As Captain Cook traveled north along the east coast in 1770, he made notes in his Captains Diary about a headland, now called Nobby Head. However it was not until 1797, while chasing escapees, that Lieutenant John Shortland discovered the Hunter River and also large deposits of coal.
Some four years later, in 1801 convicts began the backbreaking work of mining coal and cutting timber. Slowly, on the back of coal and the construction of the major prison in NSW (with over 1000 convictions) Newcastle beginning growing, along with the schools and a flurry of buildings, its population grew to approx 50,000 in 1890.
A major turning point in the town's history come in 1911, when the large steelworks, BHP, chose Newcastle as the its new location due to the abundance of coal. BHP would remain in Newcastle until the company decided to close its doors in 2000, despite record company profits.
Today Newcastle is the second largest city in NSW (250,000 pop) and is growing in popularity with many Australians and foreign tourists. Located around 150km north of Sydney, Newcastle is easily reached by road or rail in only a few hours. There are also regular flights to and from Williamstown, just to the north.
Once here, the wide and diverse choice of activities on offer will have you wondering in amazement. Located on the coast, some of Australia's best beaches can be found only minutes from the CBD. Nobby's and Newcastle Main Beach, famous for hosting the International Surfest Contest, are only a 5-minute stroll from the main shopping and business districts. Continuing south, through the hilly, yet stunning gardens of King Edward Park, you will travel down the long windy slope arriving at Bar Beach. Further south the white sandy beaches of Merewether, Dudley, Redhead and Blacks Beach will greet you. All perfect for working on the tan, catching some waves or cooling of on a hot summers day.
For the non-beach goers, Newcastle Harbor and foreshore offers a variety of restaurants, cafés and park area to sip on a latte, try a Newcastle Ale or just chill out on the grass. For the more energetic, the large look out tower located next to the Brewery gives you a wonderful 360 'view of the city and it's vast coastline. Walking over the footbridge, located below the look out, you enter the Hunter Street Mall, full of more shops and cafés.
For the day-trippers, a visit to the famous Hunter Valley Wineries is a great way to check out the internationally renovated wines of the region. Tours can be private or in groups, by old vintage cars or by bus. Whichever way you go, it is recommended that you do not drive, allowing you to fully appreciate the character and flavor of Australia's leading wine makers!
If history is your thing, Newcastle will not disappoint! Downtown in the CBD you'll find the Newcastle Art Gallery, City Museum and Botanical Gardens, along with Fort Scratchley and the Maritime Museum. A little out of the city, is the Wetlands Center and Blackbutt Nature Reserve, both great for short walks, picnics and learning about Australia's natural beauty.
For more info on Newcastle, check out these useful websites:
· Tourism Website – [http://www.newcastletourism.com]
· Accommodation – [http://www.newcasltebackpackers.com]
· Accommodation – http://www.backpackersbythebeach.com.au
· Shortland Wetlands – http://www.wetlands.org.au
· Newcastle Herald Paper – http://www.theherald.com.au