09:00 Weds 13 April - till - 17:00 Weds 27 April.
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A new era has dawned for Newcastle. Built on the back of convicts and forged by fire and steel, NSW's second largest city is midway through a mighty metamorphous from industrial port to contemporary, thriving metropolis.
Tug boats hustle freighters on the briny harbour, students stream in for classes at the vertical university building, cafes serve up single origin brews, surfers jog home barefoot from a morning wave.
Along the main street, light rail whisks passengers past an ever-expanding gallery of striking street art while cranes reach for the sky filling in the city's jagged skyline.
Newcastle is Australia's seventh largest urban centre with a population of 440,000. It has undergone massive upheaval in the first two decades of the 21st century with billions of dollars worth of new infrastructure and private development being either completed or under way.
Vote for this top town in the 2022 Top Tourism Town Awards
For visitors, three new luxury hotels including Crystalbrook's Kingsley, QT Newcastle and Doma Group's Little National will open this year and next.
The 106-room QT Newcastle will occupy part of the former 112-year-old David Jones building. Retaining the landmark building's heritage facade, QT Newcastle will open in May 2022 in the revitalised East End precinct.
Meanwhile Crystalbrook has transformed Newcastle's landmark Roundhouse, the former Council Administrative Centre, into a luxury hotel.
Embracing the shifting landscape, Kingsley aims to celebrate Newcastle's past and its extraordinary future positioned in the city's cultural heart - City Hall, Civic Theatre and Art Gallery are on its doorstep.
Newcastle's tourism manager Georgia Lazzari says the city's compactness makes it easy to navigate on foot, light rail or by car with excellent connections by road or from Newcastle Airport.
"Newcastle has all the amenities that you would expect from a capital city yet extends welcoming hospitality to visitors and allows space to breathe," says Lazzari.
So why not jump in the car from Sydney and head up the M1 or fly directly to Newcastle Airport? Have a drink at one of the burgeoning small bars and stay in a boutique hotel or Airbnb to see the transformation for yourself.
Try a locally made gin or craft beer and dine at one of the many fabulous eateries – proof Newcastle's food scene has undergone a revolution all of its own.
Beaches and harbour: Newcastle is one of the world's few cities hemmed by beaches, stretching from Stockton to Merewether…Rugged cliffs and bluffs tumble down to golden stretches of sands, rolling waves, rock pools and sheltered inlets until the coastline grasps the heathland where Nobbys Lighthouse stands guard at the harbour entrance.
Newcastle's Bathers Way is a coast-hugging six-kilometre walk from Nobbys Lighthouse to the coastal wilds of Glenrock Reserve.
At walk's end make for Merewether Surfhouse for Honeysuckle (Newcastle's equivalent of Darling Harbour) on the harbour foreshore. Have a pre-dinner drink at the Rum Diary with its shipwreck theme and boozy rum cocktails then take an alfresco seat at Nagisa where elevated Japanese bites are served with a theatrical twist.
CBD and East End: Join locals steaming in from the beach to cool bars and restaurants like the Falcon, and Restaurant Mason or order an "East End Ice Tea" inspired by Newcastle Beach on a summer's day at the new Saints Gin Bar. Saints offers a menu of 50-plus gins and is one of a growing wave of small bars cropping up across the city. Tiki inspired rum bar Blue Kahunas is yet another. Good coffee meanwhile can be found at Xtraction, Good Brother and New Slang.
Newy Rides' cycle tour, Essentials X The Burbs, starts with a glass of locally made Dirt Candy wine at Nobbys Beach, skirts the harbour and takes in street art at Museum Park. "Here you can see the changing face of Newcastle with the melding of old and new - contemporary architecture juxtaposed with heritage buildings surrounded by a vibrant street-art precinct," says Newy Rides owner and operator Ben Ogden.
Inner city: Newcastle's food scene continues to expand from its two most famous strips - Darby Street, Cooks Hill and Hamilton's Beaumont Street. Islington, Maryville, Tighes Hill and Mayfield are exploding - not only with fabulous cafes but vintage and antique stores, sourdough bakeries, food trucks and distilleries. Try the egg kasundi at Clyde Street Café in Hamilton North, grab a coffee at local favourite Praise Joes in Tighes Hill or head for house-made crumpets at Equium Social in Mayfield, one of the city's fastest growing suburbs.
Nearby, locals are flocking to the adorably named Covered in Crumbs where sugary creations include the lime curd and coconut cake, canelé and sourdough and baguettes made from scratch.
Newcastle is a vibrant city bursting with things to do, places to stay and fun to be had.
Looking for a long weekend where you can feel the coastal breeze in your hair, sip late night cocktails in hidden bars, feel alive on a bushwalk moments from the city, see world-class street art and devour some of the best coffee in the country….all within a couple of hours drive from home?
Newcastle is where you'll find yourself revelling in all of the above. Read on for your ultimate luxe long weekend away.
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