Amongst the illustrious travel destinations that occupy my travel hit list, (read: Tokyo, Peru, The Ngorogo Crater and Vegas etc . . ), there are a few other lesser-known destinations that sit – somewhat uncomfortably – amongst them. Canberra is one. Yes, the Canberra that no-one seems to talk about. Visit. Or acknowledge for that matter. Pretoria too. (Must be a capital city thing).
Then there was Newcastle. Not Newcastle-on-Tyne (of the United Kingdom variety) but Newcastle, New South Wales, an industrial, sea-side city about two hours North of Sydney. To lay-travellers, a destination as equally as inauspicious as Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. But to curious travellers like myself, Newcastle presented the perfect opportunity for adventure. This little gem of a town has been on my radar for some time. You know, you read about a cool little shindig, shop or local “big shot” in an article or two, or three, and you start to wonder if there is more to the place than meets the eye. Then you come across a great blog review of the place and you know you’ve hit the jackpot. Random, forgotten seaside town becomes potential weekend gem!
So, when we were recently invited to a wedding in Port Stephens, I pencilled in a detour to Newcastle on the way home. However, time got away with us (there’s some serious natural beauty up there on the Central Coast) and we only landed up spending a half day in the city. So, as you can imagine, I was only able to scratch the surface of this more-than-meets-the-eye-town. There is validity to the claim that it’s rated one of the top global cities to visit. I don’t agree that it’s in the top ten but it’s well worth the detour if you have the time. There really are some wickedly exciting things happening in the side and back streets of this seemingly sleepy town. It boasts some super-happening fashion, music, design and gourmet collateral, galleries, clubs, cafes, designer studios and markets. Lots, lots, lots. And I wish I had had the time to explore more and show you more, but alas . . .
In summary, what I did see, I loved. The fresh smack of salty air, the ocean baths, the heritage architecture (NICE Customs House!), the leafy streets of Cooks Hills (home to Betty Mim and Scout below), Scotties restaurant and the engineeringly-fantastical (yes, just made that up) Newcastle Collieries (Coal works. Not made up). Fast fact: Newcastle is the largest coal exporting harbour in the world and the scale of the collieries are truly something to behold.
Newcastle – I will be back.