Our last stop before big and famous Sydney was the small and much less well known Newcastle. Despite this, it has a big and busy harbour and good surf.
Part of our reason to stop there was that Zoë went to school in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK and so we had to see what the two places had in common. It turned out to be quite a lot. Both started as harbours for coal and wool and had steel works at some point. The Australian Newcastle has the edge here because of its big steel works which shaped the region for nearly 100 years.
We liked the town centre down under a lot more than the one in the UK despite the massive rail works. They were in the middle of building a tram network and caused quite bit of disruption. Many buildings in town still had their old façades which produced a nice atmosphere. We also enjoyed promenading along the river opposite the harbour and getting a good view from the Queens Wharf tower. Near the mouth of the river is the old fort and a light house, but we skipped both as there was hardly anything left of the former and we did not fancy the detour to the latter. Instead we followed the sighseeing trail along the coast southwards. It led us past long beaches, rocky shores and ocean baths. At the south end of Newcastle beach we stopped at the Bogey hole. Hewn out of the rocky shore by prisoners, this hole was the private of the local commander.
We watched the spectacle of big waves crashing on the rocks creating huge clouds of spray. To top it all off, some humback whales turned up swimming along the coast.
We then followed the stairs up a hill overlooking the far-streched surroundings of Newcastle. On the other side we got some awesome views from the elevated ANZAC walk before turning back. On our return walk, we visited our first cathedral in a very long time. The imposing Newcastle cathedral is built of bricks and very new (it was completed in the last century) but looked very nice nonetheless. Two glass cases displayed the oldest Australian flag and supposedly the last flag used during the Gallipoli campaing in WW1.
After a quick coffee and muffin stop on the charming Hunter street with its old shops we returned to our hostel to cook dinner and relax.
The next day started of quite successfully when Matthias found a strongly reduced windproof jacket in preparation for the cooler temperatures further south. He managed to put it to good use not long after when we sat on the beach. While the weather was good and the sun shining warmly, the freezing cold wind stopped us from going in the water or surfing.
In the afternoon we visited the Newcastle museum to learn more about the history of the town. Beside the exhibitions about mining, the steelworks and the life in the town over the years was a hands-on science section which was great fun. We held an inpromtu competition to throw the fastest ball (Matthias won). Sadly we ran out of time to really look at the well-set up town exhibition but would have gladly spent another hour or two there.
After dinner and another shower the hostel manager drove us to the bus station for our short journey to our next, highly anticipated destination: Sydney.