Lifestyle & Culture

Newbie to Newy: A beginner’s guide to Newcastle

Newcastle is a great city with plenty of cool places to spend your free time. Jack Moran highlights some of the best things to see and do in Newcastle for students who’ve just moved to the area and are feeling a little lost.

Starting university can be a fairly daunting experience due to the increased pressure and expectations as well as the difficulty of trying to fit into the pace and culture of university life. The whole experience can be even more stressful if you’ve had to move to study and are now living in a completely new city with no clue about the place. Here is a quick guide on the ins and outs of Newcastle: what to do, where to do it and how to do it cheaply.


If you’re living on campus, your best bet for shopping is Stockland Jesmond Shopping Centre. Its only a few minutes away by car and easy to get to from uni by bus, with most of the buses leaving the Maths Station or Design Building stops making their way there. While not as large as other shopping centres in the Newcastle area, it does have a fairly broad range of stores including Woolworths, Big W and Aldi. The two biggest shopping centres in Newcastle are Westfield Kotara and Charlestown Square. They have mostly the same kinds of chain stores, although Charlestown is larger. Both also have cinema complexes inside and dining precincts that go beyond your regular fast food restaurants so they’re pretty good places to meet up with friends or spend some time if you’re looking for something to do. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous or looking for more independently owned stores, you might want to try the Newcastle CBD along Hunter Street. You can normally find some interesting and new stores there and you’ll be helping to bring business back to Newcastle’s re-emerging CBD shopping precinct.


Like most Australian coastal cities, Newcastle prides itself on its beaches and with good reason. Newcastle beaches are some of the best beaches in New South Wales and if you’re new to Newcastle and looking for something to do in your free time, a trip to the beach might be the answer. Whether you want to swim, learn to surf or just spend some time by the water, there are plenty of beaches in Newcastle to visit. Nobby’s beach is arguably Newcastle’s most prominent beach and is considered the safest beach to swim at. Newcastle’s longest running surf school, Newcastle Surf School, also runs lessons from Nobby’s if you’re looking to learn the sport. If you’re not quite confident in swimming in the open surf, Newcastle Beach and Merewether Beach are both home to ocean baths where you can swim in more of a pool-like environment. Nobby’s beach is patrolled year round but other beaches are usually only patrolled in the summer surf season from September to April. For safety, make sure to only swim at patrolled beaches and check the Newcastle City Council website for more information.


If you’re looking to spend a night out in Newcastle, you’re spoilt for choice. From nightclubs to more traditional local pubs, Newcastle has a varied range of venues. Two major places popular with uni students are Argyle House and King Street Hotel. Argyle’s student night is Wednesday and with cheap drinks and a soundtrack of 90s and 00s music, it’s a hotspot for students. King Street’s student night is Friday and it’s one of the most popular night clubs in Newcastle due to its wide range of music from 80s favourites to contemporary hits. If you’re looking for something a little more subdued, Newcastle has plenty of small bars such as the Coal and Cedar, the Koutetsu and the Basement on Market St. Although they might be a little more pricey than Argyle or King Street, they offer a much more relaxed atmosphere. If you’re looking for a good trivia night, your best bet is the Stag and Hunter Hotel with their acclaimed Stagwiz Trivia on Tuesday nights at 6.30pm. Wherever you go, however, always remember to drink responsibly.


For UON students, you can’t go past the university’s own Forum Gym and Aquatic Centre. Its especially convenient if you’re living on campus but also has competitively priced student memberships. If you’re looking for a gym off campus, there are plenty of gym chains in Newcastle to choose from such as Fitness First, Anytime Fitness or Genesis Fitness. These gyms have many branches across the Newcastle area and generally membership to one gym guarantees you entry to all of them. Be sure to check what kind of commitment period you’re signing up for with gym memberships, especially if you’re only at UON for a semester or you’re going to be spending a lot of time back home for holidays and breaks.

Making Friends

Being in a new city can be overwhelming if you don’t know anyone and have no support network so it’s vital to start putting yourself out there and meet new people. If you’re living on campus, this might not be as much of a challenge with so many people around but if you’re living away from campus, the first thing you should do is join some of the student groups at UON. From gaming and goon to sports and theatre, there’s probably at least one group that might appeal to you and they all have meet ups and events throughout the year where you can meet new people and make friends. Looking outside the university, there are plenty of community groups and teams that you could get involved with as well. Going to Google and searching for your interests in the Newcastle area, such as ‘soccer teams in Newcastle’ or ‘drama classes in Newcastle’ is normally your best option to finding the kind of groups you’re looking for.

Any places we missed? Let us know what things to do and see in Newcastle that you’d recommend in the comments below.


1 comment

  1. Justine Gaudry 29 February, 2016 at 17:53 Reply

    Hey YAK! We’d love the newbie’s to know about some of Newcastle’s cultural events like The Olive Tree Market! It’s a way to discover art, design, fashion, food and culture all in one place! Our next market is this Saturday March 5th in Civic Park. 9am-3pm 🙂

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