Along the Pacific Ocean 100 miles north of Sydney, Newcastle is the second-largest city in the Australian state of New South Wales, and the world’s biggest coal-exporting port. Newcastle is a vibrant city with many artists on the Hunter River but is still known for its industry, as well as the successful University of Newcastle. Some Newcastle MICE venues date back to its 19th-century origins, such as seaside Fort Scratchley, which has function space for up to 150 persons. The nearby Watagan Mountains, Hunter Wetlands National Park, and Macquarie Lake make this a popular outdoor-pursuits area.
In the smaller city of Port Stephens, 10 miles north of downtown, is Newcastle Airport (NTL), from which five domestic airlines provide service to Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Melbourne, and Sydney.
While there are no conference venues in Newcastle per se, the principal meeting place is the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, which includes the Newcastle Showground Exhibition Centre with 20,000 square feet of convention space. Also in the entertainment centre is an outdoor show ring with 3,000 seats.
There are some excellent hotels in Newcastle. Choose among the 175-room Crowne Plaza Newcastle, which has nine event rooms, including a ballroom for up to 240 persons; the 131-room Travelodge Newcastle, which has five meeting rooms and a poolside marquee-style tent; the 94-room Apollo International Hotel, which has a conference center containing four rooms, the largest of which can cater to 180 persons; the 91-room Quality Hotel Noah’s On the Beach, which has eight meeting areas for up to 300 persons; and the 88-room Novotel Newcastle Beach, which has three meeting rooms, the largest able to cater to 160 persons.
Other MICE venues in Newcastle include the Customs House Hotel Newcastle, which, despite its name, has no accommodation but does have a beautiful setting beside the river and in a former customs house dating to 1875, a bar, a restaurant, and upstairs function space large enough for conferences and banquets; Merewether Surfhouse, which is a stunning mostly glass building right on the sea at Merewether Beach, and which has a cafe, restaurant, bar, and a column-free function space on its second floor for up to 280 persons; Maritime Centre, which is on Lee Beach, chronicles Newcastle’s seafaring history and has a deck, two theaters, and a gallery for up to 200 persons; Civic Precinct Newcastle, which is a beautiful, Victorian-era area downtown that incorporates the wonderful, 820-seat Newcastle City Hall, the 1,520-seat Civic Theatre and the 205-seat Playhouse, all of which are linked by 14,000-square-foot Wheeler Place Plaza; and, just outside of the city, Hunter Wetlands Centre, which is full of wildlife, arranges kayaking, cycling, and other outdoor activities, and has a small theater, three meeting rooms, and an education room featuring wetlands ecology.
Restaurants able to host groups here include the Made by Lesley Taylor newly reconceived restaurant inside the boutique-style, 20-room Clarendon House, which also has an outdoor, covered function area for up to 120 persons; Silo Restaurant & Lounge, which has wonderful harbor views and room for events of up to 120 persons; Scratchleys on the Wharf, which pokes out across the water, has a surf & turf menu, and has three private rooms, as well as an overall capacity of 200 persons; and, away from the water but in very modern and cool surroundings, Depot on Beaumont, which has room for events and dinners of up to 250 persons.