Once renowned as a tough-as-teak blue collar town, Newcastle has emerged into an elegant and attractive destination full of historic buildings and tourist attractions.
Located at the mouth of the Hunter River some 156km north of Sydney, the city boasts a population of a quarter of a million people, making it the second largest city in NSW and the sixth most populous area in the nation. It has the largest export harbour in the Commonwealth, by tonnage, and is known, quite reasonably, as the ‘gateway to the Hunter Valley‘, being the commercial, administrative and industrial centre of the region. It has numerous beaches, a rich heritage of Victorian architecture, plenty of fine eateries and a fabulous lookout at Mount Sugarloaf.
In recognition for enhancing the visitor experience and working closely with local tourism, Newcastle Airport once won the Specialised Tourism Services category at the Tourism NSW State Awards. As the gateway to eight very diverse tourism experiences – including Port Stephens, Newcastle and Hunter Valley wine country – Newcastle Airport was acknowledged as a vibrant regional tourism partner that develops and encourages tourism growth.
Newcastle Airport CEO, Paul Hughes, said that winning the award was an honour. “Our industry has recognised us for the contribution we make to the more than 1.1 million passengers who use the Airport each year,” he said. “We are proud to contribute to our thriving local economy and are delighted to be the gateway to the Hunter and Port Stephens.”
The city’s population is growing. The old city centre has seen some new apartments and hotels built in recent years, but the CBD is shifting to the west, towards the major urban renewal area known as “Honeysuckle”. This renewal is scheduled to continue for another decade.
The old central business district, located at Newcastle’s eastern end, still has a considerable number of historic buildings, dominated by Christ Church Cathedral, seat of the (Anglican) Bishop of Newcastle. Other noteworthy buildings include Fort Scratchley, the Ocean Baths, the old Customs House, the 1920s City Hall, the 1890s Longworth Institute (once regarded as the finest building in the colony) and the 1930s art deco University House (formerly NESCA House, recently seen in the film Superman Returns).
Newcastle holds a variety of Cultural Events and Festivals, many of which attract national and even international attention, including This Is Not Art, the Shootout Film Festival, Mattara, Rainbow Vision Festival, Newcastle Jazz Festival and the Newcastle Regional Show, which is held at Newcastle Showground. The Newcastle Entertainment Centre, located inside the Newcastle Showground, is a popular venue for regular events including wrestling, concerts and monster truck shows.
Newcastle has an active youth music culture, as well as a Conservatorium of Music which is part of the University of Newcastle. It supports local bands and has a large underground music scene. Silverchair, the highly successful Australian band, hail from Newcastle, as do The Screaming Jets. It has a fertile punk and hardcore scene which should attract most aviators (!), and over the past 15 years has spawned many successful local acts.
Popular music venues in Newcastle are The Queens Wharf Brewery, The Lucky Country, The Lass O’Gowrie, The Cambridge Hotel, The Bar on the Hill at the University, The Civic Theatre, The Newcastle Panthers and The Newcastle Entertainment centre.
Visual arts and galleries
Newcastle has a thriving arts scene, where creative pursuits are encouraged and artistic flair is celebrated. With more artists per capita than any other city in Australia, art galleries are plentiful. Noted Australian artists John Olsen and William Dobell once lived in Newcastle and today the city of Newcastle is home to a wide range of public, commercial and private galleries, including the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, home to an extensive collection of works by contemporary and historical Australian visual artists.
Newcastle claims one of the oldest theatre districts in Australia, with its still standing Victoria Theatre on Perkins Street the oldest purpose-built theatre in the country. The city also has a variety of smaller theatres, but the main theatre in the CBD is now the Civic (seating capacity about 1500), one of Australia’s great historic theatres built during 1929 in Art Deco style. It hosts a wide range of musicals, plays, concerts, dance and other events each year.
Newcastle has an abundance of beaches and surf breaks for which the city is internationally well known. Newcastle hosts the annual surfing contest ‘Surfest’ on the world professional surfing tour. Four time world champion surfer Mark Richards grew up surfing at Newcastle’s Merewether Beach, and is a local icon, appearing at many local functions, and supporting local charities. Nobbys beach is a very popular kitesurfing spot, especially during the warm summer months when there are North Easterly sea breezes.
The Newcastle metropolitan area has an extensive system of both road links and road based public transport services (bus, taxi etc) which cover most areas of both Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and which extend beyond the metropolitan area itself. Rail transport, however, is accessible to only a relatively small percentage of the population along the major rail transport routes and ferry services are restricted to those commuting between Newcastle and Stockton.
Newcastle is connected to surrounding cities by the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway (South), New England Highway (West) and the Pacific Highway (North). Hunter Street, the main shopping street in the Newcastle CBD, is the major link to the Pacific Highway from the CBD.
Newcastle Airport (Williamtown)
Newcastle Airport is located 15 kilometres north of the Newcastle CBD (27 kilometres by road). The airport has experienced rapid growth since 2000 as a result of an increase in low cost airline operations. It is served by Virgin Blue, Qantas, Jetstar, Brindabella Airlines, Norfolk Air, and Tiger Airways. The airport is shared with RAAF Base Williamtown.
Broadmeadow Helipad is also in service as it is used by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service. Newcastle Airport has direct flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra, Port Macquarie and Norfolk Island.
Obviously, Newcastle is one of those cities that has something for everyone. Sun, sea, surf, art, music, and fine eateries. Don’t take our word for it … check it out yourself.