Despite the renown of its big sister, Sydney, Newcastle has some of the best beaches in New South Wales (NSW) Australia. In fact, some can be linked together via The Bathers Way Newcastle. This fantastic 12km coastal walk passes through no less than seven of the best beaches in Newcastle, including Merewether Beach, the Newcastle Bogey Hole and Newcastle Ocean Baths. In addition, you’ll find The Bathers Way also encompasses the well-known Newcastle Memorial Walk. So, this relaxed beachside trail really is a great bang for buck coastal walk.
In this guide, we’ll tell you a little about The Bathers Way coastal walk and detail the Newcastle beaches you’ll see along the way. We’ll provide a map of the beaches in Newcastle, tell you how to get there and where to park. Also, we’ll detail some other beautiful beaches to visit in Newcastle, as well as look at a few beaches nearby, too. Lastly, we’ll look at some of the best walks in and around Newcastle and let you know what would be worthwhile packing for seeing some of the best beaches in Newcastle.
Table of Contents
About The Bathers Way Newcastle
The Bathers Way in Newcastle NSW is a popular 6km one-way coastal walk. It stretches from Nobbys Beach and Lighthouse to Merewether Beach and the Ocean Baths. Along the route, you’ll encounter no less than four ocean rock pools and seven beaches. Each beach along this Newcastle coastal walk is worth a swim. So, I guess that’s where it gets its name from then.
Whatever time of year you visit, the clear waters and golden sands of Newcastle’s beaches will be inviting. Certainly, locals swim all year round. The calm offered by the seaside is a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle city life, just a stone’s throw away.
Dan and I visited in winter, although the day here was like no winter I’ve ever experienced (typical Brit). But still, this is Australia. The Bathers Way was busy, especially along the Newcastle Memorial Walk. I guess to be expected for any city coastal walk, and yet it’s still relaxed. Of course, walking The Bathers Way Newcastle was certainly a change-up from our usual mountainside settings, but, we found walking by and enjoying the wonderful beaches in Newcastle to be the perfect afternoon stroll, with some really beautiful spots to boot.
Beaches on the Bathers Way Newcastle
As you walk the picturesque coastal trail of The Bathers Way, you’ll pass by many of the best beaches in Newcastle. Indeed, have your swimmers at the ready, we think you’ll need them. The Bathers Way Coastal Walk passes seven incredible Newcastle beaches and four ocean rock pools. We’ll detail most of them in more detail in the trail description, but essentially the trail includes:
- Horseshoe Beach
- Nobbys Beach
- Newcastle Canoe Pool
- Newcastle Ocean Baths
- Newcastle Beach
- Newcastle Bogey Hole
- Susan Gilmore Beach
- Bar Beach
- Dixon Park Beach
- Merewether Beach
- Merewether Ocean Baths
In addition, The Bathers Way also encompasses the Newcastle Memorial Walk. The Newcastle Memorial Walk lies between the Bogey Hole and Bar Beach and was built in 2015 to commemorate 100 years since Gallipoli. The platform extends 160 metres across the clifftop and so offers, perhaps, the best vantage points of the entire Bathers Way walk. The views from the Memorial Walk looking down over the Newcastle coastline are breathtaking. Along the bridge are steel silhouettes of soldiers and service people who enlisted to fight the war. They are inscribed with the family names of many in the area who signed up. It’s a touching tribute and the Memorial Walk is certainly a fine addition to the Newcastle area and most definitely The Bathers Way Coastal Walk.
Newcastle Beaches Along The Bathers Way Map
The Bathers Way Preview
- Type: Return
- Distance: 12-16km
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 75m
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- Trailhead: East End Beach Parking Area – Nobbys Beach
- Map: Google Map
Travel Made Me Do It has personally rated this trail
In this guide, we’ll detail The Bathers Way as a 12km return hike. We’ll include the 4km Nobbys Breakwall as an added extra to the end. We’ll look at the local swimming holes, lookout points and the beautifully constructed Newcastle Memorial Walk. As one of Newcastle’s premier coastal routes, it’s one not to miss.
The Bathers Way Newcastle Coastal Walk
The trail begins from the amenities block at the East End Beach Parking Area next to Nobbys Beach, the first of the Newcastle beaches visited on this walk. The walk then heads south towards Merewether Beach via the Newcastle Ocean Baths.
The walk begins by following the Shortland Esplanade towards Newcastle Beach and Ocean Baths, a stalwart figure of the Newcastle coastline. It’s also the first of the swimming holes along this aptly named coastal trail.
Newcastle Ocean Baths
Dan and I walked The Bathers Way in winter and so the Newcastle Baths were closed for three weeks. This is part of their annual maintenance. The pool had been drained of all water and its entrances closed off. Built in 1922, the Ocean Baths have now been a staple of the Newcastle swimming scene for 100 years. They’re also the largest ocean pools/baths in the southern hemisphere. Peering through gaps in the entrance, I was left to imagine how fantastic these baths would have been when first opened in the roaring 20s. Transforming the crumbling paint and cracked pool walls into something fresh and new again in my mind. I could see its appeal.
Dan had visited before, after all, it’s not a far distance from Sydney, so filled in any blanks for me regarding their more modern usage. It’s a shame I couldn’t see them in all their glory.
For more information on accessing the Newcastle Ocean Baths, click here.
Unfazed by its closure, just next door we found Shallow Pool. Luckily, we didn’t have to walk much further for our first taste of the ocean pools this stretch of coastline is famous for.
Shallow Pool, which sits directly on Newcastle Beach, was still in operation with no need to close for maintenance. Its water fills and flows directly from the sea and is not blocked off by any buildings. Shallow Pool is wide and circular in shape, with a feet-friendly sandy bottom. It is, indeed, shallow and sits peacefully in its surroundings. Despite the constant crashing of the waves around and the rocky outcrop on Newcastle Beach surrounding it, Shallow Pool still manages to hold onto its own pocket of serenity. This is the first pool you’ll come across on the walk linking a number of Newcastle beaches that you can access freely.
Separating the pool from the ocean is a concrete wall with rusty metal rope railings running along the top. Worn out by years of saltwater waves thrashing against it, the once sparkling metal chains are now bronzed and aged. Walking the wall felt like stumbling across an old shipwreck.
From Shallow Pool and the Ocean Baths, the walk continues across Newcastle Beach and then up and past Observation Post. You’ll see the stone steps leading up through King Edward Park ahead of you. But first, veer left and down to the Newcastle Bogey Hole.
Newcastle Bogey Hole
A worn and rusty set of metal steps will guide you down to the Newcastle Bogey Hole. The third ocean pool along The Bathers Way Newcastle. Originally built by convicts back in 1819, the Newcastle Bogey Hole is the oldest of the ocean pools on the trail. The Newcastle Bogey Hole was made for the private use of the Commandant of Newcastle. In fact, it was originally referred to as the ‘Commandant’s Bath’ before the Newcastle Bogey Hole became a more popular term. This name is thought to originate from the Dharawal word meaning ‘to bathe’. It’s possible the Newcastle Bogey Hole was enhanced from an already existing natural rock pool, but that’s not fully known.
At any rate, the Newcastle Bogey Hole invites you in, almost more so than Shallow Pool. It certainly feels more adventurous. It’s hit and miss whether you’ll get to enjoy a calm bathe or experience the rush of the crashing waves on the embankment. We suppose that’s half the fun of swimming down there. The Newcastle Bogey Hole is fairly sheltered, and so loses sunlight quickly. If you’re up for a swim here, you’re probably best to time your walk with the early morning sun. Unless of course, a dimly lit swim is your thing.
There are excellent vantage points of the Newcastle Bogey Hole from above too. They offer a cool birds-eye view of the pool nestled in its cliffside surroundings within beautiful Newcastle beaches.
From the Newcastle Bogey Hole, head back around to the stone steps through King Edward Park. The steps lead up to Shepherds Hill Observation complex. The Bathers Way Newcastle meanders through an old stone settlement, once part of a small fort protecting this stretch of coastline from invasion.
Newcastle Memorial Walk
At the top of King Edward Park, and following the route of The Bathers Way, is Strzelecki Lookout. There is a small car park here should you decide to visit the Newcastle Memorial Walk on its own, without completing the full Bathers Way Coastal Walk. The Strzelecki Lookout marks the start of the Newcastle Memorial Walk.
The Newcastle Memorial Walk runs across the clifftop on a beautifully constructed boardwalk. As well as the steel silhouettes of soldiers lining the platform, the wide staircase leading down provides awesome views of the Newcastle coastline and its excellent beaches.
Bar Beach Newcastle
Descending the Newcastle Memorial Walk, the extensive views of Bar Beach and Merewether Beach will greet you. After passing through a rather large Bar Beach Car Park, the path continues along the esplanade. At this point, you may decide to walk along the beach itself. Bar Beach certainly screams out to be visited, but then I find most Aussie beaches have that effect on me. But, Bar Beach is surely one of Newcastle’s best beaches. Bar Beach is an excellent surf spot and in the summer a refreshing swim here is surely a must.
Further along, the beach becomes Dixon Park Beach before you hit Merewether Beach and Ocean Baths at the far end. Merewether Beach is signalled by the appearance of upmarket-looking cafes. Once here, you’ll spy the Merewether Ocean Baths just behind.
Merewether Beach and Ocean Baths Newcastle
The Merewether Beach and Ocean Baths are a welcome sight and indicate the end of The Bathers Way Newcastle. Well, one way at least. There’s ample seating around the Merewether Ocean Baths for you to sit, relax, refuel and ultimately take a dip. Or you could lay out on Mereweather Beach and enjoy another of Newcastle’s fine beaches. Like the Newcastle Ocean Baths, the pools at Merewether Beach have that same old-time feel about them. Built in 1935, it makes sense. The old-fashioned lane blocks are still out and in use, standing the test of time against nature and modern development. They work perfectly here.
Merewether Beach and Ocean Baths are enjoyed every day. Locals are out swimming laps, lying by the pool or simply enjoying the sandy surroundings. We stopped for a quick drink and bite to eat before heading back to enjoy The Bathers Way Newcastle in reverse. Which we very much did.
Nobbys Beach Newcastle
Once back at Nobbys Beach, you can either relax and enjoy yourself at this more popular of Newcastle’s beaches, or add Nobbys Breakwall and Lighthouse onto your walk. We’d say the out and back walk to the end of Nobby’s Breakwall probably adds an extra 4km onto The Bathers Way Coastal Walk. It does, however, make for a pleasant addition. The walk is long and straight, so occasionally you feel a sense of not getting anywhere. Of course, this isn’t helped by the tired legs from already walking The Bathers Way Newcastle.
To your left, you’ll pass Horseshoe Beach, a tiny patch of sand that looks out into the Hunter River. This is a thin inlet of water that connects Newcastle Harbour to the wider ocean. To your right is the top end of Nobbys Beach, Nobbys Head and rolling sand dunes.
Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed when we arrived. It is only open 8am-5pm on a Saturday and Sunday, so we were unable to head up to take a closer look. Instead, we continued the path around the back of the huge mound Nobbys Lighthouse sits atop. From here, you are now on the Nobbys Breakwall path. The wind picks up a little here, and so you’d be wise to hold onto your hat before it blows down the length of Newcastle’s beaches. Oh, and keep those sunglasses on too. Sand whipping the face and into the eyes isn’t much fun.
From the lighthouse, the walk continues almost another kilometre to the end of Nobbys Breakwall. Originally known as Macquarie Pier, the Breakwall replaces the original wood and stone structure built in 1846. Once Nobbys Breakwall had been constructed, sand began to accumulate around an island where the lighthouse stands, forming Nobbys Beach. This Newcastle beach looks completely natural and so it’s hard to believe Nobbys Island was ever once disconnected from the mainland.
As you walk, the cool breeze of the sea is refreshing and the ever-glowing sun brings out the golden tones in the sand brilliantly. Nobbys Breakwall is a very popular out and back in its own right. We had the company of numerous couples and families, taking a walk together after work and enjoying the beautiful late winter’s afternoon.
From the end of Nobbys Breakwall, there are wonderful views back over Newcastle, the beaches and neighbouring Worimi State Conservation Area, including the Stockton Sand Dunes. Dan spotted a pod of dolphins playfully swimming in the Hunter River as we walked by. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect end to The Bathers Way Newcastle.
The Bathers Way & Newcastle Beaches Recap
As a straight-from-the-city coastal walk, The Bathers Way Newcastle is up there. No wonder it’s such a popular trail with locals and tourists alike. Not only are the ocean pools and baths like the Newcastle Bogey Hole pretty to look at and enjoyable to use, but they’re also full of history and help to tell the story of the modern Newcastle area.
Yes, the walk can feel busy in sections, especially around the Newcastle Memorial Walk, but it feels local, rather than being a visitor hot spot. Perhaps this was helped by the fact we visited in winter and not summer. We loved The Bathers Way Walk in Newcastle and ultimately were hugely impressed with the beauty of the Newcastle coastline, its beaches and by how much it’s looked after and enjoyed.
How to Get to the Beaches in Newcastle?
The Bathers Way walk, passing some of the best beaches in Newcastle, begins right in the heart of town. The trailhead at Nobbys Beach is just a short walk from the train station and next to ample parking. We found parking at East End Beach Parking Area – Nobbys Beach. But as you can see from the map, there are plenty of parking options.
Sydney to Newcastle Beaches Distance
If travelling from Sydney, which is most likely, the easiest option is to drive. The drive time is around 2 hours and so a day trip or weekend trip is within easy distance. If you don’t have access to your own vehicle, then we recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Alternatively, the train from Sydney to Newcastle is straightforward. The journey time is around 2-2.5 hours and there is also a bus option which takes around 3 hours. See here for more information.
Where to Stay for Visiting Newcastle Beaches?
When Dan and I visited Newcastle and completed The Bathers Way Coastal Walk, we stayed at nearby Lake Macquarie. The Squids Ink Motel is right on the lakefront and is in a beautiful location. We captured the most fantastic sunset shots. For more in-depth information on accommodation options in and around the Newcastle area, please refer to our Munmorah State Conservation Area guide. It contains all you’ll need to know.
Other Beaches in Newcastle NSW
Of course, there are even more fantastic beaches to visit in Newcastle, other than those you’ll pass on The Bathers Way and Newcastle Memorial Walk like Merewether Beach and Bar Beach. Let’s take a look:
- Dudley Beach In Newcastle: south of Newcastle’s city beaches, the secluded and unspoiled Dudley Beach sits within the splendid Glenrock State Conservation Area. Because of this, you’ll not find towering office blocks or hotels on the beachfront. Just dense forest and nature. No wonder it’s often regarded as one of Newcastle’s best beaches.
- Redhead Beach Newcastle: further south still of other central Newcastle beaches and the Glenrock State Conservation Area is Redhead Beach. It’s a huge stretch of sand that features red cliffs and runs into the Belmont Weylands State Park.
- Glenrock Beach: another beach south of Newcastle is Glenrock Beach, which divides the Glenrock Lagoon from the ocean. Dan and I actually visited this Newcastle beach after hiking the Yuelarbah Walking Track.
- Horseshoe Beach Newcastle: seen from The Bathers Way Newcastle Coastal Walk, but not actually visited, is Horseshoe Beach. Right at the opposite end of the walk to Merewether Beach. This small and picturesque Newcastle city beach sits on the Hunter River and looks out across Woromi National Park.
- Stockton Beach: Worimi National Park is home to the vast Stockton Beach, just across the Hudson River and north of the other beaches in Newcastle. It’s 4WD accessible. Also, it features rippling sand dunes, camel riding and sandboarding, so it’s just a downright fun place to be.
Nudist Beach Newcastle
Newcastle’s official nudist beach, AKA Susan Gilmore Beach, is a hidden gem only really accessible during low tide. Susan Gilmore Beach is definitely one of Newcastle’s more inaccessible beaches, with access via a walk around the cliff bases from Bar Beach.
The Susan Gilmore nudist beach in Newcastle is named after a ship that was wrecked on the headland in 1884. But be warned, high tide can be a dangerous time to swim at this naturist beach in Newcastle. In addition, there is no lifeguard presence. Maybe stick to Mereweather Beach for safety.
Beaches Near Newcastle NSW
Below is our pick of some other incredible beaches around Newcastle, which are still well worth a visit as you travel up from Sydney, or explore more of the wider area.
- Caves Beach NSW: Caves Beach will always be a favourite spot of ours because it’s where we got married. The cave systems are excellent to explore during low tide. As to is the walk from Caves Beach to Pinney Beach.
- Frazer Beach (& Bongon Beach): Munmorah State Conservation Area has some truly exceptional beaches rivalling those of Newcastle. Frazer Beach has some of the best rock pools around, plus, access to the Snapper Point Lookout. We even started the Moonee Beach Trail to the Rainbow Caves and Pink Caves (now closed) from here.
- Port Stephens: a trip to Port Stephens is a must, as is seeing as many of its stellar beaches as possible. Some of our favourites include Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay and Fingals Beach.
Best Walks in Newcastle
If you want a little more than a coastal walk in Newcastle, or even just a break from lounging on one of Newcastle’s numerous quality beaches, you’ll find plenty of walks to choose from. We hiked four fantastic trails from Lake Macquarie. Additionally, there’s plenty to explore in Munmorah State Conservation Park and Myall Lakes National Park.
Five Essentials for Visiting Beaches in Newcastle
These are our five essentials for walking The Bathers Way Newcastle. For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. We go in-depth into what hiking and camping gear we use. There, you’ll find specific recommendations for all the products we love.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Bonus Tips for Newcastle Beaches
- Be pool ready: Our biggest regret of the walk is that we did not have our swimmers to hand. Especially once we reached Merewether Beach. Whether you’re planning to take a dip or just enjoy the sights of the walk, we’d suggest taking your swim gear just in case, you never know if the mood might take you.
- Lighthouse visit: If you’re keen to visit the lighthouse, you’ll have to visit on the weekend. However, these will also be busier days to complete the walk and enjoy the amazing beaches in Newcastle. If you want a quieter time, consider completing The Bathers Way and visiting Newcastle’s beaches on a weekday.
- Explore the coast: The Newcastle coastline is simply stunning. There’s certainly much more to see beyond The Bathers Way and the city beaches around central Newcastle. Be sure to read our guides on The Pink Caves, Mumorah State Conservation Area & 4 Great Lake Macquarie Walking Trails in a Day. Enjoy!
If you’ve enjoyed our guide to The Bathers Way, and have explored even more of the Newcastle coastline and fabulous beaches, then let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it.