The industrial city of Newcastle was the birthplace of the giant BHP empire but since the steel works have gone, it is re-inventing itself as one of Australia's most cosmopolitan cities.
BHP's closure was hinted at in 1997, and it just made sense to look at other ways of attracting new residents, keeping the old ones happy and to offer appealing tourism.
Newcastle and its surrounding areas are blessed with a great coastline including six patrolled beaches within five minutes of the city as well as the Hunter River. The holiday areas of Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley are also within easy access.
Nobbys and Cave Beaches turn on some serious waves and are favourites with experienced surfers, those learning and more recently, kite surfers doing aerial acrobats.
The Bogey Hole is a popular spot. It attracts inner city dwellers who don't particularly fancy sand in their shoes but just want a good swim. The hand-hewn ocean rock pool was carved out of a cliff face by convicts in the 19th century.
Newcastle has a strong sense of a working past and community tradition, and possibly nothing draws them closer together than their beloved rugby league team, The Knights.
Paul Harragon, known to all as The Chief and Andrew ''Joey'' Johns, are two of the city's proudest products. They have played their game at every level and are Newcastle to their bootstraps.
Other Novocastrians who have made it to the top of their chosen field are jazz singer Su Cruickshank, comedians Mikey Robbins, Steve Abbott (aka The Sandman) and John Doyle (aka Roy Slaven), Yahoo Serious, rock band Silverchair and singer John Paul Young.
Mark Richards is a local who won the world championship surfing competition four years in a row. His first trophy was the Newcastle Under 14 school competition and his surfing career went onwards and upwards from there.
In 1961 his dad transformed his car dealership lot on Hunter Street into a surf shop, and it still operates today. Mark exports about 250 handcrafted boards a year and they are all shaped by him.
Mark is a successful businessman and contributes greatly to the Hunter community, as well as nationally, working with several charities. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Newcastle.
Darby Street has become a funky place with some great fashion on offer, Beaumont Street boasts ethnic influences, the waterfront is developing into an attractive place to visit, and everyone is proud of the Art Deco cultural civic centre.
Honeysuckle Wharf, once a dingy industrial foreshore area, is now a modern entertainment area bordered by restaurants, bars and shops.
Silo Lounge and Restaurant is a funky harbourside bar and restaurant. It has modern Australian cuisine, wines, beers and cocktails and great views.
Beaumont Street has side-walk cafes and a thriving pub scene. This is also the Mediterranean precinct, with a strong focus on delicatessens and restaurants offering a range of cuisines.
Café Gianotti is the quintessential café of the street. It is very Italian, very relaxed and friendly with large picnic tables and photos all over the walls, not of celebrities but local characters. The owner cooks and locals and outsiders flock there for the authentic meals.
High Tea With Mrs Woo is the quirky name for a quirky clothing label. It was dreamt up by Chinese-Malaysian sisters, Rowena, Juliana and Angela Foong. The family migrated to Newcastle in 1988 and their style fuses Western influences with Eastern charm to create striking designs. They cleverly combine unusual patterns and textures with strong and rich colour. Their website provides stockists.
About two hours drive north of Sydney
Silo Lounge and Restaurant is open from 10am-11pm, Monday to Thursday; 10am to midnight on Friday and Saturday; and 9am-10pm on Sunday. Bookings are recommended.
Virgin Blue has flights to Newcastle.
One way fares from:
- Brisbane $ 69
- Melbourne $ 79
- Adelaide $180
- Perth $270
- Darwin $275
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are one-way on the Net. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at March 20, 2008 and are subject to change.
Prices correct at 20.08.2008
For further information
755 Hunter Street
Newcastle West 2302
Ph: (02) 4961 3088
Fax: (02) 4961 6872
Silo Lounge and Restaurant
8/1 Honeysuckle Drive
Ph: (02) 4926 2828
Shop 2, 44 Beaumont Street
Ph: (02) 4969 8900
High Tea with Mrs Woo
74 Darby Street
Cooks Hill 2300
Ph: (02) 4926 4883
Ph: 13 6789