The Newcastle metropolitan area is the second most populated area in NSW and includes most of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas. It is the hub of the Greater Newcastle area which includes most parts of the local government areas of City of Newcastle, City of Lake Macquarie, City of Cessnock, City of Maitland and Port Stephens Council.
Newcastle has a borderline oceanic/humid sub-tropical climate like much of central and northern NSW. Summers tend to be warm and winters generally mild. Precipitation is heaviest in late autumn and early winter.
Situated 162km north of Sydney at the mouth of the Hunter River, it is the predominant city within the Hunter Region. Famous for its coal, Newcastle is presently the largest coal exporting harbour in the world.
As of 30 June 2008 the population of the City of Newcastle was estimated to be almost 153,000. Residents refer to themselves as 'Novocastrians'.
Newcastle has all the shopping, dining and artistic experiences expected from a city of its size. It is also well serviced by several hospitals including John Hunter Hospital, the principal referral centre and community hospital for Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and northern NSW. It is the main teaching hospital of the University of Newcastle, contains the only trauma centre in NSW outside Sydney, and has one of the state's busiest emergency departments.
The University of Newcastle offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate courses to over 20,000 students. Newcastle has an active youth music culture, as well as a Conservatorium of Music, part of the University of Newcastle. The Newcastle Region Art Gallery is home to one of Australia's most substantial public art collections outside a major capitalcity.
Hunter Street, the main shopping street in the Newcastle CBD, is the major link to the Pacific Highway from the CBD. There is a wide range of bus and train services, as well as a ferry service across the Hunter River between Newcastle's CBD and Stockton. Within the metropolitan area, cars remains the dominant form of transport.
Newcastle is served by two CityRail lines providing local and regional commuter services. Countrylink operates two lines through the Newcastle area using Broadmeadow Station. These provide services to Moree, Armidale, Brisbane and Sydney. There is also an airport at nearby Williamtown.