A aerial shot of a coastal walk along the ocean
Photograph: Supplied | Visit Newcastle

10 experiences in Newcastle to discover this winter

From whale watching to tailor making your own gin, Newcastle has so many offbeat experiences worth travelling for

By Olivia Hart for Time Out in association with Visit Newcastle

Winter days don’t need to deter you from enjoying a weekend away. Newcastle is teeming with things to do all year round – and we bet you haven’t even tried these. Whether you’re seeking to get off the beaten-path or simply looking for something new to discover, here's how to get the most out of Newcastle at wintertime when it's still sunny enough to brave a dip in the water. 

10 experiences in Newcastle

Cancel all Sunday plans because the QT Newcastle have joined forces with local cake maker and MasterChef runner-up Reece Highnell’s Cakeboi for high tea. Head down to the chic restaurant Jana at QT Newcastle and settle in for a top-notch selection of sweet and savoury bites. Start with the savoury menu which is created by the QT’s executive chef Shayne Mansfield and includes a delectable line-up of charcoal bread, duck leg croquettes and mini Merguez sausage pies. Then turn your attention to dessert master Highnell’s creations where you can select from a trolley overflowing with slices of layered Urban Hum Honey cake and fluffy Victorian strawberry sponge. Wash this fancy feast down with a signature Ketel Iced Tea cocktail made with a splash of Ketel One vodka, or go booze-free with a bespoke QT breakfast tea blend made by local tea merchant The Tea Collective. Tickets are $75 per person. 

Newcastle’s Civic Theatre is a monument to another age. With Art Deco elements, a stunningly detailed grand dome and Spanish-inspired royal boxes, the theatre itself rivals the on-stage action. Located right in the heart of Newcastle, you can catch all the best concerts, musicals and theatre performances right here with something for every taste. Shows including The Mousetrap, the Australian Ballet on tour and School of Rock; musicians Missy Higgins and Kip Moore; comedians Dawn French, Celica Paquola, Celeste Barber and David Walliams are all heading to the stage soon.

Earp Distilling Co has been delighting spirit drinkers since it was founded in late 2019 and while gin is the main game here, there are tipples to suit all strokes. For those that have a hard time choosing a drink, Earp Distilling Co is offering up the chance to tailor-make your own bottle – right down to the label. Kick off the class by choosing between gin, vodka or rum before selecting a distillate flavour and hand-making a label. Blending classes run for an hour and you get to take your one-of-a-kind 200ml bottle home with you at the end.

Despite being a beachside town, Newcastle is a great place to escape to in winter with so many cosy brunch spots that exude warmth and serve up plates of hearty comfort food. Get your coffee fix at 3 Monkeys cafe – the brews here are made from their own freshly-ground beans. Next up is the rustic Neighbours on Market St where we recommend you grab yourself a melted-to-perfection toastie. If you’re still hungry, settle in at Autumn Rooms for a full feed where you can order up seasonal meals, something for the little ones or a sweet treat from the cabinet.

For those that prioritise self-care on their trip away, make Zadig Studio your next stop. Get sweaty in one of the infrared saunas where you’ll feel the stress leave your body or try out chromotherapy (colour therapy) for a mood lifting session. Add-on services are available, including red light therapy (which pairs perfectly with a sauna session) or a post-sauna ice bath. Newbies can sign up to the Intro Offer or book in for a casual session or package.

Newcastle has come a long way from its old-school roots where a parmi at the corner pub was once the height of culinary sophistication. These days, there’s so many fine dining options headed by chefs who left the big smoke behind to get in on the food revolution up north, that it’s impossible to squeeze them all in. So why not plan a bunch? Start at Âpé Yakitori Bar and satisfy your cravings for flame-cooked skewers. Or beeline it to Oh my Papa on weekends for their delicious yum cha and yakitori set menu. Swing by Ginger Megs for flavour-packed servings of dumpling and bao that will have you planning your return visit before you leave.

Gift shop at these boutique shops

No trip to the seaside is complete without a souvenir. Stop in at the quaint Betty Loves Books for new releases and second hand offerings. If you plan to stick around, they also offer reading retreats for anyone looking to trade the city’s hubbub for a quiet place to polish off a book. Book clubs are also held in store on the first Thursday of the month where you can BYO dinner and drinks. Find one-off gifts at Make Space, an artist-run collective with a retail shopfront currently residing in the Newcastle Train Station. Pop in for a present or sign up to one of their creative workshops (next up is ceramic stamp making session with found objects).

Newcastle’s five-star hotel, Crystalbrook Kingsley, has introduced private dining domes so you can continue to dine al fresco this winter. Each booking reserves a two-hour slot in a private dome, plus access to the communal fire pit on the Winter Lodge terrace where you can warm your hands and stand under falling snow. Book the Winter Wonderland package, which includes a wintry cocktail on arrival, a European-inspired share-style feast across three courses, and a mini iced dessert cocktail to finish. Level up with the Chateau Kingsley package, and you’ll also get an extra cocktail and Swiss fondue to share.

After you’ve had your fill of food and drinks, get a dose of fresh air by stretching your legs along one of Newcastle’s coastal walks. Take the scenic route along Bathers Way, a 12km walk where you’ll pass gorgeous beaches and the long cliff top walkway of Newcastle’s ANZAC Walk. There’s an option to continue on past Nobby’s Beach if you want to take in those harbour views, or if you’re a runner and want a longer trail, keep going along the breakwall and Honeysuckle Foreshore area.

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