At first glance, Newcastle seems like an underwhelming place, but if you dig a little deeper you will uncover some of the great activities it has to offer. An industrial town with an uneasy past and a stagnant reputation, Newcastle today is growing in popularity among backpackers. Its proximity to the Hunter Valley wine region and adventure tours makes it the perfect home base for day trips.
The city has undergone a serious facelift in the past decade and now has a few good hostels and a healthy café scene. Surfers hone in on Newcastle for the great waves, while beach-goers are equally delighted to wade in the mild ocean baths along the shoreline. Nightlife is surging these days with a large concentration of live music and all-night pubs. Darby and Beaumont streets are the main arteries of the city, with loads of cafes, restaurants, and bars. Beaumont Street boasts free wireless internet access from any point along the road and in restaurants. There are a few more galleries and exhibitions springing up these days as well; it’s worth a bit of investigation. Fort Scratchley is an interesting sight, as is the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery.
Newcastle has a good public transport network that is made up of buses, trains and ferries.
Buses are the most common form of transport for most travellers.
There is a free fare zone in central Newcastle between Wickham train station and Nobbys Beach including the city centre. Opal card fares apply on bus services outside this area (you can use the same Opal card that you use in Sydney). Opal card fares range from $2.10 for a short trip up to 3km, $3.50 for a trip between 3km and 8km and $4.50 for a trip longer than 8km.
Ferries run at half-hour intervals between Queens Wharf near the main train station and Stockton on the north shore of the Hunter River. The ferry costs $2.60 one-way ($2.10 with an Opal card).
The CityRail network serves the western and southern suburbs. Newcastle’s main rail terminus is at Hamilton station west of the city centre. There used to be several additional stations including a couple in the city centre, but these are in the process of being replaced by a tram line.
Train fares in the Newcastle area generally cost between $3.38 and $4.82 for a one-way ticket.