By Nicky Way
Newcastle, with its beautiful surf beaches and hilly landscape, is known and loved by many. As it should be! This is a city with a lot going for it.
Unlike many of the smaller mining towns in NSW and Qld, Newcastle is a hustling, bustling metropolis with an abundance of education, health, accommodation and leisure options. So if you’re looking for a mining town where your partner can make it home every night and you can be spoilt for choice, Newcastle might well be the town for you.
Located 162km north of Sydney, Newcastle has an official population of around 155,000 (according to 2008-09 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures). When you factor in surrounding hubs like Port Stephens, Maitland and Cessnock, though, the local population quickly stretches out to just over half a million.
Newcastle also boasts the largest coal exporting harbour in the world, with exports from the Gunnedah and Sydney Basin flowing through so fast that port expansion works struggle to keep up.
Today the region's major employers are coal mining, education and health care. (The region’s biggest employer was the BHP steelworks until its doors closed in 1999 – you might remember it from the movie Tap Dogs.)
Newcastle has a diverse range of educational facilities (from pre-school to university) that cater for the average student right through to the serious academic. There are specialist schools for students with the arts in their eyes, and for those who want to be sporting stars. There is also a range of schools catering for children with special needs like Autism, hearing and sight impairments.
Educational facilities include: The University of Newcastle; Hunter School for Performing Arts; Merewether High School specialising in performing arts; Hunter Sports High School; Newcastle Grammar School; Autism Spectrum Australia School; Australian International Conservatorium of Music; and Newtown High School for Performing Arts. For those looking for alternative education choices, Montessori and Steiner schools can also be found in Newcastle. And on top of all that, the boys from the band Silverchair were educated in Newcastle.
Newcastle is really well located: you can catch a plane from Williamstown Airport, 30 minutes outside the city, jump on a bus or catch one of the many CountryLink trains connecting Newcastle with Sydney and other centres.
Shopping centres are easy to find, too. Charlestown Square has Myer, Target, Big W, cinemas and specialty stores, while Westfield Kotara has David Jones, Kmart, Target and 52 women’s fashion stores. There are also some great smaller shopping areas including The Junction for upmarket boutiques, trendy Darby Street in Cooks Hill with its cafes and boutiques, Hamilton for retro and second-hand treasures and Adamstown Markets for a bargain or two.
You can enjoy a huge range of annual activities including football, festivals, arts and entertainment. Events to look out for include the Mattara Festival, the jazz festival and a Newcastle Knights game.
"When BHP closed, the people of Newcastle thought that would be the end of their city. However, it only proved to be the beginning. New development has taken place. The main area of Newcastle has undergone a major transformation and is more beautiful than ever, with fabulous beaches, great shopping and a wide variety of restaurants. It's popular with young couples and singles but it's also a fabulous place to bring up children with its expansive parks and great choice in schools. Plus it's only a short drive to the Hunter Valley vineyards and the breathtaking area of Port Stephens. Newcastle: always a wave to catch, a quiet coffee in a cafe to be had and you can shop til you drop!"
- Janita, Newcastle
"After moving to Newcastle in late 2010, we have had a wonderful time enjoying all that the region has to offer. It’s a short drive to explore the wineries and towns of the Hunter Valley, including all the artisan food producers. The beautiful beaches and lake provide opportunities for those who love water sports and there are also some great reserves and parks where we enjoy picnics on the weekends. And of course the shopping! There are some great shopping areas for when I want to indulge in some retail therapy."
- Michelle Carroll, married, mother of one
Ever lived in Newcastle? Tell us what you think...