"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.