Newcastle in Australia, like Liverpool in England, is an industrial city trying to reinvent its self now that the industrial age is over, and like Liverpool there is a lot to do if you are willing to give it another chance.
I went up there recently to visit a friend but only had 24 hours to cram in as much as possible so here’s what you can get up to:
ARRIVE: By train as it’s really cheap from Sydney – only $8 and the station is a beautiful old building right in the heart of town
DINNER: We head to Zinc, a modern Australian place that serves both Tapas and Pizza. We had pumpkin arancini Balls, Olives and bread, prawn Garlic Pot and a Vegetarian Pizza… we had to waddle home! The pizza was definitely the highlight of the meal – the perfect ratio of toppings to cheese (the only way to judge pizza). The crust was plentiful, being dohey on the inside and crispy on the base. But I am no food critic so let me just say that it was scrumptious and the service splendid!
HEADING OUT or STAYING IN: On the way home there was an incident where an owl (we assume as it had feathers…) flew at my friends face, she squealed and jumped out-of-the-way just in time for it to catch a flying insect. The balcony to the left of us roared with laughter, a woman in a giant green fancy dress peacock outfit called out to us.
“Wow that was a huge bird thing – want to come up and have a drink” That is the nature of people in Newcastle, they help random strangers recover after they have been attacked by birds.
An hour later we said goodbye to our new friends who were all dressed in odd assortments found in op-shops and headed home to gossip on my friends balcony overlooking the bushland. As I lay in bed the honking of the giant ships heading out to sea sent me into pleasant dreams about rollicking waves and jolly pirates.
BREAKFAST: My friend takes me to one of her favorite spots “Cause you can see the sea” for breakfast – Liquid Gold. It was reasonably priced with five-star views overlooking the beach munching on bacon I watched several surfers take on the Newcastle waves.
WHAT TO DO: Everything in Newcastle’s CBD is in walking distance so that is what we did. We walked down to the main shopping promenade and stuck our noses into several antique shops… I don’t know anything about antiques but I like the feel of antique shops. They always remind me of children’s stories like Narnia or Alice in Wonderland. Slowly we looked through several of Newcastle’s little galleries and boutiques. In the old David Jones building is a temporary makeshift collection of boutiques. Newcastle as a university town has a hip and fashionable culture giving hours of enjoyment shopping.
LUNCH: Head towards the harbor to lounge about on the grass watching the big ships come in and out. A great place for lunch is Harry’s Pies, serving particularly tasty pies and watching big ships – this is the epitome of Newcastle.
MORE TO DO: Go to the beach – of course! I like the two big beaches near the heart of town as I feel that there is a great atmosphere there with the swimming pools, lighthouse and awesome surf. However, there are plenty of other beaches that are just if not more amazing littered around Newcastle – just grab the closest local to you and ask them what their favorite beach is – guarantee you won’t regret it.
AFTERNOON BREAK: Although there are many great pubs in Newcastle I was disappointed by the lack of a good old-fashioned Australian pub with out-door seating and a relaxed atmosphere along Darby St (the main thoroughfare). There was one giant monstrosity of a pub that looked more like a club than a pub, and another that had a great look but when you got up close you saw the sign with very limiting dress code – how can you have a nice relaxing cider in the afternoon when you are all dressed up, no thanks.
Instead head down to the water front – there are loads of great bars and restaurants like The Brewery, that offer a great atmosphere and are not to finicky about what you are wearing as you enjoy a nice bottle of red and some fries in the afternoon sun.
DINNER and DRINKS: This was quickly turning into a visit dominated by food! For dinner we headed to Bar Petite, however, we got there rather late (due to general girlie faffing about with lipstick colours) and all of the major ingredients of the food we tried to order had sold out. Must be said though that their arancini balls were amazing!
Now a standard night out in Newcastle involves going to a cool hip bar, drinking cocktails and then at some pointed ending up at Finigans (I think every city has a Finigans, in Canberra its Moose Heads and in the Eastern Suburbs it’s the Coogee Bay Hotel – hope that paints a picture).
However, for something a little different we headed out to Hamilton to a pub called the Station. This was real Newcastle full of tradies, hen’s parties, uni students, and 50-birthday party’s all singing karaoke. Spending the evening people watching while sipping ciders and laughing at outrageous karaoke is the best way to end a trip in Newcastle.
Definitely recommend a visit!