Newcastle (New South Wales)

Newcastle is at the mouth of the Hunter River, approximately 150 km north of Sydney in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. The city is the focal point for the diverse Hunter region that encompasses beaches and mountains, restaurants and wineries.

Understand

Newcastle is a great place for surfers, wine buffs, bush walkers, and anyone interested in Australian history. The second largest city in the state of NSW and sixth largest in Australia, Newcastle city had a population of 153,000 and the suburban area of over 500,000. Similar to its English namesake, Newcastle was an important centre for the coal mining and iron ore industries. Newcastle is Australia's oldest sea port, currently the second most important in the country in terms of overall tonnage, and significant for coal exports.

Many Novocastrians take an avid interest in sports, as participants, spectators or both. The local NRL Rugby League team, the Newcastle Knights are widely followed. Newcastle also hosts soccer, baseball, ice hockey, netball and various other sporting teams. Hunter New England Health and The University of Newcastle are the city's primary employers.

To the north is Stockton beach with miles and miles of uninhabited beaches that stretch up to Nelson bay. The wreck of the Signa can be seen from Fort Scratchley, which was Newcastle's maritime defence during the world wars. Travel westward to the wineries and taste some of Australia's best wines. Barrington Tops National Park in the north west has beautiful fresh water rivers and rain forests, a good place to spot a platypus.

Get in

By car

The Newcastle area is a one hour drive north of Sydney on the M1 Motorway which starts at Wahroonga (close to Hornsby) on the Upper North Shore. The freeway is in mostly good condition, although the stretch before Newcastle itself is surprisingly cracked for a modern freeway. A large number of people commute to Sydney daily from the Central Coast and even Newcastle, northbound travellers during the evening peak (5PM to 7PM) will encounter high speed and heavy traffic between Wahroonga and the Central Coast, with traffic easing off further north. The reverse applies to southbound traffic during the morning commute.

The M1 is on the Western side of Lake Macquarie. To travel up the Eastern side of Lake Macquarie (through Swansea) then take the "Charlestown" exit on the M1. This route is more scenic, more hilly, and less congested (though it takes a few minutes longer). If you follow this route you will eventually come to the "Charlestown Bypass" at Bennett's Green which you can take if you wish to head north-west (towards Lambton). Otherwise veer right to keep following the Pacific Highway until you reach Charlestown and then follow the signs to the city.

Traffic during holiday periods and long weekends is also affected, with heavy northbound traffic at the beginning of the period as Sydneysiders flee the city for the weekend, and heavy southbound traffic as they return.

By train

Sydney's Central, Strathfield, Epping and Hornsby stations have regular trains to   Hamilton Station via the Central Coast. Travelling time varies between 2 to 3 hours. This line uses the NSW Opal card (the same as in Sydney) and trips to/from Sydney are quite comfortable and cheap at $8.30 peak and $5.81 off-peak. This trip is included in the $2.50 fare cap on Sundays.

There is an additional train service from Hamilton Station to various Hunter towns such as Maitland. Check the Sydney Trains website for trackwork along the Central Coast & Newcastle Line; when these occur, buses replace trains between stations and can add an hour to the trip.

From January 2015 the regular train service to Newcastle no longer travels to the city centre, and terminates along Beaumont Street at Hamilton Station. Free shuttle buses transfer passengers the remaining 5km to the city centre, until a new Newcastle light rail is planned and constructed. These buses do not carry as large objects like bicycles or surfboards.

Several NSW Trainlink regional services pass through Newcastle's   Broadmeadow Station (approximately 5 km from the CBD) daily from Sydney and the Central Coast to the south and from the Northern Rivers and New England. These trains are more expensive than intercity services and tickets must be booked in advance, but they are somewhat more comfortable and are also faster. Occasionally NSW Trainlink discount tickets offer discounts, and $1 fares for kids, so it may be worthwhile checking their fares.

By bus

By plane

The region has a dedicated airport   Newcastle Airport (Williamtown) served by a number of domestic airlines.

Jetstar has direct connections to Brisbane, Gold Coast and Melbourne. Virgin Australia connects Brisbane and Melbourne. QantasLink flies to Brisbane. Rex flies to Sydney and Sydney and Ballina.

Flying may not the be fastest way to travel such a short distance as Sydney to Newcastle, especially since there are only a handful of flights every day. However, the flight is particularly scenic, especially on a fine day, as there are stunning views of the northern beaches between Sydney and Newcastle. It can be well worth finding an excuse to fly if the cost is not an issue.

If flying into Sydney Airport, then take the train to Sydney Central station, and then change to any express train to Newcastle. The entire journey will be around 3 hours.

Get around

The ferry to Stockton

The actual city centre itself is fairly walkable. With the current construction works for a new light rail lasting until 2017, public buses are the best way to get around Newcastle city. The Sydney Opal card is used here, and used in exactly the same way. The shopping centres, John Hunter Hospital and the university are served by several bus lines.

Google Maps works for transit in Newcastle, as do several 3rd party smartphone apps that Transport NSW recommend.

There are taxis available, although you will likely need to call for one. Hamilton station has a Taxi rank which often has a few taxis waiting for the Sydney train. Uber may not have any drivers here, and GoCatch has just a handful. Newcastle Taxi Co-operative can be reached under 131008.

There is a single ferry service between   Queens Wharf and   Stockton Wharf, costing $2.40 each way, also using Opal cards.

Riding a bicycle is possible, and infrastructure is slowly being built, but takes some time to discover. Select areas around Wickham, Islington, and along Honeysuckle Drive have some infrastructure, quiet streets, a gentle terrain along waterways that can be quite pleasant to ride through. Other areas which have some infrastructure are around Adamstown and Kotara Shopping Centre. It is possible to ride to & in the surroundings of the John Hunter Hospital, University of Newcastle but these are up significant gradients. Even so, much riding will occur on roads shared with motor vehicles.

Car hire

See

Newcastle CBD from Nobbys Head

Landmarks

Museums and art galleries

Parks and gardens

Do

Water fountain
Aerial view of Newcastle Harbour

Ocean baths

The recently completed ANZAC Walk

No visit to Newcastle during the warmer months would be complete without taking a dip in the ocean baths. On sunny days you can sunbathe on the Grandstand on the Fort side of the Baths.

The baths are also open during the winter, for the more adventurous. The Newcastle baths are home to the "Newcastle Pirates", a winter swimming club not unlike the Icebergs or Polar Bears of other places.

Festivals and events

Learn

The   University of Newcastle is one of the major regional universities in New South Wales. Its academic program is quite broad and includes many liberal arts courses. Their undergraduate medicine degree is very highly regarded.

Buy

Eat

Most of the city's restaurants and cafés can be found along three main eatery strips: Honeysuckle Drive in Honeysuckle, Darby Street in Cooks Hill and Beaumont Street in Hamilton.

Budget

Cafés

There are numerous options along Beaumont St in Hamilton and Darby St in Cooks Hill. At Three Monkeys (Darby St Cooks Hill) coffee can be ordered by the bowl. Euro Patisserie, 68 Orchardtown Rd, New Lambton, tel: 4957 7188, is deservedly popular for their award-winning cakes and pastries.

Other suggestions:

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Coffee

Bars and clubs

Sleep

As the largest town in the Hunter, Newcastle has a wide range of accommodations options. A lot of people park their campervans by Nobby's beach overnight.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Cope

Good walking shoes are required for the CBD as many streets are steep slopes. Use the walkways or footbridges to get to and from the CBD and the Foreshore. The Queen's Wharf Tower is ideal for calming restless children, they can run up and down the staircase or along the covered walkways nearby! Make sure you note the Historic Markers in the CBD as they make sense of the magic that is Newcastle.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.