AUxAU Guide to Newcastle: A potent dose of beach, music and history in modern Australia

Continuous golden beaches flow down the coast in either direction into a horizon of shipping barges coming and going. “We are different in that we have this laid-back surf culture that mixes with the working class, pub-rocking theme and somehow at this mix comes unique things. It’s such an amazing city because it’s so dynamic,” Steven Pickett, Director of Newcastle Live and Managing Director of EAO Entertainment, told us in voice that boomed with proudness for his hometown. “If you tried to recreate it, it just wouldn’t work.” It is this singular and distinctive setting that has defined, cured and conditioned Newcastle to be a potent dose of beach, food and music in modern Australia.

Sights x Sounds

Most outdoor activities in Newcastle will incorporate the beach and water landscape in some shape or form. A simple drive around and you’ll see why. The coastline of Newcastle is one picturesque beach after another. Wharf Road which is a scenic drive along Newcastle’s foreshore opposite the ports and is full of fine dining and bars as palm trees line the road. Wharf Road soon becomes the Shortland Esplanade and closely hugs the cliffs off Nobby’s Beach as it whips you out around beside the ocean waters below before introducing you to Newcastle Ocean Baths.

The Shortland Esplanade drive looking North towards Nobbys Beach

The Art Deco pavilion façade is a cool introduction to one of the regions most historic landmarks.

Construction on the pools began in 1910 whilst the building of the pavilion was delayed until 1922.

Even with the overcast weather above us, the two pools – one 50m with lanes, the other a large leisure swimming space – transported us into this early 20th century, classy and grandiose communal space that has abandoned its days of charging a penny for entry and is now free. The white diving blocks in front of the green sharp cornered wall are pure art deco design. Just to the left of the wall is where one of the shells fired from a Japanese submarine on June 8, 1942 landed.

To the left of the green stands is where a shell from a Japanese submarine hit during World War II

A 30 minute drive around the harbour takes you to the suburban area of Stockton where a walk-able breakwall extends 400m out into the harbour and places you just behind Nobby’s Lighthouse. It’s a beautiful sunrise spot as the sun will rise from behind the lighthouse and headland as ships pass in and out. A sign at the start of the walk alerts you to some of the many shipwrecks that have happened over the years.

Breakwall walk (left) extending into the distance with Nobbys Lighthouse and headland to the right

From people out running and swimming with their dogs, to surfers catching waves further up Stockton Beach to the occasional shipping barge gliding into the bright blue and unpolluted harbour; a journey along the breakwall surrounds you with an immersive and complete picture of Newcastle.

Dan Beazley, digital content producer for Newcastle Live, pointed out that at one point in Newcastle’s history, you’d have 22 venues and spots to catch live music even on a weeknight in the city. Those times have gone and although a lot of those spots have shut their doors which Dan and Steven Pickett attribute to the closure of Hunter Street, they attest to the sense of hope that is unique to the Newcastle attitude will mix with a prevailing spirit of the Newcastle arts scene to overcome this sunken, down period of the cities live music climate. To them, whilst the live scene isn’t what it was in its heyday, a lack of venues and increasing attainability of technology has allowed emerging talent to shine in their bedrooms and basements; they just need the live space to engage. The next Silverchair and Screaming Jets are definitely out there.

Dan Beazley (middle) and Steven Pickett (right)

In 2019 the light rail will be finished and Hunter Street (which stretches nearly the entire length of Newcastle CBD) will again reopen. Will it favour and nurture a live music environment? That is yet to be seen but even now in 2018 with Hunter Street closed, finding a quality live gig in Newcastle is not hard.

On a single Thursday night we were spoilt for choice between six or so gigs happening around town. First up we went to 5 Sawyers who Steven Pickett has a hand in managing so there is an immediate commitment to furthering the Newcastle live music scene. Entry is free and we caught the alluring and pumping Molly Millington who resonated folk with injections of melancholic pop to a full venue.

Molly Millington at 5 Sawyers

To conclude the night we drove 20 minutes to the other side of Newcastle to the Stag & Hunter Hotel. Who did we see perform? I couldn’t exactly you tell you. The night is a celebration of roots, folk and blues as The Merewether Fats’ Blues Jam opens the stage to absolutely anyone for 3 songs at a time. The jam has run on the first Thursday of each month for over 10 years and despite Mark “Merewether Fats” Salter passing away in 2016, the community has continued the event to champion his blues legacy.

Hopeful performers are welcome to borrow the house band (who play an introductory set from 7:30pm) or strut the stage solo. Again, the venue was full with the pool table and pinball machines completely empty as everyone surrounded the stage as performers and patrons represented all age demographics.

Along the top of the cliffs on Strzelecki Headland is one of Newcastle’s newest and modern tourist sites. Built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing in Gallipoli in 1915 and the commencement of steel making in Newcastle, the $4.5 million structure is a 450 metre cliff top walkway that links the Strzelecki Lookout to Bar Beach.

It offers complete 360 degree views of Newcastle to the West and ocean to the East – it’s the perfect whale watching spot during the correct times of the year. 160 meters in the air, the bridge features occasional steel silhouettes of soldiers which are inscribed with nearly 4,000 family names of Hunter Valley area men and women who were enlisted during World War 1.

The writer stayed as a guest of Visit Newcastle. While in Newcastle, we stayed at The Lucky Hotel. For more information on all businesses covered in the piece, or to explore more you can head to Visit Newcastle HERE.


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