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  1. Nobbys Lighthouse and whale in Newcastle
    Photograph: Destination NSW
  2. A couple enjoying a boat tour
    Photograph: Destination NSWCoast XP Tours

Five tours and workshops in Newcastle worth planning a weekend away for

Get to grips with NSW’s second largest city with these excellent guided experiences

By Time Out in association with Destination NSW and Visit Newcastle
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A place with glittering beaches, a thriving café culture, captivating street art and zany small bars – that’s Newy. Just two hours north of Sydney is a coastal paradise worth acquainting (or reacquainting) yourself with, and these fun tours are the way to do it. Whether on foot, on two wheels or by boat, delving into gin making or beekeeping, they’ll show you the spots loved by locals, the hidden gems and the curious backstories you won’t find yourself. 

Planning a trip north? Read our complete guide to what's great in Newcastle.  

Let Newcastle locals lead the way

Experience Newcastle as the locals do with these small-group bike tours that dig deeper into the city’s cultural scene. Newy Rides is an all-inclusive experience taking you past breweries, distilleries, cafés, murals, restaurants and small bars – with lots of sampling along the way. Newcastle’s a bike-friendly town, so you won’t break too much of a sweat as your passionate guide shows you all of Newcastle’s interesting nooks and crannies. Book into their half-day Essentials x Burbs tour or keep an eye out for the Ride Along Series, one-off events where you’ll be joined by some of the city’s most respected creatives (think chefs, artists, and musicians) for behind-the-scenes tours and workshops.

Make a weekend of it: Camp out at Pappa Sven’s calming Nordic cabin, dig into vibrant modern Asian cuisine at Ginger Megs, see the latest exhibitions at Newcastle Art Gallery and finish the day with a nightcap at intimate speakeasy Coal and Cedar.

Newcastle Afoot’s themed walking tours are the best way to see the city the way you want to. Design buffs will love the Architecture, Street Art & Hidden Secrets tour, where you’ll be taken around eclectic laneways, stunning old buildings and exciting new street art. If you’re more into sipping and socialising, the Eat & Drink History walk is a boozy exploration of the area’s best bars. The tour is packed with intriguing stories from Newcastle's longstanding night-time economy – you’ll hear about convict escapees, sailor's woes and the six o'clock swill while throwing back some fine tipples. 

Make a weekend of it: Wake up to the sound of waves from beachfront property Noah’s, take a salty dip at the Newcastle Ocean Baths while admiring the historic Art Deco pavilion, and kick back with a cold beverage and uber-fresh seafood at Scottie’s

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View Newcastle from all its best angles in this tour combining a scenic helicopter ride with a marine life showcase by boat. First your trip will reach thrilling new heights as you soak up bird’s eye views of the coastline’s beaches and national parks. Then you’ll spend two hours on the water getting up close with resident dolphins, seabirds and turtles (plus whales during season) while coasting past historic WWII forts, renowned surfing beaches and rugged cliffs. CoastXP’s knowledgeable guides will talk you through all the sights, both above and below water, as you make your way down the shoreline.

Make a weekend of it: Set up base at Flourish on Bull’s airy loft-style apartment, sleep in and still catch English-inspired brunch at The Edwards, chase waterfalls in the Glenrock State Conservation Area and refuel with woodfired pizza at Parry Street Garage.

If you’ve ever harboured dreams of packing it all in to become a craft brewer or distiller, here’s your chance to get a taste of the small batch life. Earp’s hands-on Gin School lets you become a distiller for a day as you’re guided through the creation of your very own personalised gin. After powering up on G&Ts and cheese, you'll learn about the history and process of gin distilling before being let loose on a wide selection of botanicals. Then it’s time to make your bespoke gin using miniature stills, down to hand filling it in a ceramic bottle and labelling. Et voilà – you’re a distiller! For a fun, engaging and educational day out, this class is a winner.

Make a weekend of it: Stay at the centrally located Lucky Hotel for boutique accommodation with a great modern pub downstairs, crunch your teeth into flaky pastries for breakfast at Baked Uprising, complete the Newcastle Memorial Walk to see panoramic views alongside moving ANZAC tributes, and treat yourself to fine dining with a casual vibe at acclaimed restaurant Flotilla.

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Urban Hum is an artisan beekeeping enterprise that’s sharing their knowledge so more of us can get involved in this earth-friendly practice (and enjoy its sweet rewards too). Their one-day Introduction to Backyard Beekeeping workshop will teach you all about bees, their behaviours, types of hives and the basic skills needed to care for your colony. You’ll also see honey extraction and taste honey from different hives in between lunch and morning tea. If you’re not quite ready to become an apiarist they also have shorter hive tours, exploring the amazing world of honeybees, that are perfect for kids.

Make a weekend of it: Travel with the whole family and stay in Cooks Hill Chalets’ cosy holiday homes, pick up locally made gifts from the Makers x Traders directory of creative businesses, sink your fork into Equium Social’s pillowy sourdough crumpets with creamed honey, and cap off your trip with a celebratory cocktail at Saints Gin Bar.

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