Side Trip: Newcastle, Two Hours North of Sydney

  • Pacific Ocean views from the Merewether Surfhouse.

    Pacific Ocean views from the Merewether Surfhouse.

  • Beau and Suzie Vincent at Subo.

    Beau and Suzie Vincent at Subo.

  • Outside Betty Mim on Darby Street.

    Outside Betty Mim on Darby Street.

  • Inside Blackbird Corner, which stocks locally made clothing, accessories, and gifts.

    Inside Blackbird Corner, which stocks locally made clothing, accessories, and gifts.

  • Looking northeast along Merewether Beach.

    Looking northeast along Merewether Beach.

  • The entrance to the Merewether Surfhouse.

    The entrance to the Merewether Surfhouse.

  • A relaxed surf culture is part of Newcastle’s appeal.

    A relaxed surf culture is part of Newcastle’s appeal.

  • Glazed duck breast with edamame and pumpkin puree at Subo.

    Glazed duck breast with edamame and pumpkin puree at Subo.

  • Surf-side swimming at Merewether Ocean Baths.

    Surf-side swimming at Merewether Ocean Baths.

  • Browsing the racks at Betty Mim.

    Browsing the racks at Betty Mim.

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Hunter Street isn’t the only part of Newcastle being revitalized. Running off it is Darby Street, a laid-back strip of independent boutiques and low-key eateries. For those with a taste for sweet things, Coco Mondé, a chocolate café and patisserie, is a must-visit. You can then walk off dessert exploring stores like Blackbird Corner, Betty Mim, and High Tea with Mrs. Woo, all of which feature locally made art, clothes, and knickknacks.

Its location on a peninsula means that Newcastle is blessed with two waterfronts.

The first faces the Pacific Ocean and boasts a stunning string of white-sand beaches. Early in the day, folks do laps at the Art Deco Newcastle Ocean Baths before heading across the road for scrambled eggs and iced coffees at Estabar. Later in the day, the Merewether Surfhouse—an architect-designed pavilion that last year replaced the original surf club, which was badly damaged during the earthquake—is a popular spot for drinks.

On the other side of the city is Newcastle Harbour, which has the dubious distinction of exporting more coal than any other port in the world. Directly across from the dockyards is Honeysuckle, a contemporary development of medium-rise offices and apartments. In front of it stretches a pedestrian promenade that leads all the way to Nobbys Headland. Along the promenade are clusters of bars, restaurants, and pubs.

“Novocastrians never thought of this as something you’d want to look at,” says Siobhan Curran. “It was an oxymoron because the view was industrial.” But as the sun sets each day, local workers and visitors to the city sit on the decks of places like Silo Restaurant Bar, downing Thai-inspired cocktails, oysters, and pizza while watching yachts zip past or tugboats pull freighters into dock. It’s a reminder of both where the city has been and where it’s going—its working-class past and its ever-brightening future.

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