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aerial view of Newcastle NSW

Things To Do In Newcastle NSW

Things To Do In Newcastle NSW

In this guide produced by eSkip we'll describe some of the best things to do outdoors in Newcastle, our guide to indoor venues in Newcastle is coming soon. We'll discuss historic landmarks, walks with spectacular views, lush green parks and some of the best beaches in all Australia. Firstly, some history and information about Newcastle.

About Newcastle


European history credits Lieutenant Shortland with the discovery of Newcastle in 1797 failing to record all those who lived here for centuries before. Captain James Cook had sailed straight past in 1770 recording only the stand of rocks that was “Nobbys Head”, then a rocky outcrop separate from the mainland.

Shortland sketched the harbour, founded the city and reported the wealth of coal laying on the banks of the Hunter River back to the authorities in Sydney. HMS “Lady Nelson”, accompanied by the schooner “Francis” and commanded by Lieutenant James Grant lead a party of 60 into the mouth of the Hunter River on 14 June, 1801. A successful survey lead to the founding of the first colony in 1802, but mutiny closed the settlement. 1804 saw a second and ultimately successful attempt. 

photo of Newcastle NSW

What Is The Population of Newcastle NSW?

Newcastle is the 7th largest city in Australia with a population of 155,000 residents in the city itself. However, when you include the surrounding areas of Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, Maitland and Cessnock, the greater Hunter Valley region population rises to 541,000 people.

The region is divided into a number of local council areas. The City of Newcastle and The City of Lake Macquarie being the largest population centres.

Getting Here

Newcastle is 160 kms north of Sydney most of which is a dual carriageway divided motorway called the M1. Trains run from Sydney’s Central Station to Broadmeadow, and then buses service the city. Newcastle airport (NTL) is actually in Williamtown, and is located about 40 minutes by road, north of the city. Throughout the summer months, many luxury cruise ships visit the port of Newcastle as a day destination. You can see the cruise ship schedule here.

Within the city itself there is a complete bus service, supplemented by taxis and hire cars.


The average temperature hovers around 15 degrees Celsius during winter, with average highs of 25 degrees in summer. The average annual rainfall is just over 1100mm.

Culture and Sport

Newcastle is well catered for in the arts and culture sectors with numerous Council owned and private art galleries and venues. Other cultural pursuits include a number of theatre companies, choirs and the Conservatorium of Music. There is also a huge café culture with Darby Street, Cooks Hill, and Beaumont Street, Hamilton being the most prolific examples.

If your interest is sport then Newcastle is the place for you, be it an organized or individual pursuit. Horse racing is held at the Newcastle Jockey Club on about 35 days a year. Cricket, netball, archery, basketball, water polo, skating, yacht racing, rugby league, rugby union and the round ball game known in Australia as soccer also have a huge following in Newcastle. Newcastle’s Surfest is on the international pro circuit. Hang gliding, kitesurfing and skateboarding are also heavily patronized.

What Do You Call Someone From Newcastle?

Someone who is from, or lives in Newcastle is called a Novocastrian. The word comes from the the Latin "novo", meaning new, and "castra", which means castle or fort. Novocastrians can come from Newcastle in New South Wales and also Newcastle in northeast England.


Things To Do In Newcastle NSW This Weekend 

1. Historical Locations

Shepherds Fort

View of Shepherds Fort Newcastle NSW

The construction of Shepherds Fort defence commenced in 1890 and continued in fits and starts until the 1940’s. At its height, the fort housed an 8inch disappearing gun. Ammunition storage was also in the immediate vicinity and tunnels run under Memorial Drive and to the engine room underneath a block of flats in Nesca Parade.

The adjacent cottage was previously available for hire through Newcastle City Council, but recent storms have left the cottage needing repairs. It is also a popular location for wedding ceremonies, and bookings can be made through the council. Shepherds Fort is open to the public 24/7, with access through King Edward Park or from The Terrace. There are no toilets or BBQ’s at the fort, however both are available in the adjacent King Edward Park. The Fort provides one of the most spectacular views over Newcastle and all the way up to Port Stephens and down the coast to the south.

From the fort, you can walk north along the paved footpaths through King Edward Park and the Bogey Hole, or head south and check out the newly opened ANZAC Memorial Walk.


Nobbys Lighthouse

Nobbys Lighthouse Newcastle NSW


The Colonial Architect, Alexander Dawson, designed Nobbys lighthouse. The signal station and the three lighthouse keepers cottages were built in 1858 to light the southern entry to Newcastle harbour, replacing the previously unreliable coal and oil burning lights. The lighthouse was electrified in 1934, with diesel back up and full automation. Constructed of dressed sandstone the lighthouse opened to the public in 2013.

Nobbys lighthouse is open on Sundays from 10am to 4pm. Access is not very wheelchair friendly, with a 500m+ walk from the carpark to the gate, and then a 220m walk up the hill to the lighthouse itself. There are limited toilet facilities, but you can pack a picnic and enjoy the superb view. It can be windy, and appropriate footwear and clothing is essential.

Nobbys lighthouse is available for hire through Newcastle NOW for a variety of events and functions, including weddings, corporate events and private photography and filming. Visit their page for more information on the restoration of the grounds, and how you can become a volunteer to help maintain the site as well!



Obelisk Newcastle NSW

The Obelisk holds a few secrets one would not expect.

On the site originally stood Newcastle’s first windmill driven flourmill built in 1820. For over 25 years it ground flour for the community. Auctioned in 1847 it was purchased by a resident and set for demolition, when the shipping community raised a petition to Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy to retain the building as a marker for ships entering the port.

The crafty owner pushed ahead and the windmill was demolished before the Government could order its retention. The shipping community continued to lobby the Government and in 1850 the Obelisk was erected on the site of the original mill.

Under the Obelisk was another of Newcastle’s secrets; a reservoir. Unused and decommissioned, it was filled in after a gas leak and some fireworks caused significant damage in 1985. The Obelisk sustained further damage in the earthquake of 1989 and it has been struck by lightning several times in its 165 year history.

Obelisk Park provides an expansive view over Newcastle. Entry is free and there is plenty of parking around the site. It is not wheelchair friendly.

For further reading, head over to the Visit Newcastle website.


Fort Scratchley

Fort Scratchley Newcastle NSW

June 8, 1942 Newcastle was shelled by enemy fire. Fort Scratchley, built in 1882 by the New South Wales Defence Force to defend the city against a possible Russian attack, finally proved its worth. The importance of the site was first recognised as early as 1804, with a rammed earth battery constructed and functioning by 1828.

Discussion about the construction of Fort Scratchley began in the late 1850’s with guns installed in 1882. Construction continued with the outer wall and moat completed in 1892.  After some fits and starts the Fort was  finally closed in 1972. Different plans and ownerships passed over the Fort and it was finally restored and opened to the public in 2008.

The restored guns are fired regularly and the tunnels are open to the public with tours available lead by a dedicated gang of volunteers.

A small fee is charged for the tunnel tours, but access to the rest of the Fort is free of charge. The Fort is open from 10am until 4pm, 6 days a week; closed on Tuesdays. Vehicle access is from Nobby’s Drive. Parking, loos and snacks are available on site.

To find out more, visit the Fort Scratchley website.



2. Newcastle Parks & Walks

Foreshore Park

Foreshore Park Newcastle NSW

Opposite the Hunter River along Wharf Road is Foreshore Park. The 7.6 hectare park is bounded by Wharf Road, Nobbys Road, Stevenson Place and Watt Street.

The park has vast open areas suitable for all manner of sports and activities. Available throughout the park is shaded picnic tables, electric bbq’s, a great kids playground with a swing suitable for a wheelchair, and a huge shallow ‘frog’ pond where you will find model boats floating about on the weekends. There are public toilets located through the park, and plenty of metered parking too.

Foreshore park has a labyrinth of paved pathways including those which lead to the ornate Jean Perrett Stairs which frame the entrance to the park from Stevenson Place. Jean was the founder of the Newcastle East Residents Groups who worked tirelessly for the creation of the Park. Also within the bounds of the park is the Italianate Renaissance Revival Style Customs House designed by James Barnett in 1877. Today Customs House is a hotel and restaurant.

The western end of the Train Sheds can be booked for functions and events. See the council website for more information on booking.


Newcastle Memorial Walk

ANZAC Memorial Walk Newcastle NSW

Neil Slater, restauranteur, envisaged a hill top walk nearly 2 decades ago, but he credits Barney Collins, the ANZAC Memorial Walk architect, with driving his vision to fruition. Many hands were involved in the making of this, the largest privately funded ANZAC Centenary project, opened jointly by Nuatali Nelmes, Newcastle Lord Mayor, and Mark van den Heuvel, BHP, on 24 April, 2015.

Built by Waeger Constructions at a cost of $4.5 Million dollars, $3 million of which was provided by BHP who are also celebrating their centenary in 2015, and $1.5 million from Newcastle City Council. The iconic landmark is 450 metres in length with 7 Y-shaped columns with 2 bridge abutments, all lit by 525 LED lights. David Dial, a Hunter Valley based military historian, compiled the 3859 family names of almost 11,000 Hunter Valley men and women who served in the Great War displayed along the Walk.

Access to the ANZAC Memorial Walk is from the Strzelecki Lookout at the top of Hill Street, Newcastle, or from a short walk north from the top of the Bar Beach carpark on Memorial Drive, which in itself was created by reclaiming a quarry in 1921 to commemorate those who served in The Great War. There are sections or the walk with multiple steps so it is not totally wheelchair friendly. The ANZAC Memorial Walk is free, open to the public 24/7, and the view is magnificent.

King Edward Park

King Edward Park Newcastle NSW

King Edward Park was first dedicated as parkland in 1863, and originally included the area where the Obelisk was erected some 13 years earlier. The parkland also ran down to where the James Fletcher Statue stands today.

Today King Edward Park is a fantastic multi use facility with both ocean and city views. The Rotunda within the park can be hired from the City Council for functions such as weddings and christenings. The rest of the park is available for use free, and the council provide toilets, BBQ’s and picnic tables.

Access to the park is from York Street and most of it is a one way roadway. Once inside the park you can access both the Bogey Hole and Shepherd’s Fort. Both interesting, and as with the rest of the park access is totally free.

Throughout the year the City Council puts on events within the park including the Hill Climb, Carols by Candlelight and during the warmer months, movies! Again, all free!


Civic Park

Civic Park Newcastle NSW

Civic Park in the heart of Newcastle was once the location of a windmill manufacturer PW Russell and Co. but by 1937 it had moved into public ownership and was opened for use by the community.

Queen Elizabeth II cut the ribbon on the opening of the Captain Cook Fountain in 1970. It was designed by the sculptor Margel Ina Hinder (1906-1995) who was a New York born modernist sculptor. Also within the park is a memorial for the past and present RAAF officers and for those men and women who served in the Vietnam War.

Civic Park is bounded by King, Darby, Auckland and Laman Streets and is just under 2.5 hectares in total. There are wide paths, seating and loos. It is wheelchair friendly from all but the Laman Street entrance. Plenty of metered parking surrounds the park and from the park easy access can be gained to the Civic Theatre, Council Chambers, Art Gallery and Library.



3. Newcastle Beaches

Newcastle Beach

view of Newcastle beach NSW

Newcastle Beach is a great spot for surfing, offering some of the best waves in New South Wales. It is one of Newcastle's more hazardous beaches but does have Lifeguards operating from 7am to 5.30pm during the summer months from September to April.

There are plenty of facilities with parking, picnic areas, toilets and shower, and kiosks available. You can walk North to Nobbys Beach in about fifteen minutes along the Shortland Esplanade.

At the North end of Newcastle Beach you'll find the iconic Newcastle Ocean Baths. The baths have been in use since before the first World War and have famously been used by generations of Newcastle residents to learn to swim. The Baths are open all year and have parking facilities, toilets, showers and kiosk facilities

Merewether Beach & Baths

Merewether Beach is the location for Surfest the biggest surfing competition and festival in the Southern Hemisphere. The competition has occurred in Newcastle for 36 years and attracts over 800 competitors each year.
It has Lifeguard Patrols all year round and a range of facilities. It is also home to the famous Merewether Ocean Baths which is the longest ocean pool in the Southern Hemisphere. The baths have been extremely popular for locals and tourists alike since opening in 1935.

Merewether Beach & Baths Newcastle NSW


Dixon Park Beach

Dixon Park Beach has plenty of parking nearby and can be found in between Merewether and Bar Beach. It is a great beach for families with a playground, BBQ facilities and picnic areas all near by. The beach is patrolled in the summer months only.

Dixon Park Beach Newcastle NSW

Bar Beach

Bar Beach is patrolled all year round and has an array of facilities such as picnic areas, kiosks, toilets and showers. It is the next beach up from Dixon Park when travelling North towards Newcastle Beach. The beach gives it's name to the surrounding suburb and is so called because of a series of rock pools called "The Bar".


Bar Beach Newcastle NSW


Nobbys Beach

Nobbys Beach Newcastle NSW

The clean yellow sands of Nobbys Beach, located directly between the protective guns of Fort Scratchley and the powerful beams of Nobbys lighthouse, has provided a haven for families and tourists alike for over 150 years.

The usual beach fun and games are all practiced. Swimming, surfing, fishing, kite flying, beach volleyball as well as Sunday morning nippers. All supported by Surf lifesavers for the holiday seasons and peak times of the year. There is plenty of parking, clean toilet facilities and a food outlet.

Nobbys Beach is also the home of a large sculpture by John Petrie, celebrating the panamax bulk carrier MV Pasha Bulker which ran aground on the beach in a huge storm on the morning of 8 June 2007.

On the western side of Bathers Walk is the dog friendly Horseshoe Beach and Pacific Park where the Mattara Festival runs with rides and entertainment during the third term school holidays. Large grassed areas, picnic tables, shelters and BBQ’s are also available.

Nobbys Beach is located at the corner of Shortland Esplanade and Nobbys Road.

For more information on Newcastle' wonderful beaches please see this handy guide on Newcastle Beaches and baths.

This guide on "Things to Do in Newcastle" was produced by eSkip which has the best and cheapest range of skip bins in Newcastle.

Attractions Near Newcastle

If you'd like to travel a bit further from Newcastle check out our guides to the Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park and the Australian Reptile Park which are a short drive south on the Central Coast.


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