Is it seriously only February? Hands up who else already needs a holiday? Don’t fret, petal, because a break from reality doesn’t need to mean vaccinations and your passport, it can mean packing up your car and heading up the coast to the latest culture hub in NSW. Yup, Newcastle.
Especially if you plan to attend Surfest, and you do, because the weather will be bloody beaut and there will be hundreds and the town will be buzzing. And because you’ll get to see some of the best surfers in the country shred a wave like nothing you’ve ever seen. And then you will be inspired to take up surfing and take over the world yourself.
Surfest runs until 28th February, and you can check out the full program here. If you’re a super surfer keen bean (or just like to watch), maybe you should check out the Australian Bowl Riding Championships which also runs till 28th February.
…Or am I getting ahead of myself? Either way, here are just a few awesome places to visit in Newcastle.
Cafes and Restaurants
How do you like your food? Smoked? Cured? Pickled? If you ticked any (or all) of those boxes with a big, fat, red pen, then Bowery Boys is the place for you. The guys behind this awesome Newcastle restaurant focus on deliciously fresh, seasonal produce that will have you going ‘mmmm’ while nodding like an obnoxious kid in a Chicken Tonight ad, but this time you’ll actually mean it. The chef hails from epic Sydney restaurants such as Buffalo Dining, Chester White, and Table for 20, so you just know it’s going to blow you (and your city tastes) away.
There are two hatted restaurants in Newcastle, and Restaurant Mason is one of them. Which is extremely exciting because the regional dining scene in Australia is finally getting the attention it deserves. These guys take a relaxed approach to fine dining, and my goodness they do it well, with a French-British-slightly-Asian-influenced menu that sounds like a Jolie-Pitt, kid but definitely works in their favour.
For the #cleaneaters out there, it’s go to be the epic Blue Door café. Especially if you’ve gone to check out Surfest and got inspired by the athletes around you. Open for breakfast and lunch, Blue Door is full of colourful, fresh, and 100 per cent ‘grammable dishes that will inspire you to make them at home… Before giving up and returning to Newcastle for round two.
Remember when I said there were two hatted restaurants in Newcastle? This is the other one, and it’s perfect for that Newcastle romantic dinner you’ve been meaning to do for months. Subo is intimate but has a casual vibe in a contemporary bistro setting, so you can relax into romance or just a good old catch up. The five-course set menu changes every six weeks, so you know you’re going to get some of the best seasonal produce around.
Bars and Pubs
The Lucky Hotel
If you’ve been to Newcastle in the past, no doubt you’ve heard of The Lucky Hotel, which underwent a major renovation in 2014 and now looks nothing short of completely schmick and generally awesome. It’s hip without being hipster (the holy grail), and contains a boutique hotel. Hell, the restaurant even has an American BBQ-inspired menu, so it is exactly the type of thing you want after a day in the waves.
Red Baron’s Berlin Bar
Inspired by another part of the world, but still no less awesome, is Red Baron’s Berlin Bar, which takes a 1920s art-deco interior and German themed menu and mashes them together to create a downright epic bar. This is the place to be if you want amazing cocktails in Newcastle, especially those of the whisky variety. When hunger calls, a European-inspired menu will give you a taste of the world in Newcastle.
The Terrace Bar
How could we forget this guy? The first small bar in Newcastle, Terrace Bar started it all. And thank goodness because as you have no doubt been convinced so far, Newcastle is the place to be. You can get your fix of live music, drinks, and a bit of art if you want to add some culture into your Newcastle itinerary. It’s the perfect place to go when you don’t want the night to end.
Papa’s Bagel Bar
One of the newest additions to the Newcastle food scene, Papa’s Bagel Bar is the perfect place to grab a delicious cup of coffee and one of the best bagels you’ve ever eaten. And when I say that, I mean it. These guys have a French toast bagel with crispy bacon, for crying out loud. There’s also an eggs benny bagel for those that like to go full savoury.
Things to do
ANZAC Memorial Walk
You’ve got to burn off all that eating and drinking, right? Right. This incredible coastal walk is just 450 metres long (so not too much if you’re feeling lazy but need to do something) and offers 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean for you to marvel at.
Yep, you heard me. I’m going to distract you from the beach for a min and advise you to visit the iconic Mereweather Baths for a dip. Pro tip: Head there in the morning for the full experience.
Whaaat? Yep, round two at this place, because it damn well deserves its own heading. This is the home of four-time World Surfing Champion Mark Richards, and Malibu Surfboard Riding Champion, so you know it’s a good spot to hang out and relax by the waves.
What used to be a David Jones building is now home to an incredible arcade full of boutiques owned by local Newcastle creative. The Emporium houses a treasure trove full of locally made art, fashion, furniture, and design, and it’s an absolute must for those who visit the city looking for a change of pace.
Vintage Clothing Spots
There’s a veritable world of awesome pre-loved goodies waiting for you on Clyde Street, Hamilton North, and Maitland Road in Islington. Affectionately referred to as the ‘vintage and second hand route’, it’s full of one-of-a-kind gems.
If you’re into design by local artisans, then Hunter Street Mall and Darby Street are the places to be for you. Pro tip: Head to the Renew Newcastle, which is a hub for up-and-coming designers to showcase their work, to get an idea of current projects.
Hunter Street Mall
This one deserves its very own blurb. For those that love to browse and pick up fun little trinkets, Alie Jane is the perfect spot for hand-made travel accessories and children’s clothing and jewellery. For the interior design lovers, House of Elliott is nothing short of incredible. Housed in a large Victorian property on Perkins Street, you can even pick up retail furniture, gifts, and homewares. Finally, there’s the deck Homewares and Fashion, which is packed full of Asian, Indian and Moroccan homewares. Maybe you should hire a truck to drive up with after all of that…
Image credit: Destination NSW, Newcastle Tourism, The Bowery Boys, Subo, The Blue Door, The Lucky Hotel.
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