Lulu's Cafe & Poke
Newcastle Flower Market
Olive Tree Markets
Just a short two-hour drive from Sydney, laid-back Newcastle is an arty city that's home to the largest coal shipping harbour in the world, legendary surf beaches, historical architecture, and a renaissance brought to life by its long-standing, loyal and creative community. Meaning, there are plenty of things to do in Newcastle that will have you heading north in a heartbeat.
Like Sydney, Newcastle centres around a harbour and a bounty of beautiful beaches, but its population of just over half a million makes it a quieter alternative for a glorious weekend away, a summer holiday, and even perhaps a permanent sea change. After all, you can still find a free car park next to the sand here, and that on its own is enticing enough.
Newcastle — or, as the locals call it — ‘Newy’, has seen an almighty resurgence over the last decade, with a new café, bar, or restaurant swinging open its doors almost every week. So, forget the Sydney and Melbourne rivalry, the dark horse city vying for your attention may just be this Central Coast gem.
Things to do in Newcastle
From a lazy lunch at a newly opened cafe to waterside fine dining, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to eating out in Newcastle. A foodie destination in its own right, means eating out is a highlight of things to do in Newcastle. It’s the type of place where you can rely on the seafood being fresh, the pub meals being generous, and vegan options aplenty.
Start your day right by venturing toward the beach-end of Darby Street where you’ll find yourself at Hubro, a crisp white cafe with a wooden interior that takes its no-fuss food seriously. Although this local hangout is popular for its cold brew coffee, it’s also known for its hearty smashed avo, serving it on thick, nutty sourdough, with a healthy dose of avocado, delicate crumbles of salty feta and drizzled with organic honey.
Address: 1a/295 Darby Street, Cooks Hill 2300
Phone: 0400 928 437
Summary: A small but stylish family owned and operated cafe in Cooks Hills, serving cold brew coffee and simple hearty meals.
Located along Newcastle’s reviving Hunter Street, the menu at Momo feels fresh, catering for all dietary requirements, from vegan to carnivore, this well-curated cafe places importance on organic sustainable produce. What’s more, the setting of Momo feels fresh too, being housed in a beautiful former bank, flooded with sunlight accenting its period features and delightful design and decor. So, for those looking for things to do in Newcastle that's centred around good food and design, this is it.
Address: 227 Hunter Street, Newcastle 2300
Phone: (02) 4926 3310
Summary: Located in a beautiful old bank on the corner of Hunter and Brown Streets, Momo has mastered the balance between healthy, delicious and Insta-worthy food.
Lulu's Cafe & Poke
If you’re after a quick and easy meal that doesn’t involve the deep fryer, then head on over to Lulu’s Cafe & Poke on Crown Street where you can order a poke bowl that is both easy on the eye and on the stomach. What is a poke bowl you may ask? It’s a Hawaiian delicacy (hence ‘Lulu’ taken from ‘Honolulu’), served with sashimi, rice and fresh fruit and raw vegetables.
Website: Lulu's Cafe & Poke
Address: Suite 1, 3-5 Crown Street, Newcastle 2300
Phone:0403 664 450
Summary: Lulu’s Cafe & Poke is a pastel-hued cafe located on Crown Street, offering poke bowls that are bright and health conscious.
Whether you’re searching for your morning dose of delicious caffeine, or a place to meet for an afternoon cocktail by the water, Newcastle has really upped their game on the drinking front. Morning to nighttime, when it comes to things to do in Newcastle, there are plenty of places to pop in for a coffee or cheeky beverage.
Newcastle Flower Markets Kiosk Cafe
Sometimes, the best type of local hotspot is the type that falls into many different categories — the Newcastle Flower Markets, along with its newly opened kiosk cafe is such a spot. Here you can shop through the beautiful blooms that are on display in their warehouse, before sitting for a cappuccino with a side of sweet or savoury delicacy. The kiosk even welcomes you to bring your four-footed friends along, with puppy-chinos and doggy bowls readily available.
Website: Newcastle Flower Markets Kiosk Cafe
Address: 1 Rural Drive, Sandgate 2304
Phone: 1300 760 460
Summary: Newcastle Flower Markets is a trade and public market offering fresh blooms, along with a newly opened kiosk serving coffee and sweet or savoury delicacies.
The Landing Bar & Kitchen
Treat yourself to an afternoon of harbourside gazing at The Landing Bar and Kitchen, located along the Honeysuckle foreshore; a beloved waterfront precinct that belongs on every list of things to do in Newcastle. Along with its idyllic views, this chic venue offers a summer-inspired cocktail list, making it a perfect place to relax and watch the harbour activity unfold come sunset. There’s also a modern-Italian menu with plenty of sharing-type meals on offer.
Website: The Landing Bar & Kitchen
Address: 1 Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle NSW 2300
Phone: (02) 4927 1722
Summary: A stunning waterfront bar and restaurant with an extensive cocktail list and modern-Italian menu in Honeysuckle, boasting a beautiful view of Newcastle's harbour.
Newcastle has a fine collection of historic terraces that have been transformed and renovated into modern short-term rentals. As such, staying in a hotel during a visit in the area may just be a wasted opportunity, particularly when visitors can instead get a taste of a key part of Newcastle’s history; by experiencing first-hand what modern updates homeowners have made to these historic structures.
A unique and impressive example of Newcastle’s accommodation offering is Hayes House, a stunningly renovated Victorian home, located in the heart of Cooks Hill, and just a 30-second walk to the ever popular hub of Darby Street, which is the place to be when it comes to things to do in Newcastle. Boasting three generous bedrooms, this boutique Airbnb listing features a magazine-worthy interior design, as well as custom high-end finishes throughout. This short-term rental is truly a home away from home.
Website: Hayes House
Address: 36 Parry Street, Cooks Hill, NSW 2300
Summary: Hayes House is a beautifully renovated Victorian terrace in Cooks Hills, listed on Airbnb as a short-term boutique accommodation offering.
Get to know Newcastle properly by doing as the locals do; like waking up early to take a dip in one of the ocean baths, or shopping at one of the many boutique stores speckled along Darby Street. And if the stars align perfectly, you may just visit when the popular monthly Olive Tree Markets are on, in which case, you’re in luck!
Newcastle and Merewether Ocean Baths
Bondi's Icebergs ocean baths may be Australia's most famous seaside pool, but Newcastle may just have two of the finest. The best (and cheapest) thing to do in Newcastle is the seaside pools. First, there’s the Newcastle Ocean Bath, opened in 1922, and stands unique thanks to its beautiful art deco facade and short walk from the CBD. And second, there’s the Merewether Ocean Bath, opened in 1935, and is thought to be the largest in the southern hemisphere, consisting of two large pools (100m x 50m, and 100m x 27m) dug in to the rocky outcrop at the southern-end of Merewether Beach.
Website: Newcastle and Merewether Ocean Baths
Address: 5 Henderson Parade, Merewether NSW 2291
Summary: Newcastle is fortunate enough to have two main ocean baths, Newcastle and Merewether, that both sit on pristine coastline and are open year-round for the public to enjoy.
Ask any local for recommendations on where to shop in Newcastle and most likely they will point you toward the direction of Darby Street, a trendy village-type atmosphere with a collection of independently owned boutiques. It is by far one of the best things to do in Newcastle, not only for its boutiques but for its cafes.
Business Name: Scout Newcastle
Address: 124 Darby Street, Cooks Hill 2300
Phone: (02) 4929 7278
Summary: Located along the popular Darby Street, Scout Newcastle is a fashion and homewares store that's all about coastal vibes.
Olive Tree Markets
Held once a month, Newcastle’s creative community gathers together for the Olive Tree Markets where you’ll find over 130 makers, designers, and gourmet artisan producers, within the grounds of Civic Park. If you're looking for the thing to do in Newcastle, then this should be it. All bases are covered from the makers of the ceramics brand, Clay Canoe, to the creatives behind the kindness project, Secret Book Stuff, all the way to a gelato food truck and freshly squeezed lemonade stall. The Olive Tree Market is held on the first Saturday of the month and operates rain, hail, or shine.
Website: Olive Tree Markets
Address: Civic Park, Cnr King & Darby Street, Newcastle
Phone: 0439 649 058
Summary: The Olive Tree Market features over 130 stalls of Newcastle’s local makers, designers, and gourmet artisan producers. It is held on the first Saturday of the month.
With so many things to do in Newcastle, it's easy to see why more and more Sydneysiders are looking to this northern outpost for a weekend getaway or a permanent seachange. After more inspo for when you're next in Newcastle? Check out Newcastle's Must-try Restaurants.