The cultural heart of Newcastle

Head to Civic to immerse yourself in Newcastle’s rich history and vibrant future.

If you want to discover the cultural heart of inner-city Newcastle, you’ll find it within the iconic Civic precinct. This historically rich area of the city is home to the magnificent Civic Theatre, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle Museum, the city’s first five-star hotel and Civic Park.

Newcastle’s heritage-listed Civic Theatre is one of Australia’s most adored, historic theatres with its opulent baroque interior and Georgian revival style exterior. The theatre, which was designed by architect Henry Eli White, is one of few surviving 1920s theatres in Australia and hosts an impressive year-round calendar of events. Stars that will grace the stage in 2022 include musicians Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers and Jessica Maubouy, comedians Celeste Barber, Carl Barron and Tim Minchin along with a captivating selection of musicals such as Menopause the Musical and Bring it on!

Nearby Newcastle Art Gallery is currently closed for a major expansion that will yield additional exhibition space for the Gallery’s own collection, for travelling exhibitions and international shows. A café, retail shop and educational spaces will also be added. The Gallery is expected to re-open in 2024.
For more cultural delights, pop over to the nearby Newcastle Museum, set in the revitalised Honeysuckle Railway Workshops. There is always something to see, do and learn at the museum, and entry is free. Kids will love the permanent Supernova science exhibition where they can get hands on with experiments and see the jaw dropping five metre world globe. The Fire and Earth exhibition is an insight into the two major industries that once shaped the city’s identity: coal and BHP. An exciting range of travelling exhibitions is also on offer throughout the year.

Across from the museum you’ll find Civic Park, a beautiful green space with the impressive Captain Cook Memorial Fountain by the late modernist sculptor Margel Hinder. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II during her 1970 Newcastle visit. Civic Park is also home to Newcastle’s monthly Olive Tree Markets, held on the first Saturday of each month. It’s the perfect place to browse and buy works from Newcastle’s best artists, designers, makers, and producers and to enjoy the offerings of mouthwatering food stalls.

If your stomach is grumbling, but it’s not market day, there are some great places to grab a bite right within the Civic Precinct. You’ll find one of Newcastle’s best burger spots at Rascal. Savour a classic cheeseburger or perhaps one of their more creative flavour combinations. Everything is handmade, right down to the delicious burger sauces.

Another local favourite is nearby Blue Door Cafe in Wheeler Place. Blue Door pride themselves on simple food, done well and made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Think poached eggs, house baked beans, chorizo, potato rosti, and bacon on sourdough or an Açai bowl topped with seasonal fruit.
For both physical and mental sustenance venture a bit further along Hunter Street and pop into The Press Coffee and Book House. Try one of their delicious toasties (we recommend the zesty crunch of the Bukowski) along with a double-shot espresso-based coffee or organic tea and browse their collection of pre-loved books and vinyl. Make sure to check out topics for their next Banned Book Club session to re-visit timeless tomes that for one reason or another were removed from the bookshelves.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more luxe, get a taste of Newcastle’s first five-star hotel, The Crystalbrook Kingsley, with its three delectable dining options. Set inside the city’s landmark 1970s Roundhouse building, there is Ms Mary, a mix of deli, bar and lounge, the alfresco terrace restaurant overlooking Wheeler Place and the striking rooftop restaurant and bar on the ninth floor. Take in panoramic views of the city, harbour, coastline and beyond to the Hunter Valley while sipping on an artisanal cocktail at the glamorous Romberg’s bar, or enjoy a meal at The Roundhouse restaurant. Its modern Australian cuisine celebrates native ingredients and the world-class produce grown in the Hunter region.

If you’re eager to explore even more of Newcastle, the Civic Precinct is also where you’ll find Newcastle’s Visitor Information Centre. The friendly Novocastrian staff are more than happy to divulge all their insider tips for exploring the city and uncovering its hidden gems.

Read more in the Autumn issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Nathalie Craig, images courtesy of City of Newcastle and local businesses. Supported by Newcastle City BIA.