Parked in the heart of a post-industrial beachside city revelling in a cultural boomtime, QT Newcastle is a quirky-luxe melting pot of modern Australia delivered with a larrikin grin. Where the Hunter River meets the Pacific Ocean, inside a Federation-era listed local icon, modern art-packed spaces and the types of people they attract doff caps to the good-humoured stoicism of the Aussie bush. Muted bronzes and rich ochre tones pay homage to Newcastle’s steel-city heritage, and an Italian-born, Michelin-starred chef whips local produce into haute cuisine wonders.
Check-in from 2pm; check-out is 11am. The hotel will accommodate requests outside of these hours if possible, and sometimes may even have rooms ready in the morning.
Double rooms from £94.13 (AU$180), including tax at 10 per cent.
Breakfast is served in the Jana restaurant and costs $30. Guests have free entry to a nearby health club with gym.
Like the bed? QT Hotels have their mattresses custom made and such is the demand that they’ll even sell you one of your own – ask at reception.
At the hotel
Restaurant, cocktail bar, concierge service, 24-hour room service. In rooms: Television, tablet, minibar.
Our favourite rooms
Before the smartphone acceded control of our collective attention span, people relied on public clocks to tell the time, and every building of note had one as its crown. The Clock Suite occupies the top-floor corner, and its bathtub sits amid emerald tiles, behind the stained-glass clockface of the historic building. Diffuse white light fills the bathroom and the main suite has commanding views across the Hunter River.
The hotel doesn’t have a pool, but that’s no problem because some of the best beaches that Australia has to offer are just a short stroll away. Newcastle Beach is at the end of the road and regularly serves up swathes of dreamy surf, with a lifeguard service for reassurance. The 15-minute walk to Nobbys Beach traces the coastline along the photogenic Bather’s Way, past the quintessentially east-coast Australian Newcastle Ocean Baths. Nobbys’ sheltered position gifts calmer waters that are ideal for a soothing dip.
Zinka Zinc Nosecoat sunscreen, preferably in a lurid hue of pink or teal, is mandatory. This is Australia at the beach, don’t forget, and the 1990s are back in vogue.
Is delving into an eye fillet steak and a bottle of shiraz from the pyjama’d safety of your king-size bed the ultimate luxury? The restaurant-quality room service menu will help you find out, sirs and madams.
For an additional $150 owners can book special pet rooms, which come complete with dog beds, water bowls, a poochie mini-bar and even a dedicated room service menu for your best friend. See more pet-friendly hotels in Newcastle.
Guests under 12 are priced as children.
Almost all the ingredients and a fair number of the wines and beers served in the Jana restaurant are sourced from local farmers and producers, and a local farmer collects all food scraps for use as pig food. The hotel is fitted with solar panels, LED lighting and water saving taps throughout.
By an open window, late on a hot summer’s evening.
RM boots and a Sass & Bide dress.
Dining options at QT Newcastle reflect the migration that has built modern Australia into the diverse nation it is today. In the 1940s and 50s it was people from the Mediterranean fleeing post-war Europe, and they built the café culture that the country is now so famous for. More recently people from Asia are increasingly calling Australia home, and they bring with them a fabulous vibrancy of Asian cuisine. Both are spectacularly represented here. Michelin-starred chef Massimo Speroni has run some of Italy’s best restaurants and more recently spearheaded Brisbane’s Baccus, and he takes the helm downstairs at Jana. The celestial-themed eatery is so named for the Roman lunar goddess, who is represented by a giant moon hanging from the ceiling. The menu is best described as modern Australian and almost everything is sourced from New South Welsh farmers and producers – fresh oysters from the ocean, aged cuts of steak from the land, and a sprinkling of Med-classics (prosciutto di Parma, egg pastas with truffle) are a songbook of migration. The terracotta clay pavers and hardwood floors are a nod to Australiana and even its ground-floor corner location with wide, bright windows could be said to hark the mood of a country pub. On the rooftop we travel to Asia, where a light tasting menu of Japanese-inspired sashimi, caviar and octopus is served to the unequivocally Aussie backdrop of sunset on the Hunter River.
Rooftop at QT is a destination of its own, with big-sky views stretching over the marina, across the Hunter River and to Nobbys Lighthouse in the far distance. It’s doubtful that there’s a better spot for a sundowner in all of Newcastle. Rooftop specialises in sakes and has a shockingly large selection of Japanese whisky, with cocktails full of artistic east Asian whimsy including the Harajuku Highball (Suntory Kakubin, umeshu, ponzu, soda) and the Tomasu Margarita (Espolon tequila, peloton mezcal, lime, togarashi, smoked sea salt). For the more strait-laced there’s a reassuring choice of mocktails, too.
Never fear when last orders are called – your suite is well-stocked with local Everleigh cocktails and Hunter Valley wines.
Restaurant-ready in your room – order hiramasa kingfish or a sirloin steak to your bedside. From 9pm until dawn you’ll need to survive on lasagne, but the wine list knows no timeframe. We can think of worse tragedies.
The hotel sits in the heart of the chic post-industrial beachside city of Newcastle, about two hours’ drive north of Sydney, on Australia’s east coast.
Newcastle Airport is 30-minutes’ drive from the hotel (transfers can be arranged) and is well-connected to regional centres and capital cities throughout the east coast. The nearest international terminal is Sydney Kingsford Smith, two hours’ drive to the south.
There is a train connection to Sydney and it might just be the rail bargain of the century – prices vary but fares for the nearly three-hour journey often cost less than a tube ride within London’s Zone 1.
The spine of Australia’s east coast is the A1 highway, and it makes for a brilliant road trip. The road broadly follows the coast and there are ample opportunities to dine in sleepy beachside towns or head inland for bushland hikes. A single day from Sydney could include a detour via the famous Blue Mountains or through the Ku-ring-gai or Dharug National Parks – the route via Wiseman’s Ferry is especially peaceful. With a few days to spend, the drive from Sydney to Brisbane is an all-time road trip. Spend a few nights in Newcastle, sip oat flat whites in Byron Bay, and catch a wave at Surfer’s Paradise. The hotel has parking available nearby, with valet available for $40 per night.
Sail right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a skippered yacht charter and follow the coastline north where bushland meets beach until you reach Newcastle. The hotel is just a minute’s walk from the wharf.
Worth getting out of bed for
New South Wales’ second city is partying in a boomtime, and even a hastily Googled aerial photo reveals why. With blonde-sanded beaches on two sides and a soothing river on the other, thriving nightlife, good connections to Sydney and proximity to an agricultural dreamland, Novocastrians and visitors alike are playing out down-under’s version of what Newcastle should be. Your first stop is always the beach – Newcastle Beach for surfing, Nobbys for sunbathing, and the Ocean Baths for getting your laps in. Newcastle Art Gallery has an impressive collection of Australian art housed in an imposing 1970s brutalist building dating to the colonial period, including a fascinating exhibition of indigenous bark paintings. Look for the depictions of early Newcastle by convict-artist Joseph Lycett. The town is teeming with street art (visit during the Big Picture Fest in late September if you can) and Trevor Dickinson’s interactive selfie-centric murals in the waterfront Honeysuckle district are mandatory snaps. Oenophiles will be jonesing at the thought of touring the Hunter Valley Wine Country, one of Australia’s most important wine regions. Winding roads lead through a bushland full of cellar doors, breweries, distilleries and local producers.
Far from its working-class, blue-collar roots, Newcastle today is one of Australia’s most vibrant culinary destinations. Chef Shayne Mansfield and maître d’ Eduardo Molina head the charge at Flotilla, a small out-of-the-way place offering a seasonal set menu comprised around whichever local ingredients the pair can best source at the time. Similarly, Una Volta plays on Australia’s rich heritage of Italian migration and offers a homemade set menu that changes monthly. No true seaside city is complete without a suite of seafood restaurants, and our pick is Scotties Beach House, on the aptly-named Scott Street. Traditional fish and chips and more adventurous dishes are best served outside on balmy evenings, under the palm trees and lanterns.
Today’s Australia boasts an unrivalled café scene to the point where it’s genuinely difficult to find a bad coffee anywhere, especially near the beach, and the brunch game is strong. Wil & Sons (yes, an actual father-son team) on Darby Street have the favourites plus forward-facers like their prawn toast with fried eggs and wasabi mayo, and some of the best coffee in town comes from Sherwood Coffee Bar. They roast their own beans, naturally.
Newy (to coin the local parlance) has a lively live music scene, with bands big and small playing pubs throughout the city. The Family Hotel and Cambridge Hotel are some of the best live music venues on the east coast. If cocktails suit the mood, the New York-style speakeasy Coal and Cedar is a perennial favourite and they offer cocktail master classes, too. Our favourite has to be the 1980s and 90s themed Uptowns, where you can sip a Frangelico Sour surrounded by Air Jordans, NBA player cards and golden age hip-hop album covers.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this eccentric hotel in Australia and unpacked their Akubra and sunscreen, a full account of their convivial break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside QT Newcastle on the Aussie east coast…
There’s a local beer available on the bar menu of QT Newcastle’s rooftop hangout called ‘Keep Newy Weird’, but I couldn’t help but think it still is. In the best possible way, of course.
Just two hours north of the Harbour Bridge there’s a city fringed on two sides by frankly ridiculous beaches (one for surfing, the other for sunbathing), a river on the third, the weather’s perfect and there’s a fun live music pub scene and great restaurants… oh yeah, and an internationally renowned wine region under an hour away. The only thing ‘weird’ here is that this isn’t on the international holiday radar, is it not?
People are slowly waking up, and the opening of QT Newcastle is a sure sign that things are moving. But this isn’t a rack ‘em and stack ‘em resort village; instead they’ve taken a local icon – the dearly departed David Jones department store building – and have carefully massaged it into a thrilling five-star bolthole.
Anything over a century is old for Australia, and the 113-year-old legacy department store still looks its Federation-era self from the outside. But the pumping music can be heard from the footpath and as soon as you step into a friendly Aussie welcome from the Directors of Chaos (aka the concierge), you know this isn’t a regular stay.
The interior design, by Sydney’s Nic Graham and Associates, plays a bright and fun palette against the muted rust, plum and chartreuse tones of post-industrial Australia, but in a way that wouldn’t be out of place in Tasmania’s MONA. A giant celestial orb dominates the lobby, noting a theme running through the property. There are manikins painted by local artist Mitch Revs as a nod to the building’s retail heritage… some of the staff uniforms don’t look too dissimilar.
The modern art throughout is juxtaposed against the large windows of the original building, which flood the rooms with natural light and bring the immense river views right inside, giving a new-yet-old feeling to the space. The restaurant is a great way to taste where modern Australian cuisine is at and the atmosphere is nicely relaxed. In our room, our oversized bathtub is a lovely surprise, as is the quality of the linens and even the mattress. We want to take the later home, and bizarrely they can be ordered via the Directors of Chaos.
This is all very weird to me, why is this place not an international icon? I guess it’s better this way and I can’t help but agree – keep Newy weird!