Watching the windsurfers at Nobbys beach
Newcastle is the second largest city in New South Wales, Australia and is one of the best destinations to visit along the New South Wales coastline.
Newcastle is known for having the largest coal exporting harbour in the world, however don’t let that put you off - it also has several gorgeous sandy beaches, which are some of the most beautiful on the mid-NSW coast. Along with its beaches, Newcastle is a great place to visit to enjoy coastal walks, surfing and enjoying a long brunch in one of the many cafes.
If you're travelling to Newcastle from Sydney, make sure that you spend a couple of days in the city before you set off along the coast. If it's your first time in Sydney, you might find this 4 - day itinerary helpful to plan your trip.
Newcastle is one of the top places to visit in New South Wales and whether you arrive on a day trip, or plan to stay for a few days, it is definitely worth visiting.
Here’s some of the best things to see and do in Newcastle so you can see for yourself!
15 Fun things to do in Newcastle, Australia
1. Visit Newcastle’s famous Nobbys beach & lighthouse
Nobbys beach is Newcastle's most well-known beach and is really popular with families and people learning to surf and windsurf - you might even see some dolphins here if you’re lucky!
One of the best things to do at Nobbys beach is to take the short walk to Nobbys lighthouse at the end of the beach for views over the harbour and out to the ocean. From the lighthouse, you can also walk along the Bather’s way promenade to Newcastle beach.
2. Walk Bather's way - one of the best free things to do in Newcastle!
Bather's way is one of the best coastal walks in New South Wales. At 6km long, it stretches from Nobby's beach in the North of Newcastle all the way to Merewether beach in the South. Along the walk, you'll pass Newcastle beach, Bar beach, and Dixon Park beach, as well as the famous Bogey Hole. This is really one of the best coastal walks I've done and is one of the best things to do in Newcastle, even better that it is absolutely free!
Views over the coastline from Bathers Way
3. Swim in the historic ocean baths at Newcastle Beach
Newcastle beach is one of Australia's most popular surfing spots, and is just 15 minutes walk along the scenic 'Bathers way' from Nobbys beach. The ocean baths at Newcastle beach are one of the city's most historic landmarks, constructed just before WWI and formally opening in the 1920's. Swimming at the ocean baths is one of the most popular things to do in Newcastle, especially in the summer, when the water is warmer!
4. Take a dip at Newcastle’s famous Bogey Hole
The Bogey Hole is a natural bathing pool, which was originally formed when the Military commander from 1819 - 1822, Major James Thomas Morriset ordered for a hole to be cut into the rocks for his personal bathing use. Lucky for us, in 1865 the hole was given to the Newcastle council for public use.
Visiting the famous Bogey Hole for a quick swim is definitely one of the must-do things when in Newcastle. Just be careful of poor weather - unfortunately it was really windy when we were there and it was not safe for us to take a dip as the waves were crashing over the edge and into the pool.
Waves crash over the rocks into the Bogey Hole
5. Stroll the Newcastle Memorial Walk
In between Bogey Hole and Bar beach is the Newcastle Memorial walk. The memorial walk was built in 2015 on the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing and features silhouettes of soldiers. It was designed to honour those who lost their lives in the war. The walkway is 450m high and offers stunning 360 views of the coast.
Silhouettes of soldiers on the Newcastle Memorial bridge walkway to commemorate soldiers who lost their lives in the war
6. Visit Bar Beach
Bar beach is one of the smaller beaches in Newcastle and it can get quite crowded, as it is close to the Memorial Walk and King Edward skate park and playground. If you find that it's too busy for you, simply stroll along the beach to Dixon park beach instead!
7. Have a BBQ at Dixon Park beach
Located between Bar beach and Merewether beach, Dixon Park is one of the best beaches in Newcastle for families. There is a large park opposite the beach which is used for gatherings and community events and along the promenade are sun- shelters, picnic benches and BBQs. Its location makes it the perfect place for a pit-stop if you are walking the Bather's way from Nobby's beach to Merewether beach.
8. Visit Merewether beach and the Merewether ocean baths
Newcastle is known for having some of the best beaches in New South Wales and my favourite beach in Newcastle is Merewether beach, with gorgeous views in all directions. If you don’t fancy a dip in the sea, then head to the Merewether ocean baths - they are the largest ocean baths in the area and one of the best spots for swimming in Newcastle.
Merewether beach is also another popular surfing spot in Newcastle and is host to the World Surfing League championship each March / April, as part of the annual Surfest.
Merewether beach has gorgeous views in all directions
9. Take a hike in Glenrock State Conservation area
Located 8km south of the central district of Newcastle, this protected conservation area offers various hiking trails. We also saw jumping off spots for paragliders, if you’re into that.
To get there without a car, head to Merewether beach and from the beach, walk inland, up Scenic Road. Follow the road round until you reach one of the entrances to the conservation area (it’s not an obvious entrance, but you will see a path and most likely a few cars parked just off the road). After a short trail through the woods, you’ll reach a set of steps descending down towards the beach. Head down these steps and then turn left to walk along the beach, back to Merewether Ocean baths. The conservation area has many other hiking trails, but this is a good one that offers great views and is perfect if you only want to spend a couple of hours.
A short trail leads through the woods of Glenrock Conservation area, before you descend the steps to the beach.
10. See wildlife at Blackbutt Reserve
Just a 15 minute drive from Newcastle’s coastline is Blackbutt Reserve - a beautiful wildlife reserve where you can see a range of animals such as kangaroo, koala, wombats, reptiles and many species of birds. There’s also 10km of walking trails and plenty of BBQ and picnic areas to enjoy. This is a great activity in Newcastle for families and couples alike.
11. Stroll down Darby Road - One of Newcastle’s liveliest streets
Darby road is the place to be if you like boutique shops, trendy cafes and award-winning restaurants. It is a particularly popular spot for breakfast and brunch, but it is also a great area to visit in Newcastle in the evening, with live music in several of the bars.
12. Spend an evening by the Harbour
One of the best things to do in Newcastle at night is to head to the harbour. Honeysuckle Wharf and Queens Wharf come to life in the evening, and with so many bars and restaurants dotted along the harbour front, it has a great lively atmosphere. It's the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine whilst the sun goes down.
Enjoying drinks at Honeysuckle Wharf
13. Visit Fort Scratchley
Located near Nobbys beach and lighthouse is Fort Scratchley, a fortress built in the 1800's which held significant importance during WWII, protecting the Harbour and town. Nowadays it is a museum which houses exhibits on military history. You can enter for free or pay to have a tour which includes access to the underground tunnels.
14. Take a trip out of Newcastle to go sandboarding!
If you’re staying in Newcastle for a few days, you might want to venture out of the town, and one of the best activities just outside of Newcastle is sandboarding! Just an hour’s drive from Newcastle are the sand dunes in Port Stephens, a great way to spend a couple of hours!
15. Have a day trip to Hunter’s Valley for wine tasting
One of the best day trips from Newcastle is to the Hunter Valley region. This region is famous for producing wine and has some beautiful wineries. Book on a tour from Newcastle so that you can enjoy tasting all the wine and enjoy a day spent hopping from vineyard to vineyard!
I would definitely recommend including a stop in Newcastle to your Australian East Coast itinerary. There’s so many great things to see and do in and around Newcastle and the beaches in Newcastle are some of the best in New South Wales. Now, if that’s not enough to sway you, I don't know what will!
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How long do you need in Newcastle?
I would say that 2-3 days in Newcastle would be a good amount of time to spend. This will allow you enough time to explore the town itself and set off on a daytrip or two. Of course, if you are planning to spend a couple of days just relaxing on the beach, then you are spoilt for choice in Newcastle. It has some of the best beaches in New South Wales, so if that’s the case, then you may wish to spend longer here.
How to get to Newcastle
Many people will visit Newcastle as one of the places to stop along the beautiful East Coast - one of the most popular traveller routes in Australia. So it is likely that you will be travelling to Newcastle from the direction of Sydney or Brisbane.
Getting to Newcastle from Sydney - If you are travelling from Sydney, getting to Newcastle is easy. The best way is by car or campervan, as you have the flexibility to stop at different places along the way, and it is a beautiful 2 hour drive. If you are on a budget, another great option is to use the train or the Greyhound bus, which takes around 3 hours.
If you are using the Greyhound bus, just make sure to book your ticket in advance. We got caught out by this - hoping to book our ticket last minute in order to give us flexibility, we ended up having to extend our stay in Newcastle by two days as all the buses were sold out!
Getting to Newcastle from Brisbane - If you are coming from Brisbane by car (or camper), I would recommend making a stop along the way as it is an 8 hour drive. You will be spoilt for choice for places to stop over as you will pass Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. Again, if you are on a budget, you could choose to take the train or the Greyhound bus. The Greyhound bus runs all the way up the East Coast, stopping at Port Macquarie and Byron Bay. Just be warned that the bus times on this stretch are night buses and you might arrive at your accommodation in the early hours of the morning.
How to get around Newcastle?
You can easily visit Newcastle by using public trains or buses and most of the town and beaches can be explored by foot. (There is also a tram network if you don't fancy walking around the town).
However, I personally would recommend having your own vehicle if your budget will allow. We travelled to and from Newcastle on the Greyhound bus, which was fine, however it made sightseeing around Newcastle more expensive as we had to get taxis to places which were further out of town, or navigate the train network to get us to more hard to reach places, which was really time consuming. Next time we visit New South Wales and Australia, we will definitely hire a campervan as I want to have more flexibility.
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