In the time Rebecca Stern, designer behind Etsy store House of Bec, has lived in Newcastle she’s seen the city change dramatically. New coffee shops, restaurants, galleries and stores match big sister city Sydney for quality; local creatives are transforming the city into a thriving hub. Stern tells us her favourite places to hang out, eat and sit in the sunshine.
Olive Tree Market
The Olive Tree Market is one of the country’s most loved art and design markets. The mix of music, unique products and food stalls make it a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning each month (it’s also where you’ll find me selling my wares as House of Bec). Get there early, grab a coffee, have a wander around and a chat to the makers.
The markets are on the first Saturday of the month in Civic Park.
High Swan Dive
Up the road on King Street you’ll find High Swan Dive, a beautifully curated shop selling handmade contemporary pottery, art books and plants. A few shops along is Hello Naomi, a sweet-treat shop in shades of powdery pastel. Naomi bakes her cupcakes, cookies, macarons and other goods in store and serves them with a bottle of strawberry milk with a straw. It is seriously cute. instagram.com/highswandive
Curve Gallery is a boutique art gallery that shows local and international artists. Every exhibition is fresh and different from the last, covering street art, video, textile landscapes and printmaking. This small space is packed with inspiring work. You will also see the owner’s textile artworks around Newcastle.
In the mall you’ll find The Emporium, home to a whole bunch of local artists and makers, each with their own shop, gallery or workshop space inside an old abandoned David Jones store. The space is a part of the Renew Newcastle project, which has been bringing life to empty spaces and has transformed the mall into a colourful and creative place.
The Edwards serves hearty meals made for sharing which, paired with its low-key bar atmosphere, makes it ideal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is in a converted laundromat and has a restored vintage photo booth that provides the perfect black-and-white memory of your day out.
Newcastle takes its coffee seriously. Suspension is well known for its killer coffee and tasty-things-on-sourdough kind of menu. I like sitting outside under the big tree with a pot of chai tea. While you are in this part of town, go across the road to Hide and Seeker to discover dreamy vintage Italian dresses and one-off handcrafted leather goods made in store by Geordie Malone.
Coal and Cedar
Newcastle has a line-up of new bars that are shaking up the nightlife scene. My choice is Coal and Cedar for its seriously good cocktails and simple bar food. This is one of Newcastle’s boutique hidden bars – you have to text to get in. coalandcedar.com
Bar Beach and Newcastle baths
On a hot afternoon there are usually two places on my mind; either the stunningly beautiful Bar Beach, or a swim at the Newcastle baths. Bar Beach is great for an ocean swim, but I also love wandering through the rock pools off to the left and grabbing a fresh juice from the cafe, or a sunset fish-and-chips dinner. Every time I go for a swim at Newcastle baths (about once a week) I can’t help but feel like I’m really very lucky to live in this city.
Blackbutt Nature Reserve
Blackbutt Nature Reserve is where I take all my visitors. You can see Australian wildlife in the free zoo and walk among the native trees; hopefully you’ll spot a sleepy koala in a tree.