Newcastle marks the southernmost point of New South Wales’ scenic North Coast, the 700km-plus stretch of glorious shoreline which runs all the way up to the Queensland state border. This harbour city is the state’s second-largest and for decades, played an important role as a centre for industry. As such, Newcastle’s reputation as an industrial heartland has long overshadowed its value as a holiday destination. However, if you give the city a chance and stay a little longer, you’re bound to uncover a fascinating history, a delightful dining scene, and many wonderful natural treasures.
Surfers will adore Merewether Beach, famous for its big swells, while less confident swimmers have their pick of gleaming ocean baths on the Newcastle waterfront. The ancient World Heritage wilderness of Barrington Tops two hours inland is mecca for the outdoor enthusiast. Meanwhile, epicureans could lose themselves for days in the bucolic Hunter Valley. This productive region harbours Australia’s oldest grapevines, and boasts over 120 gourmet food and wine producers.
The world opens up to you once you’ve taken advantage of our easy and convenient comparison service for Newcastle Airport car hire. Newcastle is a great place to hold retreats and other professional meetings and conventions. With a Newcastle car rental, you can make sure you show up to every event on time. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to be on holidays in Newcastle and want to get out of town for a bit? Sydney and all of its metropolitan attractions and wonderful beaches, like the world famous Manly Beach, are just two hours away. Don’t feel like travelling that far? The Central Coast and its serene, laid back beauty and towns sit just an hour south. Salamander Bay and Nelson Bay are about an hour north of Newcastle and represent great opportunities to get away from bigger cities. Whatever your plans, renting a car hire from Newcastle Airport will give you the freedom and flexibility to explore the city on your own terms.
If all of this sounds good to you, keep reading to find out where to stay, eat, and play in the easygoing coastal city affectionately known to locals as “Newie”.
1 Williamtown Drive, Williamtown NSW 2318
Telephone: +61 2 4928 9800
Newcastle Airport is located approximately 27km north of the city centre
No. of Terminals: 1
Timezone: GMT +10:00 Standard Time / GMT +11:00 Daylight Savings Time
Newcastle Airport (NTL) is a regional hub served by a number of domestic airlines including Virgin Australia and Jetstar, with connections to major cities on the eastern seaboard such as Canberra, Gold Coast, and Melbourne. Regional carrier, Pelican Airlines, also services the Newcastle area, operating non-stop flights to local destinations including Dubbo, Coffs Harbour, and Ballina.
This small airport comprises of only one terminal so finding your way around is simple. The Newcastle Airport car hire desks are located directly opposite the baggage carousels in the arrivals hall. Newcastle hire cars are available for pickup in the designated parking lot to your left as you exit the terminal.
A DriveNow hire car provides you with both the freedom and flexibility to discover the charms of Newcastle and the North Coast on your own terms. We compare prices from Australia’s most trusted car rental brands to bring you the cheapest deals on car hire in Newcastle, with rates from leading suppliers such as Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot, and Thrifty. What’s more, a DriveNow hire car means you won’t have to wait for a bus or a taxi – as soon as you collect your Newcastle hire car, your holiday officially begins!
There are two major arterials accessible from the airport that will take you straight into the city: the A43 and B63. The drive could take between 30-40 minutes, as the airport is located a fair distance from Newcastle. Fortunately, traffic congestion here is nothing compared to Sydney just two hours down south, or Brisbane to the north.
With the money you’ve saved on cheap Newcastle car hire, you’re free to opt for one of the many premium accommodation options on the NSW coast. Most of the city’s hotels and serviced apartments are clustered around Hunter Street, while there are also a number of upmarket options close to Newcastle Beach.
While the harbour and Newcastle Beach areas are certainly worthwhile exploring on foot, you’ll be glad to have a Newcastle car rental to navigate the rest of the city and the attractions outside of its boundaries. Public on and off-street parking is plentiful and relatively affordable compared to other urban centres on the eastern seaboard. There’s free 15 minute parking locations throughout Newcastle to ensure that visitors have a reasonable chance of finding a space – a rarity in larger cities these days.
As Newcastle lies at the mouth of a river, there are two aspects you can choose from when staying in town: the Hunter River or the South Pacific Ocean. The hotels we’ve recommended are split between the harbour and the beach - with the latter being a somewhat more scenic choice. The harbour hotels however, have the benefit of being closer to Newcastle’s historic pubs and lively wharf-side restaurants.
This comfortable, convenient hotel is metres away from central attractions such as the museum and iconic Honeysuckle harbour front. The Crowne Plaza also has all the mod cons you’d expect from an upscale IHG brand, from tidy guestrooms to a swimming pool and high-speed Wi-Fi, making it a very sensible choice for families and travellers who prefer a more traditional atmosphere.
This hotel has a younger, hipper feel than the Crowne Plaza up the road with its chic, colourful interiors and glassy exterior. It’s a solid ambassador for the smart, dependable Novotel brand, with onsite facilities such as a pool, gym, bar, and restaurant. This one even hosts high tea on weekends with decadent treats such as macarons to boot! Choose Novotel Newcastle Beach if your tastes run towards contemporary and you prefer to be closer to the ocean.
A little dated but the location of this hotel simply cannot be beat - it’s literally steps from the sands of Newcastle Beach. Plus Noah’s is perfect for families and groups because it has a wide range of light, bright guest rooms with a variety of bedding configurations. Splash out on a harbour or ocean view room on a higher level if you can - their floor-to-ceiling windows feature vistas that may well be the most outstanding in all of Newcastle.
The Junction is one of Newcastle’s trendiest precincts, with its designer boutiques, stylish homeware stores, and cool cafés. Junction Hotel may be an outlier in terms of location, yet it embodies the relaxed spirit of Newcastle being situated on top of an award-winning gastropub. If you really want to feel the surf around your ankles, Merewether Beach is just 15 minutes’ stroll from this fun, funky boutique property.
Just one hour inland by Newcastle hire car, you’ll find the Hunter Valley. This picturesque region is home to Australia’s oldest viticultural industry and to this day, remains responsible for producing some of the world’s best wines, particularly Semillon. Pokolbin is a good place to start your Hunter Valley self-drive tour - this pretty little village is home to a helpful Visitor Centre where you can pick up a map and get your bearings. Additionally, the roads around Pokolbin lead to some of Australia’s most acclaimed wine labels.
Stop in at some of the many inviting cellar doors in the area - the historic Audrey Wilkinson estate boasts sweeping panoramas over the hills as well as some seriously good wines. If your stomach is crying out for lunch, consider an indulgent meal at Muse Kitchen, the casual little sister of the award-winning Muse Restaurant. Dishes here are prepared using seasonal regional ingredients essentially representing Hunter Valley on a plate. Afterwards, perhaps make your way over to Tintilla Estate Vineyard and Olive Grove for a glass of crisp, fruity bubbly and to purchase some fragrant olive oils to take home with you. For something a little sweeter, there’s the Twenty-3-Twenty Chocolate & Fudge Factory, where you can stock up on Belgian chocolates and other sumptuous treats.
If you’d prefer to get active, the Hunter Valley offers a wide range of outdoor activities from golf to cycling and bushwalking. Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club is one of Australia’s top courses, whilst much-loved Werakata National Park has a range of excellent walking tracks for hikers and mountain bikers lined with dazzling wildflowers in spring. This nature reserve is also renowned for bird-watching as it is home to a multitude of species including the threatened Swift Parrot and handsome Regent Honeyeater.
There’s so much to see and do in this region, it’s probably worth more than a day trip. Luxurious places to spend a few nights include The Longhouse in Pokolbin or Chateau Elan At The Vintage in Rothbury.
Barrington Tops National Park is another great place to enjoy the fresh air. This reserve shelters a spectacular section of Australia’s World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests. Here, you’ll find a network of scenic trails which will take you past sparkling streams, beautiful cascades, and pretty picnic areas. There are basic campsites if you wish to spend the night or else you can simply drive back to Newcastle - the city is around two hours’ from this stunning wilderness.
If you’re planning on hanging around town for a little while, read on for just some of the activities we recommend.
The self-guided Newcastle East Heritage Walk is an insightful means of exploring 200 years of local history. The route can be completed in approximately 2 hours at a leisurely pace, taking in Nobbys Headland with its 19th century lighthouse, commanding Fort Scratchley – built to repel a possible Russian attack, the inviting Newcastle Ocean Baths and the Paymaster’s Office, a fine example of Georgian architecture which adjoins a former convict lumber yard and stockade site.
Alternatively, breathe in crisp ocean air along Bathers Way, a 6-kilometre coastal walk from Merewether Beach to Nobbys Headland. To make sense of Newcastle’s indigenous and convict heritage, read the yellow signposts along the way. There are a number of shady parks and barbecue pits on this trail if you plan to have a picnic en route. For comprehensive city maps, visit the Newcastle Visitor Information Centre on Honeysuckle Wharf or download one here.
Newcastle’s beaches are a must - whether you’re a surfer or not, they provide the perfect setting for a recreational stroll or swim. Some of the busiest ones such as Bar Beach provide lifeguard services all year round. If you aren’t comfortable in the swell, take a dip in the popular Newcastle Ocean Baths or the Merewether Ocean Baths – the latter is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Alternatively, bathe in Bogey Hole, carved out of rock by convicts for the Commandant of Newcastle’s personal use - this pool is especially impressive when waves crash into it.
If you need a culture fix, drive your Newcastle car rental to the elegant Civic Theatre. Taking in a ballet or cabaret show in the plush main auditorium with its elaborate chandelier and rich Baroque interiors is a memorable and nostalgic experience. Of course, Newcastle’s well-established drinking and dining scene is also worth discovering – read on to find out more.
Fear not if you don’t have the time to explore the fertile Hunter Valley – there’s no shortage of quality restaurants and cafés in Newcastle that bring paddock to plate. These are just some of the many places in Newcastle where we love to eat and drink:
The only two-hatted restaurant in town, Subo leads the way in innovative contemporary bistro-style cuisine. There’s only one set five-course seasonal menu each evening, with a version for vegetarians. The couple that runs this down-to-earth Hunter Street dining room possess strong credentials, both having worked in top restaurants in Sydney and their culinary experience shines through on every plate that emerges from the kitchen.
Sometimes all you want is a simple meal of fish and chips eaten amongst squawking seagulls while watching the waves roll in. Frying the catch-of-the-day since 1950, Scottie’s is a Novocastrian institution. Located on Scott Street, a block from Newcastle Beach, this cafe serves old-school classics such as battered flathead with hand-cut chips, mushy peas, and tartar sauce to eat in or takeaway, along with more modern seafood dishes such as flame-torched salmon and miso-glazed tuna skewers.
If you’re looking for a place that embodies Newcastle’s working-class yet progressively gentrifying vibe, head to The Edwards in Newcastle West. Owned by former Silverchair bass player Chris Joannou and restaurateur Chris Johnston, this expansive space was once a drive-through laundromat. On the premises, you’ll still find a launderette plus a selection of shiny coin-operated washers and dryers. In the industrial-chic dining space, expect to find plenty of blue-collar beers along with honest, wholesome fare such as black pudding, bacon-and-egg rolls, and cheeseburgers, with many ingredients consciously sourced from local suppliers.
Touted as “Newcastle’s ultimate craft beer dining experience’, The Hop Factory on Darby Street certainly delivers. There are 16 different beers on tap plus plenty of bites that pair well with malt, ranging from cheesy, garlicky breads to generous steaks, pan-seared chicken, and juicy beef patties on brioche buns. The wine list is heavy on Hunter Valley vintages so definitely drop in here if you can’t make a road trip to their source.
Held every Sunday rain, hail or shine at Newcastle Showgrounds, the Newcastle City Farmers & Markers Market is epicurean heaven. Be sure to skip breakfast because this space is a veritable feast for the senses. Start off with a cup of locally roasted coffee or a steaming spiced chai, then maybe munch on a flaky French pastry as you browse the stalls for handmade pasta, free-range meats, ocean-fresh seafood, fresh fruit, and organic vegetables. Forgot to buy a souvenir? Don’t worry; in addition to food, there is a huge range of handicrafts on offer from homespun clothing to hand-carved wooden toys and natural soaps.
Given Newcastle’s proximity to great beaches, it’s little wonder that the city’s calendar is chock-full of beachside or surf-related events. Novocastrians also love their arts and music, so there are plenty of cultural things to do over the year as well. Here are some of the most popular:
The largest surfing festival in Australia, Surfest sees the world’s top surfers compete for the coveted Mark Richards trophy on Merewether Beach. Come rub shoulders with the who’s who of pro surfing and meet the stars of tomorrow.
The pinnacle of Australian competitive skateboarding, this two-day freestyle event takes place in Empire Park, at a bowl that overlooks renowned surf breaks. There’s seating, shelter, and skate facilities that attract international competitors on a grand scale.
Fancy putting your runners on and pounding the pavement around Newcastle’s most iconic landmarks? NewRun offers the opportunity to test your speed and fitness with four exceptionally scenic courses around the city. There’s a half-marathon which traverses the harbour, beaches, and parks along Newcastle’s lengthy coastline, an achievable 10km Hill-to-Harbour race, a 2km family-friendly fun run as well as a nice, easy 5km run along the mostly flat foreshore.
The highly-regarded Newcastle Jazz Festival features over 50 hours of jazz performed by top local and international musicians over three days. There’s classic, mainstream, swing and big band so bring your dancing shoes!
DriveNow’s online comparison service makes it easier than ever to search for the greatest deals on campervan rental and car hire in Newcastle. At the click of a mouse you’re able to quickly and effortlessly compare the latest rates on a comprehensive list of Newcastle rental cars, including a wide range of popular SUVs, small and family sized cars, and affordable sports vehicles.
Our longstanding relationship with the most trusted and recognised names in Newcastle car hire, including Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Thrifty, and Budget, means that we’re able to assist you with reserving the ideal rental for your business trip or upcoming Newcastle holiday.
In addition to comparing prices on hire cars in Newcastle city, we also conveniently compare deals on bargain car hire at Newcastle Airport. Using DriveNow for your Newcastle Airport car hire is a no-brainer. With a huge range of regular and luxury vehicles to choose from, and the ability to compare and contrast all their great features, you don’t have to worry about taking your chances after your flight lands. No matter why you’re travelling, collect the keys to a car rental at Newcastle Airport to make sure your trip gets off to a promising start.