Newcastle for Writers Festival Visitors

What to eat, drink and do while you’re here

Merewether Baths

Coming to Newy for the Newcastle Writers Festival? Here are my 5 favourites for where to go and what to do if you’re between sessions or have a little time to spare.

Well, that sounds lovely but I need suggestions for things REALLY close to the festival.

Of course, you’re here for the festival and have back-to-back sessions. You don’t have time for my weekender tips. It would be a shame to leave without seeing any of the beaches….but I understand. What you want is a coffee, somewhere to eat and maybe have a nice drink. See the list under my 5 favourites.

  1. Have a swim

It doesn’t matter where. If you’re in town and don’t have transport then Newcastle Beach and Nobby’s Beach or breakwater are easy options – take the tram straight there. If you have a car, then get thineself to Merewether Baths or Bar Beach. Busy day you say? Back-to-back sessions you say? An early morning swim at the Baths is one of the greatest ways to start a day. That’s all I’m saying.

2. Do a coastal walk

Perhaps ‘the’ coastal walk? The Bather’s Way, takes you along the cliffs from Newcastle Beach all the way down to Merewether. Anything from Newcastle Beach in the other direction to Nobby’s Beach or the breakwater or looping back along the harbour is also gorgeous.

3. Visit East Newcastle

Catch the tram to the end of the line and keep going one more block (the same as going to Newcastle Beach). You’ll find the best fish n’ chips in Newy at Scotties (36 Scott St). Order takeaway and sit on the grass with one their rugs or walk the one block to eat at Newcastle Beach. This little part of East Newcastle is so cute and if you keep walking you’ll reach the gorgeous deco Newcastle Baths. Unfortunately, they’re closed for an upgrade at the moment but you can go left and walk along the coast to Nobby’s Beach, lighthouse and breakwater or head right and have a swim at Newcastle Beach. While you’re down this end of town, you can check out The Falcon (10 Pacific St), The Great Northern (83-89 Scott St), The Basement (2/2 Market St) , Neighbours (2 Market St) and Saints Bar (31 King St) for a drink (or bite to eat).

4. Poke around a book shop

Macleans is the official festival bookshop. If you want to check out their storefront, they’re at 69 Beaumont St. There are also plenty of secondhand bookshops to poke around. My favourite is Cooks Hill Books (72 Darby St, v close to the festival venues). There are also Rice’s Bookshop (96 Beaumont St), Q’s Books (115 Beaumont St) and the Book Buff (100 Belford St).

5. Hang in Hamilton

Who says you need a festival gala to buy something nice to wear? Julie from I am Billie Boots (133A Beaumont St) knows exactly what will work for your shape and what she has in curated vintage and contemporary fashions that will match it. There are also another 2 vintage clothing shops and a Vinnies on her block. If you need coffee or a snack down this end of town then go to Mockingbird (131 Beaumont St) or Lords (148B Beaumont St). If your thirst is more likely to be slaked at a pub, head to my local, the Bennett (146 Denison St), one block across. They also do great food.

Head down Beaumont in the direction of the station and you’ll pass the Red Cross (63B Beaumont St) and Samaritans (19 Beaumont St) op shops. Keep going up Beaumont St and turn left into Hudson St just before the station for a huge Salvos (3/24 Hudson St) or continue on to the intersection of Beaumont St and Maitland Rd. You’re in Islington now and this nook has vintage and pre-loved aplenty. Check out the Vinnies (125 Maitland Rd), The Conscious Exchange (86 Maitland Rd), Stoned Saint Moon and Planet Islington (80 Maitland Rd).

While you’re there, get a coffee or a bag of my favourite beans, Peaberry’s (81 Maitland Rd). If they’re closed (close at 1pm on Sat & not open Sunday) sorry, but Suspension Espresso (3 Beaumont St) also comes recommended.

OK, I promised suggestions close to the Civic precinct. Here they are:

  • Crystalbrook Kingsley (282 King St) Five-star hotel with unrivalled views. Try Romberg’s on level 9 for drinks and bar bites, or Roundhouse on the rooftop for the restaurant experience.
  • Rascal Burgers (1/266 King St) Fully stacked burgers, diner style.
  • Goldbergs (137 Darby St) A Newcastle favourite for over 25 years. Great coffee and a cosy café hang out, also wine and dinners.
  • Autumn Rooms (127 Darby St) Coffee, high tea and café food.
  • Light Years (7 Darby Street) A chic new diner with modern Asian cuisine.
  • MEET (9 Darby Street) Brazilian fare. Began as a humble food truck and now hosts a beautiful bar with a share plate menu, and a restaurant serving Churrasco.
  • Napoli Centrale (173 King St) Authentic, delicious, simple Neapolitan pizzas. Say. No. More.
  • Foghorn Brewery (218 King St) Famous local brew house with diner style eating.
  • Clarendon Hotel (347 Hunter St) Art Deco style bar, with solid pub dining.
  • Coal & Cedar (380 Hunter Street) Cocktails and share plates.
  • The Press Coffee and Book House (462 Hunter St) Practically across the road. Perfect daytime destination for books and coffee.
  • Banh Mi 233 (233 Hunter St) all the deliciousness you expect from this Vietnamese favourite.
  • The Signal Box (155 Wharf Rd) Historic Newcastle building with upmarket bistro style dining and modern Australian cuisine. Breakfast through to dinner.

And finally, not near the festival but close to the beach there’s Modus (20 Merewether St) a slick new brewery and Merewether Surfhouse (5 Henderson Pde) which covers all budgets and inclinations with a café, bar, restaurant, pizza and take away. Yes, this one is right on the beach.

Just one more thing, the Olive Tree Markets will also be on in Civic Park, about 5 minutes away from most festival venues.

OK, as you were, enjoy your sessions and your weekend up here. Maybe I’ll see you round.

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Images: Brendan Wallis