Newcastle is just over 2 hours drive or easy train ride from Sydney and yet in all the years we’d lived in Sydney, it had never been on our radar to explore. To us, Newcastle was the place that some people lived while working in Sydney – and they lived there because it was cheaper. But after a glorious weekend visit, we were both wondering if they were onto something much better than saving money!
A beautiful sunny weekend was forecast which was a relief after all the dreary days winter had thrown up lately, and we were itching to get out of Sydney. Mark came up with the suggestion of a couple of nights in Newcastle, and although it conjured images of smokestacks and industrial wasteland, the chance to get away was enough for me to pack a small bag. We were taking the bikes to ride a bike path we’d heard about, so I knew the weekend held something fun, even staying in Newcastle.
Along the drive we stopped in at Caves Beach, had lunch at one of the two options and played around on the near deserted beach and around the natural caves.
Upon arriving to Newcastle, we dropped our bags in our hotel and did what we always do first – took to the streets on foot. Walking along the waterfront was pretty if you didn’t take too much notice of the warehouses, cranes and industry going on across the way, and the further we walked, the prettier it became. A stop for a pint at Queen’s Wharf to watch the sunset was a must. Things were looking up. Dinner in the beautiful historic wharf building at Paymasters, was a good end to the first day.
Day 2 saw us up-and-at-‘em early to begin our bike journey along the Fernleigh track. This re-purposed and upgraded old coal haul rail line, is a picturesque cycler’s, walker’s and runner’s dream. It meanders through bird calls, peaceful bush, and over waterways for 15 kilometres. We started in Adamstown rode south towards Belmont, turned around and rode back. The ride back was mostly uphill, but at no point was it a hard slog.
Hot Fernleigh Track Tip: If you want to have an easier time on the second half, start at Belmont and end in Adamstown.
There were a number of people using the track, but on this sunny winter’s day, it was not crowded at any stage. We saw a lady on an electric scooter, many people walking prams and dogs, runners, and fellow cyclists. There is a beautiful old brick-lined tunnel that snakes under the Pacific Highway.
We took our time on the track and stopped a number of times to take photos, so all up we were done and dusted (both ways) by lunchtime. I’d say we took around 4 hours, including a coffee stop and a detour towards one of the beaches.
Hot Fernleigh Track tip 2: There are no toilets along the path, so be prepared to go bush if in need!
We found a café for lunch in Beaumont Street, Hamilton and ended up having dinner later in the same area at Kings XI Indian Restaurant, which was excellent!
We saw a lot of pubs advertising live music and regret not hanging around for the experience. We are starting to see Newcastle in a whole different light, and getting into the vibe of this rather cool town.
Our last day was spent walking the beaches and taking the Bather’s Way to Memorial Walk.
This city is set up for the great outdoors! Surfers were enjoying some great waves and families were out watching whales passing by. We saw many pods of whales surfacing and playing as they headed north along the coastline. The lighthouse, breakwall and beachfront at Nobbys Beach are a great place to explore. The beach has white powder sand, with little dunes.
I imagine there are scores of swimmers in the summer months making good use of the sea and the Newcastle and Merewether ocean baths. We also stopped to see the natural baths at Bogey Hole, which with the wild sea that day made for spectacular seasprays.
Newcastle far surpassed our expectations, and there is still so much for us to explore and enjoy of this old penal settlement. We loved some of the old architecture, the food, the pubs, the views and great outdoors. We will have to return for more of that and some of the live music. Any takers???