There’s a lot to love about living in Newcastle – the beaches, the weather, the lifestyle.
And it’s not just locals who are recognising the potential of the former “steel city,” with domestic and international tourists, event organisers and businesses setting their sights on the seventh largest city in Australia.
To celebrate our awesomeness, we’ve put together Nine Reasons Why We Think Newcastle Is So Hot Right Now – it could have been a lot more, but we had to stop somewhere!
1. SMART CITY
It’s official – Newcastle is one Smart City. The title was bestowed upon the former steel city by National Geographic Traveler Magazine as part of its series celebrating cities that have risen to the challenges of 21st-century urban life.
It recognises Newcastle’s transition from a highly industrialised past to a vibrant and innovative centre, renowned for its burgeoning artisan scene, cultural highlights, technological investment and tourism appeal.
National Geographic cited everything from the revitalisation of the inner city to developments such as the University of Newcastle’s city campus and the Innovation Hub as their reasons for Newcastle’s inclusion as a Smart City, while the ongoing transformation of the former heavy rail line and our bustling bar and restaurant scene were also factors they considered.
“We are on a global hunt to find cities where innovation meets imagination and are quickly becoming the next great travel destinations,” National Geographic Traveler Magazine editor in chief, George W. Stone, said.
“Newcastle has done just that. The coastal city has re-invented itself, restoring its colonial-era buildings and becoming a base to explore all this city has to offer.”
2. BEACHSIDE PARADISE
Sun, sand and surf – it’s what Australia is known for around the world. And some of the country’s most spectacular coastline can be found right here in Newcastle.
With the pedigree of surfers to have come out of Newcastle, including the legendary Mark Richards, it’s little surprise that the quality of Newcastle’s surf break are among the best in Australia.
This status is celebrated in February each year when surfers from across the country and around the world converge on Newcastle for the iconic Surfest festival.
Of course, our beaches aren’t just for those wanting to ride the waves, with our clean water, golden sand and great access ensuring we have the perfect spot for swimmers, surfers and sunbathers of all ages.
If you just want to take in scenery you can also take advantage of the ongoing Bathers Way project being completed by Newcastle City Council, which is providing a six kilometre coastal walk from Nobbys Headland to Merewether Baths, complemented by viewing areas, seating, plantings, shade structures, lighting, bins, bike racks and bubblers. Bathers Way also connects with the stunning Newcastle Memorial Walk at Strzelecki Headland, which provides a view of our coast like no other.
3. DREAM DESTINATION
The votes have been counted, and the result has confirmed what we already knew – Newcastle is a dream destination for tourists.
The city took out the No.2 position in a poll of Australians’ top 10 places to visit in 2016, which was conducted by leading travel experience provider Experience Oz.
The fourth annual ‘Australia’s Top 10 Destinations to Experience’ survey saw Newcastle (25.2 percent of the votes) crush the Kimberley, WA (6.1 per cent), Adelaide, SA (4.7 percent) and Melbourne, VIC (4.4 percent) in the list of iconic major destinations on travellers’ bucket lists, with only the north Queensland blue water paradise of the Whitsundays (25.8 per cent) pipping us for the top spot.
Experience Oz Marketing Manager Matt Hobbs said the poll provided a great opportunity to identify Australia’s hidden gems.
“Newcastle is an underrated destination that offers the best of Australia’s big cities with some great slices of the coast and an easy drive to the Hunter Valley nearby for added variety,” he said.
“It's got a little bit of everything: history, beaches, some great nature, and a unique bit of character all of its own, along with enough variety in experiences to offer something for most travellers.”
Image courtesy of Newcastle City Council
4. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT
Visitors aren’t just arriving in Newcastle by sea of course, with the nearby Newcastle Airport at Williamtown soaring to all new heights in terms of passenger numbers.
It recently recorded its busiest January on record, with 108,606 passengers passing through the state’s second busiest airport in the first month of 2017.
This result was a whopping 12.7% increase on the previous January and followed a record year for Newcastle Airport in 2016, with more than 1.2 million passengers using the terminal during the calendar year (up 5.5% on 2015).
Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said the results were truly amazing.
“For an airport to have double-digit growth in this climate is almost unheard of; most airports are sitting at domestic growth of around 2-3%,” he said.
“We’re continuing to work with the airlines and local business to deliver more frequency on existing routes, pitch for new destinations, and for the airlines to provide more connectivity through the hubs of Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Melbourne.”
The airport had another reason to celebrate this year, with passengers ranking its check-in processes and wayfinding as the best in Australia and New Zealand.
The global airport benchmarking survey conducted by Airport Service Quality also saw Newcastle Airport ranked first overall in six sub-categories when compared against participating airports in Australia and New Zealand.
5. MAIN EVENT
If you want to hold an event, look no further than Newcastle - we’re world class.
Last year Newcastle was named the International Festivals and Events Association’s World Festival & Event City for the third year running.
Newcastle also won the gong in 2012, meaning it has won the award in four out of the past five years.
The city was recognised as the best in the world for community leadership and festival and event partnerships, following on from our success in hosting major large-scale events in recent years including the Asian Super Moto, Anzac Rugby League Test, 2015 AFC Asian Cup Australia, Australian Bowl-Riding Championships, Nutrigrain Ironman Series and This That Music Festival.
Our celebrated reputation as an event destination also helped Newcastle secure the hosting rights for the final round of the Australian Supercar Championships for five years from 2017, with the Coates Hire
Newcastle 500 track to be set up around the inner city and Newcastle foreshore.
“This award marks the hat-trick for the city and again confirms that the work being undertaken by Newcastle City Council in the festival and event sector is world class,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“From sporting events to arts and cultural festivals, markets, conventions and exhibitions, Newcastle offers a bevvy of experiences for visitors and locals to enjoy, and it’s only set to grow with the addition of the Supercars event and a future cruise terminal for the port.”
“Newcastle took out No.2 position in a poll of Aussie's top 10 places to visit
- Experience Oz
Image courtesy of Port of Newcastle
6. WORLD-RENOWNED UNIVERSITY
Our events aren’t the only thing we’re renowned for worldwide. During the past 50 years, the University of Newcastle (UON) has earned a global reputation as one of the world’s most prestigious tertiary institutions.
In 2016 UON was recognised for the first time as one of the top 250 universities in the world in the fiercely contested QS World University Rankings.
During the past three years alone, UON has risen more than 50 places in the global ranking, which assesses more than 3800 institutions worldwide against six indicators to measure its performance.
These include the university’s academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations.
UON Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, said UON’s rise reflects the university’s commitment to excellence in education, research and innovation.
“We are proud to stand as a global leader harnessing research excellence to drive innovation and economic growth across our regions through engagement with industry, business and community,” she said.
Subjects offered by the university have also been named amongst the world’s best, with six ranking in the top 100 of the 2017 QS World University Subject Rankings.
This included UON’s Engineering – Mineral and Mining (30th) and Architecture and Built Environment discipline (45th), as well as nursing, education, sociology, and engineering (civil and structural).
7. SILVER SCREEN STATUS
With our beautiful coastline, historic architecture and diversity of natural environments, Newcastle creates a visually stunning collage of different landscapes. And it seems we’re not the only ones who think our city provides the perfect backdrop for every occasion, with film and television producers often choosing to put our scenery up on the silver screen.
Newcastle has been the unofficial star in everything from international blockbusters to Australian productions, as well as television series and music videos.
Examples of our past credits include the World War II scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), which was filmed on Blacksmiths Beach, as well as an action sequence featuring a thief firing at police cars from the roof of a “bank” in Superman Returns (2006), which was actually shot around Newcastle House near Civic Park.
Newcastle musician and former Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns also returned to the city where he grew up to film the sensual video clip for “Aerial Love”, which was shot on the stunning Stockton sand dunes in 2015.
Craig Lowndes - Photo by Edge Photographics
8. CRUISING IN
It’s not just individual tourists opting to a stop off in Newcastle, with an increasing number of cruise ship operators also choosing to bag a berth in our harbour as part of their travel itineraries. Since the cruise ship terminal at Carrington opened in 2010, the city has played host to 66 cruise liners, bringing thousands of new visitors to the city.
And things will only get busier in coming years following the announcement of a new $12.7 million multi-purpose cruise terminal facility to be built by the Port of Newcastle, thanks to funding from the State Government.
A separate $800,000 project to install new mooring bollards at the site will also enable the city to play host to bigger ships, carrying up to 3500 passengers, with work on track to be completed mid-year.
A total of 16 cruise liners have already confirmed they will head into our harbour during the next 18 months, with six ships scheduled to arrive this year.
9. WINE AND DINE
Once upon a time you would have had to travel to a major metropolitan centre if you wanted to tempt your taste buds with the finest cuisine. But during the past few years, Newcastle has really cemented its status as a food-lovers paradise, with everything from chef’s hat level restaurants through to funky cafes.
Your taste buds can traverse the world without leaving the city, with a veritable buffet of international cuisines on offer within a five-minute drive of the CBD as a range of distinct eat streets and food precincts pop up across the city.
Newcastle’ bustling bar scene has grown enormously in recent years, offering a cocktail or craft beer to suit every taste bud, while wine connoisseurs are of course just a short trip down the expressway away from one of the oldest and most celebrated wine regions in Australia, the Hunter Valley vineyards.
With all this and much more on offer in Newcastle, it’s little wonder the eyes of the world are upon us!
Image credit (top): Newcastle City Council