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Australia’s biggest cities get all the good press when it comes to travel, but heading away somewhere a little smaller can really pay off when it comes to awesome vacation experiences. The city of Newcastle isn’t what you’d call small, but it does end up playing second fiddle to Sydney way too often. This city is bursting with stuff to do, so when you hire a car in Newcastle it opens up all sorts of opportunities for your holiday. Zipping around Newcastle becomes a breeze, and setting out on road trips along the coast or even west into wine country can be added to the agenda for a little extra variety.
Without a car of course, your options will be a bit more limited. Endless hunting through different car rental sites isn’t fun for anyone, so AirportRentals.com.au saves you all that hassle and lets you cut straight to the chase so you can sort out your rental booking in a matter of minutes and go back to doing something far more interesting.
Sorting out cheap car rentals for Newcastle is a piece of cake on AirportRentals.com.au. Just select a few details for your trip (basic stuff like when and where you want to pick up/drop off), click “Search” and you’ll have all your options right there in front of you, easy as that. Scroll through or narrow down your choices by rental brand, vehicle type, etc. When you’ve found the best deal of the bunch, it’ll only be a few minutes before you’re all sorted.
There’s a massive range of car rental brands to choose from at Newcastle Airport. You’ll probably recognise the names of a bunch of them like Budget, Avis and Hertz but even the smaller brands like Redspot and Keddy are worth checking out, as they have some stunner deals that pop up every now and again.
This isn’t an international airport, so there’s just the one terminal to concern yourself with. If you need to get online for some detail checking before you leave the airport, there’s free WiFi available at Newcastle Airport. There are three ATMs in the terminal: two next to the departure lounge security screening point, and the other in the arrivals hall.
Newcastle (and New South Wales in general) has pretty similar driving conditions to any other urban/suburban area in Australia. The general rule with speed limits is to keep an eye out for signs, but if you can’t see any, there are two defaults that you can fall back on. 50 km/h is the default speed limit for urban areas, and 100 km/h is the default limit for all other roads. Of course if you’re reading this from overseas, the first thing you need to know about driving in Australia is that no matter where on the continent you are, you’ll be driving on the left hand side of the road. Take a little care at intersections and you’ll soon find it’s not too difficult to adjust. For an in-depth companion to driving around Australia, specially geared toward those who haven’t been before, check out our Australia driving guide.
It’s really simple to drive from Newcastle Airport into the city itself. Just leave the airport down Williamtown Drive and head south (right) B63, which at that stage is Nelson Bay Road. This will take you across Hunter River (twice!) and right into the centre of the city. You can also turn off the B63 onto the A43 if you’re headed for somewhere closer to the coast.
As stated above, the standard urban speed limit around Newcastle is 50 km/h, but keep an eye out for any signs that might tell you otherwise. The legal blood alcohol limit in NSW is under 0.05, unless you’re on your learners or a provisional licence - if that’s the case, there’s zero tolerance. Even 0.05 is a pretty small margin, so if you’ve been drinking at all it’s safest not to get behind the wheel.
You won’t have to muck around with fueling up at the beginning of your trip, as Newcastle Airport hire cars will come with a full tank of petrol. On the way back though, this will be something you’ll have to sort out. Unless it explicitly says different in your rental agreement, you’ll have to return your car rental with a full fuel tank, so knowing where nearby petrol stations are could save you a bit of hassle. The Metro Airport on Williamtown Drive is the closest place to fuel up, but if that doesn’t work for you Metro Petroleum is just down the road on the corner of Nelson Bay and Lavis Lane.
There’s plenty to enjoy in the city itself but when you hire a car in Newcastle all sorts of exciting opportunities open up for you. Newcastle is perfectly positioned as a road trip starting point, giving you the chance to branch out for all sorts of different adventures.
Hunter Valley is one of the most loved wine regions on the east coast, and Newcastle is the perfect gateway to this winery-laden land. It’s less than a two hour drive to the Valley, where you’ll be able to potter around a selection of top-notch wineries and sample the various vintages (not to mention some tasty dishes to accompany the wine). Just make sure you sort out a designated driver before you set out!
If you can’t be bothered (or don’t have the time) to go too far, Port Stephens is an awesome short escape. Beaches and bays are Port Stephens’ strong suit - and if you’ve brought along your surfboard you’re in luck, as there are a few excellent surf beaches here including Birubi Beach, Box Beach and One Mile Beach. If you’d rather stay dry, Port Stephens has a famously good dining scene - the local seafood is particularly good.
It takes a little under three hours to get to Port Macquarie from Newcastle, but if you start early it can make for fantastic day trip. For a start, this is one of the few places in the world where you can take a camel safari, proceeding along a beautiful golden sand beach. Young ones might fancy a trip to the koala hospital, while others will be happy setting out on one of the many scenic walks in the area.
If you’re after an unbelievably scenic road trip along the Pacific coast with a world class destination at the end, drive down the coast to Sydney. It’ll take a little under three hours to make the trip, with each part of the journey introducing you to a new highlight of the Aussie east coast - then you get to end up in one of the world’s most exciting cities!
Those who are keen to tackle something a little more epic should head north for Brisbane. This is a nine hour road trip all up, so take a few days to meander your way up the coast, stopping in at lovely spots like Port Macquarie, Byron Bay and even the Gold Coast before arriving in the sunny city of Brisbane.
You’re probably a bit tempted to skip over this bit (and fair enough) but if you’re going to hire a car in Newcastle, the info below could come in very handy. All the different car rental brands you’ll find for Newcastle on AirportRentals.com.au can be found in-terminal at Newcastle Airport. Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot, Thrifty and AutoEurope have their own rental desks, while Firefly is serviced at the Hertz desk and Keddy by Europcar, to no one’s surprise, operates from the Europcar desk.
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Touring around is always great fun but sometimes you just don’t have the time or headspace to go gallivanting around the country. Sometimes all you need is a way to zip around the city, and somewhere close to the airport to rest your head. Mercure Newcastle Airport is as close to the airport as you can get and has a stellar reputation. Airport Motel Sir Francis Drake is about 15 minutes away from Newcastle Airport - it’s a little older than the Mercure but has a lovely brickwork aesthetic and is well liked. Newcastle Links Motel is a cheaper option that’s around 15 minutes from the airport - it’s not quite as nice as the two others above, but it’s a bit more affordable.
Newcastle is a pretty special place to visit all year round but if you can work one of the city’s many events into your itinerary, it’ll make your visit super special. If you’re heading to Newcastle hoping to catch some waves, try to be there during February for Surfest, Australia’s biggest surfing festival. You might not be up for competing yourself but there’s no doubt you’ll be able to see some amazing feats on the water from the pros.
Theatre can sometimes be seen as stuffy and a bit inaccessible, but Newcastle’s Micro Theatre Festival turns that idea on its head with a selection of super short plays (from 5-20 minutes) that break away from the theatre setting and are performed in smaller settings like cafes and little art galleries. This fun little fest can be a great intro to the world of theatre or a novel twist for avid theatregoers.
Real Film Festival is a film fest with a twist: all the independent docos, short and feature films are based on true stories. Cinema fans will be happy to know that there’s all kinds of workshops, panels, and film competitions to go along with the movie screenings. There’s even an entertainment packed Opening Night Gala and an Open Air Cinema set in Civic Park.
If “mainstream” is a dirty word to you, then This That might be right up your alley. This festival merges food, drink, music and markets in an unashamed celebration of all things indie. This is all about boutique quality, with handcrafted goods, artisan cuisine and cutting edge music all holding pride of place at This That. There’s no better place to unleash your inner hipster and discover unique treats that you might never encounter anywhere else.
Newcastle doesn’t really have a distinctive cuisine of its own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some mind blowing meals in this city. You might be hunting for something cheap and tasty to keep away the hunger pangs or searching for an epic gourmet experience - no matter what you’re craving, Newcastle will have something delicious in store for you.
Foodies take note: one of the most fun ways to dive into the Newcastle culinary scene is setting out on an Epicurean Excursion Food Tour. These small group walking tours provide a very personal style of culinary discovery, that will have you in awe of the variety and quality of Newcastle’s food scene. Whether they opt for a Breakfast Tour, the more versatile East Feast or the scrumptious Seafood Feast, the seasoned gourmand won’t want to pass up one of these tasty tours.
When it comes to less fancy fare, Newcastle still shines. For example, Central Bar and Restaurant is the place to be during the week, with a bunch of specials on delicious morsels Tuesday through Friday. Honeysuckle Hotel has great regular weekday deals on hearty no-nonsense food that just tastes good, and if you’re partial to shellfish don’t forget to drop in between 5 and 6:30pm for half price fresh oysters.
Of course when it comes to wine, the Hunter Valley is right on Newcastle’s doorstep. Try to schedule at least a day or two to explore this region - and if you can make it there in June, all the better. This is Hunter Valley Wine and Food Month, an epic celebration of the fruits of the Valley. Tasting and dining is obviously a big part of proceedings but there’s also a bunch of culinary classes for those who are keen to recreate some of these mouthwatering meals for themselves.
While Newcastle is technically a coastal city, it’s the Hunter River makes the city what it is. Two branches of the river (North Channel and South Channel) wind their way seaward at the north end of the city, meeting just before reaching the Pacific Ocean. There’s still some stellar beaches close to the city centre though. If you’re just after sun and swimming, Nobbys Beach and Bar Beach are great, but those looking to catch some waves will love Merewether Beach and Newcastle Beach.
Newcastle has a true blue working class history, but in recent years there’s been a bit of an art explosion which adds a whole new facet to the city. Projects like Renew Newcastle have made this place a colourful, fun city to explore and enjoy.
Most of Newcastle’s citizens have Western European roots, with English, Irish and Scottish ancestry most common, although there is a substantial Macedonian community in the city as well, with almost 1% of households speaking Macedonian at home.
If you’re able to be in town for one of Newcastle’s awesome events (highlighted above) that’s great, but even if your travel plans aren’t so flexible, you won’t be short of stuff to do in this city. There are all sorts of year round attractions in Newcastle to keep you entertained
Less than a kilometre from the CBD, on the top of Flagstaff Hill sits an old fortification that’s looked out over the ocean since the 19th century. Fort Scratchley makes for a great afternoon adventure - history buffs can explore the storied heritage of the place, while others might be more keen to take a picnic and a pair of binoculars for a spot of dolphin or whale watching.
For something a little more adrenaline spiking, head out to the nearby Blue Gum Hills Regional Park to try out TreeTop Adventure Park. With all sorts of daring and adventurous pursuits up to 20 metres above the ground, this is perfect for people who are looking for a little excitement in a totally safe environment. There’s all sorts of different difficulties as well, so don’t worry about not being fit or coordinated enough to cut it - just bring a decent head for heights and a willingness to give it a go.
To peek into the city’s past, take a trip to Newcastle Museum. This is perfect for family outings - adults can get a grasp on where Newcastle comes from while kids will love the hands-on activities and exhibitions at the museum. From tinkering at the Supernova Hands-on Science Centre to getting a fiery introduction into the risks of coal mining and BHP steel production (traditional mainstays of the Newcastle economy), Newcastle Museum will leave both young and old with colourful memories.
For a real Aussie nature experience, keep a visit to Blackbutt Reserve on the cards. The wildlife exhibits are the main draw here: koalas, lizards, snakes and more are all waiting for animal lovers at Blackbutt. However, there are also walking trails, playgrounds, BBQs, and picnic spots, so you can enjoy Australia’s great outdoors any way you like!
There’s a good chance you won’t be needing the city’s public transport system if you’re planning to hire a car in Newcastle, but it’s always good to look into other ways to get around just in case it works out better for you. There are a few different options to choose from including trains, buses and the Stockton ferry. If you’re sticking around Newcastle for a while and think you might get bit of use out of the city’s public transport, you might want to pick up an Opal card. This’ll let you tap on and tap off without having to muck around with cash.
Newcastle enjoys a subtropical climate, which means summers are on the warm side and sometimes a bit humid (averaging around 25 degrees at hottest). Autumn and winter get the lion’s share of the rain but even so the temperatures tend to stay pretty mild.
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