Jess Buchan

If you had to compare Newcastle to Sydney, you would call it the quiet, but funky little sister of its more popular, overbearing older sibling. Newcastle has all the perks of Sydney but with half the crowds. This small city situated on the New South Wales coastline not only boasts fantastic beaches, but also a cultured dining scene and a pumping nightlife. Home to the University of Newcastle, the city is alive with young people and this is reflected in downtown Newcastle where the creative influence of today’s generation has well and truly made their mark.

A two-hour drive from Sydney will get you to Newcastle and instantly you’ll see the difference between the two. Newy is smaller of course, but its relaxed, beachy vibe is imminent as soon as you get out of the car. A weekend trip is ideal here, especially in the spring and summer months so you can take full advantage of the glorious beaches Newcastle has to offer. Get the local experience and find a house on Airbnb or Stayz somewhere in the Merewether, Dixon or Bar Beach area. This is a hotspot for the active folk, with the surf pumping daily and the recently constructed Bathers Way which will take you from the north of Nobby’s headland to the south of Merewether Beach. If food and shopping is more your style, stay close to Newcastle East and Darby Street, where the café culture is thriving.

Newcastle beach

Newcastle Beach, one of the cities best beaches


There is no shortage of places to eat and drink in Newcastle, and the coffee here is particularly impressive! For a quality caffeine hit, head to Sprocket Roasters or One Penny Black in Newcastle East, wander down Darby Street and sample the goods at 3 Monkeys or Frankie’s Place or try out Suspension Coffee on Beaumont Street for arguably Newcastle’s best coffee. You’ll never run out of places to go as all these areas are filled with cafes perfect for a long, lazy brunch with pals.

Coffee in Newcastle

Coffee at One Penny Black is always a good idea!


However, good food doesn’t stop at midday in Newcastle. There is an abundance of award-winning restaurants to try, with every sort of cuisine on offer. For an upmarket dining experience, try Restaurant Mason, Scratchley’s on the Wharf or Subo. If you want to be transported to another country without leaving your seat try Bocados for excellent Spanish or Nagisa for mouth-watering Japanese. Sample some tasty cocktails and tapas at 5 Sawyers or Parry Street Garage - or both as they are in walking distance of each other! If you’re after some good old-fashioned Aussie pub grub, try Hotel Delany or the Prince of Wales Hotel – which also a local favourite for a Sunday sesh!

Nightlife in Newcastle is always booming thanks to the university bringing in droves of young people. King Street Hotel and Argyle House are the most popular nightclubs in Newcastle with themed rooms and thumping music. For a more laidback night out, try the Beaches Hotel, Honeysuckle Hotel or the Queens Wharf Brewery for drinks by the water. If you’re after live music, check out Cambridge Hotel where popular Aussie bands regularly drop in play a set.

Newcastle isn’t all about food and drink though. If you’re looking for a little bit of history and culture, try the Newcastle Museum and the Newcastle Art Gallery, or take a ride on the historic Newcastle tram. Visit the Newcastle Maritime Centre, which provides a unique insight to one of Australia’s most significant port cities. Or download a street art map and wander the streets learning about all the different street art that is painted all around downtown Newcastle.

For something a little more outdoorsy, head to the Kooragang Wetlands and get in touch with nature or visit Blackbutt Reserve to get up close and personal with some of our native animals, such as koalas and kangaroos. Rent a 4WD and drive up Stockton Beach or even keep heading to Nelson’s Bay to visit the little laidback holiday hotspot. There’s plenty to do on the many beaches that line Newcastle. Surfers, windsurfers and hang-gliders will all have a field day with plenty of windbreaks to choose from. For those after a leisurely swim minus the waves, the Newcastle Ocean Baths and Merewether Baths are the ideal swimming spot and great for families with small children.


Hang-gliders over Nobbys Beach (photo:


Newcastle is also home to many different markets and festivals held throughout the year. There is the Hunter Street Organic Markets held four times a week with local organic produce and arts and crafts. Every Sunday at the Showground you’ll find the popular Farmers Market bustling with people getting fresh produce for the week. Once a month is the Olive Tree markets where local artists and designers showcase their goods and local food trucks test out new recipes.

Donuts Newcastle

Designer doughnuts from Doughheads, a regular at the Olive Tree Markets


Every February surfers from all around the globe come to Newcastle to compete in Australia’s largest surfing festival, ‘Surfest’. ‘This That’ festival held on the Foreshore brings some of Australia’s best musicians to Newcastle for a day of epic music and incredible food. The ‘Mattara Festival of Newcastle’ celebrates the people of Newcastle and the Hunter region through a diverse range of theatre, dance, art, music and food.

If none of the above has tempted you, then you’ll be sure to find something in the surrounding area. Not far from Newcastle is the Hunter Valley wine region, where there is no shortage of wineries and beautiful B&B’s. For the more coastal-inclined Port Stephens and Nelson Bay have glorious beaches, perfect for a summer getaway.

So if you’ve got the time and you’re tired of chaotic Sydney and the millions of tourists, head north to Newcastle where life moves a little slower but a lot better!


Jess Buchan is an Aussie travel blogger who has lived in Europe and loves to share her travel stories on her blog Instagram: @ablondeandherpassport Twitter @ablondeandher

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.