Travel Tales – Newcastle NSW

Posted on 9th Sep 2012 by ian under Travel Tales | No Comments »

Newcastle is a couple of hour’s drive north of Sydney.  It’s a place I really like but it’s a strange city/town with many contradictions. It’s a compact city with a country community feel, even though it’s on the coast. It’s industrial but sunny and welcoming. It ‘soft and family’ but there’s also an ‘edge’.

Yuppies sit in trendy al fresco cafes next to the homeless asking for money. Laughing teenage girls with braces may skip past a girl, pushing seventeen years and pushing a pram… nerdy teen boys attract pretty girlfriends and other youths with tattoos and attitude cruise about in souped up cars, just as ‘Normies’ have done up Hunter Street since the 1960s.

It’s classy, but rough, shiny but old.

The Art Gallery is smart and contemporary and Fort Scratchley sits sombre and strong, with its tunnels and guns, above the harbour and Nobby’s Beach. Down on Nobby’s, toddlers paddle between the flags while, off shore, ubiquitous tankers bob and wait their turn to dock.

Newcastle is Australia’s second oldest city and was founded as a penal colony in 1804 after Lieutenant John Shortland discovered the Hunter River and coal in 1797. Labour was needed to mine the country’s first export, hence the resident convicts.

The convicts were also used by Major John Morisset (c1820) to cut him his own personal ‘Commandant’s Baths’ on a rock platform. Known as Bogey Hole, it was extended and became swimming baths in 1863 with separate men’s and women’s designated days for splashing about. It’s still a nice, safe spot for a swim to the sound of surf crashing on the rocks.