Come For the Music, Stay For the Beaches When Great Southern Nights Hits Newcastle

Alec Jones
February 07, 2024

Any good Newy trip should include banging live music and a good surf, but what are you missing out on?

If you’re reading this, you’re here because you want an adventure. So how about hitting the road, cranking the tunes and chasing the horizon in search of a good time? It’s time to set course for Newcastle.

Why Newcastle? There are plenty of reasons. Great beaches, lively dining scene, colourful arts and culture, and soon you can add a huge festival series called Great Southern Nights to the list of attractions.

If you’re not tuned in to Great Southern Nights, it’s a live music series spread across the great state of New South Wales, taking place across Sydney, Wollongong, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, the Northern Rivers and of course Newcastle.

So pop on a playlist (we’ve even prepared one for you a bit further down), hit the highway and let’s get our gig on.

The Festival

Newcastle will be hosting over a dozen headline acts between Friday, March 8 and Sunday, March 24. Get a load of this lineup:

Legendary electronic duo The Presets will be playing at the King Street Hotel, which will also host indie band Cub Sport, dancefloor-filling DJ Anna Lunoe, EDM wizard Godlands, and post-covid star Ruby Fields.

All-female punk-rock band Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers will star at Hamilton Street Station, while enduring pop luminary Kate Ceberano will take the stage at Belmont Sailing Club.

Newcastle’s music mainstay Lizotte’s will host ELIXIR (feat. Katie Noonan, Zac Hurren and Ben Hauptmann). Australian rock legends Peter Garrett & The Alter Egos are playing Newcastle City Hall, and country music star James Blundell will play at Newcastle Hotel.

Feeling enticed? Here’s some tunes to give you a taste of the headline hits to get you in a Great Southern Nights kind of mood;

Image: Lizotte’s (Destination NSW)

Where to Stay

Should you have a taste for the luxurious, look no further than Crystalbrook Kingsley. This luxury property is steeped in history but the energetic and polished interior is anything but aged. Pick a room with views of the city, harbour or local park, grab a meal from one of the three on-site eateries and enjoy the central location.

A bit down Hunter Street is a similarly excellent choice — QT Newcastle. With a variety of room sizes and views, an on-site restaurant and a rooftop bar, this personality-filled boutique hotel is the perfect base for a Newcastle adventure.

Finally, there’s Terminus Hotel, a vintage building that offers studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments sandwiched between the harbour and the beach, ideal for anyone with a busy Newcastle itinerary.

Images: Crystalbrook Kingsley (Destination NSW)

Local Food

Once you’re feeling rocked out and well-rested, you’ll need refuelling, so let’s talk food and drink.

One of the top spots in town when it comes to the former is Blanca, a sunny coastal eatery that specialises in local ingredients shaped by the flavours of Mediterranean food. Owners Garry and Mel are proud of the menu shaped by the flavours of coastal Greece, Sicily and Turkey.

Another great choice is Flotilla, a small restaurant with a big impact, one of regional NSW’s highest-reviewed eateries. Owned and operated by duo Jake Deluca and Eduardo Molina, the menu at Flotilla is stocked with local ingredients and changes every six weeks to stay completely seasonal. That practice stretches to the wine list, too, but no matter the season, the team has a blend of classic, alternative and funky varietals.

For a third choice we’d be remiss not to mention Merewether Surfhouse. This Newy institution sits right on Merewether Beach with ocean views and sea-breeze-soaked seating that make for the perfect spot to unwind after a long day. Whether you dine in the beachfront bar, restaurant or kiosk, you’ll have a 270º view of the sea. From a relaxed promenade experience to high-end seafood dining, you’ll find it at the Surfhouse.

Images: Flotilla, Merewether Surfhouse (Destination NSW)

Local Drinks

Ten minutes outside of the CBD is Earp Distillery, liquid maestros who pour spirits of all kinds. Gin, brandy, rum, vodka, absinthe, limoncello — taste any of these or make your own at the distillery’s blending classes and deeper-diving ‘spirit school’ experiences.

Further into town and found in Crystalbrook Kingsley (another reason to stay there) is Ms Mary’s, an all-day bar named for convict Mary Fowler who was shipped to the Newcastle colony at just 14 years old. Ms Mary’s does an all-day menu of share snacks, Hunter Valley wines and Earp Distillery cocktails. There’s also a high tea package available for $75pp.

If you prefer something off the beaten track, seek out Coal & Cedar, a hidden speakeasy that requires you to text a number on the exterior wall to gain entry. Enter to find a prohibition-style bar that specialises in any cocktail your heart desires. Pull up a stool or chair, enjoy some charcuterie boards and your drink, and forget about your troubles for a while.

Images: Earp Distillery, Coal & Cedar (Destination NSW)

What to see

You’re in Newcastle so why not hit the beach? There are six major beaches in the region but Nobby’s Beach and Merewether Beach are the most popular. Nobby’s is a favourite for swimmers while Merewether is nationally renowned for surf conditions and its popular ocean baths. You can hit them separately or stroll the Bathers Way walk that connects the two.

If you prefer to venture further out beyond the waves, you can make a booking with local tour group CoastXP. Operating along the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie coastlines, CoastXP offers adventure tours by way of water, air and even land. Pick from wildlife spotting boat tours, scenic helicopter flights, guided bushwalks and more.

All that said, we don’t all have sea legs, and that’s fine when there’s this much inland adventuring to be done instead. First up is Glenrock State Conservation Area, a bushland paradise of hiking and biking trails, sweeping views and secluded beaches just a ten-minute drive from the Newcastle CBD. Alternatively, for a condensed experience, visit Blackbutt Reserve, which is home to seven scenic walks and a wildlife park inhabited by native critters.

Images: Merewether Ocean Baths, Coast XP Adventure Tour, Glenrock State Conservation Area, Blackbutt Reserve (Destination NSW)


For more information on Great Southern Nights, including the lineup, venues, local areas and to book tickets, visit the website.

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