TDF hearts Newcastle!

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Monday 30th April 2012

TDF Hearts Newcastle!  Oh yes we do.  Just check out the BEACH, people!  All shots by Sean Fennessy.  ‘Newcastle’ graphic by Trevor Dickinson / Kat Chadwick.

A few snippets from Newcastle – clockwise from top left – Newcastle Council Building, ‘Everything you can imagine is real’ street art by Stu McDonald just off Hunter St Mall in Newcastle’s CBD, Train illustration by David R. Hampton, and coffee at One Penny Black Espresso Bar in Hunter st Mall.  All shots by Sean Fennessy.

One Penny Black Espresso Bar in Hunter st Mall.  All shots by Sean Fennessy

OK soooo as you may already KNOW if you are an excellent person who follows TDF on INSTAGRAM (yes, I finally caved), I have recently been to Newcastle.

Yes.  NEWCASTLE.  It is AWESOME.  I won’t hear a bad word said about it.  Totally and truly I am 100% cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die in love with the place.

Originally settled as an industrious coal mining town, Newcastle is Australia’s second-oldest city.  It’s around 160km North of Sydney.  Only about 150,000 people live there. But for a small-ish town I have got to say there is some seriously cool creative stuff going on there, and what’s more, you can go surfing on your lunchbreak. (No kidding!)

There is great coffee, incredible beaches, the best fish ‘n chips I have ever eaten, noticeably good looking people, cute hipster children on every street corner who appear to be able to skateboard from an extremely young age, an affordable housing market… all this and you’re only 2 hours from Sydney.  And YET, there’s not a skerrick of ‘Sydney’s little sister’ about it.  Newcastle really does have it’s own unique sense of pride and quietly confident vibe going on.  It is very attractive.

Part of the reason I fell head first in love with Newy was because we had the BEST unofficial tour guide any out-of-towner could ask for.  We (photographer Sean Fennessy and I) were incredibly lucky to have passionate Novocastrian Siobhan Curran basically at our beck and call for 4 days straight!  AMAZING.

Having moved from Sydney to Newcastle with her young family just two years ago, Siobhan’s intense love affair with her new home town is still very much in the ‘honeymoon’ period!   Siobhan writes ‘The Novocastrian Files‘ – an excellent blog covering all kinds of inspiring creative happenings in her much-loved seaside city. Siobhan is also the official licensee for TEDX Talks in Newcastle – she staged TEDxNEWY for the first time last year, to rave reviews!

Siobhan’s enthusiasm for ‘Newy’ is completely infectious – and it definitely rubbed off on us during our visit.  One day we shot two houses back to back, then Siobhan took us to Merewether Oceans Baths for a swim AFTERWARDS!   Unheard of.  That is the magic of Newcastle! (and daylight savings).

SO this week, inspired by our recent trip, I have dedicated a week of posts to the creative happenings and general excellence of Newcastle!  We’ll meet a bunch of interesting local creatives (check out Renew Newcastle on the GUEST BLOG), we’ll see a super beautiful Newcastle home, we’ve put together our very own TDF-tried-and-tested Newcastle City Guide for you, and on Friday we’ll interview a lovely local designer who worked for amazing magazines in both Sydney and London before relocating to Newcastle last year to launch her own business.

For now, please enjoy a few of Sean Fennessy’s excellent photos taken during our whirlwind tour of Newcastle… and get ready for a rather epic week!

Our trip to Newcastle was generously supported by Newcastle City Council and Newcastle’s Crowne Plaza Hotel.  MASSIVE thanks for their wonderful hospitality during our stay.

‘Everything you can imagine is real’ street art by Stu McDonald just off Hunter St Mall in Newcastle’s CBD.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Cheeky cute Newy kids.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Susan Gilmore Beach. Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Newcastle Ocean Baths. Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Newcastle Ocean Baths.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Olive Tree Markets (held once a month – more info coming in our Newcastle City Guide later this week!).  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Lunch / coffee stop at Good Brother Espresso with Siobhan Curran and Shannon Morton.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Good Brother Espresso.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Beautiful homes and leafy streets in Cooks Hill.   Photo – Sean Fennessy

Leafy streets in Cooks Hill.   Photo – Sean Fennessy

More cute skateboarding children.  They are everywhere.  Photo – Sean Fennessy

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Monday 30th April 2012


  • Siobhan C 5 years ago

    Am I the first commenter? Why, yes! Yes I am. My chest is bursting with pride Lucy. Go Newy!

  • Beck 5 years ago

    Ohhh I love Newy! I lived there for a year whilst studying and honestly it’s the city without the obnoxious attitude of a city. Absolutely love it, so glad you are featuring such a great place! xo Beck

  • Amanda 5 years ago

    calling Newcastle a smallish town?? wouldn’t that be more like a population of a couple of thousand??

  • Pip L 5 years ago

    Aw! You took us to Newcastle! Thanks, Luce!! I had a great time! And I didn’t even had to get out from under my Melbourne doona! LOL! xx

  • Selby 5 years ago

    Aww finally my hometown makes the files:) Go Newy!
    Already finding myself thinking- gee I hope the showed you this… Hope they took you there:)

  • Jen 5 years ago

    this is making me want to do a day trip, and I have, (to be completely honest), never thought about doing that!

  • Carol D 5 years ago

    Well done, Siobhan! And thanks to The Design Files for coming to visit our wonderful city. (Sixth largest in Australia, or seventh if you believe that nonsense about the twin towns of Tweed/Gold Coast being ONE city! LOL!) Sean’s photos are gorgeous – love the Newy kids! :)

  • Marcus 5 years ago

    I just got back from Newcastle a few days ago. You’re making want to turn straight around and go back again.

  • Fox and Beau 5 years ago

    Lucy! I never know Newcastle was so nice! I think a weekend away up these is necessary!

  • dustjacket 5 years ago

    I will definitely stop at Newcastle when I’m next up that way…love the shots!

  • Monique 5 years ago

    Wow these images of Newy look truly inspiring! Can’t wait to see the rest of the weeks posts. Newcastle is such a fun inspiring place! I think there is still a lot for me to discover so I’ll really enjoy seeing it through your eyes! Thanks for the tour Design Files x

  • Amberly 5 years ago

    I know nothing about Newcastle so these photos are amazing! Wow, what a wonderful place! Especially those Ocean Baths. Those may have to be added to my bucket list! Great post, what a blast!

  • Robert 5 years ago

    Great post, wonderful photos and so glad you enjoyed their time in Newcastle. The verandahed house in that last photo (skateboarding kids) was damaged by Japanese shell fired from submarine in WW2. My mother’s uncle’s mother lived there. #historyeverywhere

  • Barbara Fisher 5 years ago

    Oh I love Newcastle! My Dad grew up there, and I still have relatives there, so have many fond memories of visiting as a kid. Now we are often in Port Stephen’s on holidays, and always make a day trip to Newy while we’re there. Lucy, I hope you made it to the Merewether Surf House for lunch after your swim??

    The architecture in Newy is amazing, such a diamond in the rough. I would love to purchase a gorgeous little old house there, if only my husband could find enough work. I love the concept behind Renew Newcastle and I’m so pleased it’s been so successful. Looking forward to the rest of this weeks posts!

  • Katy Lynch 5 years ago

    Thankyou for this beautiful portrayal of my city Newcastle. It’s a stunning place to photograph, and live in everyday.
    Next time you are visiting you should check out the Wickham Motocycle Co. Its the coolest cafe/coffee shop/motocycle showroom/garage ive ever seen. My new favourite haunt. Check it out…

    I had a ball there instagramming on Easter Saturday! (@kittykaty180 if you wanna see some pics)

    Keep up the great articles!

  • Ash 5 years ago

    I’m an ex-Newy boy, living in Melbourne for about a decade now, and I still miss Newcastle all the time… you made me homesick Lucy! It’s a great city… it’s relaxed pace of life, the smell of salt-water in the air, panoramic beautiful-ness (not just the beaches, the architecture, old tree-lined streets…), good food and coffee, and generally friendly, creative people. Time for a visit I think!

  • clealmond 5 years ago

    amazing pics Sean! Want to go! Now!

  • Matthew 5 years ago

    Newcastle is without a doubt Australia’s most unique city. I think it has a lot to do with so many socio-economic groups living within such close proximity of each other. Newcastle isn’t characterised by the same sort of “tribal” ideas that govern Sydney (North/East vs South/West). Take a drive down the beautiful Parkway Drive (Hamilton to Bar Beach) and watch a film of houses, some large & some government-owned, pass by.

  • Georgina 5 years ago

    Amazing pics and creative vibes in this post – I am a little biased too since my husband was born in Newcastle. great to see such a positive re-invention taking place.

  • Vanessa 5 years ago

    As a long-term TDF reader so glad to see you showcasing my home town for a whole week!
    I returned to live in Newcastle after various stints in Sydney and London….just love the lifestyle, the beaches and the many, many creative souls in every corner.
    Thanks TDF :)

  • margie 5 years ago

    What is it about these satellite cities? We here in the Gong are a few steps behind Newy… and our Council could definitely take a few lessons from theirs! But there’s a real creative buzz around the surf side satellite towns, and it’s time to step up and support the locals!

  • Dan 5 years ago

    Only been through once (weird seeing as though I only live at Avoca) but we came across this little store called Betty Mim on Darby st. Got heaps of cute/cool furnishings and design.

  • Shelley Panton 5 years ago

    I have a friend moving to Newcastle later this month, so its was inspiring to read about your trip up north.. I often wonder, if I was to relocate my studio where would I go for great weather, beaches, affordable housing and near to an international airport .. Newy may be in the running :)

  • Jenni Wergeltoft 4 years ago

    Heard your radio interview today and am so happy to hear you singing the praises of this fantastic city. I have worked here for 16 months now and my only regret is that, at 62, I didn’t discover it sooner. I think it is the city I searched for in many years of travel overseas. Icertainly don’t need Sydney anymore.

  • Greg 4 years ago

    I am biased since I grew up in Newy. But my heart and soul is here in this place. I sometimes go to town for no other reason than to walk around it and soak it up. It is the most unique city in Australia. Working port, beautiful architecture, steep history and the most stunning location (yes – better than Sydney IMO). The best part about a trip to Sydney is the drive back up the F3 to my rough gem of a home town. But it’s a secret – don’t tell too many about it!

    BTW – it’s not really a small city. Newcastle City is only 155,000 people, but the Greater Newcastle metro area has 560,000 residents.

  • Karla 4 years ago

    SHHHHH Don’t tell to many people about our town, it’s a locals secret. I grew up here, left when I was 18 returned with a husband and 2 kids at 33 and have been back for almost 6 years. Love it here!

  • Karla 4 years ago

    Oops I forgot to write I lived in Melbourne for 10 years in between and just love Melbourne but I missed the beach and had to come back. Aagh the ocean, it lulls me to sleep each night.

  • 4 years ago

    Oh cool. I’ve been meaning to do a visit up the coast to newy. I was hearing recently that there is a campagin to get newcastle smaller bars like melbourne and more recently sydney. how’s the night life up there? Is it a good idea for the area?

  • Siobhan C 4 years ago Though there are some great pubs and several smaller bars offering a varied section of live entertainment, locals and visitors to our city are limited in their options – nightlife just hasn’t undergone the same transformation as the dining, cafe & cultural scenes. Hence the petition to Council to streamline the small bar application process and provide assistance to small business owners committed to opening intimate and sophisticated venues, especially those that would increase the amenity of lanes and precincts requiring some TLC. You can show your support here

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