Top Ten Things To Do In Newcastle
The show season has almost begun, and the first of the year for us is always the Newcastle Caravan, Camping and Holiday Expo. It’s a fantastic regional show, and we know there are loads of you coming from all over the state to have a look through.
With it’s mix of stunning beaches, historical sites, lush national parks, local markets, and it’s diverse food, art and wine scene, Newy is shaking off it’s industrial reputation, and fast becoming one of the ‘must see’ destinations on the tourist trail.
So while you’re here, why not check out a few of the stunning natural wonders, and other attractions, found in and around Newcastle?
Stockton Beach is a 32km stretch of sand, encompassing expansive sand dunes and spectacular views to Port Stephens. It’s a very popular place for fishermen and 4WD enthusiasts, who enjoy navigating the largest continual mobile dunes in the southern hemisphere. It’s also infamous for it’s many shipwrecks, which were so common in the 19th century, that two tin sheds were constructed to hold provisions for wrecked sailors. During the depression in the 1930’s, a group of squatters built a series of tin shacks amongst the dunes, and 11 of these remain. The shacks are now known as ‘Tin City’, and are a popular tourist attraction. These shacks, and the dunes, were used in several scenes in the 1979 movie Mad Max.
The shacks won’t be around for much longer though, as the dunes slowly creep up and engulf them.
While you’re at Stockton, you can ride a camel along the beach, or try and spot some of the local wildlife, including dingoes, humpback whales, and perhaps even a great white-the waters off the beach are a nursery for juveniles, ranging from 1.5m-3m.
There is vehicular access to Stockton Beach via Williamtown or Anna Bay. A permit needs to be purchased beforehand. Stockton is also significant to the Worimi people, with ancient middens around 12,000 years old dotted throughout the dunes. So please, respect the area, and don’t attempt to access any dunes that aren’t permitted.
2. Blackbutt Reserve
Blackbutt Nature Reserve is the perfect place to spend the day with the family. Sitting on 182 hectares of natural bushland, Blackbutt provides a myriad of nature trails, wildlife exhibits, playgrounds, picnic and BBQ facilities. Blackbutt provides a habitat for many vulnerable species, as well as a wildlife exhibit which allows visitors to view native animals such as koalas, emus, wombats, birds, and reptiles.
Best of all, the exhibit is free-but for a small fee you can have a private tour, or feed the koalas. The kiosk sells suitable food for the emus, and you can also feed the many ducks, eels and turtles which inhabit the many ponds dotted throughout the park.
Blackbutt is an absolute must-see for families. The exhibit is pram and wheelchair friendly, so is suitable for everyone!
3. The Bogey Hole
The heritage listed Bogey Hole is the oldest ocean pool on the east coast of Australia, and a Newcastle icon. Also known as The Commandants Baths, it was constructed in 1819 by convicts for the personal use of Major James Morisset. Situated at the foot of Shepherds Hill, it’s a prime vantage point to view the spectacular Newcastle coastline.
The Bogey Hole was closed for a few years due to safety issues, but has recently re-opened to the public, with a new platform and safety fencing. You better tie your towel to the fence though, as the waves can crash over the pool quite suddenly, drenching everything in it’s path. The surrounding rocks can be quite slippery, so this beautiful pool is a great option for older children and adults alike.
4. Bathers Way Coastal Walk
Beginning at Nobbys Head, the Bathers Way is a spectacular walk showcasing some of Newcastle’s most beautiful beaches, the coastal wilderness of Glenrock Reserve, and Newcastle’s indigenous and European history. Along the way, you can see Nobby’s breakwall, built by convict gangs, Fort Scratchley (the only fort in Australia to have engaged the enemy in a maritime attack), and the Art Deco pavilion at Newcastle Ocean Baths. There are so many places to stop and have a swim, glimpse the local dolphin population who love frolicking amongst the waves, or just enjoy the stunning coastal view. You’re sure to work up an appetite on this 5km walk, and you’re in luck, because there are so many cafes, restaurants, and kiosks to choose from along the way.
5. Glenrock Lagoon
If you’d like to try a safe swimming spot, surrounded by bushland, and accessible by an easy and interesting walking trail, then you can’t beat Glenrock Lagoon. There are a nunber of ways to access the lagoon, but the best section to walk through is the 2km track starting at Kahibah. This track will take you through rainforest, along some pretty waterfalls, and has various historical relics scattered throughout. This area was where the first coal in Australia was discovered, and the track features evidence of early mining in the area.
The lagoon is fed by two streams, and is approximately 900m long by 100m wide, meeting the ocean at the opposite end. It’s a peaceful sojourn, close to the city, and perfect for a picnic with friends.
6. Myall Lakes National Park
Photo Credit: NSW National Parks
Heading a little out of Newcastle now, the Myall Lakes National Park has something to offer everyone. It’s a truly sensational park, encompassing beautiful beaches, expansive sand dunes, littoral rainforest, and one of the largest coastal lake systems in the state.
The impressive dunes rolling alongside the beach give this area the Wow Factor. There are some fantastic camp sites on offer, and so much to see and do, that you’ll want to stay for more than a day. Pack a picnic and stop at The Grandis, the tallest tree in NSW. Or grab your walking gear and have a wander around Dark Point Aboriginal Place, the site of a large midden, with evidence of stone tools and charcoal from ancient campfires dotted throughout. Swim at Neranie Sands, a crystal clear freshwater beach, or try and spot the local dingo population (they’re known to frequent all the camp grounds so please, keep your food and rubbish secure).
7. Wollombi Tavern
Wollombi Tavern, home of the famous Dr Jurds Jungle Juice, is a true blue Aussie pub experience. The tavern serves up typical ‘pub grub’ with good old fashioned country hospitality. It’s a popular stop for locals and tourists along the Wollombi winery trail, and the charming little township is just across the road.
You can camp for free in the pubs grounds, and use their facilities (toilets and picnic tables etc), but they do ask that you eat a meal or have a drink at the bar. That is a pretty great compromise to me!
8. The Watagans
The Watagans National Park and State Forest are a haven for 4WDers, trail bike riders, bushwalkers and campers. It’s of the best offroad playgrounds in the country, with tracks ranging from easy to very difficult.
There are also many beautiful walking tracks, some leading to waterfalls, others to amazing look-outs and picnic areas. Check out the beautiful Boarding House Dam, and follow the loop track through it’s outstanding rainforest canopy, and moss covered rock ledges.
9. Ladies Well
Ladies Well, in the beautiful Chichester State Forest, is heaven on a hot summers day. The water is always icy cold, and with numerous deep pools, it’s perfect for jumping into from one of the rock ledges. You can camp just a few metres away in the nearby designated camp ground, so it really is a magical spot.
10. Tomaree Head
If beautiful ocean and mountain views are your thing, and you don’t mind getting a bit of exercise, the Tomaree Head Summit walk is worth every step. This walk is a Grade 5, but unless you have a health condition, it is very doable, at only 161m above sea level.
The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking. Don’t forget to take your binoculars during whale season, as a sighting is almost guaranteed.