Newcastle: Australia’s second oldest settlement
Not many know that there are many alluring destinations not far from Sydney where it’s worth spending a few days to capture an experience of a different kind. One such destination is Newcastle, just 160 km away north of Sydney.
Currently, with many direct flights per week to Sydney from Delhi and Bengaluru, India is now closely connected with the capital city of the east-coast Australian state of New South Wales. Thanks to Qantas, the national airline for introducing in September last year the direct Bengaluru to Sydney non-stop flights, the first directly connecting Australia with Southern India. Since then Qantas has also established a code share arrangement with Indigo to have Sydney connected with 19 other key Indian cities. (Also read: New Year 2023: Australia to Vietnam; where to travel in the coming year)
Harbour city Sydney is well known among the Indians. Many have already touched its shores, others have ranked it high on their bucket list after hearing stories from earlier visitors and some after watching its spectacular panorama on television when cricket is played between the two countries at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground.
However, not many know that there are many alluring destinations not far from Sydney where it’s worth spending a few days to capture an experience of a different kind. One such destination is Newcastle, just 160 km away north of Sydney. The coastal settlement can be easily reached in less than three hours by road or rail. Like its same-name city in England, it’s also famous for coal and boasts to be the home of the largest coal-exporting harbour in the world. It’s also the nation’s oldest port – coal was shipped from there to Bengal in India in 1799. Besides discovering the maritime history and watching big container ships passing through the port, there are many other interesting things to savour in this coastal sanctuary.
Here the land meets the sea spectacularly, European history shakes hands with modernity, 19th century architecture captivates photographers, art stored in museums and on the street walls satisfies aficionados and a host of multi-cuisine restaurants and cafes reward epicureans.
The beaches, which are good for surfing, swimming and other water sports, are its prime attraction. Among many, the crowd pullers are Merewether Beach, Newcastle Beach and Nobby’s Beach. Adjacent to some of the beaches are the famous Ocean Baths which are natural swimming pools where anyone can have a dip in the ocean waters.
Besides playing with the sea, Newcastle intimately engages visitors with nature when wandering in the Foreshore Park, undertaking long coastal walks or browsing through the 180 hectares of bushland in the Blackbutt Reserve where it’s possible to come close with koalas and other native wildlife.
When done with water, it’s worth transferring mind to history, art and culture and architecture.
History comes alive when at Fort Scratchley – a long standing harbour defender where the cannons still fire and 1858 established Nobby’s Lighthouse which is still active. Originally a penal colony like many other Australian settlements, Newcastle’s convict history rises above ground at the Convict Lumber Yard which was once an enclosed arena to store convict produced coal, timber and lime. The Newcastle Museum is also a great place to into dig history, and so is the Christ Church Cathedral which dates back to 1804.
For the culture vultures Newcastle Art Gallery is perhaps the place to be, though not to be ignored is the street art scene with over 50 locations showcasing talents of the famous and the novices as well.
Many travels to Newcastle just to have a break from big-city life. They look forward to relaxing at a nice waterfront hotel and getting seduced by the best of food and wine. They are never disappointed as the city is home to many quality accommodation outlets facing the water and a host of classy restaurants and bars, some of the popular ones located on Darby Street and Honeysuckle and Harbour precincts. Their presence makes the nation’s second-oldest city into a must-try destination for connoisseurs of gourmet food and rare quality wines, Hunter Valley – the nation’s well known wine belt tucked not too far from the city.
Sandip Hor is an Australia based international travel writer and photographer