An easy two-hour drive from Sydney, Newcastle is an optimal choice for a stopover, weekend getaway, or even for a longer stay, as your primary holiday destination!
Although it often gets overlooked as a vacation spot, Newcastle will surprise you with its variety of activities and attractions. From natural outdoor experiences and fantastic Australian scenery, to historic sites with fascinating stories to unravel, there is no shortage of options.
Road trippers travelling to and from Queensland may also find this a great place to break up the journey, and there is no shortage of lodging options either. Whether you are driving a car and staying in hotels, or have opted for a campervan holiday so you have your accommodation and transport all in one, there is something to suit everyone’s holiday style.
To help plan out your to-do list while visiting this often underrated city, here is a list of 10 top things to do in Newcastle.
Perhaps the most famous of Newcastle’s beaches, Nobbys Beach is a fantastic location for swimming, learning to surf, and for wildlife watching.
As well as being a beautiful sand beach, where you can both enjoy relaxing and water activities, there is also historic lighthouse nearby.
Nobbys Lighthouse is an iconic, active lighthouse, which was established in 1854. Visible from the beach, or just a half-kilometre walk from the away, this historically significant lighthouse provided accommodation to defence personnel during the second world war.
Visit the largest ocean baths this side of the globe, at the Merewether Ocean Baths, which were first opened in the early 1900s.
Free to the public, these natural seawater baths are extremely popular in summer, and provide a wonderful way to cool down from the sometimes-searing Australian heat. Because it is protected from waves and rocks, it is a safe oasis for swimmers, and also provides a dedicated section to those who wish to swim laps.
Even for those that aren’t keen for a dip, or if you are travelling in cooler weather, the baths provide some great photo opportunities all year round.
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This unique conservation area in Newcastle, allows visitors to encounter native wildlife, while immersing themselves in nature.
You will enjoy a diversity of animals and plants, which are accessible via the many trails throughout the reserve. The boardwalk makes the trail family and wheelchair friendly as well. With seven different walking tracks to choose from, you will experience both wet and dry forests, rainforest, bushland and bypass creeks and gullies.
There are picnic facilities for those who wish to bring a snack along with them, and BBQ amenities for those who are planning to cook their lunch. Reptile shows and koala talks are held daily, and feeding times for the wombats and birds are a special opportunity to take part in, especially feeding the impressive looking emus!
Located in the centre of Newcastle, the Museum features three permanent exhibits, and many more temporary ones. Showcasing the regions history, the museum highlights Newcastle’s natural environment and Indigenous Australian life and culture.
Visiting exhibits range from local-based shows, to internationally acclaimed ones, and everything in between. Entry is free!
Myall Lakes National Park
Not only does this phenomenal National Park feature one of New South Wales’s largest coastal lake systems, but it also encompasses forty kilometres of beaches and epic sand dunes.
Whether you come for a day, or stay in the park for a few nights, you will enjoy walking trails, swimming spots, pristine wilderness and stunning scenery. The wildlife is abundant too, with pelicans, kangaroos, dingoes, birds and reptiles.
Toilet blocks, barbecue facilities and picnic tables are all available here, as are campgrounds, suitable for those staying in a tent, campervan or motorhome. Just remember to bring your drinking water, as there is no amenity for fresh drinking water inside the park.
ANZAC Memorial Walk
The Memorial Walk was founded in 2015, as recognition of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landing in Gallipoli one hundred years earlier. The Walk is a commemoration of the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives, and the sacrifice they made to their country, community, and the British Commonwealth,
The walk winds from Strzelecki Lookout, past the headlands and features a striking piece of steel art, in the shape of soldiers’ silhouettes, which are inscribed with thousands of names of locals who enlisted in the first world war.
A visit to The Lock-Up, which is centrally located in the heart of Newcastle, will allow you an up close and personal look at the city’s original Police Station.
The cultural centre merges a museum with the lock-up cells and also an art gallery. The post office, court house and prison, are all nest door to one another. The combination of history makes this a unique day out in Newcastle, and is on the “must-do” list for certain.
There is also a small gift shop, the perfect opportunity to pick up a souvenir.
Christ Church Cathedral
This smaller replica of the gothic Liverpool Cathedral in the United Kingdom, provides both impressive architecture and a peaceful atmosphere. From the striking stained-glass windows, to the historic artefacts and spectacular spiral staircase, the church is truly remarkable.
The tower climb is available by appointment, and there is also a Christ Church Cathedral Shop on site, offering a variety of handmade goods and crafts, devotional items, gifts and souvenirs.
The church is also known for its beautiful weekend services and wonderful choir, who sing at some morning services on Sundays.
Olive Tree Market
Featuring over a hundred specialty stalls, the Olive Tree Market is a pioneer of creative bazaar events in Newcastle. With a line-up of artists, gourmet artisans, boutique designers and delicious food outlets, you simply have to add it to your to-do list.
From clothes, art & crafts, food & beverages, jewellery, homewares and homeopathic remedies, there is something for everyone. The market doesn’t operate on a permanent schedule, so check their website to see up and coming events during your planned visit.
This historic coastal defence was built in 1882, with the intention of defending Newcastle from potential Russian attacks. Nowadays, this retired fort serves as a museum, which showcases well preserves and well presented, military history.
Tours available include the “tunnel tour” which provides a first-hand look into the severe working conditions for the soldiers, and provides hands-on interactive experience with the guns, tunnels, exhibitions and even includes a cannon being fired.
As if all this history isn’t reason enough to visit, the views of the ocean below are renowned for dolphin and whale spotting!