The harbour foreshore with Queens Wharf on the waterfront and Christ Church Anglican Cathedral on the hill.

A Novocastrian’s guide to Newcastle

It’s been dubbed, “Australia’s most underrated city,” (Lonely Planet) and for new-to-Newie Siobhan Curran, Newcastle was an uncharted map begging to be explored. So she started The Novocastrian Files, a handy how-to enjoy the beautiful coastal burg. Ahead of next week’s mass descent, we pester her for some tips on where best to grab a coffee, bite, or bevvy.

For the uninitiated, what is The Novocastrian Files?

The Novocastrian Files is a blog I post to irregularly in my spare time. I work for Renew Newcastle and The Lock-Up Cultural Centre for a real job. TNF features Q&As with creative Novocastrians and links to interesting things happening in Newcastle.

What makes Newcastle unique? 

Its strength in juxtaposition. City/beach, old/new, revival/decline, new ideas/old ways, referring to the past / looking to the future.

Every year thousands descend upon the city seeking out knowledge and connection at the This is Not Art festival. As a local, what’s this like?

Wonderful. Newcastle is very lucky to host so many inquisitive, young people doing interesting things and willing to spend their hard-earned dollars locally during their stay.

Some memories of the National Young Writers’ Festival?

I’ve only been in Newcastle three years so previous attempts at visiting TINA were fleeting, mostly all I could manage with babies was the Zine Fair and a blogging panel in 2010 (it featured Romy Ash from Trotski & Ash/author of Floundering [and #NYWF13 artist!] amongst others).

My first NYWF event living in Newcastle was a Women of Letters session in 2010. It was devastatingly good. Not strictly falling in NYWF’s target demographic (I’m in my late 30s and not a writer) I still find myself asterixing events to visit in the lead-up each year. In 2012 I helped source stories for Secret Newcastle an initiative between ABC Pool and National Young Writers Festival. It’s no longer available but was a smartphone enabled interactive map of Newcastle’s hidden stories. There were some excellent tales told including the one about how TiNA got its name.

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Where are your favourite places in Newcastle/Hunter to:

Eat

One Penny Black (111 Hunter St Mall, Newcastle) lunch special never disappoints (pictured). I am really excited about their new location opening further west in the Mall very shortly. I hear there’s a liquor license involved.
Pizza at The Oriental (53 Bull St, Cooks Hill) is also pretty damn good.
Go forth and ramen/gyoza /tori nunban your heart out at Asa Don (179 King St, Newcastle).

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Drink

Coffee East: Good Brother Espresso (40 King Street, Newcastle) or One Penny Black (111 Hunter St Mall, Newcastle).
Coffee Civic: Churchkey (488 Hunter Street, Newcastle).
Coffee West: Bank Corner (2 Bellevue St, Newcastle West) (pictured).
Alcohol: BYO at any number of ocean-view green spaces in the CBD. Personal favourites are King Edward Park and Cathedral Park. If shelter is a requirement get thee to The Terrace Bar (529 Hunter St, Newcastle West).

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Shop

Leaving Darby Street out of the equation (everyone knows how great Darby St is, right?) I really like Make Space (152 Hunter St Mall, Newcastle), Studio Melt (145/113 Hunter St Mall, Newcastle) and Centenary Centre (29 Centenary Rd, Newcastle) (pictured). Then there’s Rice’s (699 Hunter St, Newcastle West) and Indigo (521 Hunter St, Newcastle West) second hand book stores on Hunter St for the bibliophiles.

Play

You have to visit Fort Scratchley (Fort Drive, Newcastle East). Great views and the tunnel tours by enthusiastic ex-military retirees is impressive [plus, for #NYWF13, Penguin Plays Rough is staging an entirely fabricated history at the site on Friday Oct 4, book here]. For the less adventurous, the ferry to Stockton (departs Queens Wharf, Wharf Rd, Foreshore, Newcastle) provides another vantage point of Newcastle’s skyline that’s rarely seen.

Relax

The beach. Take your pick, there’s a several. (Nobbys, Horseshoe, Newcastle, Susan Gilmore, Bar, Dixon Park & Merewether)

What is Newcastle/Hunter’s best-kept secret?

There’s so many it’s hard to pick just one. Keeping in mind many festival goers will be nursing sore heads on the Sunday you really should know about Henny Penny hot chips with gravy. There’s a store at Marketown.  The wowsers amongst you might be more interested in a stroll down the length of Hunter Street, from Pacific Street to Stewart Ave. There’s plenty of diamonds in the rough. Catch a fare-free bus for the return leg down Hunter Street.

Many of this year’s National Young Writers’ Festival events tap into this deep vein of Newcastle awesomeness. Try a walking-writing tour of Newcastle’s historical buildings and byways in the Paper Trail Tours; sign up for the imagined history of Fort Scratchley; or head along to the panel Scripts, Scenes & Sluglines to hear screenwriter Alice Bell chat about her award-winning film Suburban Mayhem – you got it, filmed in Newcastle!