NEWCASTLE was founded in 1804 for convicts too hard even for Sydney to cope with, but the river is the real reason for the city’s existence: coal, which lies in great abundance beneath the Hunter Valley, was and still is ferried from the countryside to be exported around the country and the world. The proximity of the mines encouraged the establishment of other heavy industries, though the production of steel here ceased in late 2000 and most of the slag heaps have been worked over, but the docks are still functional, particularly with the through traffic of coal from the Hunter Valley.

New South Wales’ second city, with a population of over a quarter of a million, Newcastle has long suffered from comparison with nearby Sydney. However, for a former major industrial city, it’s surprisingly attractive in parts, a fact now being more widely recognized, and old icons have been redeveloped, such as the Great Northern Hotel. The large and lively student community keeps the atmosphere vibrant, and there’s a serious surf culture too – many surfwear- and surfboard-makers operate here, several champion surfers hail from the city, and there’s a big contest, Surfest, in March. You might not choose to spend too much time here, but it can be a good base for excursions, particularly to the wineries of the nearby Hunter Valley.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Australia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Undiscovered Australia: 7 places to get off the tourist trail

Undiscovered Australia: 7 places to get off the tourist trail

Australia is a vast country, though most visitors stay on the same tried and tested track, ticking off well-touristed pitstops along the way. But, of course, …

07 Aug 2017 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
The rebirth of Perth: how the city got cool

The rebirth of Perth: how the city got cool

Sun-soaked and healthy? Perhaps. A decent gateway to Western Australia? Definitely. But a cool place to spend a few days? Until recently Perth just couldn’t …

27 Apr 2017 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
12 tips for backpacking Australia

12 tips for backpacking Australia

Backpacking Australia will almost certainly exceed your expectations. It’s not just that the places you’ll see will be more stunning than you had imagine…

09 Mar 2017 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month