From calm swimming spots to famous surf breaks to iconic lighthouses, here’s your guide to sand-hopping around Newcastle’s best beaches.
How many cities in the world can claim a cosmopolitan urban centre that’s fringed by beautiful beaches, epic surf breaks and historic ocean baths? Australia’s second-oldest city, Newcastle, can. While its dynamic neighbourhoods boast an ever-increasing roster of outstanding hotels and dining spots, its coastline has provided a constant source of beauty, respite and playfulness for swimmers, surfers and sunbathers alike, from Nobbys Beach to the popular Bogey Hole. Here, a guide to Newcastle beaches.
Newcastle’s main beach is a people pleaser. Easily accessible by foot from Newcastle’s East End or by tram from further afield, Newcastle Beach is a respite from city living.
Newcastle Beach is one of the most favoured surf spots in Australia. (Image: Destination NSW)
Wedged between cliffs and rock pools, the patrolled beach is a 600-metre stretch of sand that’s popular with bathers and boarders alike. The city’s iconic Newcastle Ocean Baths are perched at its northern end, providing a calm pool for swimming laps, as well as a shallow sand-bottomed tidal pool for kids to splash around in. The glorious Art Deco building is currently undergoing revitalisation and major improvements and is due to reopen in mid-2023.
Embrace a refreshing morning dip in the Newcastle Ocean Baths. (Image: Destination NSW)
At the southern end of the beach, you’ll find surfers riding the ‘Southie’ break, and the permanent volleyball nets call for friendly games in the sunshine.
Created by the convict-built Nobbys Breakwall, which was constructed in the early 1800s to make Newcastle’s Harbour safe for ships, Nobbys Beach is a popular place for families and amateur surfers, who may join one of the daily lessons with Surfest Surf School.
Morning views don’t get much better than this. (Image: Destination NSW)
The calm beach is frequented by dolphin pods and is also home to the 19th-century-built Soldiers Baths, where snorkellers can be seen seeking out macro marine life.
Spot Newcastle’s iconic landmark in the distance. (Image: Destination NSW)
Walk along the breakwall to the still-active 1854 Nobbys Lighthouse, an iconic landmark of the city and the start of the five-kilometre Bathers Way, a scenic pathway that traces the coast from Nobbys Headland to Merewether Ocean Baths and includes the poignant ANZAC Memorial Walk.
Walk or cycle Bathers Way from Nobbys Lighthouse. (Image: Destination NSW)
At the other end of Bathers Way, beautiful Merewether Beach is home to the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere. Built in 1935, the Art Deco Merewether Ocean Baths comprise lap lanes as well as a shallow pool for languid dips sans the swell of the ocean.
Merewether Beach lays claims to the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere. (Image: Destination NSW)
The beach is a famous spot for riding waves, and is host to Australia’s largest surf festival, Surfest.
Time your visit to see Australia’s largest surf festival. (Image: Destination NSW)
While only a short distance from the city, this suburb has the chill factor dialled up and is a relaxing spot for an oceanside meal: try Merewether Surfhouse, Blue Door Kiosk and The Beach Hotel.
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Merewether Surfhouse. (Image: Destination NSW)
On the harbour side of Nobbys Breakwall, Horseshoe Beach is family-friendly and dog-friendly, and an excellent base to launch a kayak or stand-up paddle board, with the bustling Newcastle Harbour and Nobbys Lighthouse as your backdrop. You will also see small keelboats flitting about the harbour, which you can learn to sail yourself with Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (operating from Wickham).
Horseshoe Beach is a haven for families and is dog friendly. (Image: Destination NSW)
Hand-hewn by convicts in 1819 for the personal use of the long-serving commander of Newcastle, Major James Morisset, the Bogey Hole is one of the earliest known examples of a purpose-built ocean swimming pool.
Big surf days at The Bogey Hole aren’t the safest for a dip.
Formerly known as Commandants Baths, the Bogey Hole is accessed by a staircase at the bottom of King Edward Park. This turquoise-filled waterhole is idyllic for a refreshing dip and has become an Instagrammer hotspot, but it can be dangerous on big surf days, so it’s best to visit when conditions are calm.
Wait for a calm ocean day to really take in the beauty of this special spot.
Just north of Newcastle, the famous Stockton Bight Sand Dunes are the largest shifting dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, stretching for 32 kilometres along the coast. Set within Worimi National Park, this ethereal landscape is a magnet for adventurers who come here for surfing, sand boarding, quad biking and four-wheel-driving.
Stockton Beach is bordered by Newcastle City on the right. (Image: Destination NSW)
View this desert-like landscape aboard a ‘Ship of the Desert’ with Oakfield Ranch Camel Rides, which operates camel rides at the northern end of Worimi National Park along Birubi Beach.
Take a sunset camel ride with Oakfield Ranch Camel Rides. (Image: Destination NSW)
At the other end of the Newcastle coast, south of Merewether, you’ll find one of the last surviving pockets of coastal rainforest in Glenrock State Conservation Area.
Dudley Beach is a picturesque spot to laze around.
It’s hard to fathom you’re just a few kilometres from Newcastle city when standing on Dudley Beach, an unspoiled coastline where you may only spot a handful of keen surfers or sun bathers on the sand. Or the occasional bushwalker who is exploring the surrounding protected wilderness by foot along the park’s many walking tracks that weave through the littoral rainforest.
Explore Glenrock State Conservation Area on a mountain bike or foot. (Image: Tyson Mayr)