Things to Do in Newcastle NSW: 30 Local Gems

What can I say about this great city? There are so many varied and unique things to do in Newcastle NSW, that it’s hard to know where to begin!

Things to do in newcastle nsw

Newcastle’s pretty cityscape.

For years after an earthquake wreaked havoc across the place (in 1989), the city seemed to sit rotting in its foundations.

Fast forward thirty years and the seventh biggest city in Australia is certainly one of the country’s most underrated places to visit. There is a wide array of things to do in Newcastle, NSW (not to ever be confused with Newcastle Upon Tyne!).

It’s only “up the road” in Australian terms from Sydney and feels like a mini-Melbourne at times – but with decent beaches (sorry Melbourne, everything else about you is nice, but your beaches suck).

Something for certain – there are plenty of things to do in Newcastle, NSW – some of which are touristy, others known mostly to locals.

These activities are all quite varied. Yes there is the ocean, but there are also hip cafés, restaurants and bars. There’s art, history and culture hidden around every corner, for those who are less beach-inclined.

So, I’m going to spill the beans on a few of the city’s best spots and activities – some well-known, others that tend to be frequented by locals only.

Either way, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time in Newy, no matter what it is you end up doing.

Read more: Where to Stay in Sydney: Best Neighbourhoods to Explore

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Where to Stay in Newcastle, NSW

  • Budget: CBD Hotel is located on Hunter St, the main street in Newcastle and is close to both the Newcastle Museum and Civic Theatre.
  • Mid-range: The Clarendon is situated in the centre of town, a short walk away from the very hip Darby St, which is a popular brunching spot.
  • Luxury: Rydges Newcastle is located right on the foreshore, over looking the water.

Check out other hotel options in Newcastle

hidden gems Newcastle Australia

Pretty good, I’d say…

Things to do in Newcastle NSW on a Visit or Weekend Trip

Dip into Merewether Ocean Baths

fun things to do in newcastle nsw

Iconic Merewether Baths.

hidden gems Newcastle Australia

The ocean bath house.

Have you ever swam in ocean baths? If not (and presuming that you actually like the ocean/swimming), I advise you to make it an immediate priority in your life. It’s certainly one of my favourite things to do in Newcastle, NSW and I make a point of visiting whenever I’m in the city.

When I lived and worked in Newy, I’d finish up each work day in the summer with a dip in the baths, swimming a few lazy laps, or hanging out at the edge of the pool, staring off into the sea and thinking about life. They are days I look back on, fondly and I try to head back to the baths for a dip whenever I’m in town, even in the winter months!

There are ocean baths at Newcastle Beach as well, but parking is limited and paid.

If you want to go further afield, Belmont recently revamped their baths and while you’re there, you can check out Lake Macquarie.

Ride the Stockton Ferry

things to do in Newcastle NSW

The Stockton ferry crossing the harbour.

Stockton is a suburb of Newcastle that is separated by the harbour itself. To reach it, you can either drive the long way around through Newcastle’s industrial estates, or simply hop on the Stockton ferry, which can take you across the harbour in a handful of minutes.

Heading to Newcastle, Australia? Here are some top things to do in the area, some of which are locals-only secrets #visitnewcastle #NewcastleNSW Click To Tweet

Local’s tip: Sometimes, when heading into the city, I drive to Stockton and dump my car there, before catching the ferry across. Parking in Newcastle can be quite expensive, so I save myself a bucketload of cash by doing so.

Plus, the ferry is fantastic fun. Who doesn’t enjoy a good boat ride now and then? No one, of course, because they are good for the soul.

Go sand boarding in Stockton

This is undoubtably one of the more fun things you can do in Newcastle.

Stockton has some pretty impressive sand dunes, which people regularly visit to go dune bashing in their 4WDs, or sand boarding.

You can sit on the sandboards and sweep on through to the bottom, or hang ten – surfing down the dune as you would a wave.

Organise to go sand boarding in Stockton here

Board the Newcastle Tram

Did you know Newcastle was the first city in Australia to have trams?

You can ride a replica via Newcastle’s famous old tram. It is built to resemble the working trams of 1923, the only difference being that this one is on wheels.

The Old Tram will take you on a guided tour of the city, showcasing its beautiful beaches and historical sights.

It’s no longer the only tram in Newcastle. After years of arguments, the government ripped out the train line (due to its impact on traffic) and replaced it with a light rail, which shares the main streets in town and will also have an impact on traffic.

Baffling, but at least it’s now easier for pedestrians to get around.

Check out the recently redone Newcastle Station

things to do in newcastle nsw

The station is sure to become a local hotspot.

After the train line was demolished, there were questions of what to do with the old, historic Newcastle Railway Station.

It was decided that the station would be revitalised – reimagined as a public space. People can congregate in the area and it’s slowly becoming a hub for food, arts and retail.

Work is currently in progress, but it’s still worth checking out, if you’re in town.

Visit the Newcastle City Farmers Market

Most Sundays, the Newcastle City Market is held in Broadmeadow.

There’s all kinds of fresh produce to be found here, along with other treats. It’s a nice way to start the morning and is family friendly, although sadly no dogs are allowed.

Keep an eye out for the monthly Olive Tree Market, which allows local artists designers to show off and sell their wares.

Watch for Whales

One of the more unique things to do in Newcastle, NSW is to go whale watching.

If you’re lucky and the time of year is right, Humpback Whales will migrate right past the harbour city. You may spot them anytime of the year through to October.

Book your spot on a whale watching tour here

Observe the Big Penis (aka The Queen’s Wharf Tower)

Things to do in newcastle nsw

Queen’s Wharf Tower. Delightfully phallic.

hidden gems Newcastle Australia

The observational deck has perhaps seen better days.

If you do catch the ferry into Newcastle, you can kick off your day there by climbing the Queen’s Wharf Tower.

The 30-metre tall tower offers 360° views of the city, although you have to squint some to see them, as local hooligans have thoughtfully left their mark on the viewing platform by scratching their initials and the like into the glass. It’s great that you “was ‘ere” in 2005 “Wazza” – but you’ve destroyed my view.

The Tower is affectionately and simply known as the “Big Penis” amongst locals and you can’t deny that its shape is decidedly phallic.

Edit: it was pulled down in September 2018, after local council rejected the $1.6 million bill for much needed maintenance. Although scrapped, it will forever live on in the minds and hearts of Novocastrians – those who loved it most and slagged it off best. I’ll leave it on this list regardless and thank it for the memories.

Stroll along the ANZAC Memorial Walk

This is a nice, easy and free way to see the city.

Drive up to Strzelecki Lookout, which is on top of Shepherds Hill. Here you’ll find the ANZAC Memorial Walk, opened in 2015.

The walk takes you along the cliff’s edge. On one side, you have the city of Newcastle and the harbour stretched out in front of you. The other, the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean.

Along the walk, you’ll find sculptured memorials, dedicated to those who served in the World Wars.

The ANZAC Memorial overlooks the very pretty Bar Beach, one of my favourites in the city (there are a few to choose from!).

Go antique shopping in Mayfield

Mayfield used to be a bit of a rough and tumble kind of area, now due to its close proximity to Newcastle’s CBD, it is up-and-coming.

One thing that Mayfield has always been known for however, is its antique shopping.

My favourite antique shopfor years now, has been the Coliseum. It’s worth popping in for a look and grabbing a bite to eat at Vincent’s, the quirky cafe next door. Be sure to ask about the namesake of the café – his is an interesting story!

Tour the Harbour by boat

things to do in newcastle nsw

A lovely way to see the city.

I believe the best way to learn about a city and its history is from the water and Newcastle is no exception.

The city was the second to be settled in NSW, due to its array of resources (such as coal). For years, it was the home of the BHP Billiton Steelworks, until it shut its doors in 1999, throwing the local community into chaos.

Newcastle has slowly built itself from the ground up, to become one of the nicest cities in Australia.

Take a Nova Cruise, grab some lunch and learn about Newcastle for yourself.

Go support the Knights or the Jets at a game

Of all the things to do in Newcastle, NSW, this is a must if you’re a sports fan.

As a big city in its own right, Newcastle is home to both a rugby league and A-league soccer team – the Newcastle Knights and Jets, respectively.

If your visit to the city times in with a game, head on to MacDonald Jones Stadium in Broadmeadow to barrack for the local teams (or whoever they happen to be playing – I cannot bring myself to support the Knights! What can I say, I’m a Souths gal at heart).

Grab a drink in Honeysuckle

things to do in newcastle nsw

Head to Honeysuckle for a tipple or two.

I remember the excitement of when this part of Newcastle was developed and I still think it’s one of the nicest places in the city to grab a drink.

If it’s a nice afternoon, you can sit outside with a beverage of choice and gaze out along the harbour. You can grab dinner there too.

The two places I would head to would be either The Dockyard or Honeysuckle Hotel, a large converted warehouse.

If you’re staying further up the coast and don’t fancy heading into town, check out The Beach Hotel, known as “Beaches” amongst locals.

Explore a secret bar

The city certainly has got infinitely cooler in the last ten years, since I lived there as a student. There are now speakeasys one can visit, if you want to go somewhere special on a weekend night.

If you fancy heading to a secret bar, there are a few in town. Try Coal and Cedar or the The Koutetsu, both on Hunter Street.

Go paragliding over Newcastle’s beautiful beaches

things to do in newcastle nsw

Blissful.

Many of the best things to do in Newcastle, NSW are based in nature. Exploring walking trails, swimming in the coastline.. or gliding high above it!

On a sunny and still afternoon, you’ll see many paragliders drifting lazily along the coastline.

You could be one of them too, with Newcastle Paragliding getting people high in the sky, whether it be hang-gliding of paragliding.

Check out the Newcastle Museum

If you’re still keen on learning about Newcastle’s history, it’s well worth checking out the local museum.

Its permanent exhibitions help tell the story of the city and surrounding region and they frequently get special exhibitions, featuring works of art, sciences and the natural world.

Visit the Art Gallery

There are plenty of arty things to do in Newcastle, NSW – and why not kick your art tour off at the local gallery?

The Newcastle Art Gallery is one of my favourites in the country and is well worth poking your head into, if you’re around Darby Street.

It showcases a lot of local work and entry is free.

View the local urban art

things to do in newcastle nsw

One of my favourite murals in Newcastle.

Newcastle feels like a mini-Melbourne in many ways and I suspect much of this is due to the presence of street art, which has been cropping up throughout the city.

My favourites are generally by local artist Trevor Dickinson – his art is very distinctive and can be found across town.

Have a picnic in Civic or Kind Edward Park(s)

I think two of the nicest parks are Civic Park, in the centre of town and King Edward, which is up from Newcastle Beach, not far from the Bogey Hole.

Both are frequented by people having picnics and holding celebrations. Grab a spread and go lie in the sun, soaking up the local ambience.

Grab a unique High Tea

things to do in newcastle nsw

A high tea in a converted church!

I love a good high tea and have taken it upon myself to sample the best that Newcastle and the Hunter Region to have on offer. It’s one of my favourite things to do in Newcastle, NSW, particularly as there are a lot of tasty and different options here.

So far, my two favourites in Newy are The Tea Collective on Darby Street and St Thomas in Carrington.

The first has some of the best food and overall value I’ve had at a high tea and the second falls much in the same category, with the added bonus of being held in a beautiful, converted church!

They’re worth checking out if you’re a fan of high tea and are in the area.

Take a true crime tour of Newcastle

Newcastle is one of Australia’s oldest cities and one of the most hated destinations for convicts.

True crime and history buffs will enjoy this night tour of the city, learning about its historical landmarks and often violent past.

Book a place on a true crime tour here

Walk or bike the Fernleigh Track

There are lots of lovely walks around Newcastle and the one most frequented by locals is The Fernleigh Track.

It follows the route of a former railway line, starting in Adamstown and continuing for 15kms to Belmont, which is part of Lake Macquarie.

Take a wine tour to the Hunter Valley for a day trip

things to do in newcastle nsw

Grabbing a cuppa in the Hunter Valley.

Newcastle is only a hop, skip and a jump away from the Hunter Valley vineyards, one of the best known areas for wine production in Australia. I would rate a visit to the Hunter Valley as one of the best things you can do in Newcastle, NSW.

You can spend a really nice day or a weekend in the Hunter Valley – if you have the time, it’s something I certainly recommend doing.

Some famous Aussie wines have vineyards in this area, such as Tempest Two. I highly recommend checking out Tamburlaine – their wines are organic and one of my favourites.

It’s also where the concert A Day on the Green is held, seeing the likes of Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams and Elton John.

Book a place on a Hunter Valley wine tour here

Walk the Breakwalls (Stockton and Nobbys, respectively)

hidden gems Newcastle nsw

The wreck of The Adolphe along Stockton Breakwall.

hidden gems Newcastle Australia

Looking back on Newcastle from the Nobbys Breakwall.

To get a good scope of the city, why not walk along one of the two breakwalls around the harbour and breathe in that fresh, sea air?

Nobbys boardwalk will take you down past the iconic lighthouse, along the boardwalk itself, where you can stare out at the sea (I’ve seen dolphins from here), or enjoy the view of the sprawl of the city behind you.

I found Stockton’s boardwalk (also known as Shipwreck Walk) to be a bit sad, in comparison. It’s littered with plaques commemorating dearly departed locals of the area, as well as the various ships that were wrecked within Newcastle Harbour (200-odd vessels all up).

There’s even a preserved ship, The Adolphe, which was wrecked on Stockton breakwall in 1904, existing now as a local attraction.

If you’re lucky, you might see some marine life from the breakwalls. I’ve seen dolphins and even on one exciting occasion, a sea turtle!

Catch a flick at the Regal Cinema

One of the more unusual things to do in Newcastle, NSW is to visit the The Regal Cinema. It’s run by husband and wife duo Jo and George and is definitely the best cinema in Newcastle and quite possibly the whole of Australia (but then, I am prone to hyperbole).

The couple are film enthusiasts, with the cinema being a longtime dream of Jo’s. For $8-$10 you not only get a ticket to one of their carefully programmed films, but you will be fed and watered with an array of edible delights.

The couple and their helpers work hard to ensure all patrons take their seats laden down with goodies of a sweet, savoury and alcoholic nature, which can change depending on the genre of film, or simply day of the weekend.

A French film will call for champagne and Saturday is cheese and port night, which happens to be my personal favourite.

The Regal is open Friday-Sunday and it’s best to book your tickets in advance. It is particularly popular amongst pensioners, but all ages are welcome!

Visit Fort Scratchley

hidden gems Newcastle Australia

The guns of Fort Scratchley.

things to do in newcastle nsw

And here’s the view.

If you’re a history buff (or simply enjoy lovely views of the ocean), then Fort Scratchley is the place for you.

The Fort is perhaps the most historically important site within Newcastle, as it is the only place in Australia to have fired heavy guns at hostile vessels, from coastal defences.

You want to hear the story, right? Of course. Well. During WWII, Japanese forces sent a submarine (I-21) into Newcastle Harbour, where it fired 34 shells upon the city. Luckily, few exploded and minimal damage was caused.

Fort Scratchley fired four rounds at the submarine, before it escaped. Interestingly, the fourth may have very well hit, but a civilian ship was heading to port at the time and her smoke obliterated the Fort’s target.

I could go on about the Fort for quite some time and visiting it is one of the more necessary things to do in Newcastle, NSW. All you need to know for now is that the army vacated the premises in the 1970s and it was eventually restored. Entry to the museum and the Fort itself is free and for an inexpensive fee (of around $12), you can go on a guided tour of the tunnels below.

If you do plan to see the Fort, try to time your visit so that you’re there at 1pm, when a gun is fired, per tradition (not so much during the summer months, as it’s usually put on hold due to the fire-ban that is enforced in the peak of the season, for fear of bushfires).

Have a coffee at the Press Book House Cafe

After more culture, or perhaps a good cup of coffee?

Look no further than the The Press Book House Cafe – where you can grab a cup of char or joe, while having a browse of their collection of secondhand and Penguin books.

Some would say nothing beats the stench of coffee – but for this bibliophile, it’s all about the smell of books. Yum.

The shop is located midway down Hunter Street, Newcastle’s main road. It’s worth popping into if you’re ever in the area and having a stroll down through town.

Swim in the Bogey Hole

hidden gems Newcastle Australia

Locals braving the Bogey Hole in wild weather.

The Bogey Hole is one of Newcastle’s oldest attractions – a pool that was cut into the cliff rocks by convicts in 1819, for the personal use of Lieutenant-Colonel James Thomas Morisset, who was Commandant of Newcastle at the time.

Now the pool is open to all patrons (after a recent refurbishment) and perfect for those looking for a quick dip in the ocean, without the threat of waves. Unless it is a particularly windy day, in which case the waves will be breaking hard over the rocks and I’d advise you strongly to linger at the back.

Brunch on Darby Street

things to do in newcastle nsw

Blackbird Corner on Darby Street.

Darby Street is where most locals head for a long and lazy brunch, particularly before spending the day at the beach.

It’s changed a lot over the years, but there’s still some familiar places. My two favourites are The Autumn Rooms and Three Monkeys, which has been around forever.

Coco Monde across the road is nice if you’re craving something sweet.

Dine on Beaumont Street

While I’d grab brekky on Darby, if I’m after dinner I head to Beaumont.

Beaumont Street is easily accessible, as it’s where the train station terminus is now located, with shuttles running frequently from Hamilton Station into town.

It’s my favourite of the two – I find there to be a better range of restaurants and pubs.

See Aussie animals at Blackbutt Nature Reserve

things to do in newcastle nsw

Who’s a pretty boy (or girl)? ALL OF YOU.

Fancy seeing native Australian animals? Head straight to Blackbutt Nature Reserve.

The reserve is free to enter (although you do have to pay for parking) and is an excellent place for families to congregate, celebrate birthdays, or simply throw a few slabs of meat onto any of the available BBQs.

Don’t have any kids? Neither do I, but I still enjoyed it immensely. Wander around, say hi to the local inhabitants, feed a kangaroo, or go for a bushwalk around the area.

So, have I managed to convince you that this city is worth visiting? There are so many things to do in Newcastle, NSW, not matter what your style of travel.

Things to do in Newcastle NSW if you’re short on time

If you’re briefly visiting the city, here’s what you should prioritise.

  • Merewether Baths
  • Fort Scratchley
  • Brunch on Darby Street
  • Touring the Harbour by boat
  • Grab a drink at Honeysuckly
  • ANZAC Memorial Walk

Plus, if you’re looking for more beachy goodness, consider checking out some of the lovely areas close by. Here are a few things to do in Port Stephens as well as in the nearby town of Maitland.

Have you been to Newcastle? What were your favourite sights?

Enjoy this post? Please pin away!

Here are some things to do in #Newcastle, #Australia. It's a place rich in a lot of cultural and natural history, with gorgeous beaches, plenty of cute cafes and other activities for all ages. It's close to the vineyards of the Hunter Valley and is only two hours north of Sydney. Find out why you should put this city on your radar. / #MyNewcastle / #VisitNewcastle / #NewcastleNSW /

Here are some things to do in #Newcastle, #Australia. It's a place rich in a lot of cultural and natural history, with gorgeous beaches, plenty of cute cafes and other activities for all ages. It's close to the vineyards of the Hunter Valley and is only two hours north of Sydney. Find out why you should put this city on your radar. / #MyNewcastle / #VisitNewcastle / #NewcastleNSW /
LC

LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Kati - March 21, 2017

I didn’t realise that Newcastle is a “destination”! 😀 See how addicted I am to your blog?! I read every single post from start to finish, now I just need to enter the giveaway! 😀 😀 (Am I creepy?!?!?!?!!!)

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    LC - March 22, 2017

    Haha no, I am grateful!

    Reply
Josie - March 21, 2017

Just the post I needed to see! I’ve been to Newcastle before, but visiting friends, and it was the middle of winter, so we didn’t do much. We did see my first (and only!) rugby game as we froze to death watching the Knights. For my visit in a couple of weeks we will still be staying with our friends, but will have a car and time to explore, so I want to get out and see some of these sights! Thank you. (No need to enter me in the giveaway.)

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    LC - March 22, 2017

    Haha one NRL game is often enough… hope you have a grand time there. It’s a lovely city.

    Reply
Si - March 21, 2017

Count me in! Its always exciting to get something through the post the old fashioned way! I’ve not seen a whole lot of Newcastle but the bits I have visited, some have been fantastic, it definitely is one of those places where the highlights are numerous, but also hidden diamonds in the rough, so local info is essential, more please!

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    LC - March 22, 2017

    I will be putting your name in the hat for sure! Guess you’re going to have to make a few return visits ?

    Reply
Henry - March 21, 2017

I loved Newie when I was briefly posted there half a lifetime ago when barely out of my teens. Now, still barely out of my teens, reading your insights brings back good memories of a really chilled out place that completely agreed with me. I’m so happy to hear its still not lost that vibe. Yes, Melbourne is cool as that’s where I grew up. I miss Melbourne and places like Newie more now as I live in London for the last decade + and have forgotten what a mild winter is really like.. keep up the posts, love reading them.

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    LC - March 22, 2017

    Oh, cheers Henry. Sounds like we have the same taste in cities! I’m really glad you loved Newy too when you lived there. I missed it immensely when I was in London too and there’s nothing like an Aussie winter, is there? Thank you for commenting.

    Reply
Ali May - March 22, 2017

Love this! I grew up in Newcastle. I even remember when that giant penis was built in the late eighties. I don’t visit this place near as much as I should, even though my family are all still living there (and Melbourne is not THAT far away). I have always loved the views from Fort Scratchley and also spent much of my childhood at Merewether Beach. Thanks for the walk down memory lane, its so nice to see others appreciate my home town!

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    LC - March 23, 2017

    Oh, I didn’t know you were a Novacastrian! One of the guides at Fort Scratchley said they were sitting on the best view of Newy and I have to agree – although there are a lot of strong contenders. Have you been back there since the ANZAC Memorial Bridge was built? I was quite surprised by how much had changed in the years I spent O/S. And yes, we are lucky that Melbourne is not far away at all.

    Reply
Hope - March 24, 2017

I love snail mail! And I must admit, I love to hate to miss this place. xx

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    LC - March 26, 2017

    Haha, it will always be home.

    Reply
Rhiannon - March 27, 2017

Definitely didn’t open this thinking it was about Newcastle, UK. Nope, not at all! Not to be childish or anything but – Blackbutt, Nobbys, The Bogey Hole and The Giant Penis – I am chuckling.
I’m already subscribed and liked because I’m super creepy and stalker-y! But if it’s not too late, but I’ve just gone on a FB stalking spree so if it’s not too late a name in the hat would be most appreciated 😉

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    LC - March 27, 2017

    Haha sure, I’ll chuck it in! Nope, not childish at all. I regularly chuckle at names in the UK too. My favourites are Upper and Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds.

    Reply
Sarah - April 13, 2017

A friend comes from Newcastle and doesn’t have very nice things to say about it. I haven’t visited but would like to one day. I like to think the place might have some charms to it that my friend doesn’t see because she’s from there and has her own take on things 🙂

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    LC - April 13, 2017

    Oh dear! My brother lives there now and doesn’t much like it either. We agree to disagree. I lived there for years and still think it’s a lovely place. Each to their own.

    Reply
UK Travel Visas - May 3, 2017

Awesome pictures! I have been in Australia once and I admit that it’s so lovable place and you’ve just given me a lot of ideas to explore it wider on my next visit, I would love to stroll along in The Bogey Hole.

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    LC - May 3, 2017

    I recommend swimming in the Bogey Hole too! Australia is da best, in my biased opinion.

    Reply
Rohini - January 12, 2018

Hello, A colleague of mine always tells me about New Castle and I have been Procrastinating. This is a useful post. I did not know about Bogey hole. It is awesome. It looks so natural.If I am not wrong you don’t do too much of editing on your photos, is it ?. I love the way it looks . very natural than photoshopped professional looks ..

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    LC - January 12, 2018

    Thanks Rohini, that’s really sweet of you to say – and no, I don’t do much photo editing. Newcastle is lovely, I hope you make it there one day!

    Reply
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