As a former professional surfer and four times world champion, Mark Richards, a proud Novocastrian (as Newcastle residents are called), has seen most of the world’s most beautiful coastal areas. Richards has often said that his home town is still his favourite. He is not alone: in 2011, Lonely Planet voted Newcastle, Australia as one of the Top 10 cities in the world. That’s quite a claim. Is there any basis to it?
A great city has to have everything you could want or need, but not be so big and impersonal that you become just another face in the crowd. As the second largest city in NSW and Australia’s sixth largest city, Newcastle fits that description. In Newcastle, you get the feeling you are in a laid back, friendly town or village rather than in a big city.
A great city must have plenty of parks and other recreation areas. Here again, Newcastle is a winner. There aren’t many cities of its size that boast over 345 parks. A sports mad city, nearly half of those parks include playing fields. In addition, Newcastle has over 60 public tennis courts, 100 children’s parks and 5 swimming complexes. These outdoor facilities are used all year ’round, thanks to Newcastle’s great temperate climate.
What coastal town can be called great if it doesn’t have great beaches? There are not one or two, but five patrolled beaches all within 3 miles (five kilometres) of downtown Newcastle. All of them have beautiful beaches and some of them have features you will see nowhere else. Merewether Ocean Baths and Newcastle Ocean Baths are two examples of beach facilities that are unique to Newcastle. Merewether’s are the largest public beach baths in the Southern Hemisphere, while the Newcastle beach pool is an Art Deco era architectural marvel.
If you prefer surfing or swimming at a less crowded beach, to don’t have to travel outside the city limits to find one in Newcastle. You can walk to some of them from downtown or drive a short distance and find yourself on an isolated beach you can have virtually all to yourself.
Newcastle’s many cultural attractions, too, boost its reputation as one of the world’s most livable cities. The Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, for example, is one of Australia’s top regional galleries and has some of the best permanent and travelling exhibitions in the country. At the magnificently restored Art Deco style Civic Theatre, you can see everything from international ballet to touring international acts.
What city could be called great that didn’t have a vibrant nightlife scene? In Newcastle, there is always something happening and it’s there for everyone to enjoy. In and around the city centre are dozens of clubs, pubs and classic Australian hotels that host live music most nights of the week. Almost any night of the week, you can go out and listen to a local rock band while you’re sitting at the bar and then wander up the road to a quiet little nightspot featuring a local folk singer playing her acoustic guitar.
These are just some of the attractions in Newcastle’s City Centre area. Within a short drive of the city, you can also go whale watching in Port Stephens, wine tasting in the Hunter Valley or exploring the Hunter Wetlands by canoe, to name just a few. If you’re not convinced yet, stay in a Newcastle accommodation and within a few days you will agree with Lonely Planet that Newcastle is one of the world’s Top Ten cities.