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Newcastle is Australia´s 6th largest city, but is more like a big country town. It is definately not a tourist mecca, but it is a very nice town with beautiful beaches and harbour. Lake Macquarie is a neighbouring city - it is impossible to tell where Newcastle ends and Lake Macquarie begins... so this review will include Lake Maquarie and surrounding areas.
Weather is fairly mild: Winter days get down to about 15 degrees celcius. Summer days up to 35 degrees.
Starting from the very eastern point in Newcastle: ¨Nobbys¨... This is the name given to the lighthouse and beach near the harbour entrance. There is a lovely walk along a breakwall from Nobby´s. You can continue this walk either along the beach front or along the harbour foreshore. Both directions are worth doing. The coast and the harbour foreshore are among Newcastle´s prettiest settings.
There are two ocean baths in town, one is at Newcastle beach (1km from Nobby´s) the other is at Merewether beach which is 5 or more kilometres around the coast. Incidentally the drive around the beaches from Nobbies to Merewether beach (including King Edward Park) is a good one.
The beaches are good for body surfing and surfboard riding. The Newcastle ocean baths also have a sandy toddlers pool. Some beaches attract wave surfers and the cliffs of Strezleki lookout are a frequent spot for hang gliders.
The harbour is a working port, and it is great to see huge bulk carriers being manouvered in and out of port by the tug boats.
Along the harbour there are several resturants catering to differnt budgets and a brewery where you can sit right on the harbour and sample a local ale or wine.
Other resturant strips in Town include Darby Street, the Junction, Beaumont St and Warners Bay. Many of these include some inexpensive cafe style resturants.
Besides the Ocean and Harbour, the Hunter river and Lake Macquarie are main water attractions in the area. The lake is touted as the larges saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere and is a sailors paradise. Water skiing, jet skiing and waveboarding are also popular.
Hunter St is a very long shopping strip which used to be a lively centre of town. Over the past 30 years, shopping malls in the suburbs have replaced it as popular shopping areas. The best malls are Charlestown Square and Westfield at Garden City. Most mature age locals avoid the inner city at night, while younger people flock there for the night clubs.
In the centre of town, Civic Park is a pleasant area to rest in the middle of the day (Cnr King St & Darby St).
The steeply sloped King Edward park is large and overlooks the ocean (and kids ride cardboard boxes like toboggans down the grassy slopes).
Blackbutt Reserve is a very large nature reserve in the middle of suburbia. Many picnic / bbq areas, wildlife exhibits (koala, kangaroo, emu etc).
The harbour foreshore and the Lake Macquarie foreshore (including Speers Point Park) also attract plenty of picnickers and dog walkers.
The Hunter Valley vineyards are the areas best developed tourist area. There are some excellent wines produced in the area. Look on the map for Pokolbin and start your hunt there. While you´re doing the vineyards, visit the Hunter Valley gardens.
Arrive in Newcastle by plane to Williamtown Airportabout 30kn north of the city. No train service from airport to town, taxi being the usual mode of transfer up to $50 (AUD). Note - it's hard to get a flight from Sydney to Newcastle, so if you've got a choice, opt to head to Newcastle from Melbourne or Brisbane as flights are cheap flying with Virgin, Jetstar or even Qantas.
The two main train stationsin town are Broadmeadow station (in the suburbs) which receives all cityrail (from Sydny line) trains as well as XPT trains (?fast) regional trains/ countrylink services; and Newcastle Station - the end of the line stop near the harbour and inner city for trains from Sydney (cityrail) and Maitland line.
Buses: Long distance buses to Newcastle stop at Newcastle train station. The commuter bus system in Newcastle is second rate. Allow extra time for bus trips to the suburbs because of their circuitous routes.
Car: A car is highly recommended in Newcastle. Parking isn´t much of a problem and the attractions are fairly well spread out. Having a car will allow for visits to surrounding areas as well.
Newcastle is a big town. Its greatest weakness/strength is that is not a tourist trap. It is a slower pace than larger cities like Sydney. It´s cheaper and (for the moment anyway) less crowded.