The in-laws are coming from overseas to visit us for a couple of days. Besides cleaning the house from top to bottom before they arrive, what are we going to do?
Well, naturally, show them what we consider the finest, or most fun, places and things to do in Newcastle.
We might stretch the budget, but really, there’s plenty to do without breaking the bank.
This time of year, Merewether baths is a good starting point. Every time my wife and I visit there, which isn’t often enough, we swim out to the ocean edge of the pool and gaze back at the view of the ridgeline, constantly mesmerised, teasing each other about how lucky we are to be in this part of the world. It really feels like you’re on holiday in some exotic destination.
The baths are just the beginning – one day we will spend an entire day in that precinct, between the coffee and treats at Blue Door kiosk, the glorious ocean view from Surfhouse’s outdoor bar and the funk of the Beach Hotel in the evening, it would be way too easy to be stranded there for a whole day.
The people-watching alone is worth the time along the Bather’s Way Esplanade. Dads with dogs, mums with babies, well-tanned youths and well-tanned oldies, and everything in between. A parade of humanity, a glimpse of Newcastle’s young at heart.
I digress. By the time we’re out of the ocean pool with guests, everybody is going to be thirsty or hungry, or both.
Taking the scenic drive into Newcastle could be a slow trip if we stop to gaze and jabber. If we don’t stop, we’ll aim for a landing at either Estabar, 2300 or Xtraction.
If coffee will satisfy everybody – only likely if a deal has already been negotiated for a big lunch elsewhere – then Xtraction is the default destination. Fast service, even with an anticipated line, great coffee. If there’s time for ocean gazing, then Estabar is hard to beat. The window seats are suitable if there’s only two of you. If there’s four or more, outside is the go. Again, great coffee, and tantalising (mostly) healthy snacks.
If our cattle dog Ralph is on board, chances are the car will find its way to Pacific Street, close to 2300. Ralph loves Pacific Park, and we always enjoy a break at 2300. The coffee stands up, the food is wholesome and affordable. The thick shakes, served cold in a tall metal cylinder, are outstanding. East End locals know and respect 2300, it never lets them down. Like Extraction, it’s a reliable early opener for a caffeine fix.
I digress again. By now, re-energised, we’ll probably decide to walk out Nobbys Breakwall with the guests. And maybe take a dip at Nobbys Beach on the way back in.
As lunchtime nears, we need to cover more ground. Maybe a spicy piadina at Bank Corner, or a meaty lunch at the Edwards, or a vegan option at Saluna on King Street. Or, a pub lunch at the Commonwealth.
Ok, let’s get moving again, more exercise, work off that lunch, cause by dinnertime, we’ll be drawn to the beach again.
Hello Scotties: always the (red door) takeaway for us. Possibly the best salt n pepper squid in Newcastle, beetroot scallops, luscious salads (even as takeaway). Chilling out on the lawn under the constant Christmas lights, with a view to the beach a block away (or just walk down to Newcastle beach), a sly sauvignon blanc in a brown bag picked up from Pines on Hunter Street. Now, that is summer in the city.
If we’re lucky, we can surprise our guests with a night at Lizotte’s. While there is music most nights, sometimes there is an extraordinary talent in town, right underneath our eyes. Like Mia Dyson in December, or Canadian bluegrass masters the East Pointers in January, or world-class jazz outfit The Necks in March. This is a nightclub to be proud of, a comfortable vibe, excellent viewing lines, great sound. Yes, it will cost a pocketful if you eat, but you could have the best night out in your life.