North Coast, NSW

Top things to do in Newcastle NSW

By Rosie Stevens

September 11, 2020 | 4 minute read

Newcastle Art Gallery
Newcastle Art Gallery

With 2020 being all about local travel, many people are looking at potential destinations for a good, old-fashioned weekend away (cue Hallelujah chorus). If you’re based in Sydney, Newcastle is well worth a look—located just 2 hours drive north of the CBD. 

Bursting with beaches, outdoor adventures, rich architecture, culture, plenty of places to eat and drink and a burgeoning arts scene, it’s safe to say that Newcastle has a lot to offer its visitors. Here are our picks for things to keep you busy.

* At the time of writing, the activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.

Beaches

Despite offering so much in terms of art and culture, Newcastle is essentially a beach town at heart, and there’s no shortage of golden sandy stretches to choose from. Nobby’s Beach is perhaps the most well-known, popular with families and surfers alike. Mereweather is another popular choice—with surrounding cafes offering an idyllic spot to enjoy your morning coffee with a newspaper or simply drink in the charming coastal view.  

Newcastle Beach is close to many of the city’s popular hotels and Newcastle Mall, giving it a real beach in the heart of the city vibe—and it’s a popular surf spot, too. Bar Beach is one of our favourites; boasting jaw-dropping views into Mereweather and beyond and home to plenty of rock pools that are ripe for exploring. 

Coastal Walks 

The ANZAC Memorial Walk is one of Newcastle’s most popular attractions; a picturesque 450m long bridge and boardwalk, dedicated to the memory of fallen soldiers from World War I. The memorial walk starts between Bar Beach and King Edward Park, and it leads into the Bathers Way walk, which is known by locals as the Newcastle equivalent of the Bondi to Coogee walk in Sydney. 

The 6 km-long Bathers Way walk takes you from Nobby’s Head Lighthouse to the Mereweather Ocean Baths and provides access to all the beaches along this gorgeous stretch of coast, as well as viewing platforms, seating and shade dotted along the path.

The Bogey Hole

A must-see attraction on the Newcastle coastline, the Bogey Hole in the beautiful King Edward Park is one of the most iconic and instagrammable sights in the region. The Bogey Hole was hand-hewn out of a wave cut rock platform by convicts for Major James Morisset, in 1819 for his personal use and is known as the oldest ocean pool on the east coast. We couldn’t recommend taking a dip here highly enough!

Nature Attractions

Home to some unmissable natural attractions, Newcastle really does offer the best of both worlds—a city that treats its visitors to culture, beaches and plenty of natural delights. Located just 8km out of Newcastle, Blackbutt Reserve occupies over 182 hectares of natural bushland, boasting nature trails, playgrounds, wildlife exhibits and more. And if that wasn’t enough, just 10 minutes from the CBD you’ll find Glenrock State Conservation Area—where mountain bike trails and plenty of bushwalking trails await.

Newcastle Museum
Newcastle Museum

Newcastle Museum

Situated in the historic Honeysuckle Railway workshops, Newcastle Museum lies at the heart of the city. Through 3 permanent exhibitions, the museum brings to life narratives of Australian history, showcasing the natural environment, early Aboriginal life and Newcastle’s own history, alongside temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Entry is free and it’s well worth a visit!

Fort Scratchley

A former coastal defence installation, Fort Scratchley in Newcastle East was built in 1882 to defend the city against possible Russian attack and is now a museum showcasing tunnel tours, gun firings, special events and more. And if brushing up on your history wasn’t reason enough to entice you into a visit to Fort Scratchley, the view just might. Situated at the entrance to the Hunter River, the fort occupies one of the most stunning vantage points Newcastle has to offer.

Culture

If art is your thing, you’ll definitely get your fill in Newcastle. The Newcastle Art Gallery is recognised as one of the best in the country and is home to a dynamic range of exhibitions, curations and events for locals and visitors alike. Another must-visit on the culture circuit is The Lock-Up—an award-winning independent arts space and veritable hive of creativity within the city. The program includes contemporary art exhibitions, events, site-specific installation and performances, residencies, creative talks, workshops and more.

Lastly…

Now, let us guess—hungry, thirsty and wanting to while away an afternoon soaking up the city’s shopping scene? Check out our guide to the best places to eat, drink and shop in Newcastle.

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The Weekender's travel guides are independently written by real travellers. We do not receive any money from, or have a sponsorship arrangement with, any of the entities listed in or referred to in this article.