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Centered around a working harbour, Newcastle is an atmospheric city that lies just two hours drive north of Sydney on a spectacular stretch of coastline. Despite being Australia’s second-oldest city, it has a youthful vibe, with great restaurants, galleries and public art to discover. Add to that, it is surrounded by golden beaches, hidden coves and famous surf breaks that make it an idyllic place to live.
While there are many reasons to visit Newcastle, the city’s beaches and ocean baths are up there with the best that New South Wales has to offer. It’s a place where the lifestyle revolves around the water, whether you’re an experienced surfer, a keen lap-swimmer or just want to splash around in the shallows.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the best Newcastle beaches, plus a few further afield that are most definitely worth the drive. There are incredible options for everyone from dog walkers to 4WD enthusiasts and nudists, as well as those wanting to tick off the most Instagrammable spots on the New South Wales coastline.
Best Newcastle Beaches (Within an Hour’s Drive!)
Bar Beach/Dixon Park Beach/Merewether Beach
As you head southwest along the coast from Newcastle, you’ll arrive at this long stretch of sand, which comprises the three beaches of Bar, Dixon and Merewether. Together with Burwood Beach, they form the Merewether Beach National Surfing Reserve, which boasts some of the best breaks that New South Wales has to offer. There are surf lifesaving clubs located at each of the beaches and it’s highly recommended that you swim between the flags due to the challenging conditions and rips that are present here. You can check out the surf conditions at these beaches before you go.
At the southern end of the beach is the Merewether Ocean Baths, which holds the title of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest ocean baths. Free to use, it is particularly photogenic at sunrise when early-bird locals can be seen doing their laps.
Parking areas are available at each of the beaches while several cafes and kiosks dot the Yuerlarbah Track, which connects Merewether Beach with the Glenrock State Conservation Area.
Susan Gilmore Beach
If you’re looking to escape the crowds and swimming isn’t high on your agenda, then secluded Susan Gilmore Beach (Newcastle’s official nudist beach) is an option. It lies hidden between Newcastle Beach and Bar Beach and is named after a ship that was wrecked on the headland in 1884. At high tide, it can be quite a dangerous place to swim and there are no lifeguards present. But once the tide drops, conditions are often calmer and it’s perfect for a paddle. Low tide is also the best time to access the beach around the cliffs that connect to Bar Beach.
Bogey Hole in Newcastle
Nestled in a cliff face below King Edward Park is this heritage-listed ocean pool, which was constructed by convicts in 1819 for Lieutenant-Colonel James Thomas Morisset. It’s one of the oldest European structures in the area and is highly photogenic, with its name taken from the Dharwal word meaning “to bathe”. On big swell days, it’s a thrilling spot to swim as the spray of the ocean rains down on you! The Bogey Hole can be accessed via a staircase off Shortland Esplanade, with free parking available at King Edward Park.
Dudley Beach in Newcastle
Just 10 minutes south of Newcastle is this breathtaking stretch of sand, which lies at the southern end of the Glenrock State Conservation Area. It’s managed by National Parks and Wildlife but isn’t patrolled and is only best for a paddle in the shallows, unless you’re a strong swimmer or surfer. While Dudley Beach is not officially a nude beach, it’s generally accepted as a clothing-optional spot, which is something to keep in mind if you have kids in tow. At the parking area, you’ll find a handful of picnic shelters and a platform for soaking up the views.
Redhead Beach In Newcastle
On the other side of the Awabakal Nature Reserve from Dudley Beach is Redhead Beach, a long stretch of sand that is named for its ochre-coloured cliffs. It is famed for its shark tower and is patrolled by the Redhead Surf Life Saving Club, which is based at the northern end (where parking is also available). Most days, there is also a food truck at Redhead Beach where you can grab drinks and snacks. At the southern end of the beach, both dogs and horses are welcome on the sand. Sweeping views across the beach are on offer from the George Stanton Lookout, which can be accessed along the lagoon-front Owens Walkway.
Nine Mile Beach
South of Crockers Creek, Redhead Beach continues as Nine Mile Beach, which is backed by the wild bushland of Belmont Wetlands State Park. It feels a world away from bustling Merewether and is a popular spot for four-wheel driving (permits are required). Several walking trails wind through Belmont Wetlands State Park and access the beach, although it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not patrolled if you’re thinking about swimming.
Stretching 32 kilometres from Newcastle to Port Stephens is Stockton Beach, which is home to the largest sand dune in the Southern Hemisphere. Due to its size, length and generally hard surface, the beach is incredibly popular with four-wheel drive enthusiasts, who are allowed on the beach with a permit. Stockton Beach is also frequented by anglers (with a variety of fish species caught here) and is a great spot for sighting humpback whales during the migration season.
The countless wrecks that litter this stretch of coastline are highlighted along the Shipwreck Walk, which includes the wreckage of a French barque, the “Adolphe”, that was stranded in 1904. Also not to miss is Tin City, a cluster of more than 30 tin shacks built to house shipwreck survivors.
Best Newcastle BEACHES for Kids
Nobby’s Beach in Newcastle
Nestled just below Nobby’s Lighthouse adjacent to the famous Newcastle breakwater is Nobby’s Beach. This beautiful stretch of sand is also one of the safest beaches in Newcastle and is deservedly popular with families. The southern end is usually patrolled, with flags to swim between, while the northern end is ideal if you want a bit more solitude. Backing the beach is an elegant 1920s pavilion and parking is available at the East End Beach Parking Area.
Also perfect for families is the Canoe Pool, a shallow wading pool at the northern end of Newcastle Beach. It opened back in 1937 and is rumoured to have a concrete map of the world hidden in its sand! The Canoe Pool watches over one of the best surf spots in the city at Newcastle Point and is just a stone’s throw from change rooms and a kiosk where you can grab drinks and snacks throughout the day. Four-hour parking is available beside the Newcastle Ocean Baths.
Newcastle Ocean Baths
Between Newcastle Beach and Nobby’s Beach is one of the city’s most famous swimming spots, the Newcastle Ocean Baths. Opened in 1922, this open-air complex is fronted by an Art Deco facade and has two pools – a 50-metre lap pool for serious swimmers and another for those who are more content just to splash about. A concrete divider separates the two and doubles as a spot to soak up the sun in between swims. The Newcastle Ocean Baths are currently undergoing revitalisation and are expected to reopen in mid-2023.
Dog-Friendly Beaches in Newcastle NSW: BEST Newcastle Dog Beaches
Located where the Hunter River meets the Pacific Ocean is Horseshoe Beach where local dog walkers come for early morning strolls with their four-legged friends. It’s not only a great spot for watching the sunrise to the east but there’s plenty of action to experience as the shipping tankers come and go from Newcastle’s port. At Horseshoe Beach, dogs are allowed off the leash 24/7, with convenient parking at the East End Beach Parking Area.
At the southern end of Nine Mile Beach is this dog-friendly stretch of sand, which is separated from the Swansea Channel by a break wall. It might technically be part of Lake Macquarie, but at just 30 minutes’ drive from Newcastle (and with so much space to run around), it’s worth the trip for dog owners. Blacksmiths Beach is also 4WD friendly (provided you have a permit) and camping is allowed along much of its stretch. If you’re travelling with kids, they can have a splash at Grannys Pool (just south of the break wall), with public toilets and parking available nearby.
Named after the sea caves at its southern end, Caves Beach is a popular stretch of sand in Lake Macquarie. It is patrolled by a surf lifesaving club and has toilet facilities alongside its parking area, as well as barbecues and picnic tables. At the northern end is a leash-free dog area known as Hams Beach where your fur babies can run around 24 hours a day.
Best Newcastle Beaches (Within Two Hours Drive)
Bongon Beach/Deadmans Beach/Frazer Beach
Situated around an hour’s drive south of Newcastle is this cluster of three beaches, which lie along the rugged coastline of Munmorah State Conservation Area. Frazer Beach and Deadmans Beach are conjoined (with a parking area and toilets backing the sand) while Bongon Beach is a short walk around the rocks. With gorgeous rock pools to explore, a legendary surf break and no development in sight, these beaches are among the most jaw-dropping that New South Wales has to offer.
Toowoon Bay Beach
If you continue driving south past The Entrance, you’ll arrive at Toowoon Bay Beach, a deservedly popular spot for swimming, fishing and stand up paddle boarding. The clear, turquoise waters are also ideal for snorkelling and it’s a great spot to watch migrating whales and dolphins playing offshore. Thanks to its reef, Toowoon Bay Beach is well-protected from the big ocean swells, making it safe for families, and is patrolled from October to April. Parking is available near the children’s playground at Swadling Park.
Port Stephens offers no shortage of incredible beaches, all just a short drive north of Newcastle. Among the most beautiful is Zenith Beach, which is backed by the towering peak of Tomaree Mountain, while equally stunning Wreck Beach lies just around the headland. If crystal clear, calm waters appeal to you, head to protected Shoal Bay (on the other side of Tomaree Mountain), which is backed by cafes and a foreshore reserve. Also not to miss is Fingal Beach with its golden sand bar that connects to Shark Island at low tide.
Seal Rocks & Bluey’s Beach
Once you’ve exhausted all of your options nearer to Newcastle, make a day trip to explore some of the stunning beaches around Seal Rocks and Bluey’s Beach. At less than two hours from Newcastle, the Pacific Palms region is one of the most popular getaway destinations for city dwellers and for good reason. You can throw a towel down on the ever-popular Boomerang Beach, hike through Booti Booti National Park to nudist Shelly Beach or soak up the coastal views from the Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse. In fact, there are so many amazing beaches to explore, one day is never enough and we’d recommend turning your beach-hunting escapade into a long weekend adventure.
Where to stay in Newcastle, NSW
Newcastle Beach YHA: Best Hostel near Newcastle Beaches
Housed within a historic gentlemen’s club, this heritage hostel offers everything you need for a comfortable, budget stay. Aside from clean dorms, a self-catering kitchen and laundry facilities, you can expect pizza and movie nights, plus convenient surfboard rentals. Check Newcastle YHA here.
Newcastle Beaches: Saftey ratings
The Australian Beach Safety & Management Program (ABSAMP) have rated Newcastle’s beaches on a national rating index. Safety Ratings for Newcastle’s beaches appear below. 1= Safest 10 = Most Dangerous.