December 13th, 2009 – by: travelmate48
Newcastle, second city of Australia, named after the city in England also famous for its coal. As is the saying, â€śLike taking coals to Newcastle.â€ť
Newcastle was infamous as a dirty old town where nothing much happened. It was best remembered for its pollution-belching steelworks and its very long main street, Hunter Street, which almost ended up at the beach. Bob Hudson wrote a song about it and the acropolis milk bar. Unfortunately for Newcastle, the Pacific Highway well and truly bypasses the town so most travellers give it a miss.
The steelworks have closed, suburban shopping malls took over, and after the earthquake of 20m years ago, the main street died. Many businesses went broke and were boarded up. But Newcastle is fighting back. The city is clean, tidy, and businesses are starting to return. Yuppy cafĂ© culture is starting to take over too.
Newcastle is now noted for the fact that it loads onto ships more coal than any other port in the world. They donâ€™t seem to be exploiting this fact. One of the new tourist attractions is to go to any suburban headland and count the number of coal ships on the horizon waiting to enter the port. I last counted 35.
It is also famous for its beaches. It seems like there are more beaches per head of population there than any other city in Australia.
I liked the Cathedral on the hill. It dominated the skyline and it must be one of the few cathedrals built on a hill in Australia, which is just where they should be. I went across to Stockton on the ferry to see it all lit up but to not avail. The parishoners can't afford the $20,000 per year electricity bill.
Thereâ€™s lots to do from surfing and swimming in the safe ocean baths and in the Bogey Hole, carved by convicts out of the virgin rock, to exploring the tunnels under Fort Scratchley, the only fort in Australia to have fired back at attacking enemy ships. Climb the Queenâ€™s Wharf Tower for spectacular views over the harbour and city. Walk the Nobbyâ€™s Breakwater to see where the Pasha Bulka came aground for a few weeks.
For the nature lover, Blackbutt Reserve is a great place to look at Australian wildlife such as kangaroos, koalas, emus and the like.
There are many kinky things to do; go kerbside shopping; you never know what youâ€™ll find. Look at the Christmas decorations brightening the suburbs, feed the parking meters, watch the traffic in Hunter Street play with the huge marbles that seem to be everywhere. Go across to Stockton for the best fish and chips in Australia, look around at night, you might find a delightfully lit up church, or a band such as the Elevators playing at the Merewether Beach Hotel.
Newcastle, a couple of hours north of Sydney is worth a look at.