This is a three-day tour of Newcastle. Each day is balanced with a trip to a site of historical or cultural interest, and a visit to one of Newcastle's beautiful beaches. Being the second oldest city in the country, Newcastle has some fascinating architecture, and with over 30 parks just in the inner urban precinct, it’s one of the leafiest metropolitan spaces in Australia.
While this tour is best done in a sunny week, wet weather alternatives are given in each section. The itinerary allows extra time if you prefer to do it by on foot but is geared towards hiring a bike. If you haven’t cycled since you were a kid, be brave! You’ll pick it up again in no time! It’s just like riding a… well, you know… You can skip the big hills if necessary, but I promise the view will repay your efforts.
Of course one of the main features of Newcastle is its stunning coastline. Those coming to Newy for the waves can hire surfboards at various locations (see appendix), and be reassured by our vigilant life-guards and shark nets in the flagged areas of the beach. If you’re not confident in the sea, however, you can swim at the unique ocean baths in Merewether or Newcastle East, or just wade in the rock pools and watch for dolphins.
Whatever the weather, there is plenty to see and do in the city of Newcastle and its surroundings. If you're on a shoestring budget, it’s possible to do this tour on less than $20 per day as many of the cultural sites are donation based (also see the ‘cheap eats’ options at each mealtime). Travellers happy to spend a little more will enjoy the cafes, restaurants, and drinking options provided, while those with a generous budget can splurge on the fine dining possibilities Newcastle has to offer – you'll love the craft beer venues and pop-up wine bars.
The city of Newcastle is two hours' drive from Sydney. The train takes an extra half hour, but the trip goes via the hauntingly majestic waterways of the Hawkesbury River and the Central Coast. Many cruise ships dock here for just a day – if this is the case with you, pick which day of the itinerary you’d like to complete. For those with just one day in Newcastle, I recommend doing the first 5 sections of Day 2, then sections 3 – 7 of Day 1, in order to see the crucial sites yet stay close to the harbour.
The best of Newcastle’s nooks and crannies are highlighted in this itinerary. If you’re able to stay longer than three days, be sure to check out the appendix for adventures further afield. With the highest number of artists per capita, Newcastle is Australia’s most creative city, with an energetic vibe, unique art galleries and shopping precincts, and a strong nightlife and music scene. Novocastrians – as we call ourselves – have a friendliness you might miss in Sydney. The pace is laid back, and the coffee’s damn good. Enjoy - and don't forget your sunscreen.