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Newcastle: The Beauty Without The Bustle
newcastle australiaNewcastle is a city that has transformed into one of diversity and wealth. This major industrial centre is home to the largest export harbour in the Commonwealth, and this is essentially what makes it the administrative and industrial centre of the Hunter Valley.

However, its industrial status is not all that makes this such a much loved city. Great beaches, unique heritage architecture and an emerging rich cultural scene are making this an ideal tourist destination that can suit the needs and wants of any visitor. The friendly locals will welcome you to their thriving city with open arms, making you feel invited and right at home. If these reasons alone aren't enough for you to start packing, read on to discover just why Newcastle is such a great place to visit.

Positioned on the banks of the Hunter River, right where is flows into the ocean, Newcastle is characterised by its huge harbour and thriving industry. At the harbour foreshore you will be able to experience quintessential Newcastle, while relaxing and watching the tugboats and bulk carriers that navigate in and out of the harbour every day. Working wharves have now become places of play, with cafes, bars and restaurants springing up around the harbour whichever way you look. These restaurants and cafes offer the freshest seafood available, allowing you to enjoy a meal and a drink and watch the harbour life buzzing around you.

The wide range of cuisine available in Newcastle is second to none and the most popular places to enjoy this would have to be at Beaumont and Derby Streets. This variety comes from the multicultural diversity in the city, which also promotes the lively and fruitful arts and culture scene. Live music is very popular here, with entertainment venues and clubs literally around every corner. A large theatre regularly hosts touring performers, and constantly has local productions on show. So if you think you would enjoy anything that is showing, be sure to check it out.

When it comes to culture here, there is none more prominent than that of the surfers.This is mostly thanks to the perfect waves that roll onto the many white sand beaches that surround the city. For those who aren't fans of surfing, you can simply relax and soak up the natural beauty of this beautiful coastal scenery. Directly next to the town centre is the most accessible beach, the coincidentally named, Newcastle Beach. This beautiful beach is home to the annual Surfest competition, making it a popular beach for surfers and families alike.

Nobby's Beach is a great alternative for those wishing to escape the crowds to a certain extent. This beach is more sheltered and is particularly good for a windy day. The lighthouse here is a highly recognisable icon of Newcastle, and can be reached by taking a walk to Nobby Island along a pier built with convict labour.

A little further south you will find another popular surfing beach, Bar Beach. On summer evenings this beach is floodlit, letting people enjoy a night time surf. Another great southern beach is Mereweather Beach, which is ideal for swimming because of the ocean pool situated at its lower end. This is definitely worth a visit as it is said to be the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Newcastle is home to a rich history and heritage, which is clearly evident in many of its older, heritage style buildings. Some of the best examples of architecture here include the old courthouse, the Newcastle Railway Station and the old Customs House. The former police station is also quite unique, with fine iron columns supporting a porch covered in ornate cast iron lacework. Fort Scratchley is equally intriguing and is a great place to visit for those young and old.

Another major tourist attraction in the city is Newcastle's Famous Tram, which is a remnant from the old days when trams held high prominence in the public transport system. It gives forty five minute tours of the city which are backed up with an informative commentary. A special trip to the Hunter Valley occurs on the weekends and is a must if you are in town at this time.

For a completely different perspective of the city, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie, take the trip up to the Mt. Sugarloaf lookout. A bitumen walkway winds up to the pinnacle here, where there is a picnic and BBQ area. There are also many walking tracks that will take you to several different lookouts, each offering uniquely stunning views.

If you feel like getting a bit more fresh air and a break from the city, then jump into your hire car and drive to Blackbutt Reserve, an amazing area of blackbutt forest, rainforest and woodland, located just ten minutes drive from the city centre. Take a wander through the forest and absorb the variety of wildlife on offer. Kangaroos, emus, koalas and wombats are sure to keep you occupied for hours.

There truly is something to suit everyone in Newcastle. Its ideal location just 150 kilometres from Sydney, makes it a perfect getaway for those who want the convenience of a city, but want to escape the hustle and bustle of Sydney. So the next time you plan a vacation, give Newcastle good lot of thought and you won't be sorry you did.

Christine Barton

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