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Named for England's famous coal port, Newcastle was developed in the 19th century by dangerous convicts sent to work the coal mines and timber forests. Today, a Newcastle cruise offers stunning surf, a relaxed urban atmosphere, and a gateway to Australia’s wine country.

Near the port, stroll 200 years of local history, visiting Customs House, now a restaurant and bar; Watt Street, with buildings from the convict era; and Christ Church Cathedral, which still dominates the skyline.

Learn about local culture at Newcastle Museum, in the central business district. Collections include Fire and Earth, about the hot and heavy industrial era; Link Gallery, which houses large exhibits like an 1870 locomotive and an 1890 pipe organ; and Newcastle Story, where you can explore Aboriginal life and the pioneering Novocastrians (Newcastle folks).

For military history—and breathtaking Pacific views—venture out to 19th-century Fort Scratchley. There you can also relax on the sunny beaches for which Newcastle is famous in surfing circles—Nobbys Beach, Bar Beach, and Merewether Beach.

To meet rare local animals—koalas, wombats, diamond pythons, blue-tongued lizards, and such—head west to Blackbutt Reserve, occupying 450 acres of natural bushland, nature trails, and wildlife exhibits. Discover inland Hunter Valley, one of Australia's pioneering wine regions. Hunter Valley sémillon is the iconic wine of the region, which also produces wines from Syrah, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon grapes.

When it's time for a break, have a drink and savor a delicious meal in one of the many hip bars, cafés, and restaurants of Newcastle City Centre.

Shopping? If your cruise to Newcastle arrives on the first or third Saturday of November or December, don't miss the contemporary handmade art and design and artisan produce at Olive Tree Market, in Civic Park.

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