For Sydneysiders looking for a day escape, look no further than our neighbouring city to the north - Newcastle.
Being just a two hour drive away from Sydney, Newcastle is often overlooked by tourists flocking to nearby attractions in the Hunter Region such as Hunter Valley or Port Stephens. However, as the second largest city in New South Wales and (arguably) Australia's second oldest city, Newcastle carries more charm than one may realise on the surface.
Starting off with a brunch, we started our day trip at the Three Bears Kitchen on Market Street. The café has a rustic design, reminding us of Newcastle's embedded industrial roots. Now with the Renew Newcastle Project, it is a refreshing change to be able to enjoy a fine brunch without the typical queues that is now commonplace at most Sydney cafes.
A short walk pass various street murals takes us to Newcastle's Nobby Beach and Nobbys lighthouse. Nobbys lighthouse is open to the public on Sundays and is a popular destination for local families. A short trek up Nobbys Head rewards you with the perfect vantage point overlooking Newcastle. To the east is unlimited views of the Pacific Ocean and we were lucky enough to spot migrating whales on the day making their way to the warm waters of Queensland.
Returning to our car, we took a short drive around Fort Scratchley pass the Newcastle Ocean Baths. We did not have the chance to visit the Fort on this visit, but this former 19-century defense post is now a museum showcasing the history of coastal defense in the region. Fort Scratchley runs tunnel and site tours hosted by volunteers and has various special events over the course of the year on special days, such as guns and cannon firings as well as military vehicles displays on public holidays such as Queens birthday and Anzac day. Be sure to check their website for more details.
An attraction that cannot be missed is the Newcastle Bogey Hole. The Bogey Hole is the oldest purpose-built ocean bath constructed in Australia dating back to 1819. A restoration was recently carried out by the government to stablise the cliff face as well as install an all-weather stairs access, and the popular swimming destination is now finally open again to public since works completion in early 2017. As we arrived during a period of high tides, I would not dream of doing a swim at this time however watching the very formidable waves crash towards the platform with nothing between the ocean and us than a fence was quite a surreal experience.
Making our way back to Sydney, we watched the sunset over the Newcastle Memorial Walk. Driving down memorial drive you see surfers with their boards heading home as well as couples walking their pets in the setting sun. I enjoyed the peacefulness as it reminded me how happiness could be so simple – being a walk in the park or simply watching the sunset over the ocean. We made our drive back to Sydney in anticipation for a new week ahead.