Newcastle, NSW, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE FORT

A keeper of Newcastle's storied past, historic Fort Scratchley stands proudly on Flagstaff Hill. Built in the 1880s to ward off the threat of a Russian attack, guns were never fired in anger until the Japanese shelled Newcastle in a surprise attack in 1942. A resounding boom echoes across the city daily (aside from Tuesday) from the fort as two-pound cannons are fired at the same time the ball on Customs House is lowered to mark time – a time-honoured seafaring practice used to allow sea captains to adjust their navigation instruments. Explore the fort's labyrinth of tunnels on a guided tour with one of the passionate volunteers. See newcastle.nsw.gov.au

THE ONE CAFÉ

Long-term CBD player and younger sibling to institution Suspension at Islington, the welcome is always warm at Good Brother. Featuring recycled retro furniture and exposed brick walls, Good Brother's (Suspension's own blend) coffee and food menu are both equally good and it morphs from café by day to wine bar by night. But be aware; service can be slow.

See facebook.com/GoodBrotherEspressoShop/

THE ONE RESTAURANT

Experience the gastronomic leap that's taken place in Newcastle at The Flotilla brought to inner-city Wickham by former Silverchair bassist Chris Joannou. Executive chef Paul Niddrie returned to Newcastle to open Flotilla and is excited about building Newcastle's emergent food scene. "You could plonk it anywhere in Sydney and it would fit right in," he says of the restaurant's Venice Beach vibe and menu influenced both by Japanese flavours and French technique. See theflotilla.com.au

THE ONE COASTAL WALK

Stretching from Nobbys Headland to the gateway to Glenrock State Conservation Area, the six kilometre Bathers Way is one of Newcastle's best assets. The Newcastle Memorial Walk forms part of the coastal trail and its 450-metre clifftop span – built to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings - affords 360-degree views of the ocean and out to the Hunter Valley. From there the trail tumbles down to Newcastle Beach, skirting the coastline to Nobbys Beach where Nobbys Lighthouse (open weekends) stands guard on the headland.

THE ONE PUB

Named after Newcastle's first hotel established in 1823 (see the plaque outside), the Ship Inn has once again risen from the ashes. Brought to Hunter Street from the owners of popular millennial drinking hole the Falcon Bar, the Ship Inn has opened in the former Reserve Wine Bar opposite the old Post Office. The moody space offers hearty pub fare and an insight into Newcastle's fascinating boom and bust history. See shipinnnewcastle.com.au

THE ONE BATHS

Newcastle has three ocean baths and picking one is akin to choosing your favourite child, but the little-known Bogey Hole is Australia's oldest and one of the country's most spectacular sea baths. Lying at the bottom of Shepherds Hill and carved into a natural rock platform, this iconic hand-hewn swimming hole was carved out by convicts. See newcastle.nsw.gov.au

See also: The spectacular sea baths carved by convicts

THE ONE HOTEL

Two new hotels are set to open in Newcastle next year but for now the pick is Rydges Newcastle. You can almost reach out and touch tug boats chugging tirelessly up and down the harbour while below, guest rooms couples promenade along the boardwalk and punters line foreshore bars. Although parts of the hotel need a refresh, its Honeysuckle Precinct locale affords most of the 175 rooms front-row seats to the passing flotilla; the pick being harbourside balcony suites. See rydges.com

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THE ONE MUSEUM

Explore the city's Indigenous Awabakal roots as well as a more recent history forged by convicts, coal and steel at the Newcastle Museum. It's home to a hands-on science centre and features an hourly sound and light show which brings the old BHP Steelworks to life. Highlights include the fascinating Fishing Tree used by generations of Worimi Aboriginal people to find schools of fish and an 1870s saddle tank locomotive which delivered coal locally for almost a century. See newcastlemuseum.com.au

THE ONE SHOPPING STRIP

Darby Street, Cooks Hill, offers Newcastle's best boutique strip shopping. Check out Blackbird Corner, Abicus and Scout by Abicus, Willows Home Traders and Cooks Hill Books. On nearby King Street a sweet cluster of shops includes homewares store Monsoon, Hello Naomi and lush plant shop, High Swan Dive.

ONE MORE THING

Newcastle is in the midst of seismic change. Aside from a new light rail, public transport interchange, law courts and University of Newcastle city campus (one of two planned for the CBD), three new luxury hotels will open next year including the Doma Group's Little National, Crystalbrook's Kingsley (Newcastle's first five star hotel) and QT Newcastle in the revitalised East End precinct.

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