A visitors guide to Newcastle, NSW

A visitors guide to Newcastle, NSW
Located two hours north of Sydney, Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, is the country’s oldest sea port and the largest coal exporter in the world. (See www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au for more info.)  The city of Newcastle is home to around 155,000 people; however the population of Greater Newcastle, which includes its surrounding areas, is closer to 540,000. As a city, the population is much smaller than neighbouring Sydney. Newcastle is often sadly overlooked, but those who are considering Australian holidays would do well to make a visit to Newcastle one of their top priorities. On the 2011 list of Lonely Planet’s top ten hottest cities, Newcastle is known for beautiful scenery and climate, a rich history and culture, as well as many activities to enjoy.

The city of Newcastle is surrounded by eight beautiful beaches and is, in fact, famous for some of the best beaches for surfing in Australia. Newcastle Beach, better known as “Newie Beach” hosts a well-known contest for pro-surfers called Surfest, which attracts the most highly skilled surfers from around the world. Bather’s Way, a two hour scenic coastal walk, stretches from Nobby’s Lighthouse to Mereweather Ocean Baths with beautiful beaches and some of the best historic sites along the way.

For additional outdoor activities, the 130 feet Queens Tower should not be missed. After climbing the 180 stairs to get to the top visitors will be rewarded with spectacular views of Newcastle and its surrounding areas. For a magnificent birdwatching experience the Kooragang Nature Reserve is the largest wetlands reserve in New South Wales. Watagans National Park offers walks through rainforests scenic views, and many creeks.

As a penal colony until 1822, when other settlers began to come in, eventually making the city an important industrial center, Newcastle has an interesting history which is reflected in its many historical sites and interesting museums. The Newcastle Region Maritime Museum exhibits the development of the port over the past 200 years with artifacts, paintings and photographs. The Newcastle Regional Museum centres on the Hunter Region history and includes exhibits on mining, aboriginal studies, a sporting hall of fame and the earthquake of 1989. The recently refurbished Fort Scratchley Historical society is a treasure trove of history and has natural features dating back to pre European settlement. Its museum houses artefacts from 1882 to the present day and includes its interesting military history. Newcastle has many historical buildings, with Christ Church Cathedral being the most significant. Built in the early 1800’s, it was severely damaged in the earthquake in 1989 and fully restored to its beautiful present state in 1995. The Newcastle Region Art Museum houses over 3300 works of art dating from colonial times to the present, with many exquisite works by famous artists.

The climate in Newcastle is a subtropical oceanic humid one, not unlike others in New South Wales, with mild winters and warm summers. Rain is the heaviest in late autumn and early winter. Although, weather conditions are overall very pleasing year-round, the most ideal time to visit is the June through August winter period. There are many different options for accommodations in Newcastle and self catering holiday homes are available. Whether looking for a cottage on the beach or a modern high-rise hotel with a view of the coast, there is sure to be something perfect for the needs of everyone.

For those who are planning a trip to New South Wales Australia, Newcastle has so much to offer in the way of breathtaking scenery, exciting beaches and fascinating historical sites. A holiday in Newcastle is sure to be a never-to-be-forgotten experience.