After you’ve mustered up the courage to climb down into the man-made pool known as the Bogey Hole, and had your caffeine hit on the eccentric street known as Darby, you are likely to want a few more things to do in Newcastle.
My guide isn’t a must – except for the one about ice cream, because ice cream – but it does offer some alternatives if you get some time to explore the city known for its ability to beach a coal ship.
If you already live in this city, sound off in the comments with other places to check out.
1. The other side of Lake Macquarie
Where: Fishing Point Road, Fishing Point.
Donning your joggers and joining the dozens who head down to Warner’s Bay for a weekend stroll along the Esplanade is great and all, but for those after a chill experience should make the trek to the other side of the lake.
Known as Fishing Point, explore the picturesque lake where locals moor their boats on their jetties. If you’re after a weekend away, check out the stunning properties listed on Airbnb, with several listings offering lakeside luxury and a chance to backflip off your jetty.
If you don’t want to stay too far out from Newcastle’s CBD, you can catch a train and a bus to the coastal destination, or hire a car to cut travelling time down from an hour and a half to 45 minutes.
2. Bar Beach Wall Ball Courts
Where: Empire Park, 107-109 Memorial Dr, Bar Beach NSW 2300
Daaaaaaaaamn! Is what you would be saying while admiring your hidden wall ball skills, and not the talent from courtside. Wall ball involves a player hitting a ball against the wall with a racket, and can be made a team sport by adding extra players.
Groups of friends often dominate the courts, pow-wowing with each other as the feel-good endorphins are pumping through their body. They then venture across the road to cool down in the ocean.
Although the wall ball courts across from Bar Beach are nearly always taken, if you have a weekday to spare you can make your way there, provided you have a tennis racket and balls.
3. Find King Julian at The Hunter Valley Zoo
Where: 138 Lomas Ln, Nulkaba NSW 2325
You don’t have to travel to Sydney to connect with your spirit animal, with the Hunter Valley Zoo located five minutes from Cessnock. And you’re in luck if King Julian (Madagascar) is yours, with the zoo giving visitors the chance to feed and play with the hilarious creatures in their Meerkat Encounter.
If you don’t have the cash ($100 per person) to let these inquisitive creatures dig for critters in your lap, you can still check them out through the transparent exhibit.
There are also crocodiles, lions, kangaroos, koalas, overzealous goats and sheep eager to guzzle the feed you can pre-purchase, and more. So whether you’ve got kids that need entertaining, or you’re a kid at heart, make the trip to Hunter Valley Zoo – you bunch of pansies.
4. Stumble to the Valley of Wine
Where: Polkobin, Hunter Valley
While I would rather tell you to get to the closest bottle shop to buy a few bottles of cheap wine and sit in a park, I think it’s frowned upon. Besides, your Instagram photos will appreciate a trip out to wine country.
Hunter Valley wines are world famous, but you wouldn’t know it here in Newy where a sack of your finest Fruity Lexia prevails over a nice Shiraz.
Many guides suggest hiring a car, but let’s be real since you’re not going to stare at the wine. If you’re civilised and want to maintain a clean record, look into tours with transportation included. You can then savour the flavour or knock it back and enjoy the taste of regret the following morning.
You can take in the sights instead of being one – check out the hot air balloon rides you can take at the crack of dawn, followed by a well-deserved champagne breakfast.
5. The Beaches – on a Sunday
Where: 99 Frederick St, Merewether NSW 2291
You will notice the Beaches pub as soon as you drive down Federick street, past Merewether Beach. The giant hotel takes up the corner block and delivers views the rich get to wake up to every morning. The secret to feeling like a millionaire is waiting until Sunday’s for the best view in town.
If you love a beer after a bash at the beach, stay downstairs. If you want a damn good Instagram photo, and a cool place to risk a hangover on a Monday, check out Rooftop Sunday’s at the beaches.
The Sunday session is open to those who dress appropriately – no singlets and thongs – and there’s a cool balcony you can overwhelm with a group of friends to feel like it’s your own.
6. Stifle your screams for Ice Cream
Where: 172 King St, Newcastle NSW 2300 and in the Junction Fair Shopping Centre
How good is ice cream? Before you answer, you need to check out Popolo Artisan Gelateria where locals drive around in circles to get a car space in the hopes they’ll be licking a cone of dairy (or dairy free) goodness. If you’re on foot, you’ll be able to take in the assortment of delectable flavours without the pang of anger due to a lack of car spaces. Don’t be put off by the line, with the sugar hit well worth the wait and your hands will be sticky in no time.
If you’re after some finger-licking desert in the daylight hours, check out the shop in the Junction Fair Shopping Centre.
7. Get pampered at Muster Point
Where: 53 Maitland Rd, Mayfield NSW 2304
How good would it be to roll out of bed and get your hair done by someone else while munching on a cheese toastie? Well, you can get the entire package if you head to Muster Point Collective in Mayfield.
The innovative start-up features Perry the Feeder food truck specialising in toasties, and the Cutting Division made up of talented hairdressers renting a chair. Book an appointment with Illiana or Marisa Conway online and grab a toastie on your way – we didn’t think a grilled cheese could taste any better, but we were mistaken after it followed a head massage.
8. Demand a schnitzel from Harry
Where: Located in the Junction Fair Shopping Centre next to Popolo
Sometimes we feel for Harry, constantly being harassed for schnitzels (chicken and vegetarian available).
But you haven’t experienced Newcastle without munging in on a delicious wrap after hearing ‘One schnitzel please Harry’, following your order. At least they’re polite.
Locals usually order from a secret menu, which used to be displayed before the business rebranded and put up a public list of options (while we like to think we are in an exclusive club, we’ve seen the secret menu sitting at the cash register).
Get your wrap and take it to the beach, or a dark basement where you can be alone to appreciate the delicious taste – we won’t judge.
9. Get your homewares fix at the 24 hour Kmart
Where: Waratah Village
Well, this one is obvious, isn’t it? If you don’t already have Kmart’s entire homewares range, you’re doing it wrong. We understand if you’re on a holiday, and you can’t bring back that new dining suite. But you can go there at 2 am and purchase all the little things, like this flamingo light.
Okay, we are pushing things here, but we spend a lot of time at the 24/7 Kmart, so it was tough to come up with an alternative place to take the ninth spot. Besides, how good are the stylish storage options!
10. Find more than just knick-knacks at Olive Tree Markets
Where: Civic Park, Newcastle
Markets are usually good for two things – coffee/food and rewarding your inner knick-knack hoarder. It can be a work of art to convince your significant other to wake up early, deal with the crowds of other hoarders and nudge your way into the stalls to awkwardly stare at the pet rocks.
But The Olive Tree Markets, which relocated from the Junction Primary School to Civic Park, feature a cool collection of stalls with products worthy of your cash.
Blake Parker makes regular appearances with his stall, featuring an assortment of breathtaking prints he captures on his adventures. You can check out what he has to offer by viewing his Instagram.
All photos are my own except for the Muster Point photo, which has been supplied by @illianaandmarisahmb.