Last updated: February 19, 2023
A guide to the best things to do in Newcastle, from beautiful beaches and walking tracks to historical sights and scenic lookout points.
Newcastle is the second-most populated city in NSW, located at the mouth of the Hunter River in the Hunter region. The city has a long history as a coal-exporting and steel-producing powerhouse.
But over the years, the rusty industrial atmosphere of Newcastle has slowly been replaced by a trendy, tourist-friendly vibe, with many things to see and do for tourists as well as for locals.
With a unique coastline, beautiful beaches, scenic walking trails and lookouts, and a bustling city with great cafes and restaurants, Newcastle has something for everyone. Keep reading, as we reveal our top 15 attractions and activities in and around Newcastle.
Top 15 Newcastle Attractions and Activities
Here is our top 15 things to do in Newcastle. The attractions and activities are listed in a geographical order to help you plan your day or weekend.
1. Nobbys Lighthouse
Nobbys Lighthouse is one of the oldest examples of a lighthouse built on the east coast of Australia that is still around today. It’s a heritage-listed building, but the history of the Nobbys Head area is just as fascinating.
Nobbys Head itself was originally an island, and it took 28 years for Macquarie Pier, which links the head to the mainland, to be completed. As you walk along the boardwalk, you can read the signs and learn all about the history of the pier, Newcastle’s history as a coal mining town, and the importance of its port and breakwater.
At the top of the head, you will get one of the best views of Nobbys Beach and the city beyond.
2. Newcastle Ocean Baths
Newcastle Ocean Baths is a beautiful ocean pool with a unique design that reflects the era that it was built, the roaring 1920s.
The pool is a sweeping curved shape and is very attractive for young children and adults who want a casual dip without the waves. The facade of the baths is very eye-catching, with a unique Art Deco style.
Located between Nobbys Beach and Newcastle Beach, with changerooms on the side, it is a very convenient spot for a quick swim.
Please note that the Ocean Baths are currently closed due to upgrade works. The large ocean pool next door, however, is open and is lovely.
3. Fort Scratchley
Situated on a hill facing Nobbys Beach, Fort Scratchley is an interesting spot to learn more about Newcastle’s military history.
The Fort has played a key role in defending the city for over 200 years, including the attack by a Japanese submarine during World War II.
You can join guided tours of the fort throughout the day or explore on your own. Be sure to be around at 1 pm for the daily gun firing, which is a naval tradition.
4. Bogey Hole
Bogey Hole is one of the prettiest spots in Newcastle, despite the rather interesting name.
It is an ocean pool located at the bottom of King Edward Park and is a local favourite on a hot summer’s day.
It was initially built by convicts back in 1819 for Major James Morriset as his private swimming pool. The name Bogey Hole is thought to come from the Dharawal word for “to bathe”.
5. King Edward Park
King Edward Park is at the crest of The Hill, one of the oldest and most exclusive suburbs in the Newcastle area.
Great for a picnic under the gazebo or a stroll, be sure to stop by Garside Gardens to look at the beautiful flower beds.
You can walk through the park down to Bogey Hole for a swim or a bit further to Newcastle Beach. Don’t forget to take a stop at the lookout for a great view along the coast.
6. Newcastle Memorial Walk
The Newcastle Memorial Walk is a 450 metres long bridge and boardwalk, dedicated to the memory of fallen soldiers from the First World War.
Opened in April 2015, the Memorial Walk includes several viewing platforms where visitors can soak in fantastic views of Newcastle, its beaches, and the ocean.
The Memorial Walk starts from the Strzelecki Lookout and follows the coastline parallel to Memorial Drive. Parking can be found at the lookout or along the street below the walkway.
7. Bar Beach
Bar Beach is a glorious sight as you come over the hill on Memorial Drive from the north. Named after a rock pool formation called The Bar, this stretch of beach blends into Dixon Park Beach and Merewether Beach at the southern end.
Once you are on the beach, you can wander along the sand to the left to check out Susan Gilmore Beach, named after a ship that was shipwrecked back in 1884.
If you’re feeling peckish after your swim, come up to the kiosk at the heritage-listed Cooks Hill Surf Lifesaving Club for a quick bite and a great view.
Check out our guide to the best beaches in Newcastle for a complete list of beaches along the beautiful Newcastle coastline.
8. Merewether Ocean Baths
If you like a bit of space while you do your laps, the Merewether Ocean Baths is the perfect spot for you.
The Merewether Ocean Baths are the largest ocean baths in the southern hemisphere. Built in 1935, they are a wonderful spot to visit, especially at sunrise and sunset.
After your swim, you can relax on the steps and dry off, or walk up to the Merewether Surfhouse for a drink and a bite to eat.
9. Bathers Way Walk
The Bathers Way is an iconic, 6 km long coastal walk between Nobbys Beach and Merewether Ocean Baths, great for walkers and runners alike.
The walk passes no less than eight beaches and three ocean baths, and also includes the Newcastle Memorial Walk.
Overall, the Bathers Way is a relatively easy coastal trail for all ages, but there are a few steeper sections to conquer.
10. Merewether Lookout
Merewether Lookout is a nice spot to park your car and look out at the coastline along Glenrock Beach.
Located at the end of Hickson Street, this spot is not a formal lookout. But it’s still popular to stop by the side of the road and look out over the side at the steep hills and the beach below.
From here, you can cruise up to the Hickson Street Lookout at the top of the hill, or drive back down the Scenic Drive to see the view across Merewether to the city.
11. Hickson Street Lookout
Depending on the time of day you visit, you will have a very different experience of the Hickson Street Lookout.
On a windy, clear morning, you may be lucky to watch the Hang gliders jumping off the main grass area. But during a summer sunset, the spot is popular with locals for a picnic to watch the sun go down.
The lookout is also the starting point for the Hickson Street Track, which brings you down to Glenrock Beach below.
12. Yuelarbah Walking Track
The Yuelarbah Walking Track is an enjoyable 6.8 km day walk through the Glenrock State Conservation Area.
The picturesque trail takes you all the way to Glenrock Beach, passing through rainforests and two waterfalls. Be sure to stop at Leichhardt’s Lookout along the way to enjoy the view of Glenrock lagoon.
The first section of the track is wheelchair accessible, as it runs along a raised boardwalk. There is a small car park at the start of the track, but be sure to get there early because it fills up fast.
13. Newcastle Museum
You can’t miss the entrance to Newcastle Museum with the two giant red hooks at the front door.
As you can guess, this Museum will take you through the storied history of this industrial port city. In addition to this, the Newcastle Museum has various temporary exhibits throughout the year with scientific or historical themes.
There are lots of activities for the kids to do as well, so it’s a great day out for all ages.
14. Christ Church Cathedral
The heritage-listed Christ Church Cathedral, officially named Cathedral Church of Christ the King, is a 72.5 metres long and 36.5 metres high cathedral located in the suburb of The Hill.
The Christ Church received the cathedral status in 1847 when Newcastle became a city, and William Tyrrell became the first Anglican Bishop of Newcastle.
The cathedral is located on top of a hill and, as such, can be seen from many parts of Newcastle. Visitors can wander around the grounds and go inside.
15. Blackbutt Nature Reserve
The Blackbutt Nature Reserve is much more than just an ordinary park. Across the 182 hectares of natural bushland, you can interact with various different animals, from wombats and koalas to peacocks and wallabies.
There are dedicated feeding times throughout the day, so be sure not to miss those if you want to get up close to your favourite native animal. When you need a break from all the action, relax with a picnic lunch at one of the dedicated shelters, and let the little ones have a run around the playground next door.
The reserve is free to enter and roam around, but for a fee, you can have a private encounter with a specific animal.