Newcastle is the second largest city in New South Wales, ranked just behind Sydney. Although classified as a regional city, Newcastle presents itself very differently. Having lived in Adelaide for nearly a decade, Newcastle feels more like a small-sized capital city to me, with its buzzing city centre and convenient infrastructure.
Located only two hours north of Sydney, Newcastle is a beautiful harbour city with a picturesque coastline, charming historic buildings, and a laid-back atmosphere. Although Newcastle is better discovered over a couple of days, you can visit its most popular attractions all within only one day.
Here, I have put together a detailed one-day itinerary to Newcastle based on my previous visits. Hope you can find it helpful in your trip planning.
Bathers Way Walk
Bathers Way Walk is one of the best coastal walks in New South Wales. It is a 6-kilometre coastal route along the breathtaking coastline between Nobbys Beach and Merewether Beach.
A return walk along Bathers Way takes about 3 hours, and you will need to plan at least 2 hours for a one-way walk. That said, there are many stunning attractions and natural wonders along Bathers Way. Hence I suggest planning 3 to 4 hours for a one-way walk along Bathers Way for a more enjoyable visit.
Since the area along Bathers Way is very popular among locals and visitors, accessing Bathers Way is very convenient regardless of your mode of transport.
Bus 23 can take you to Nobbys Beach at the northern end of Bathers Way Walk; Bus 12 and 21 can take you to Merewether Beach at the southern end of Bathers Way Walk. Many other bus and light rail routes can also take you to various popular attractions along Bathers Way, such as Newcastle Beach, King Edward Park, and Newcastle Memorial Walk.
In terms of parking, there is ample parking near the beaches and parks along Bathers Way. Since the area around Nobbys Beach is the most popular place along Bathers Way Walk, free parking spots can be pretty challenging to come by around Nobbys Beach. My advice is to park around Merewether Beach at the southern end of Bathers Way. Alternatively, there are also many free short-term parking at King Edward Park.
Nobbys Beach is a wide sandy beach located at the northernmost end of Bathers Way Walk. With mild surf breaks, Nobbys Beach has become an excellent spot for both swimmers and surfers. After dipping into the water, you can also enjoy a relaxing refreshment at the cafe along the beach.
Another popular activity when visiting Nobbys Beach is to take a walk along Nobbys Breakwater, a.k.a. Macquarie Pier, to check out Nobbys Lighthouse and the incredible views from the tip of Nobbys Breakwater.
Nobbys Breakwater (Macquarie Pier)
Nobbys Breakwater, also known as Macquarie Pier, is a 1.5-kilometre breakwater connecting Nobbys Head to mainland Newcastle. This convicts built breakwater was constructed in the early 1800s to provide a safe harbour for the ships in and out of Hunter River.
Fun Fact: Nobbys Beach is formed by sand accumulation along the ocean side of Nobbys Breakwater.
A stroll along Nobbys Breakwater will provide an impressive view of Newcastle city and the beautiful Stockton. It also provides a spectacular contrasting view of the wild ocean on its east and the peaceful Hunter River on its west. Seals are also known to rest along this breakwater, so make sure you keep an eye out for these cuties.
Located at the tip of Nobbys Headland and about halfway along Nobbys Breakwater, Nobbys Lighthouse has been navigating for the passing ships since 1858. Sitting on elevated grounds, Nobbys Lighthouse is easily visible from many spots and lookouts in Newcastle. It is undoubtedly a distinctive local landmark.
Since Nobbys Lighthouse is still a working lighthouse, access to Nobbys Lighthouse is restricted. However, visitors can access the grounds of Nobbys Lighthouse on the weekends between 8 am and 4 pm. Outside these hours, you will only be able to appreciate it from the outside while walking along Nobbys Breakwater.
Following Bathers Way Walk south, you will then find Soldiers Baths along the coast between Nobbys Beach and Newcastle Beach.
Soldiers Baths is an 1800s convicts-built ocean pool. It is constructed with a ring of rock seawall and located right beneath Fort Scratchley. Due to its location, it was a popular spot for local soldiers to bathe in back in the day, hence the name.
Nowadays, only the old steps down to the Soldiers Bath can be easily viewed from above the water. The remains of the circular seawall can only be seen during low tide. However, with its shallow water, Soldiers Baths have become a popular place for snorkelling.
Newcastle Beach is another beautiful golden beach along Bathers Way and is only a 15 minutes walk south of Nobbys Beach. With its perfect surf breaks, Newcastle Beach is one of the prime surfing beaches in Newcastle.
Being a busy city beach, Newcastle Beach is well-equipped with toilets, showers, volleyball nets, and a kiosk. There is also a beautiful ocean bath and a peaceful canoe pool towards the northern end of Newcastle Beach for visitors to enjoy.
Newcastle Ocean Baths
Newcastle Ocean Baths are one of the two sea bath facilities in Newcastle. Formally opened in the 1920s, Newcastle Ocean Baths has been a beloved public swimming pool for all ages. With its beautiful Art Deco pavilion facade, iconic bleacher seating, and tranquil water against the wild ocean, Newcastle Ocean Baths is also popular among photographers.
Newcastle Canoe Pool
Wedged between Newcastle Ocean Baths and Newcastle Beach, Newcastle Canoe Pool is a shallow circular wading pool built in the 1930s. With a sandy base and shallow water, Newcastle Canoe Pool is an excellent place for families with kids to enjoy.
Since the water within Newcastle Canoe Pool is very peaceful, especially with the contrasting wild ocean swells in the background, the idyllic view of Newcastle Canoe Pool is also great for that perfect Instagram photo.
King Edward Park
King Edward Park is a large recreational reserve along Bathers Way, adjacent to Newcastle Beach on its north and Newcastle Memorial Walk on its south. As part of the Bathers Way Walk, a stroll within King Edward Park and along its coast is highly recommended during your visit to Newcastle.
In addition to the stunning lookouts along its cliff end, you can find many iconic attractions within King Edward Park. The beautiful Norfolk Pines, soft bowling green, colourful rose garden, and charming rotunda within King Edward Park also make it the ideal spot for a break and a picnic along the Bathers Way Walk.
Bogey Hole, a.k.a. The Commandant’s Bath, is a convict-built sea bath nestled at the foot of the rocky cliff face on which King Edward Park is located. Hand-carved out of an exposed rock shelf in 1819, this heritage-listed ocean pool is considered the oldest surviving construction around Newcastle City.
Back in the day, Bogey Hole was only carved out for personal use for the then Commandant of Newcastle, James Morisset. It was later passed to the council and made for public use in 1863. Although what we see now is seven times bigger than its original size, thanks to an expansion in 1884, the thought of how Bogey Hole was initially carved back in 1819 still gives me chills.
That put aside, the experience and views from the Bogey Hole are second to none! With the tall cliff face right behind and large ocean swells spilling over the pool, a swim in the Bogey Hole is not only refreshing but also scenic and thrilling. Since it is a very photogenic spot, you will also find many people here taking photos, especially on a sunny day.
The Obelisk is Newcastle’s oldest navigating marker, erected in 1850 to help mariners navigate around Newcastle Harbour. Since The Obelisk is built on the highest point of a small hill, from The Obelisk, you can get a spectacular 360-degree view of the beautiful Newcastle’s skyline, the impressive Bathers Way coast, and the expanding green hilltops in the distance.
Newcastle Memorial Walk
Newcastle Memorial Walk, a.k.a. ANZAC Memorial Walk, is a 450-metre-long clifftop walkway between Strzelecki Lookout and Bar Beach. It was opened in 2005 to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landing and to honour the 11,000 enlisted service personnel from the Hunter Valley during World War One. It also encompasses a 160-metre-long steel bridge, which is used to commemorate Newcastle’s steel-making heritage.
Along Newcastle Memorial Walk, you can obtain a spectacular view of the coastline between Strzelecki Lookout and Merewether Ocean Baths. There are also sections along Newcastle Memorial Walk, with bird’s eye views of Newcastle City and its nearby suburbs.
Being part of Bathers Way Walk, many visitors would have visited Newcastle Memorial Walk along their stroll between Nobbys Beach and Merewether Beach. However, you can also visit Newcastle Memorial Walk by itself. If you are only visiting the Newcastle Memorial Walk, you will need to plan at least 20 minutes for a return walk along this clifftop walkway.
Free parking is available at Strzelecki Lookout, but it’s extremely limited. You can also park at King Edward Park and take a short walk to Strzelecki Lookout. Alternatively, you can park at Bar Beach Carpark on the southern end of Newcastle Memorial Walk, but it’s much further away from the walkway & it’s also a bit steep to walk up to the walkway from Bar Beach. With that said, bus route 21 can take you to either end of Newcastle Memorial Walk, which can be a very convenient option for many visitors.
Merewether Beach is a long stretch of soft sandy beach, home to Surfest, a famous international surfing competition. It also marks the southern end of Bathers Way Walk, with its beautiful natural rock pools and iconic ocean baths.
Since Merewether Beach is frequently visited by both locals and visitors, Merewether Beach is well equipped with amenity rooms and a kiosk to cater for all needs. You can also find many picnic tables along Merewether Beach.
Merewether Beach is a famous surfing beach with plenty of excellent surf breaks. However, the water here can be a bit too rough for swimming, especially for kids. Hence, for anyone looking for a refreshing swim along Merewether Beach, I highly recommend you check out the iconic Merewether Ocean Baths instead.
Merewether Ocean Baths
Merewether Ocean Baths are located at the southern end of Merewether Beach. Opened in 1935, Merewether Ocean Baths are the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition to a smaller children’s pool, it offers a 50×100 metre adult pool, with ten unroped lanes for lap swimming.
With the wild blue ocean in the background, Merewether Ocean Baths also make a perfect spot for that surreal Instagram photos.
Hickson Street Lookout
After a few hours of coastal walks, you will now head to Glenrock State Conservation Park to check out the views from Hickson Street Lookout and enjoy a short bush walk.
Hickson Street Lookout is located on a high point within Glenrock State Conservation Park, providing a stunning panoramic view of Burwood Beach and Glenrock State Conservation Park. From Hickson Street Lookout, there is also a 400-metre walking track leading to the idyllic Burwood Beach.
Hickson Street Lookout is only a short walk within Glenrock State Conservation Park from its unmarked car parks on Hickson Street. There are also various walking tracks for visitors to explore the park further. Some of these walking tracks are also great for mountain biking.
Newcastle City is a charming harbour-front city centre, densely populated with well-preserved Colonial and Victorian architectures. For someone like me who loves to learn the history of a city, a walk around Newcastle’s city centre will typically take forever to complete since there is a vast collection of historic buildings along every street in Newcastle City.
To name a few and to make your walk more organised, I suggest starting your walk from Fort Scratchley just after midday (so you can watch the cannon firing at 1 pm); then follow the back streets to admire the cute residential buildings around Stevenson Place and Alfred Street, before checking out the historic Convict Lumber Yard and the beautiful clock tower at the Customs House; if interested, you may wish to also stop by the gallery at The Lock-Up, before visiting the Gothic styled Christ Church Cathedral; from here, you will head over to the Newcastle’s Art & Culture Precinct to visit Newcastle Museum and to check out the colourful street arts along its back streets.
If you are visiting Newcastle City by public transport, you can easily reach all these attractions by bus or light rail. If you are visiting by private vehicle, you can park at one end of the city before exploring this beautiful city on foot.
From my experience, free parking is hard to come by in Newcastle’s city centre. I found a lot more free parking spots around the back streets of Newcastle Beach and Fort Scratchley, which are reasonably convenient for exploring the city. Alternatively, ticket parking is widely available in Newcastle’s city centre & can be easily purchased via phone apps.
Fort Scratchley is a former military fortification built in 1882 in preparation for possible Russian attacks. However, it never fired on an enemy vessel until World War Two, during the Shelling of Newcastle in 1942 by the Japanese.
With the war times behind us, Fort Scratchley was eventually closed as a military fort in 1972. Nowadays, it purely functions as a museum and tourist attraction. Sitting at the top of Flagstaff Hill and overlooking the open ocean and Hunter River, Fort Scratchley is also ideal for obtaining a breathtaking panoramic view of Bathers Way, Hunter River, Stockton, and Newcastle City.
Entry to Fort Scratchley is free. Visitors can guide themselves through the fort to explore its spectacular views and well-preserved military complex.
Guided Tunnel Tours are also available throughout the day. They usually take about 1 hour to complete and will take you through its hidden tunnels for a more in-depth understanding of Fort Scratchley. These tours are AUD 12 per adult currently & you can find its up-to-date operating hours and ticket price on the Fort Scratchley website.
If you are visiting Fort Scratchley around 1 pm, make sure you stay around to view the cannon firing at the fort. It is one of the long-held traditions of Newcastle.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is a Gothic Revival cathedral located on the hilltop at Newcastle’s eastern end. With it being 72 metres long, 26 metres wide, and 36 metres tall, Christ Church Cathedral is a fairly large cathedral by Australian standards. Sitting 38 metres above the ground, Christ Church Cathedral is very noticeable from much of the city and dominates Newcastle’s skyline. You can even see it from across the Hunter River in Stockton.
Visitors can also explore the inside of Christ Church Cathedral during its opening hours. When visiting, make sure you check out its colourful stained glass window & unique embroidered banners and flags. The lovely volunteers are also very helpful if you have any questions.
After you have checked out the cathedral building, make sure you head to its backyard for a stunning bird’s eye view of Hunter River and Stockton. The backyard itself is also very peaceful and beautiful, which is worth a visit in its own right.
Newcastle Museum is a public museum in Newcastle’s Art & Culture Precinct. It is free to enter and easily reached by taking the light rail to the Civic stop.
Newcastle Museum offers a great collection of artefacts showcasing the history of Newcastle. There are also various interactive displays for kids to interact and learn with. You can even find an old tram cart to board and explore within. It is a great place to spend an hour or two, especially for families with kids.
Make sure you also check out the back streets around Newcastle Museum to admire the beautiful mural arts along these streets.
Stockton is a sleepy seaside suburb on the northern bank of the Hunter River. In comparison to Newcastle, Stockton is even more laid-back with its quiet streets, peaceful parks, and idyllic waterfront areas.
Although it usually takes about 30 minutes to drive between Stockton and Newcastle City via Stockton Bridge. You can easily access Stockton from Newcastle City by ferry.
Just head down to Queens Wharf along Newcastle’s foreshore area, where you can find the direct Stockton-Newcastle Ferry. It only takes about 5 minutes for a ferry ride between Queens Wharf and Stockton.
The ferry fare is currently AUD 2.24 – 3.20 per adult (January 2023), which can be paid on board by either an Opal Card or a Credit/Debit Card (contactless payment function required). You can also carry a bicycle on board the ferry for free.
When taking a ferry or any other public transport, make sure you tap on & tap off with your Opal Card/ bank card.
Near the ferry terminal in Stockton, there is also a decent-sized free parking lot and many off-street parking options available. This also makes Stockton an ideal location for ‘Park & Ride‘ when visiting Newcastle.
After getting off the ferry in Stockton, follow the road ahead to stroll along the charming Mitchell Street before turning right onto King Street to join the Shipwreck Walk along Stockton Breakwater. On your way back to the ferry terminal, you can follow the river to check out Little Beach and Pitt Street Reserve. With the picturesque views of Hunter River and Newcastle City, this walk is just perfect around sunset.
Although Stockton is a small suburb, I suggest planning at least a couple of hours for a walk around Stockton.