Monday, February 18, 2013

Why we’re grateful for Newcastle and The Hunter

Ladies Lunch the Landing Bar and Kitchen:

I recently took the highway from Sydney to Newcastle for no other reason than to have lunch with some fabulous women who like to write, read, talk, eat and who also LOVE where they live in the Hunter. It would be an understatement to say I was totally surprised as I cruised into town and absorbed how the city had changed since my last visit there, back when, well I can’t even remember.

The entire waterfront /harbourside has turned into a social hub of bars and restaurants, making it the perfect setting for almost any gathering, just like ours pictured above.

So impressed with the ‘new Newcastle’ was I, that I need to let everyone else in on what still appears to be a well-kept secret to those of us who don’t reside there. I asked a few of the ladies I lunched with if they’d share why they are grateful for living in Newcastle aka Newy! Here’s what they said…

 Broadcaster and beekeeper Carol D with moi

Local ABC broadcaster, writer, beekeeper and deadly diva Carol Duncan says quite simply: The place is just freaking fabulous! My first few years were spent on a dairy farm in Northern NSW before my family moved back to Sydney to send us to school so I guess I have a foot in each camp - country kid and city slicker. Newcastle offers me (and my family) all the great things of a big city but without the dramas and huge expense. We live on an acreage just 15 minutes from the CBD with Lake Macquarie five minutes in one direction and the ocean five minutes in the other. While Sydney is a huge part of my heart and my family history, Newcastle is a beautiful city, which seems to get better every day. My children are Novocastrians! Now there's a concept I find quite odd after generations of being Sydney people!

View from The Landing, love it!
 Journalist, blogger, Francophile and coffee-fiend Linda Drummond says what she loves about Newcastle is: The combination of natural beauty, architectural awesome and optimism. New culture is exploding in Newy inspiring people to do something different and fabulous. The arts community is meshing perfectly with the food culture - there's a real sense of excitement here now. Linda also blogs A LOT about Newy also and you can read more here!  

 Newcastle Harbour

Writer, blogger, book reviewer and tea drinker, Susan Whelan says: There are no strangers in Newcastle. The standard Six Degrees of Separation seems to have been reduced to two here, or sometimes even one. I love that no matter who I start a conversation with, chances are we will discover a mutual friend, acquaintance or even relative. Maybe went to the same school or lived in the same street.  Maybe our parents once worked for the same company. There is always someone who knows someone who shares one of your interests or can help answer a question. Lack of anonymity can be a little frustrating at times, but I am very grateful for the sense of community and belonging that results these myriad connections.

 Close up on Crown Street by night

A lover of old-fashioned mix tapes, old buildings and Doctor Who, Athena says: It's laid back lifestyle and spectacular beaches. The diverse art and music scenes, the fabulous world class restaurants and wine and because of its size and compactness, we can connect through twitter with all these things and people on a personal level and in real life. It's a place that every day you see reminders of it's past but also see its vibrant and exciting present and future.

 A fleeting hello with Jayne Kearney while I prepared for a long, Newy lunch!

Mum and writer Jayne Kearney has returned to her hometown after venturing around the country. She says: It’s almost cliché to talk about the ‘Newcastle degrees of separation’, but I think it’s one of the best things about our region. Yes, we are also blessed with some incredible landscapes – from beach to vineyard – as well as some fascination and vibrant sub-cultures and a very handy proximity to the Big Smoke (all things I adore) but I have come to understand that it is our sense of community, which can be our real strength. I didn’t realize it when I was younger and was all too quick to dismiss my city as unsophisticated and boring, but I know now that when you get to know Newy peeps you make a unique connection. We are proud of the fact that when you first meet a Novocastrian, no sooner to you scratch the surface and you’re joining the dots to all of your mutual connections. I hope that as Newcastle comes of age – which it feels we are on the cusp of doing – that we make sure these connections and our community hospitality extends out to everyone who comes to our region, either as a visitor or to make it their home.

Jayne works as a communications officer at the University of Newcastle on the community engagement initative, Engage Newcastle.

Warners Bay in June

Librarian, geek, music lover, film buff, and groove instructor, Cathy Shay (whom you have met previously on my blog here) LOVES the Hunter.  Here’s what she has to say: The Hunter Region is a wonderful place to live. I was born in Newcastle, but live in Warners Bay, near the lake of Lake Macquarie. It is about a 15 minute drive into the beaches of Newcastle from where I live or a 10 minute walk to the lake so I have the best of both worlds. Water features heavily for most Novocastrians (people from Newcastle), be it the harbour, beaches, lake or The Hunter River. It's very healing to be near so much water. Over the years Newcastle has turned from an industrial town to an edgy and cultural place - we still have a long way to go, but there we are getting there.

I love our cultural scene. Inner City has transformed into cafe strips (Beaumont and Darby Streets and now the East end near the beaches) that would rival St Kilda. Small art galleries, funky bars and cute bespoke shops of art, crafts and wares are popping up around and between the cafes and restaurants. Add in a thriving arthouse cinema crowd and great local bands and there is always something amazing to see or do in your spare time. A lot of these vendors and artisans contribute to local markets, which are also plentiful. The Olive Tree Market and Farmers Markets being my favourites.

As a Librarian it would be remiss of me not to mention the fabulous events and activities the local libraries provide. Not only are there free books, DVDs, music and magazines to borrow, most local libraries have book clubs, regular activities for children and teens, and other events or displays to entertain their community.

Then there are Novocastrians, a friendly and interesting bunch of people; and the best place to meet them is on twitter. Newy Tweeps (as we are called) are an eclectic bunch, but love to meet up in real life and this is how we get to know some of the cultural events happening in our city, by making new friends and sharing our experience. Of course there is more to Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and The Hunter Region than I have mentioned but those are the things I love at the moment.

Needing some more specifics – check out Cathy’s recommendations below!

Bar Petite:
The Terrace Bar:
Bocados Spanish Kitchen:
Bacchus Restaurant:

Lizotte's Newcastle:
Tower Cinemas:
Blackbird Corner:
The Emporium:
Blue Star Elements:
The Lock-Up Cultural Centre:
Lake Macquarie City Libraries:


 Newy is also fab for random meetings with firemen on pushbikes! And they read books too!

Do you have any other favourite places or reasons you love Newy you’d like to add? Please leave a comment so others can find more joy in the Hunter as well.


PinkPatentMaryJanes said...

What a fab round-up Anita (and not just because I'm involved). I think everyone's really summed up what's so great about our fabulous town - everything! Looking forward to catch up again at the Newcastle Writers Festival in April. There's so much more we need to show you x

Mike said...

What a great summary. And there are so many more restaurants, cafes, events and gatherings to mention. Newcastle has so much to offer these days; I'm merrily working my way through the food scene because that's my preference. Twenty years ago I might have been finished in a couple of months. These days twenty new choices appear in a couple of months.

Cathy said...

Thanks Anita for sharing our love of Newcastle. I think we only tipped the iceberg, but let's not give away all our secrets ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a lovely summary of what makes Newcastle such a fantastic place to live. xT

Unknown said...

As someone who settled in Newcastle/the Hunter in the early 80s, I'm a relative newcomer! But I quickly came to know its unique character, places and spaces of outstanding natural beauty as well as its well preserved mix of architecture and streetscapes, industrial and social heritage.

Newcastle is perfectly located to take advantage of the ocean and the beaches, the lake and the harbour, the forest and the vines, the bay and mountains.

And the contributions above paint a lively and vibrant picture of the city's eclectic social life - check it all out, have some fun and be prepared to be surprised!

Unknown said...

Indeed Newcastle is a fantastic place! Lots of spectacular landscape and awesome delicacies! You definitely described the place perfectly. Thank you for this awesome post!