Country: Australia by Lisette
Newcastle is an interesting place to be after young, hip and surfing Byron Bay. It is my understanding that Newcastle used to be an industrial town, but is has changed in recent years. I enjoyed wandering around the city centre and get a feel for the place with its old buildings that were beautifully renovated and restored. Outside the city centre it became more boring, but hey there’s always a beach in Australia!
Apparently, a certain Lt. Shortland named the place in 1797 but of course many Aborigines, the Awabakal people, lived in the areas for centuries. There is an excellent source online if you’re interested in this, named Awaba. Two years later the first coal was shipped out, making Newcastle Australia’s first, but short-lived, commercial port. A new settlement, or to be precise a penal colony, was established here in 1804. Some twenty years later it was no longer a penal colony and the town began to look more like a typical pioneer settlement.
A big landmark is the lighthouse on Nobbys Headland that was finished in 1858. More interestingly, I recently learned that sailing ships had trouble entering Newcastle early 1800s because of loss of wind when they passed Nobbys. And so convict labour was used to reduce the top from the island. The removed rocks were used to protect the harbor from waves; a construction called ‘breakwater’ and that also serves as a pier. This was a difficult and dangerous job that took 38 years!
I stayed at the Youth Hostel (YHA) and what a gorgeous place this is! Most hostels are functional, but not exactly pretty. This hostel is beautifully renovated with large rooms and a huge common area with leather couches, and an open fireplace. I’d go back there in a heartbeat!
This website is fantastic and I wished I had found it back in 2005 (if it even existed then), because it gives you a couple of fabulous ideas how to spend your time in Newcastle.
At the time Hunter Valley was heavily advertised, and I’m sure it still is. For good reason too – the wineries here are world famous. Taste pallets continue to evolve over time and up till a few years ago I did not like the taste of red wine very much (even now I am very picky, but ah.. a delicious merlot or shiraz, mmm). Sticking to white wine only is a little boring after a while, despite having tasted wonderful wines during the wine tour, and so I tried port (for the first time in my life!) and sherry. Yes, I do appreciate a good port though I barely ever drink it.