Newcomer launching smart tourism tours of Newcastle

Newcastle Afoot: Tour operator Becky Kiil walking through Newcastle's East End. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll
Newcastle Afoot: Tour operator Becky Kiil walking through Newcastle's East End. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll

Becky Kiil is not from Newcastle, but the city by the sea has been beckoning her for a long time.

The brave 35-year-old moved here eight months ago from Melbourne and decided to start a business giving walking tours in Newcastle. Prior to this venture she had worked in Melbourne and before that Adelaide. She’s originally from Whyalla, another Australian steelworks town.

“I came to Newy to visit a few close friends a few years ago, and I fell in love with it.

“I had Newcastle on my mind since I was in Adelaide. Renew came to Adelaide, and I’ve had friends who had renew spaces in there. I saw the positive change that came from Renew Newcastle,” she says.

When she arrived she thought she would join a tour organisation, but was surprised when she couldn’t find one. It never occurred to her to start a business until that point. Prior to her life in Newcastle, she was a public servant and worked in the not-for-profit sector.

“Most capital cities have anywhere from three and 30 tours. It’s not a capital city, but it’s a large city that has a diverse culture and a creative community.” Kiil says.

“I found a few specific tours like Newcastle Ghost Tours and Underground Epicureans, but nothing that was ongoing and regular. There wasn’t anything to help navigate the way and nothing that’s obviously visible to the public on the street besides Newcastle’s famous tram.”

A variety of cultural institutions and special interest groups occasionally offer walking tours, but Kiil’s model is more prevalent, with a variety of tours running multiple times a week.

She’s just published her website with a logo made by iconic Newcastle artist Trevor Dickinson.

The website allows for customers to book tours from late July. They will vary in length and cost. Prices will range from $25 to $140, and the cost will include aspects such as food, wine and coffee stops The tours will run 90 minutes to three-and-a-half hours.

The most regular tour she plans on running three days a week will be the Seascapes to Laneways tour, where walkers learn about everything from architecture to local Aboriginal heritage, colonial maritime and industrial life.

One exception to the “afoot” aspect of her business plan is the Local Experience Tour, where Kiil and visitors will explore the city by bicycle. She said it’s for people who want an intimate experience in the suburbs of the city that tourists don’t often find, such as Maryville, Carrington and Wickham.

She’s also excited about a bar tour available on Friday nights.        

Not only does she want to create fun, informative experiences, she also wants to support artists, businesses and independent bars and clubs.

“As an outsider with experience living in both small cities and major capital cities, I think I am in a good place to see what's really special about Newcastle. I go to The Kiosk at Newcastle beach every morning and get friendly service, meet locals, watch amazing surf and local dolphins, whales diving, and drink high quality coffee, then I can walk up Hunter Street and see world class galleries like the Lock-Up and Timeless Textiles.

“It's amazing,” she says.