We had heard great things about Newcastle; but, we had totally skipped over it on our last Aussie adventure. We were excited to see what it had in store for us!
We woke up early on Saturday, October 21 and left our parking spot at Mooney Mooney Rest Stop. I enjoy eating breakfast with a view and relaxing with a book, so we didn’t bother with breakfast when we first woke up. We didn’t want to be surrounded by heaps of other vehicles and eating in a parking lot – that’s not what #vanlife is about. Instead, we drove 40 minutes to Shelly Beach (which is near The Entrance). We made oatmeal in the beach parking lot and then hauled our chairs and food down to the beach to watch the surfers.
Just as we were finishing breakfast the rain picked up again, we packed up and drove to Newcastle, arriving just before 10am. We had a few things we were keen to checkout in Newie; but, we were both lacking much motivating with the grey sky and the rain. We ended up doing the walk down, past the lighthouse to Nobby’s Head. The sea was angry and the waves massive! They were smashing up against the stone wall we were walking on – so much so that my pants were soaked from a big splash!
By the time we finished the walk, our tummies were growling. We hadn’t hit up a grocery store in a few days, so we decided to check out the café scene (since we heard Newcastle was a great up and coming foodie place). We found parking and walked to One Penny Black. The rain had stopped and the sun had even peeked out a wee bit. We grabbed a table outside in the sun; but, I still used one of their blankets for my legs. We ordered ourselves large coffees and lunch. Kels got a Cubano sandwhich and I got the Breakfast Bowl – Avocado, Quinoa, Hummus, Halloumi and a Poached Egg. When my dish came out I was a bit disappointed, it seemed like such a small serving; however, once I mixed it all together and dug in, I was nice and stuffed by the end. I definitely recommend grabbing a coffee or a bite to eat here if you find yourself in Newie.
With our bellies full, we decided to explore the city some more! We found a couple cute little used book stores (that we spent way too much time exploring), we walked along the promenade and watched the surfers brave the waves and then we visited the museum. It was free to enter and focused mainly on the history of coal mining in the city. They also had a section called the Discovery Centre – pretty sure it was supposed to be for kids; but, Kels and I enjoyed it way more that the history side of things. We threw baseballs and a radar gun told us how fast we threw (so that was a competition in itself), we played with magnets and levers and funhouse mirrors. It was a fun way to pass time on a rainy-ish day!
We refused to pay $50/night for an unpowered campsite in town – so we drove ~15km north and paid $25/night instead. There were cows in the field behind us – WE JUST CAN’T ESCAPE THESE FREAKING CREATURES. Don’t worry though – we didn’t get shit on, so we were okay with it.
The next morning the sun was shining, there was no rain and Kels made me French toast for breakfast- so it was a pretty fantastic start to the day!
It was made even better by a drive back into Newcastle and to the Bogey Hole. The Bogey Hole is an ocean bath and were constructed by convicts in 1819, it is the oldest known ocean pool on the East Coast of Australia. It wasn’t even 10am yet; but, we walked down in our swimmers and took a look. There were signs warning us of every possible danger – from dangerous tides, submerged rocks to stingers. We contemplated just dipping our toes in and calling it a day; but, you only live once right? Sorry mom, we cannonballed in. It was COLD. We didn’t spend much time in the water, but it was so very refreshing and so very worth it.
We also checked out Merewether Ocean Baths, but neither of us were massive fans. It had more of a public swimming pool feel – which is awesome if you wanted to swim laps; but, it felt kind of silly when there were proper beaches just down the coast if you just wanted to jump in for a bit then laze around in the sun.
We continued to explore down Newie’s coast and came across a surfing competition at Bar Beach. We snagged a parking spot, grabbed our towels and headed down to the beach to watch! There would be two surfers competing at a time – they got judged on the skill and execution of each wave that the rode. Their score consisted of their best two waves of the 15 minute time block. (We learned this all by listening to the announcer on the massive speaker, and by staying for 2 hours to watch).
Living in a van is awesome; but, it sucks big time when you need to take it to the mechanics. You are left without your entire home – all your belonging are in the van. While we were in Newcastle, we had to have an oil change for Jean-Claude. Kels chose a mechanic that was close to a gym, so at least we had something to do while our van got worked on. We had to pay a drop in fee at the gym, but we killed a couple hours there and then I took advantage of the shower (another downside of vanlife – showers are not the most accessible nor cheapest thing around).
Here’s a crazy thing we learned in Australia – oil changes are NOT cheap. Back in Canada, we would pay maximum like $70 for an oil change (I would always find coupons online and pay like $50 instead). When we went to pick up Jean-Claude we had to pay $180! ABSURD!!! We paid regardless, and then hit the road.
We weren’t sure what to think of the Newcastle. It had cool beach vibes, and what seemed like a good café scene – but there was a lot of construction going on, so it seemed unfinished almost. Kels and I would definitely be open to visiting again to see the progress of the city, and of course to check out some more cafés, because coffee- duh.
We were super excited for the next part of our roadtrip – to Port Stephens! Hopefully a blog post on that will follow shortly! 🙂