With a population exceeding half a million, Newcastle is the seventh largest and the second oldest city in Australia and the second largest in the state of New South Wales.
Where is it?: Central Coast. Newcastle is 160 km north of Sydney. Newcastle is connected to surrounding cities by the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway (South), New England Highway (West) and the Pacific Highway (North). Hourly train services operate between Sydney and Newcastle.
Lookouts: Fort Scratchley Historic Site is perhaps Newcastle's most significant historical landmarks and one of the best vantage points for a duel view of the harbour and beaches.
Newcastle is the largest coal export harbour in the world and boasts massive coal deposits which cover much of the region beyond the city. It is also home to the most beaches in Australia - there are over twenty from Lake Macquarie to Port Stephens - and it's the predominant city within the Hunter Valley region. Newcastle was nominated 9th in Lonely Plant's 2011 list of Top 10 cities in the world as tourist destinations.
Things to see and do
The beach culture is strong in Newcastle, which has three distinctly different sandy city beaches. They're interlinked by one great coastal walk called Bathers Way. Bathers Way highlights Newcastle beaches that have generated some of the World's best surfers, but also features rugged cliffs and reefs, rock pools, huge salt water ocean baths, heritage sites and parklands.
Newcastle has more artists for its population than anywhere in Australia, and ita Regional Gallery has the second largest collection of art in NSW. Between our Regional Gallery and a host of private galleries, you can immerse yourself in art in Newcastle, all day.
The Hunter Valley (48km west) is Australia's oldest and one of its most well-known wine regions. Here you will find world-class Hunter Valley Semillon that has been called 'Australia's unique gift to the world', and great Australian Shiraz. Add to this a wide array of traditional and contemporary delights expected of a world famous wine region, and you have one of the most interesting of destinations in the state.
Port Stephens (56km north east) promotes itself as the "blue water paradise" because of the beauty of its marine surroundings. With over 30 km of clean, white, sandy beaches, Port Stephens boasts vibrant tourism and fishing industries. Port Stephens is a naturally beautiful area, with plenty of reasons to visit all year round.
NSW Central Coast: from Broken Bay at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River to south of Newcastle, the Central Coast includes a mix of bays and inlets, pristine beaches, lakes and lush hinterland. The region's laid-back atmosphere stems from the fact that life here is all about swimming, surfing, fishing or sailing, or simply relaxing at one of the waterfront cafes or restaurants.
Catherine Hill Bay is a unique coastal village on the Wallarah Peninsula, which lies between Lake Macquarie and the Pacific Ocean. The village, a beautifil welcoming place, consists mostly of modest timber miners' cottages, some dating from the 19th Century and remnant infrastructure from almost 140 years of underground coal mining, set in a dramatic natural landscape of bush and heath beside the Pacific Ocean.
Stockton Beach is located north of the Hunter River. The length of the beach, its generally hard surface and numerous items of interest along the beach make it popular with four-wheel drive enthusiasts. The beach is also popular with fishermen and several different varieties of fish may be caught. Over many years Stockton Beach has been the site of numerous shipwrecks and aircraft crash sites.
During World War II it was fortified against a possible attack by Imperial Japanese forces. Many of these fortifications can still be seen along the beach. Wreckage from many shipwrecks continues to wash ashore periodically but the most well known, recognisable and permanent of the wrecks are the Uralla and the Sygna.
A unique shanty town known as Tin City is situated 11 km south west of Anna Bay on Stockton Beach. Comprised of a series of tin shacks, it was used for several scenes in the 1979 movie Mad Max.
One of Newcastle's defining features is its busy harbour port. This city is the biggest exporter of coal in the world. Here you can sit and watch the port in action and be amazed as giant 300m freight ships, close enough to touch, are guided into the Harbour by comparatively tiny tugs and a pilot flown out to each ship by helicopter. Sharing the harbour with coal ships are freight ships, fishing boats, ferries and private vessels, making for a chaotic but exciting scene.
The metropolitan area of Newcastle spreads over several Local Government Areas. The estimated population of the City of Newcastle at June 2004 was 145,633 (Australian Bureau of Statistics), but its neighbour, the City of Lake Macquarie, was actually larger, with an estimated 189,196 residents as of June 2004. The combined population of the Newcastle area at the 2001 census was 470,610. This includes Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens and Cessnock local government areas.
Newcastle has an active youth music culture and was actually the most active music scene per capita in the whole world at one point. Silverchair, the highly successful Australian band, hail from Newcastle as do ska band The Porkers. Hip-hop trio Beken Of Cowes have also helped to put Newcastle on the map as the hip-hop capital of Australia. Bon Scott and the Young Brothers, all of AC/DC, spent some of their childhood there. It also has one of the most fertile punk and hardcore scenes in Australia.