Newcastle City reaches out to the sea on a Peninsula at the mouth of the Hunter River. This distinctive geography creates the only Australian City with a CBD simultaneously on the beach and the harbour waterfront. The long layout of the city centre and its 200 year story has helped create distinctive precincts – all alive with energy.
- Second largest city in New South Wales
- Stunning beaches with excellent surf
- The gateway to the Hunter Valley
Newcastle is a vibrant coastal city that beautifully blends history, culture, and natural beauty. Located at the mouth of the Hunter River, Newcastle is known for its stunning beaches, excellent surf, historic architecture, and a very active arts scene. It is situated 168 km north-northeast of Sydney, easily accessible via the Pacific Motorway and the Pacific Highway, making it a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.
The history of Newcastle is rich and diverse. The area was originally inhabited by the Awabakal and Worimi Aboriginal people, with the first European exploration of the area conducted by Lieutenant John Shortland in 1797. Shortland named the river after Governor John Hunter. The city itself was established as a penal settlement in 1804, less than a year after Sydney. It was named after England’s famous coal port, a name that stuck as it became the main export port for the coal mines of the Hunter Valley.
The city’s economy has traditionally been driven by coal, with Newcastle being the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. However, in recent years, the city has diversified its economy and now boasts a strong health and education sector. The city is also known for its vibrant creative and digital industries, reflecting its dynamic and evolving character.
The city has a temperate oceanic climate, with warm summers and mild winters, and receives moderate to heavy rainfall throughout the year. This climate, along with the city’s rich history and cultural offerings, makes Newcastle a desirable place to live and visit.
Things To Do
Newcastle has a vibrant arts scene, a strong youth culture and a proud history. Immerse yourself and find out what makes Novocastrians so proud of their city. Explore and uncover the flavour and allure of the city’s streetscapes and waterfront’s – each with its own feel and character.
The capital of the Hunter Valley, Newcastle is a modern beachside city boasting a spectacular coastline, rich heritage and a sunny climate.
The city possesses some of Australia’s best beaches and these provide ample recreational opportunities. From surfing to beach fishing, meandering along the Bathers Way Coastal Walk, swimming in the fabled Ocean Baths or just catching some rays and enjoying the great view, Newcastle’s beaches offer something for everybody.
Newcastle is built around a large working harbour, at the entrance to which stands Nobby’s Breakwater and Lighthouse -the city’s most prominent landmark.
The adjacent foreshore area is the perfect place to while away the hours watching the busy harbour traffic while enjoying refreshments in one of the many cafes, bars or restaurants.
Newcastle is a vibrant city that effortlessly combines the charm of its rich history with the allure of its stunning natural beauty. At the heart of this city lies the town centre, a bustling hub that offers a plethora of attractions and activities for locals and tourists alike. From historic trams and harbours to museums and parks, the town centre of Newcastle is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered.
The Famous Tram
The Famous Tram is a must-do experience for any visitor to Newcastle. As soon as you step aboard, you’re instantly transported back in time. The tram itself is a faithful replica of the vintage trams that once graced the streets of Newcastle, complete with period details that add to its historic charm.
But the real magic begins once the tram starts moving. As it winds its way through the city, passengers are treated to a panoramic view of Newcastle’s most iconic sights. From the historic city centre with its beautifully preserved architecture, to the pristine beaches that line the city’s coastline, the tram ride offers a comprehensive tour of Newcastle’s diverse landscapes and landmarks.
One of the highlights of the tram ride is the journey through Newcastle’s historic city centre. Here, passengers can marvel at the beautifully preserved architecture that tells the story of the city’s past. From grand Victorian buildings to charming Federation-style houses, the city centre is a living museum of Newcastle’s architectural history.
The tram also takes passengers along the city’s stunning coastline, offering breathtaking views of the beaches that Newcastle is famous for. From the popular Nobbys Beach to the secluded Susan Gilmore Beach, passengers can enjoy a scenic tour of some of the best beaches in New South Wales.
But the Famous Tram is more than just a sightseeing tour. As the tram winds its way through the city, a knowledgeable guide provides fascinating insights into the history and significance of the landmarks you pass by. This informative commentary adds depth to the experience, allowing passengers to appreciate the city’s sights on a whole new level.
The Boat Harbour
Nestled at the furthest end of the harbour, just off Wharf Road and below Fort Scratchley, lies one of Newcastle’s most charming and historic waterfront areas – The Boat Harbour. This vibrant destination offers stunning views of the city and the ocean, and serves as a testament to the city’s rich maritime history.
Constructed between 1866 and 1873, The Boat Harbour is a small stone harbour that has been in continuous use for nearly 150 years. It is home to the Pilot Station, which was established in 1866, and the Tug Wharf. The Pilot Station holds a significant place in Newcastle’s history. The earliest pilot station was a convict-manned whaleboat that commenced operations in 1812. Today, tugs still guide the massive coal and container ships from the ocean up the Hunter River to their moorings, a sight that is both impressive and a reminder of the city’s maritime heritage. Beyond the pilot station, you’ll find King’s Wharf, another historic landmark that adds to the charm of the area.
But The Boat Harbour is not just about history. It’s also a vibrant and relaxing spot where locals and tourists alike can unwind and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. Whether you’re looking to relax, enjoy a picnic while watching the boats come and go, or simply soak in the stunning views, The Boat Harbour offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Adding to its appeal, The Boat Harbour is also home to a variety of restaurants and cafes. These establishments offer a range of dining options, from casual cafes perfect for a leisurely brunch, to upscale restaurants ideal for a romantic dinner. With the stunning harbour views serving as a backdrop, dining at The Boat Harbour is an experience in itself.
Walking Beside Harbourside Park
Just behind the Boat Harbour in Newcastle, New South Wales, lies a serene green space known as Harbourside Park. This tranquil park, adjacent to the bustling waterfront, offers a peaceful retreat where visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll, unwind, and watch the world go by.
Harbourside Park is steeped in history. The park was once the site of the Newcastle East Marshalling Yard, a testament to the city’s industrial past. The enormous barbecue and shelter shed in the park, originally a railway shed dating back to around 1880, serves as a reminder of this history. Today, the park has been transformed into a vibrant green space with play areas for children, making it a popular spot for families.
One of the park’s most notable features is the Frog Pond. This large pond was originally a well fed by a freshwater spring, serving as the major source of freshwater for the first European settlers. Groups of convicts once carried over 100 gallons of water a day from this well to the prison in Scott Street, and ships docking in the harbour used it to restock their supplies. Today, the Frog Pond adds to the park’s tranquil ambiance, providing a peaceful spot for reflection.
The park offers panoramic views of the harbour, making it an ideal place to experience the importance and dynamic activity of the harbour. The walk along the shoreline from the Boat Harbour to Queen’s Wharf is a particularly scenic route, offering stunning views of the waterfront.
Interestingly, the original shoreline of 1797 lay close to the site of the park. The harbour foreshores are entirely man-made, constructed from around 1840 with a combination of ship’s ballast, the dredging of the river mouth, and sand taken from the dunes to the east. This transformation of the landscape is a testament to Newcastle’s evolution from a colonial settlement to a vibrant coastal city.
Queens Wharf: The Vibrant Hub of Newcastle’s Town Centre
Located in the heart of Newcastle’s town centre, Queens Wharf is a bustling precinct that offers a wealth of dining, entertainment, and sightseeing options. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a meal with a view, catch a live performance, or simply soak up the atmosphere, Queens Wharf is a must-visit destination that has something for everyone.
Situated to the west of the Newcastle Railway Station, Queens Wharf serves as the hub of tourist activities in the city. It’s the departure point for the “Famous Tram”, offering visitors a unique and historic way to explore the city. For those looking to venture further afield, the wharf is also where you can catch a ferry for a short 15-minute trip across to Stockton on the northern side of the harbour.
For food enthusiasts, Queens Wharf is home to a number of chic waterside restaurants. These establishments offer a range of culinary delights, from local favourites to international cuisine. With the stunning harbour serving as a backdrop, dining at Queens Wharf is an experience in itself.
But Queens Wharf is not just about food and transport. It’s also a great place to catch a glimpse of Newcastle’s stunning landscapes. The Queen’s Wharf Observation Tower, linked via a walkway to the city mall, is a 30-metre high tower that offers panoramic views of the Hunter River and across the city. With 180 steps to the top, the climb is a small effort for the reward of breathtaking views.
Visit Customs House
Just beyond Harbourside Park in Newcastle, New South Wales, stands a grand and graceful building that serves as a testament to the city’s rich past – the historic Customs House. With its stunning architecture and prominent clock tower, this building is not only one of Newcastle’s most impressive architectural monuments, but it also serves as a reminder of the city’s vibrant maritime history.
The Customs House was designed by colonial architect James Barnet and built between 1876 and 1877. The Watt Street wing was added between 1898 and 1900, further enhancing the grandeur of this historic building. However, the history of the site where the Customs House stands goes back even further. This block of land was once occupied by a convict stockade, built in 1805 under the supervision of Commandant Charles Throsby. It functioned as the major work area for convicts, being principally a lumber yard. The stockade was destroyed by fire in 1851, paving the way for the construction of the Customs House.
Today, the Customs House has been repurposed into a popular restaurant, offering visitors the unique experience of dining in a historic setting. The restaurant serves a variety of dishes, catering to a range of tastes. As you enjoy your meal, you can appreciate the stunning architecture of the building, from the high ceilings and grand archways to the intricate detailing that harks back to a bygone era.
The Newcastle Railway Station, another historic landmark, is a symbol of the city’s industrial heritage. Although no longer functioning as a railway station, the beautifully restored building now serves as a community space hosting events, markets, and exhibitions.
The Maritime Centre is a must-visit for those interested in Newcastle’s maritime history. The centre houses a collection of exhibits that tell the story of the city’s relationship with the sea, from its early days as a coal port to its present status as a vibrant coastal city.
The Newcastle Museum offers a deeper dive into the city’s history. With exhibits covering the city’s Aboriginal heritage, industrial past, and cultural evolution, the museum provides a comprehensive understanding of what makes Newcastle the city it is today.
Great North Walk
Begin your journey with a stroll along the Great North Walk, a well-known trail that offers stunning views of the city and its surrounding landscapes. The trail is a haven for nature lovers and provides a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Nobbys Lighthouse and Nobbys Beach
Next, make your way to Nobbys Lighthouse, an iconic landmark that stands as a beacon at the entrance to Newcastle Harbour. The lighthouse offers panoramic views of the city and the Pacific Ocean. Just below the lighthouse lies Nobbys Beach, a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.
A short distance from Nobbys Beach is Fort Scratchley, a historic fort that played a crucial role in defending Newcastle during World War II. Today, it serves as a museum where visitors can learn about the city’s military history.
The Ocean Baths and Newcastle Beach
Continue your journey to the Ocean Baths, a historic swimming pool that offers a unique swimming experience. Adjacent to the Ocean Baths is Newcastle Beach, known for its excellent surf conditions and pristine sand.
Further along the coast, you’ll find the Bogey Hole, a natural rock pool that was carved out by convicts in the early 19th century. It’s a great spot for a refreshing dip.
The Obelisk and King Edward Park
Next, visit The Obelisk, a historic landmark that once served as a navigational aid. Nearby is King Edward Park, a beautiful green space perfect for picnics and leisurely strolls.
Strzelecki Lookout and Shepherds Hill
For breathtaking views of the city and the coast, head to Strzelecki Lookout. Located on Shepherds Hill, the lookout is a popular spot for whale watching during the migration season.
Susan Gilmore Beach and Bar Beach
Make your way to Susan Gilmore Beach, a secluded beach known for its natural beauty. End your journey at Bar Beach, a popular spot for swimming and picnicking, and a perfect place to watch the sunset.
Art enthusiasts are well catered for with the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery housing one of the most significant collections in the country. The city is also home to a diverse range of commercial galleries; most of which are conveniently located within the Civic Cultural Precinct.
If nature is your forte, nearby Blackbutt Reserve is the perfect setting to explore natural bushland with modern spacious facilities allowing you to get up close and personal with the native wildlife.
Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Newcastle is a city proud of its history and determined to preserve the integrity of its heritage buildings. Must-see heritage sights include the Convict Lumber Yard, Fort Scratchley and the Newcastle Maritime Museum.
Whenever you decide to visit Newcastle, you’re always assured of a warm welcome.
Newcastle doesn’t have much of a reputation among Sydney – they still think of it as a dirty industrial city with little to offer. But the Sydneysiders are wrong. While there is a lot of industry, it’s largely limited to the outskirts of town; the rest of the city has some superb architecture and excellent beaches, and is within easy access of national parks and wineries.
A major distinguishing feature of Newcastle is its thriving arts and music scene, with more working artists per head of the population living here than anywhere else in Australia, and an amazing choice of live home-grown music most nights of the week.
Nearest Airport: Newcastle
- Off Road Driving
- Bird Watching
- Bush Walking
- City Sightseeing
- Horse Riding
- Scenic Flight
- National Park
- Quad Bike Riding
- Hang Gliding
Accommodation In Newcastle
Discover some of the accommodation in and around Newcastle
- Backpackers By The Beach
- Best Western Hotel Novocastrian
- Bimet Lodge
- Commonwealth Hotel
- Crowne Plaza Newcastle
- Fernwood Bed And Breakfast
- Hotel Delany
- Hotel Ibis Newcastle
- Maggies at Newcastle
- Newcastle Beach YHA
- Newcastle Serviced Apartments
- Newcomen B&B
- Quality Hotel Noahs On the Beach
- Terraces For Tourists
- Travelodge Hotel Newcastle
- Wentworth Cottage Serviced Accommodation
Tours In Newcastle
Discover some of the tours options around Newcastle