participate in playing games or following instructions. I have to admit I had way too much fun here, I did things from trying to make my own tornado to spinning coins. Yep, so if you have time to do this then do it but I’d still just go here for the stories of the history. If you love absorbing knowledge and culture of a place like a sponge then go to the museum!
Looking for food?
So the museum is located at Honeysuckle St and you can see that the Hunter River is not far from there. There are many cafe and restaurants along this street with the view of the river like Nagisa if you’re craving for Japanese food or The Dockyard if you want to chill and have drinks (They also have pub foods) on the harborside.
But if you’re on the hunt for good healthy foods then walk to the Hunter St, which is less than 5 minutes walk from the museum to the Blue Door Cafe. This place is also highly praised by many of my local friends and I agree with them. The foods are yummy and the atmosphere is great! I especially love their acai bowl with veganola and their superb coffee. (P.s. Shout out to my Indonesian fellows in Newcastle, they have nasi goreng and tempeh for breakfast!!!) Now for dessert or if you just want an ice cream (like I always do), just 8 minutes walk from the museum, there is Popolo Artisan Gelateria that serves handmade gelato. If you prefer it they also have gluten-free cones and vegan options! (Try the Stracciatella, my god!)
Newcastle Farmers Market
If you happen to be in Newcastle on a Sunday, start your morning by coming here. Visit the market if you want to experience the culture because this is definitely one of the ways you can do it. The market opens only on Sunday from 7 am to 1 pm, you can check the schedule to be certain. Here they sell 100% local products from Newcastle and the farmers or the makers are mostly very generous and friendly. Trust me, it will be a delightful morning for you. You can shop for the freshest fruits and vegetables, good boutique wines, meats or cheese, soap, really anything you can think of. There will also be a lot of food stalls where you can get your delicious coffee and breakfast or lunch from. When I visited, there was a jazz musician there playing all morning so there will be some entertainments there too. Overall the vibes and the people are just fantastic. So if you’re lucky enough to be there on a Sunday, DO IT!
There you go, those are the 5 things to do in Newcastle that I recommend if you find yourself there. Oh by the way, did I mention, it’s all free! no money required to do all these things! Now if you have more than a day or two here are the things you can also check out:
- Fort Scartchley
- Nobbys Lighthouse
- Hunter Valley: Wine Tasting Tour
- Lake Macquarie
- Swim with dolphins in Port Stephens
Have you been to Newy? What are your favorite things to do in Newcastle?
Let me know in the comments!