Newcastle, New South Wales’ second city, enjoys a magnificent setting 150 kilometres up the coast from Sydney, where the Hunter river meets the Pacific Ocean. It remains a busy coal port, but is much less industrial than it was twenty years ago, back in the days of the steelworks. The Ocean dominates the local lifestyle, and the six-kilometre-long Bathers Way links the city’s fine string of beaches and baths. However the coast beyond the city limits – in Lake Macquarie, but often referred to by many as “Newcastle’ – is just as worthy of attention. This is our introduction to the Newcastle beaches and beyond.

Nobbys Beach

Nobbys beach is one of Newcastle’s favourite icons, a long sweep of prime sand and surf culminating in a lighthouse on a headland. The beach actually extends behind the lighthouse, which can be reached along an accessible footpath and cycleway along a breakwater running alongside, a great spot to watch coal loading ships coming and going most days, and whales migrating back and forth between May and November.

The lighthouse was originally an island, Coal Island, connected to mainland by a pier and subsequently the breakwall, the beach and dunes forming as sand deposits accumulated.

The café and arched pavilion next door are a great spot to watch sunrise, accompanied by a double espresso to get going. The takeaway kiosk sells a variety of hamburgers, sandwiches, hot chips, milkshake and cold drinks and there are a number of picnic tables under cover to protect you from the sun and rain. The surf lifesaving club bar next door usually opens on Sunday afternoons and is a great spot to enjoy a cold beer ($4) or glass of wine ($2) – this is due to re-open in summer 2017, check here for updates.

From here, turn around and head left along Shortland Esplanade past a small monument to the tanker Pasha Bulker which ran aground on the beach for a few weeks in 2007. First beach on Bathers Way (link to separate piece)

Dog Beach – Horseshoe beach – off leash

Facilities – large free car park, accessible toilets, change rooms, kiosk; free barbecues on nearby foreshore area

Lifeguard patrol all year round

Newcastle Ocean Baths

From Nobby’s beach continue on past the takeaway kiosk along a concrete path running alongside the road above the rocky foreshore, we reach the Art Deco façade of Newcastle Ocean Baths. It’s a wonderful walk with people on fishing off the path, a wonderful sea breeze and the sound of waves crashing against the rocks. One of the best times to stop by – and the most bracing – is before dawn in summer, with the sky starting to glow pink, orange and red while swimmers brave the early morning water, accompanied by the sound of classical music. The small laned pool and larger pool are just behind the façade, and the shallow but exposed canoe pool is down the steps to the right of these.

Facilities – Kiosk, toilets; limited parking on site, with additional spaces along the Esplanade.

Lifeguard patrol all year round

Address – Shortland Esplanade Newcastle NSW 2300

Newcastle Beach

A few metres on from the Ocean Baths and a short step from the heart of the city, Newcastle Beach is surrounded by tower blocks at one end and cliffs at the other. It’s a beautiful stretch of sand, great for a stroll or a surf. One of the best served local beaches for cafes, with several within 50 metres.

A path continues at beach level, and the other option here is the road climbing up the hill. We take the latter.

Facilities – toilets, change rooms, kiosk; limited parking close to beach

Lifeguard patrol September to April

Address – Shortland Esplanade Newcastle NSW 2300

Bogey Hole

This small swimming pool is cut out of rock at the base of cliffs below the Park. They are one of a few remnants of the city’s convict history, being built by prisoner labour for Lt Col Morisset, the Commandant of Newcastle, around 1820. At low tide it can be a wonderful tranquil spot, but at high tide, stay well back at the top of the stairs.

Facilities – nearest toilets in nearby King Edward Park

Address – York Drive, Newcastle NSW 2300

Newcastle Memorial Walk


Double back up through the Park, continuing to the end of The Terrace and turn right, then left to a small car park. This, the Strzelecki Lookout, is the starting point for the Newcastle Memorial Walk on a bridge above the clifftops leading down to nearby Bar Beach. Also known as the Anzac Walk or Anzac Memorial Walk, it was built in 2015 to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings and the beginning of steel making in Newcastle. It’s a wonderful addition to the city, with a flat accessible 160 metre section flanked by sculpted silhouettes of soldiers on the battlefields and also those they left behind, including a grieving woman with her head bowed. The names of over 4,000 family names of men and women from the Hunter area who enlisted during the First World War are inscribed on the figures.

The downhill section, a series of stairs and platforms, leads down the hill to Bar Beach.

Facilities – small car park – 20 spaces or so – at the Lookout at the top

Address: 43 High Street Newcastle 2300 NSW

Susan Gilmore Beach

However, there is another beach tucked beneath the cliffs before you reach Bar Beach proper – Susan Gilmore beach, named after a ship which came to grief there in 1884. You only see it at the last moment, just before you reach the main lookout at the top of Bar Beach. It is the northern continuation of a single beach which has four different named sections.

Facilities – as per Bar Beach, see below

Address – Memorial Drive, Bar Beach

Bar Beach

Bar Beach is the second of these four sections, named after the natural rock pool at its northern end. It is a stunning spot, especially with the cooling ocean breeze on a hot summer day.

Facilities – huge free car park above; toilets, change rooms, kiosk and sheltered tables September to April

Lifeguard patrol – all year round

Address – Memorial Drive, Bar Beach

Dixon Park Beach

The next section of the beach is named after the adjacent park, and is the one part where you may get a bit of space at peak times, a result of its being the most difficult to find by

road. It’s most popular with locals and surfers. The playground in the park is a hidden gem, well worth seeking out if the kids want a break from all that sand.

Facilities – car park, toilets, changing rooms, picnic tables and barbecues

Lifeguard patrol September to April

Merewether Beach

Probably to Newcastle what Bondi is to Sydney, albeit on a much smaller scale, Merewether has a great setting below towering cliffs, with a platform of rocks marking the end of the beach. It seems to be busy at any time of day in summer, from the runners heading up and down the 96 steps at 5 am to the diners after dark on the promenade with a pizzeria and cafe and the Merewether Surfhouse restaurant upstairs.

Facilities – parking, kiosk, café, toilets, changing rooms

Lifeguard patrol all year round

Address – John Parade Merewether NSW 2291

Merewether Ocean Baths

Situated at the southern end of Merewether Beach, these are the largest ocean baths in the southern hemisphere, consisting of one large shallow pool for kids and a vast deep pool with a laned section at one end. They’re packed on summer evenings and weekends, a great place to sit and watch the world swim by.

At the southern end of the Baths, if the tide is favourably low, continue along a section of rock pools (which our two and a half year old son heartily recommends) for a few hundred metres to the beginning of Burwood Beach. If the tide is high, you’ll need to divert the higher level walking track at nearby Hickson Street.

Facilities – as per Merewether Beach

Address – Henderson Parade Merewether NSW 2291

Burwood Beach

Suddenly you’re in a different world. The crowds thin out, and the coastline feels remote here, a lot further away from the city than it is. This is the Glenrock State Conservation Area. The Bathers Way continues along its final section on the beach to its southern end, passing important indigenous sites on the way. The local Awabakal people quarried rhyolitic tuff from the northern cliffs of the beach, and regularly camped further down the beach, close to the lagoon.

Address – Burwood Road Burwood NSW 2291

Glenrock Beach and Lagoon

Glenrock Beach is the southern continuation of Burwood, extending another kilometre to the cliffs of Little Redhead Point. Take time to explore the lagoon via the Yuelarbah Track, which leads through coastal rainforest to Leichhardts Lookout and beyond to a series of waterfalls.

Car park – Burwood Road (Yuelarbah trail car park) or Merewether

Dudley Beach

We now bid farewell to the city of Newcastle and the Bathers Way, arriving within the boundaries of Lake Macquarie. The first of the Lake’s beaches is Dudley, on the other side of Little Redhead Point. Reaching Dudley requires a detour inland, either by walking tracks (link to Glenrock pdf) or car. It’s a short distance from the former coal mining village of the same name, and popular with local surfers, but with so much space you’ll always have a lot of it to yourself.

Car park

Address – Dudley Beach Road, Dudley NSW 2290

Redhead Beach

After Dudley, the coast is dominated by cliffs for a few kilometres, with walking tracks through the Awabakal Nature Reserve. The cliffs end abruptly at Redhead, also once a coal mining village. The beach acquired its name from the ochre cliff at the beginning / end of the beach, with the outline apparently resembling a human head.


One spring morning, we went searching for a lookout over the beach around the suburban streets near the clifftop. A resident was loading his camper van. “Best view in Australia through there mate,” he said, indicating a narrow track through bushes we had to duck under at first. “Well, one of them, anyway.”


He wasn’t wrong. The lookout gives an amazing view of the beach all the way down to the sea entrance to Lake Macquarie, and south beyond the Lake towards the Central Coast.


Access to the beach is from the northern end, with a car park behind the surf and life savers club, which has a good café option. From there you see the iconic shark observation tower on top of some rocks. The view out past the tower with coal loading ships queuing on the distant horizon is a classic Newcastle area scene.


Facilities – car parks, playground, toilets, change rooms, café; barbecues, restaurants and takeaway close by

Lifeguard patrol September to April

Address – Beach Road Redhead NSW 2290


Nine Mile Beach


Not quite what it says on the tin, it is in fact only seven miles long. Only a tiny quibble though. This is the continuation of Redhead beach, all the way past Belmont to a point near the aforementioned lake entrance.


Access via Redhead (above) or Blacksmiths (below).

Blacksmiths Beach

Somewhere near the southern end of this vast curve of sand, Nine Mile becomes Blacksmiths. It’s every bit as magnificent as Redhead, just a lower level view. We have found the Newcastle Knights NRL squad running training drills here a couple of times.


Facilities – car park, change room, toilets, takeaway close by

LIfeguard patrol September to April

Address – Gommera Street, Blacksmiths NSW 2290

Granny’s Pool

A short (two minute) drive away, this hidden gem is great if you want to take young children for a swim. It’s a shallow, sheltered tidal pool perfect for paddling toddlers, protected by a sturdy breakwall, with a small gap to allow water in and out. It’s about 100 metres long at high tide, 20 at low. Great views across the water to Swansea Heads too.

Facilities – see Blacksmiths above. Small car park (20 spaces) a 1-minute walk away

Address – Gommera Street, Blacksmiths NSW 2290

Caves Beach

Beyond Swansea (both s letters are soft, unlike the Welsh version), Caves is a spectacular three part beach that really comes into its own at low tide, when the caves at its southern end become accessible. The main part of beach is a prime Pacific expanse of sand, whereas the caves section is much rockier. As an alternative to clambering over wet rocks and possible rogue waves, there is a tunnel at the back of the first cave you reach which leads to this part of the beach. It’s a wonderful place for kids to explore for a couple of hours.

Facilities – car park, toilets, change rooms, barbecues, picnic tables; kiosk at weekends

Address – Caves Beach Road Caves Beach NSW 2281

Spoon Rocks

Just beyond Caves is Spoon Rocks beach, which has only recently formed, the sand gradually accumulating after the construction of the breakwall, the same process as Nobbys.

Facilities – nearest at Caves Beach

Address – Spoon Rocks Road Caves Beach NSW 2281

Catherine Hill Bay

The isolated coastline of the Wallarah National Park – to be featured separately soon – separates Spoon Rocks from Middle Camp Beach, better known as Catherine Hill Bay beach, which will also be featured separately soon. ‘Catho’ is unique on the east coast of Australia as a mining village with much of its heritage still intact. The iconic coal loading jetty on the south of the beach has been disused since the nearby Wallarah colliery closed in 2002. Locals have campaigned to keep it, and it survived the ravages of a bushfire in 2013. The latest news is that has been earmarked for a possible tourism development which will preserve it. And the beach? Another mile of perfect Pacific sand.

Facilities – parking, change rooms, toilets, pub

Lifeguard patrol September to April

Address – Flowers Drive, Catherine Hill Bay NSW 2281