Newcastle Australia: A Budget Beach City with Everything but Crowds

Newcastle Breakwater in Newcastle NSW Australia

If you’re easily overwhelmed by big cities, or just seeking a less hurried escape, consider a trip to Sydney’s little sibling, Newcastle Australia. This multi-faceted city boasts a beach town vibe on the peninsula, an active working port in the bay, a premier wine region to the west, unique sand dunes to the north, and endless coastal walks to the south.

Newcastle is Australia’s second oldest city, next to Sydney. And like Sydney, it has good transportation, beautiful beaches, ocean baths, historic buildings, and an eclectic restaurant scene, but on a much smaller scale. Sydney bustles with 3.5 million residents, while less than 300,000 people call Newcastle Australia home.

And somehow Newcastle lets you do it all on the cheap. In addition to more affordable lodging, eats, and transit, most of the city’s key attractions are free to do! This article covers quite a lot of ground for visiting, but you can use the links below to jump ahead to the sections.

The Light Rail in Newcastle NSW Australia.

Basic Info for Visiting Newcastle Australia

Newcastle has definitely had its ups and downs, but it’s a resilient place. Most recently, the setbacks of 2020 and 2021 clearly hit the town hard. Hospitality tumbled, causing a high percentage of shops and restaurants to close. Many google street images from 2020 and earlier show filled storefronts. But on our visit in 2024, we were shocked by the vast amount of empty buildings. In certain areas, there were more barren stores than open ones. And the amount of tourists still seemed extremely low.

Fortunately, after a couple days we were able to look past what is likely a temporary depression, to the core of beautiful Newcastle. This is an independent beach city, artsy town, and hub of Australian commerce, which right now, you can enjoy primarily with the locals.

When to Go

Newcastle is coastal, and equivalent in latitude to San Diego. So the weather is fairly mild year round. If you’re ocean bound, the air and ocean are warmest in February and March, which is also a good time to avoid Australian school holidays. In those months, the air temperature averages about 80ºF (26.7ºC) in the day and about 65º (18.3ºC) at night. And the sea hits a high of around 74ºF (about 23.3ºC – still a little chilly!). Newcastle has a subtropical climate, so this is also the most humid time of year, and when the most rainfall occurs. December and January are less rainy, and still good months for fair beach and ocean temperatures. But these months do overlap with school summer holidays.

If you prefer land activities and aren’t seeking a tan, August and September are great shoulder months with low rain, cooler temperatures, and fewer travelers. The midday weather will be perfectly pleasant for walks and hikes, but you’ll want to pack some warm items for the chillier nights.

Where to Stay

Newcastle East (the end of the peninsula), Newcastle Central (around the Hunter Street area), and Honeysuckle Foreshore (the city coastline heading west from Queens Wharf) are ideal neighborhoods for tourists. This is where you’ll find the highest amount of hotels and vacation rentals, good transit, and easy walking to beaches and restaurants. Don’t worry, it’s still relatively quiet!

How Long to Stay

Newcastle is the type of place you can visit for just a weekend. A week will allow you to explore almost everything in this post, and two weeks is good if you’re looking to unwind and see things at a slower pace.

Getting Around – Renting a Car

If you are taking the train to Newcastle, East Coast Car Rentals is well liked, and the closest to Newcastle Interchange. Most other car rental agencies are a bigger walk or short bus ride from any of the Newcastle train stations. If you are arriving by plane, there are several agencies with counters at the airport and shuttles to the cars. In addition to the big ones, SIXT and Europcar are good domestic agencies. If you have never driven on the left side of the road, see these Tips for Driving on the Left Side of the Road.

Getting Around – Without a Car

This is an easy city to walk around, but you will need transit when you arrive and depart and for exploring outside of central Newcastle. There are taxi and ride share options, like Uber. But your cheapest option is the public transit, which does run to and from the airport and train stations. It’s best to use one of the Newcastle transit apps for real time data, as some bus routes are cancelled due to lack of drivers. The #130/138 buses tend to be the most reliable airport buses, and are about a 35 minute ride to Newcastle Interchange. At the Interchange, you can easily pick up another bus, train, or light rail to get to your destination.

How to Use Newcastle Public Transit

Newcastle Light Rail has just one line that runs straight along the harbor, from Newcastle Interchange to the edge of Newcastle East. It isn’t extremely long, but it runs frequently, is a pleasant ride, and is easier than the bus if you have any bags. The rest of the city is well serviced by buses. And the Newcastle public transit network does include the train to Sydney (and all spots between) and the Stockton Ferry.

Newcastle is on the same Opal Card system as Sydney, but you don’t need to get an Opal Card. It helps to download their free app for trip planning, but you can simply pay with your credit card. Before boarding the light rail, train, or ferry, locate the opal card stand and tap your credit card. It will “bing.” When you get off the transit, locate the opal card stand and “tap off” with your card. This signifies the end of your journey so you don’t get charged for a longer route. The buses are the same, tap on and tap off, but the card reader is on the bus.

The beauty of the “tap on, tap off” payment (beyond the ease) is there are daily and weekly caps on how much you get charged. The train (including to Sydney), ferry, light rail, and all buses are included in the cap. Even if you don’t reach the cap, your credit card or Opal card will give you discounts if you tap on during off-peak times. At last check, off-peak times were Fridays, weekends, public holidays, and between 10am and 3pm or after 7pm on all other days. You get all of these benefits whether you use an Opal Card or your credit card. There is no difference.

Tip: If you don’t live in Australia, make sure your credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees every time you use it in Australia. This could add up with tapping on and off! If you don’t have a fee free card, you can get an Opal Card. You have to keep the card topped up (which you can do when getting on the bus), so it’s more like a debit card.

Note: Newcastle is a friendly place. It’s customary to wave and/or say thank you when you get off the bus.


Our biggest challenge with Newcastle was that they have some wonderful bike paths, but absolutely no regular bike rentals. There are a couple places that rent rather expensive e-bikes (one bike for one day was more than double the cost of a car rental). But you can’t simply hire a standard bike of any kind for the day in Newcastle. If you will be in Newcastle for a couple weeks or more, consider the Newcastle Push Bike Library (these are older refurbished bikes, but cheap) or look on Facebook Marketplace. This is a university town, so there are usually quite a few inexpensive bikes for sale. The best areas to ride are almost anywhere along the water and on the Fernleigh Track.

Food & Dining

For basic provisions, Woolworths Metro is located in Newcastle CBD. Larger grocery stores can be found at Marketown near the Honeysuckle Light Rail station. Harris Farm Market (cool bread dispenser pictured below) in the Cooks Hill neighborhood is worth walking to for a more unique and local grocery experience. For a taste of the dining scene in Newcastle Australia, see this HunterHunter restaurant guide. The City of Newcastle covers more of the casual eateries along the tourist path in this restaurant guide.

Harris Farm Market in Newcastle.

Newcastle Australia: 12 Free Things to Do (with or without a Car)

Newcastle is a relatively compact city, with numerous beaches, spacious parks, and historic sites all within the city limits. That means, all of these activities are fairly easy to access whether or not you’re driving. I’ve grouped them together by area to help you plan adventures more easily.

Newcastle Oceanside

Bogey Hole

There aren’t many spots in the world quite like this. Hand cut by convict labor in the early 1800s, the Bogey Hole is the oldest ocean pool in Australia. And unlike the ocean bathes along the coast of New South Wales, it’s still wild and rocky. Waves smash up against the pool like a watery fireworks show, and ripple into the rustic pool like hot tub bubbles. It’s quite beautiful, even if you don’t swim (but get in if you can!).

Waves smash against the Bogey Hole in Newcastle Australia, NSW

Things to Know: The pool is only about four feet deep, so jumping in is not advised. Some people go down and just hang out on the rocks, but use caution as the rocks can be slippery if wet. Large waves can also be dangerous, so it’s best to go down to the Bogey Hole and to swim in it when the tide is low and the seas aren’t too rough. The pool was built to self-drain and be replenished from the ocean, so it never needs to be closed. It can get busy midday on weekends and holidays, but people don’t usually stay in for too long (the water can be chilly!).

Getting There: The Bogey Hole is nestled at the base of a small cliff along the southern shore of Newcastle along Bather’s Way. It’s completely hidden from view, yet it’s just meters from Shortland Esplanade and Bather’s Way. You’ll simply detour downhill toward a small fence that directly overlooks the hole. There are stairs down to the hole and a small platform for getting in. If driving, King Edward Park has free parking, which is close to and a little uphill from the Bogey Hole.

  • Waves smash against the Bogey Hole in Newcastle Australia, NSW
    Waves smash against the Bogey Hole in Newcastle.

Newcastle’s Ocean Baths

The beaches in Newcastle are popular for surfing, and the locals say it’s safe for swimming between the red flags (small areas where the lifeguards patrol) on calm days. But if the Australian ocean still intimidates you (guilty!), Newcastle Ocean Baths and Merewether Ocean Baths are great options for enjoying a protected salt water swim with stunning views. These structured pools sit right on the edge of the ocean, and are consistently fed by splashes from the ocean. Each location offers lap-swimming lanes, an open pool area, and a shallow area for tots. Newcastle Ocean Baths were formally opened in 1922, but they were fully renovated after 100 years and reopened at the very end of 2023. Merewether Ocean Baths opened in 1935, and are still the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere.

Newcastle Ocean Baths in NSW Australia - renovated in 2023

Things to Know: Newcastle Ocean Baths are closed every Wednesday for cleaning, and Merewether Ocean Baths are closed every Thursday for cleaning. The cleaning is involved, and includes draining the pools, removal of ocean debris, extensive surface cleaning, and more. Both Ocean Baths have changing areas, picnic tables (set away from the pools), and a snack bar / cafe.

Getting There: Both ocean baths are in Newcastle, but the Newcastle-named pools anchor the northeast end of Bather’s Way, while the Merewether pools mark the southwest end of Bather’s Way. There is parking at both locations. Newcastle Ocean Baths are in Newcastle East, and an easy walk from anywhere in the CBD. Merewether Ocean Baths are a heftier walk from the CBD, but the #21 bus will drop you very close to the entrance. If driving, there is free parking at both ocean baths.

  • Newcastle Ocean Baths in NSW Australia
    The Old Time front façade of the renovated 100 year old Newcastle Ocean Baths.

Bather’s Way & Memorial Walk

The north side of the Newcastle peninsula is the harbor, but the south side is all about the ocean. Bather’s Way is a roughly 5km (3 mile) walk that starts at Nobby’s Beach and ends at Merewether Beach. The route is a section of the Yuelarbah walking track, and is also the final leg of The Great North Walk. In addition to the Bogey Hole and both public ocean baths, you’ll see a whole string of beautiful local beaches and pass over the Newcastle Memorial Walk. The latter is a scenic raised walkway that commemorates WWI soldiers and offers spectacular views. It begins just south of King Edward Park.

View from Bather's Way, overlooking Susan Gilmore Beach with Bar Beach and Mereweather Beach in the distance. Newcastle Australia

While You’re There: If you want to lounge on the beach and take a dip right in the ocean, Bar Beach is the best spot to put your towel down. It has a natural rock pool that helps keep the swells down for swimmers. Newcastle is also a famed surf destination, but I’m no expert on this topic. The Surf Atlas has a great Newcastle Surf Guide.

Getting There: Buses do service Newcastle CBD well, but most drop you off a couple blocks from the ocean. They are good at saving your feet a little, but don’t cut much time off your journey if you’re heading from one end of Bather’s Way to the other. If driving, there are free parking lots at the beaches, ocean baths, and parks along the way.

  • The Newcastle Memorial Walk in New South Wales (NSW)
    The Newcastle Memorial Walk is one of the most scenic commemorative paths for WWI soldiers.

Newcastle Harbor

Newcastle Breakwater

This 500 meter barrier took convict laborers 45 years to complete (from 1813 to 1857). It’s been bashed up over the years by storms and ships, but continues to be rebuilt to protect the harbor from waves and allow safe passage for ships. From Newcastle Beach, along Nobby’s Road (a car-free promenade), to the end of the breakwater is a beautiful 1.5km (roughly 1 mile) walk. It’s a raised stone walkway that’s popular with the locals, including joggers and the occasional bicyclist. Yet it somehow it still feels remote.

View from the end of Newcastle Breakwater toward the Lighthouse and Newcastle NSW Australia.

While You’re There: Just before you reach the breakwater, a path leads up to the somewhat stubby Nobby’s Lighthouse. The area is only open on weekends, and you can’t actually go in the lighthouse. But the views are wonderful, and there is a Lighthouse Arts studio with a little art exhibit and shop that focuses exclusively on local artists. If you’re craving some sand between your toes, Nobby’s Beach is a nice little stretch that runs next to the walk out to the breakwater. It’s also a popular spot for surf lessons, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Getting There: This is the far east end of the Newcastle peninsula, but it’s easy to walk to from the tourist areas. If you’d rather not walk, the #23 bus will drop you just meters away from the start of the footpath. But several other buses and the Light Rail will get you to the Foreshore Park, which is just across the street. If driving, there is free parking just before the Breakwater.

  • Newcastle Breakwater in Newcastle NSW Australia
    The end of Newcastle Breakwater looking back at Newcastle with waves splashing on the ocean side, calm waters on the harborside.

Foreshore Footpath

Newcastle might be a nice tourist spot, but the city’s economy relies more heavily on it’s strategic location. The Port of Newcastle is the largest coal port in the world, and it even outshines Sydney’s ports in volume. About 2200 trade vessels pass through the harbor each year, and some of the ships are huge. It’s mesmerizing to observe those floating masses of steel glide gracefully through the waterway. They’re guided by rather large tugboats that look like little pontoon boats next to them. Ship watching is easy as you stroll along the Foreshore Footpath, from Newcastle Breakwater down to Queens Wharf, where you can also enjoy a drink and a casual bite.

Watching Port Traffic on the Foreshore Footpath in Newcastle .

While You’re There: On the east end of the footpath, you can also walk through the wide open Foreshore Park. It’s anchored by the Customs House, which is now a hotel and restaurant. The restaurant has outdoor seating facing the harbor and is a popular spot for lunch or drinks. Across the street is the Old Newcastle Train Station. If you happen to be in town on the second Saturday of the month, they host a Homegrown Market here midday. It’s a mellow gathering of stalls where you can browse for locally-made souvenirs. The Foreshore Footpath actually continues northwest, all the way to Islington Park, for a nice 6km (3.7 mile) walk or bike ride one way.

Getting There: This is the car-free walkway that runs along Newcastle harbor. It’s hard to miss, and easy to walk to from almost anywhere in the Newcastle CBD area. But the light rail also runs above ground just a block back from the path. It starts at the edge of the Foreshore Park, and runs west to Newcastle Interchange, where the train and many buses converge. If driving, the east end of the Foreshore Footpath, near Nobby’s Beach, offers the best free parking options.

  • The Foreshore Footpath in Newcastle NSW Australia
    The Foreshore Footpath along Newcastle Harbor.

Stockton Ferry Ride & Walk

It might be short (less than 10 minutes), but the inexpensive ferry ride across the harbor to Stockton is worthwhile. It’s a great way to view Newcastle from the water, and to enjoy a very rewarding stroll on the other side. Tiny Stockton makes Newcastle look like a thriving metropolis. You step off the ferry into a local park. Walk east through the Pitt Street Reserve and along Shipwreck Walk to the end of Oyster Bank (which is similar to Newcastle Breakwater, but calmer). On one side of the bank you’ll see the remains of The Adolphe, a French ship that wrecked in 1904 on its way in from Antwerp. On the other side is the best ship-watching spot in Newcastle, since the boats are trafficked closer to this side of the harbor.

Pitt Street Reserve offers beautiful views of Newcastle and the Harbor.

While You’re There: Oyster Bank is also the start of Stockton Beach. This sandy crescent runs the full length of the bay, and is the 10th longest beach in the world (32km or 20 miles). The popular Stockton Sand Dunes begin about 1/3 of the way down the beach. If you head west from the ferry, there is a paved walking path and bikeway that goes about 5.7km (3.5 miles) north along the river. You can take bikes on the ferry if you happen to have them. Before you head out, know that the Stockton area paths are largely unshaded and there aren’t many pitstops.

Getting There: The ferry shuttles pedestrians back and forth from Queens Wharf to Stockton Wharf all day, so you never have to wait long for the ride. But be aware that the bus service in Stockton isn’t very reliable. If you want to head up the coast to the sand dunes or the northern end of the beach, it’s best to catch a bus from the Newcastle side. If driving, there are paid carparks right around the wharf, and the City of Newcastle has information about street parking.

  • The Ferry from Queens Wharf in Newcastle to Stockton.
    The Ferry from Queens Wharf in Newcastle to Stockton.

Newcastle Center (CBD and East)

Fort Scratchley

Roughly 200 years ago, the first battery was built on this spot, atop a former coal mine. It gradually grew from a volunteer-run defense to the strategic military outpost now known as Fort Scratchley. The formal fort was built to protect Newcastle port against a possible Russian invasion. The Russians never came, but the Japanese did. In 1942, when a Japanese submarine fired shells on Newcastle, Fort Scratchley became the first and still only fort in Australia to receive and return enemy fire. The Australian Army continued to occupy Fort Scratchley until 1972. Then, it sat quietly for several decades. But in 2008, the Fort Scratchley Historical Society worked with the City of Newcastle to open the site as a museum. Today, this hilltop fort offers 360 degree views, pretty strolling grounds, five museum rooms, and plenty of history.

Fort Scratchley in Newcastle NSW Australia

Things to Know: Volunteers from the Society continue to happily greet and chat with visitors. They can answer any questions, and they also lead tours through the 600 meters of tunnels beneath the fort. Fort Scratchley is open every day of the week, except Tuesdays, and it’s closed on major holidays. The Fort is free to visit, but you do have to buy tickets if you want to go on the 1.5-hour guided tunnel tour. If you can, time your visit to be there at 1pm, when they fire the cannon.

Getting There: Fort Scratchley is an easy walk up the hill from Nobby’s Road. It’s right next to Foreshore Park, so it can easily be visited while enjoying other walks and shops in Newcastle East. If driving, they do have free parking at Fort Scratchley.

  • The Cannon at Fort Scratchley in Newcastle NSW Australia
    The Cannon is fired daily at Fort Scratchley in Newcastle.

Free Museums and Galleries

In addition to Fort Scratchley, Newcastle Museum offers historical insight to the city. It’s a modestly sized but modern museum with artifacts and stories of the people who helped shape the region. Merging history with art, The Lock-Up is in the former Newcastle Police Station (now a heritage building), and has been transformed into a contemporary art space. Newcastle Art Gallery was closed for renovations when we visited, but it’s nationally recognized for housing one of the finest public collections. This isn’t too surprising, since Newcastle is home to more artists than any other city in Australia, and it has the most art galleries per capita.

Newcastle Museum, NSW Australia

While You’re There: If you fancy local art, take an art gallery tour along Hunter Street, where you’ll also find some nice local shops. While you’re walking, enjoy the evolution of Newcastle’s architecture, which is fairly well preserved in the CBD and down Scott Street to Newcastle Beach. The City of Newcastle also provides great Heritage Walk Maps that explore different interests.

Getting There: This is Newcastle CBD, and the heart of everything. It’s extremely walkable, and both the light rail and buses service the area. If driving, Nobby’s Beach parking on the East end is free, but can fill up. If it does, there is paid parking at Foreshore Park and the City of Newcastle has information about street parking.

  • Overlooking Foreshore Park next to the heritage Earp Gillam Bond Store built in 1888.
    Overlooking Foreshore Park next to the heritage Earp Gillam Bond Store built in 1888.

The Obelisk

Head uphill, toward King Edward Park, and visit the Obelisk. This lesser-visited site is where the government flour mill once sat. Early settlers used it to grind local grains and mariners used it as a navigation aid. The mariners protested when the mill was demolished in 1847, so the government built the Obelisk as a new navigational marker. The little field surrounding it is peaceful, and provides nice 360 degree views.

The Obelisk in Newcastle NSW Australia

While You’re There: If you like hidden paths, head to Arcadia Park next to the Obelisk. It’s an overgrown little forest with a single trail running through it. It’s a unique and strange spot in the heart of a small city, which can be quite pretty. Before heading back downhill, you can check out Christ Church Cathedral. It’s that massive gothic building you can see from almost anywhere along the harbor. It is beautiful and free to tour at your leisure. You can also climb the bell tower, for a donation.

Getting There: This is still in the Newcastle CBD, and only about 500 meters from the Hunter Street shops. But it does involve a rather steep walk uphill. You can approach it from Bather’s Way for less of a straight up climb, or take the #21 bus if the hill looks too ominous for your tired feet. You will still have to walk a little uphill to the Obelisk. If driving, there is a free carpark at King Edward Park on the ocean side.

  • View from The Obelisk in Newcastle NSW Australia
    View from the Obelisk park in Newcastle.

Newcastle Southwest

Blackbutt Nature Reserve

Our trip to Tasmania was heavy on wildlife. Newcastle has a wide range of birds, but it doesn’t have as many marsupials lingering around. However, the city does have this free wildlife reserve within its limits. Truth be told, Blackbutt Nature Reserve seems somewhat forgotten. Many areas of the vast park are overgrown, signs aren’t prominent, and the exhibits are a bit dated. But that adds a little to the charm of this wild and quiet space within a city. The main exhibits are connected by a wooden walkway near the main entrance, and introduce you to a few koalas, some smaller marsupials, various reptiles, and a wide range of birds. A trail takes you to a separate large area with emus. I had no idea emus sounded like dinosaurs! They make a rather Jurassic “drumming” sound with their throat.

Adorable Koala Bear napping at Blackbutt Nature Reserve.

While You’re There: There are seven different natural trails within the reserve. They’re short on their own, but link up to create a few miles of loops. On them, you can enjoy a range of fauna, and often spot wallabies, amphibians, peacocks, and other birds roaming the park.

Getting There: If on foot, you can enter the trail system from a few spots on the north side of the park (on Lookout Road and Ridgeway Road) or at the main entrance in the south. The #11 and #13 buses drop you very close to the north side entrances. It’s best to preplan with the map, as it’s easy to miss these pedestrian-only entrances. (There is a car lot on that side, but it’s closed and becoming grown over.) The train and bus stops that are closest to the main (south) entrance of the reserve are about a 20 minute walk and part of the way lacks a sidewalk. If driving, there is plenty of free parking at the reserve.

  • Trails in Blackbutt Nature Reserve in Newcastle Australia, NSW
    Trails in Blackbutt Nature Reserve in Newcastle.

Glenrock State Conservation Area

This park offers a contrasting blend of coastal rainforest and vast sandy beaches, and is well established for hiking and mountain biking. The best trail is the section of the Yuelarbah Walking Track that runs from the carpark to the point where the lagoon and beach meet. It’s for hikers only, offers some shade along the way, and is one of the more lush areas of the reserve. It’s 3.4km (2.1 miles) each way and is relatively easy. The Hickson Street Lookout and trail to the beach was our other favorite. But it’s best to pair the lookout trail with a Bather’s Way or Merewether Ocean Baths day. For more information, see “Getting There” below.

The Yuelarbah Track in Glenrock State Conservation Area

Things to Know: There is no park entrance fee for Glenrock. There are walking tracks in the reserve, which are specifically for hikers. But other trails are shared by walkers and mountain bikers. Be aware of your surroundings to safely share the trails, and pay attention to signs for walker-only and bike-only trails.

Getting There: On maps, it looks like you can take the Yuelarbah walking track right into the north end of Glenrock. But it’s rocky and can be challenging to pass from Merewether Beach to Glenrock. A better entrance is the Hickson Street Lookout (free parking), which is a 20 minute walk up from the Merewether Ocean Baths or the nearest bus stop. This is a beautiful way to enter the park, but you will have to walk on the beach in open sun to reach the rest of the trail system. For the main entrance, the #22 bus gets you within 15 minutes of the Yuelarbah Trail Carpark (free parking). Or, if you really want to log some miles, you can walk the Fernleigh Track from the Adamstown train station or the Westfield Kotara mall (where there are many buses) directly to the Yuelarbah walking track.

  • A bird's eye view of Newcastle on the way up to the Hickson Street Lookout.
    A bird's eye view of Newcastle on the way up to the Hickson Street Lookout in Glenrock State Conservation Area.

Lake Macquarie – Northwest Side

I’ll address the more robust Northeast side of Lake Macquarie in the Day Trips section. But the Northwest is off the beaten path and yet easier to reach without a car. (If you have a car, you might get more value out of the Lake Macquarie Day Trip.) At Booragul, there is a great foreshore walk that takes you to the small Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie (free to visit), which has local art and is set on a beautiful lakefront piece of land. If you continue along the coastline on the sometimes hidden path (you only need to walk on a street for a very short portion by the marina), you’ll end up at the Awaba Bay State Conservation Area. The foreshore track, below the Ridge Trail, is picturesque and peaceful. This is best as an out and back journey.

Lake Macquarie State Conservation Area in Awaba Bay on the Northwest Shore

While You’re There: The next stop on the train line is Fassifern. Starting at the station, the Greenway Pathway toward the water is a mostly shaded, paved, pedestrian and bike path that’s about 1.7km (1 mile) each way.

Getting There: From the Newcastle Interchange, it’s a pleasant 25 minute train ride right to the Booragul station. Walk straight out of the station to the main road. Cross at the light and walk north, through the round about. The entrance to the walking path is on the right, just after the round about.

  • View of Lake Macquarie from Booragul along the foreshore walk.
    View of Lake Macquarie from Booragul along the foreshore walk.

Day Trips from Newcastle, Australia (car very helpful!)

There are two big challenges with Newcastle if you choose not to drive. One is that the trains don’t run along the coastline. The trains are much quicker and easier for day trips than the buses, but you’re very limited on what places you can reach by train. The second issue is the lack of tourist services. If you’re quite active, you can actually visit several places via their great bike paths and routes. But there are no regular bike rentals in the Newcastle area (only expensive e-bike rentals). And there are few guide tours from Newcastle. Nevertheless, I’ve included how to access these places both with and without a car. If you want to rent a car, but are nervous because you are used to driving on the right, see these Tips for Driving on the Left Side of the Road.

Hunter Valley Wine Tasting

Hunter Valley is a vast region just west of Newcastle that’s known as the birthplace of Australian wine. It takes about an hour to drive from Newcastle into the heart of the wine tasting region. See this wine tasting map for guidance. Without a car, you can take the train to Maitland and enjoy the gateway towns to the wine country. But to wine taste, your best options are to either hire a car with driver or book with a tour group like Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tours or Hunter Valley Wine Tours. Most wine tastings do have a fee, but the tours often include the fees. If you really want to wine taste, but don’t want the travel stress, go to Inner City Winemakers (near the Newcastle Interchange) and taste the only wines actually produced in Newcastle Australia.

Port Stephens

Head all the way north along Stockton Beach and you’ll end up in Port Stephens. It’s the home of Tomaree National Park, beautiful bays, wildlife sanctuaries, and easy access to the Sand Dunes. The Wildlife Diaries does a great job covering all of the things to do on this beautiful peninsula. By car, it takes about an hour to get to the sights of Port Stephens from Newcastle. Buses #130 and #131 will take you all the way up the peninsula and to the different areas, but it will be about 2 hours each way. Most tours to Port Stephens leave from Sydney, so it’s best to look for boutique day trips from Newcastle Australia.

Lake Macquarie – Northeast Side

All along Lake Macquarie you’ll find ample walking and cycling tracks plus some parks. The Warners Bay Foreshore Track is the longest, most popular, and also offers sculptures along the way. You can actually take it from Booragul (where the train goes), but it’s more pleasant to start at Speers Point Park. You can take the train and then a bus to Speers Point, or just take buses from Newcastle. By transit, it’s about 80 minutes (one-way) to the area. By car, it’s just 30 minutes. Green Point Foreshore Reserve is a more forested spot on the lake with great walking. It’s still just about 30 minutes by car, but 90 minutes by bus.

Caves Beach

The name really gives it away. This is a beautiful beach with many caves that are best to explore at low tide. It’s on the coast, about midway down Lake Macquarie. There are also kayak rentals in the area for some fun in the nearby bay. The #14 bus goes straight from Newcastle East down to Caves Beach, but it takes about 80 minutes each way. If you have a car, it’s a 40 minute drive. If you happen to have a bike, you can take the Fernleigh Track (pictured below) all the way from Adamstown Station to Belmont. Then see the cycling maps (the fold out map is excellent) to continue down to Caves Beach.

Fernleigh Track in Newcastle Australia

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