WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN NEWCASTLE
Newcastle is a city that’s rich in history and culture, and its food scene is no exception. In recent years, the Steel City has grown from its industrial roots and lively pub past to become one of Australia’s most exciting new food destinations. Yet it still remains somewhat of an underrated gem – largely adding to its appeal.
Located just two hours north of Sydney, Newcastle boasts stunning beaches and scenic coastal walks, plus a thriving craft beer scene, boutique gin distilleries and new restaurants. With so much to see and do, a weekend in Newcastle is worth adding to your travel hit list.
Here are the best things to do in Newcastle.
Restaurants in Newcastle
Arguably the best restaurant in Newcastle at the moment, Flotilla encompasses the same refined-yet-casual effortlessness you’d find in many of Sydney and Melbourne’s popular establishments. From its understated interiors to the knowledgeable staff, Flotilla’s dining experience is hard to fault.
Seasonality influences the ever-evolving set menu, with dishes like a pumpkin beignet with togarashi and soy emulsion, and smoked duck with celeriac and blackberries. It’s daring without being challenging – a testament to current head chef Jake Deluca.
The lengthy wine list is assembled by charismatic restaurant manager Eduardo Molina and features local Hunter Valley drops alongside French, Italian and even Georgian wines.
Good times diner Humbug came onto Newcastle’s food scene only recently but it’s already made a name for itself among Novocastrians and visitors alike. The neighbourhood restaurant is run by young hospitality couple Michael Portley and Stephanie Wells.
Portley dishes up Euro-leaning fare flecked with Asian flavours; the cuisine doesn’t follow a clear inspiration, which is a large part of its appeal. There are anchovies served atop Danish pastry and parmesan custard and scallop and prawn dumplings with XO butter, plus handmade pasta like duck ragu mafaldine peppered with Thai basil.
Wells leads the affable front-of-house team as well as puts together an exciting and fun natural wine list. As for the fit-out, it is light and airy with natural timbers, lush greenery and the large concertina windows that open out onto the street on balmy evenings.
If you’re searching the city for a great sandwich in between site seeing and swimming, a stop at Arno Deli is a must. The deli-cum-bar is led by an ex-Merivale chef who might just make one of the finest porchetta paninis outside of Italy.
The sandwich in question is loaded with house-made porchetta, marinated eggplant, cos lettuce, garicky aioli and fennel pollen. There are other paninis stuffed with mortadella, whipped ‘nduja, and mushroom and smoked mozzarella. Plus, Arno serves quality coffee and cannolis for morning drop-ins as well as wine and bar snacks on select evenings.
We’d claim that scrambled eggs haven’t been this perfect since back in Bills’ heyday. Estabar uses the golden ratio of eggs (pasture-raised and sourced from Just Been Laid) to cream and milk, to ensure they are an absolute delight. Enjoy with macadamia and miso pesto and locally smoked leg ham. Add in oceanfront views and house-made gelato and you’ve got the café worthy of attention.
Afterwards, a swim at the beach or the city’s numerous ocean baths such as Newcastle Ocean Baths or Bogey Hole – the oldest sea bath in the country – will ensure a great start to your Newcastle getaway.
Nagisa has been around for over 20 years and remains one of the best Japanese restaurants in Newcastle. The family-owned waterfront establishment is located in the Honeysuckle Precinct and offers both indoor and alfresco dining.
Run by chef Tetsuhiko Namba and son Taiyo alongside chef Chris Schofield, Nagisa plates up popular Japanese dishes, from gyoza and sashimi to wagyu beef tataki and chicken karaage.
Next door, you’ll find yakitori restaurant and bar Âpé run by the same family. Here, Japanese skewers are cooked over coals, plus the sake list is excellent.
This corner wine bar charms with ’70s crockery, scribbled blackboard menus and Euro bistro dishes with Novocastrian flare. Named after its sunny-faced owner (Tony Harrison), Harrison’s feels like an extension of his living room (or, possibly his Nan’s) with its mismatched furniture and no-frills atmosphere.
Dishes are designed to share and skirt from the Meditteranean with dishes like octopus cooked over coals and prawn-stuffed baby calamari with chorizo to Provence with confit duck with red wine lentils.
Byron Bay’s popular (and quickly growing) restaurant identity Light Years has made its way down the coast to Newcastle. The bright and breezy pan-Asian restaurant is located on Darley Street and serves up dumplings, bao and prawn rolls alongside larger share dishes such as chilli-caramel pork belly, Singapore-style chilli prawns and curries. It’s a consistent crowd-pleaser, making it a great spot for groups.
Located in the new QT Newcastle, Jana is a modern Australian bar and grill, with some serious firepower in the kitchen: executive chef Massimo Speroni, who joins from brassy and boisterous Brisbane fine diner Bacchus. Speroni has also worked at two of Italy’s finest restaurants – he spent time in the kitchen at Café le Paillotes in Pescara, and was sous chef at San Domenico in Imola, which have one and two Michelin stars, respectively.
The menu has been designed with a nice range of local, dry-aged steaks and an overall emphasis on simple dishes that hero ingredients from around the Hunter region. The 54-seat dining room is moody and eccentric, in true QT style.
No trip to Newcastle is complete without a meal at Scottie’s. It’s perfect for a post-swim feast thanks to its close proximity to Nobby’s and Newcastle Beach.
Scottie’s is a bit of an institution these days, offering dine-in and takeaway menus where sustainable seafood is the hero. If you’re dining in, sit outside on a sunny afternoon and feast on whipped taramasalata and sambal lobster milk buns followed by blue swimmer crab dumplings, grilled calamari with guava caponata and, of course, beer-battered fish and chips.
Bars in Newcastle
Newcastle’s rooftop bar atop the five-star Crystalbrook Kingsley likely has the best views in town. While the cinematic city views are the obvious lure, the cocktails are also worthy of attention. Plus, the long marble bar with overhead sculptural pendant lighting is a great place to roost as you watch the sun set over the city.
Founded by the Earp brothers Michael and Richard, this distillery is where you want to head for an afternoon of G&Ts. The botanic-themed mosaic tile façade pays homage to the Earp family business – one of the oldest tile manufacturers in Australia, founded in Newcastle.
Earp’s hosts regular guided gin tastings, distillery tours and live music events. On top of its award-winning gins, it’s now making rum, brandy, vodka and limoncello – all of which you can sample straight from the source.
This 1920s-inspired speakeasy is housed in an old Methodist mission building and promises “good food, booze and debauchery.” Head to the sophisticated bar for a post-dinner drink or one of its cabaret and burlesque nights, or settle in for the evening with share plates and rounds of Sazeracs.
There are plenty of craft breweries in Newcastle, but Foghorn remains one of the must-visits for hop heads. The brewpub sits in a historic Art Deco warehouse on King Street in central Newcastle and, when it opened in 2015, it was the city’s first modern brewery.
The large venue seats up to 250 punters and is known to regularly host live music on weekends, making it a true local’s haunt. The beers are big and bold, with a rotating list of 16 tap beers at any one time.
Other noteworthy Newcastle breweries include Modus Operandi at Merewether and Grain Store on Scott Street, as well as Morpeth Brewing in the heritage town of the same name that’s about a 45-minute drive from Newcastle.
WHERE TO STAY IN NEWCASTLE
Hotels in Newcastle
The first point of contact at QT’s newest Australian hotel isn’t the porter, receptionist or concierge but rather a “director of chaos”. As with all QT Hotels, the affectionately ascribed job titles are fitting introductions to the quick-witted and vibrant staffers who are high on charm as they check you in for your stay.
For QT Newcastle, the group’s first regional location, the group has brought its usual flair to a historic 113-year-old building in Steel City’s downtown. Distinctive, bright design elements are conspicuously juxtaposed with heritage features.
In the comfortably sized rooms, light streams in from rounded archways. Proximity is one of the hotel’s main selling points – as is its stunning rooftop.
Housed in Newcastle’s heritage-listed Brutalist building The Roundhouse, Crytsalbrook Kingsley is the luxury hotel of choice for culture-seeking travellers thanks to its central location.
The five-star hotel may not have a pool or gym, but it does have a sky-high bar and restaurant with panoramic views across Newcastle and its waterways. Whether you’d prefer to park up with a Martini at Romberg’s or sit down to dinner at Roundhouse Restaurant, heading up to the top floor is a must.
The incredibly spacious and elegant rooms and suites also offer fine views across the harbour, park or city. All 130 rooms come with plush king-sized beds and black-out blinds, ensuring a restful stay.
Airbnbs in Newcastle
This stunning one-bedroom apartment is located in one of the best areas in Newcastle, with an array of cafés, restaurants, and bars just a short stroll away. The beautifully decorated interiors boast modern furnishings and stylish touches throughout – but the real drawcard is the balcony overlooking the ocean.
Located in the leafy neighbourhood of Cooks Hill, this two-bedroom loft apartment is perfect for a small group looking to stay near all the action. Within a short walk from restaurants, galleries and parks, this renovated loft is bright and airy thanks to its open-plan design and it has all the amenities you need for a comfortable weekend getaway.
This three-storey, three-bedroom house has a rooftop pool, which is reason enough to book this place for your next trip away with friends. It’s located in the inner city of Wickham by the water, so it has picturesque bay views. Plus its maritime-inspired architecture lets in plenty of sunlight and it can sleep up to eight guests. It might not be the most central Airbnb, but it is definitely one of the most striking.