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Falling in love with Newcastle

We love our city. Here are a few reminders of things to love, written by a newcomer to Newcastle (a Nouveau-Castrian… so to speak.)

When you move to Newcastle, there are things you expect to enjoy: stunning beaches, easy access to the Hunter and a more relaxed way of life. And Newcastle delivers all of that – tick, tick, tick.

But as I meander around this city – so new to me (our young family has been living here three months at the time of writing), – it’s the other little, tiny things about Newcastle that I’ve discovered that bring a kind of buoyant joy. The small things that turn your smile up at the edges, the sweet things that creep under your skin and spread warmth to your heart. Things that drip with nostalgia, that challenge your way of thinking about how a city works and things that show what a cracking bunch of people Novocastrians are.

So I’ve created a list of what I love about Newcastle. I apologise in advance; it’s likely I’ve missed a bunch of things, or have got it wrong somehow. Bear with me. I’m still settling in.

1. There’s a bit of grit.

In a world where gentrification threatens to white-picket-fence every Californian bungalow on the street, there’s still a sense of history around these parts. You’ll discover a wild and overgrown garden here, a gate off its hinges there. It shows that people have other things to think about other than finding the perfect shade of duck-egg-blue shutters, and that’s a good thing in my book.

2. You can still enjoy sentimental snacks.

You can still purchase a Caramello Koala at the Blackbutt Reserve kiosk for 50c. It’s a taste of 1985, and I love it. You can also still get Pluto Pups at the Newcastle Ocean Baths. It’s the kind of menu that says, ‘Stuff you, clean arteries, I’m going to enjoy the moment.’ And when we’re surrounded by such relaxed and glittering beauty, shouldn’t we all just enjoy a guilt-free snack and soak in the moment?

3. Gourmet treats are also readily available.

You can still pick up your paleo-hand-churned-chia-chocolate-bliss-ball, if you’re that way inclined. Newy makes is easy to find any kind of gourmet treats your heart desires. Harris Farm, anyone?

4. Blackbutt Reserve. Full stop.

For parents with toddlers, this place is paradise. Koalas, wombats, emus, with a great playground and clean toilets – all for free? Pinch me now, I’m dreaming.

5. You don’t have to pay for parking (well, in most places).

I know this is a contentious one, as many Novocastrians will tell you it’s an outrage that we have to pay for parking at all. But see, when you come from Sydney, you expect to pay for parking.

In fact, on our first visit to Nobby’s Beach, my husband and I aggressively roamed the carpark, ranting about how difficult Newcastle Council made it to find the paid parking stations.

“Where on earth do we bloody pay for parking?” says husband.

“Honestly, why are they making it so difficult for us to pay for parking?” says I.

Grrr. Grumble. Rant.

It was after a good solid five minutes of searching that it dawned on us that the reason why the paid parking stations were hard to find was because they don’t exist. Because we don’t have to pay. We’re at one of Australia’s – if not the world’s – best beaches, and we don’t have to pay.

Ahem. Cringe. Shuffle away.

7. People go the extra mile to help.

After losing my sunnies, I swung into a BP to pick up a cheapie pair to wear that day. Not only did the girl behind the counter help me choose a pair, she also cut off all the tags, gently wiped the glass down with an antibacterial wipe and handed them to me on a tissue. It’s the little kindnesses that people pay each other here, without even really thinking about it, that impresses me.

8. My faith in teenagers has been restored.

I don’t know where the teenagers were in Sydney (interning at Daddy’s finance firm, or holed up inside on Snapchat perhaps), but I didn’t really ever meet any. So whatever opinions I had of them were formed by what I saw on the telly – which doesn’t always paint the best picture.

Here in Newy, the teens are working at the local shop or hanging out at the beach and they are confident, articulate, well-mannered and genuinely interested in having a conversation. Far from being nervous about my kids hitting the teen years, I’m actually starting to look forward to getting to know them and their mates as they grow into those formative years.

9. I can leave things until the last minute.

From someone who was born being late to things (a terrible vice, sorry world), in Newcastle I’ve found my groove. I can leave for an appointment fifteen minutes before it starts, because it only takes fifteen minutes to get there. I know that the traffic is ‘getting worse’ here, but coming from Sydney – where even a trip to the next suburb was a forty five minute ordeal – this is driving heaven.

10. People love a chat.

I love a chat too, but I’m used to people avoiding eye contact as they walk past you in the street. Or, if they do stop, it’s a brisk acknowledgement about the weather and then keep on walking. But here, people will stop to chat. As in, stop, hang around and wait for the conversation to while away until it ends of its own devices. Every chat is a discovery.

11. People are doing cool stuff.

Almost everyone I meet seems to have more than one job, or a side project that they are working on. The ideas are exciting, and everyone gets behind them. People are just getting on with doing what they love, with no excuses. 

12. People are proud.

When I say, ‘How great is Newcastle?’

People just beam and say, ‘Yeah. It’s pretty much the best place in the world.’

And they’d be pretty much right.

As seen in Swell Issue 2. Grab your copy here

Words: Brooke Hill | Photography: Zoe Lonergan

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Measurements (cm) XS S M L XL XXL
A: Half Chest 46 49 52 55 58 61
B: Body Length 66 69 72 74 76 78
C: Sleeve Length 19.5 20.5 21.5 22.5 22.5 23.5