The Bathers Way in Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW), is a popular 6km one-way coastal walk. It stretches from Nobbys Lighthouse to the Merewether Ocean Baths. Along the route, you’ll encounter no less than four ocean rock pools and seven beaches. Hmmm, we guess that’s where it gets its name from then.

Whatever time of year you visit, the clear waters and golden sands will be inviting. Locals swim all year round. The calm offered by the seaside is a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle life, just a stone’s throw away. To that end, it really does feel like Sydney’s little sister.

Dan and I visited in winter, although the day here was like no winter I’ve ever experienced. But still, this is Australia. The trail was busy. To be expected for any city coastal walk, yet still relaxed. A change up from our usual mountainside settings, we found The Bathers Way to be the perfect afternoon walk, with some real beautiful spots to boot.

The Bathers Way Hiking 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

Travel Made Me Do It have 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 Memorial Walk. As one of Newcastle’s premier coastal routes, it’s one not to miss.

The Bathers Way begins…

Beach, boardwalk and Bogey Hole bathing. The trail we’ll detail begins from the amenities block at Nobbys Beach, and heads south towards Merewether. We’ll add the (optional) Nobbys Breakwall onto the end of the walk. The path initially follows the Shortland Esplanade towards Newcastle Baths, a stalwart figure of the Newcastle coastline. It’s also the first of the swimming holes along this aptly named coastal trail.

Having completed two hikes in the area already, the early setting winter sun was against us and so we were more than happy to thrash out a speed hike in order to be back at the lighthouse in time for sunset. Although hiking quickly, we knew we’d be stopping a lot to photograph this beautiful coastline.

What is speed hiking? Speed hiking is moving quicker than your average pace whilst out on a trail. We love it as it enables us to see more of an area, fit more in and get the heart rate up. It’s not about rushing through a hike, but about being able to see more in the time you have. For more information on speed hiking, check out our post, How to Join the Wonderful World of Speed Hiking.

Newcastle Baths

A little piece of history. Dan and I visited 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 Baths have now been a staple of the Newcastle swimming scene for almost 100 years. 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, and 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, but it’s not far from Sydney and so easy to return another day. For more information on accessing the Newcastle Baths, click here.

A shallow ocean pool fills the foreground. The water is clear and the golden sand can be seen below. Fourteen birds are resting on top of the calm waters. Beyond the ocean pool is the crashing waves of the sea. A green headland can be seen in the distance. The sky is blue with patches of white fluffy cloud.
Shallow Pool at Newcastle Baths.

Shallow Pool

The ocean pools begin. 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 is famous for.

Shallow Pool, which sits directly on the coast, was still in operation with no need to close for maintenance. Its water fills and flows directly from the sea. 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 the beach surrounding it, Shallow Pool still manages to hold onto its own pocket of serenity. This was the first pool we’d come across on the walk that we could access and I was already sold. Keen to take a dip, this was our third and final hike of the day and so we had to press on.

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, continue the walk 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 Bogey Hole.

The Bogey Hole

A worn and rusty set of metal steps guides you down to the Bogey Hole. The third swimming pool along the Bathers Way. Originally built by convicts back in 1819, the Bogey Hole is the oldest of the ocean pools on the trail. The pool 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 Bogey Hole became more popular. This term is thought to originate from the Dharawal word meaning ‘to bathe’. It is possible the rock pool was enhanced from an already existing natural rock pool, but that’s not fully known.

At any rate, the 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 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.

There are excellent vantage points of the Bogey Hole from above too. They offer a cool birds-eye view of the pool nestled in its cliffside surroundings.

A mesh platform with metal handle bars lead into the Bogey Hole along the Bathers Way. The water within is still and deep. It is reflecting the blue sky above. The breakwall at the back of the pool is blocking the sea water which crashes on the rocks. Huge white waves rise up into the sky.
The Bogey Hole

From the 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 meanders through an old stone settlement, once part of a small fort protecting this stretch of coastline from invasion.

Memorial Walk on The Bathers Way

A fitting and beautiful tribute. 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 Memorial Walk on its own. The lookout marks the start of the Memorial Walk.

A woman descends some metal steps along the Bathers Way. They are wide and have metal hand railings down the side. Surrounding the walkway is light green shrubbery. The walkway leads down to the ocean in front. The water is turquoise and clean. In the distance is a small town and a little beach can be seen. The sky is blue and sunny.
Descending Memorial Walk.

The Memorial Walk 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 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 a fine addition to the Newcastle area and most definitely The Bathers Way.

Bar Beach

Descending Memorial Walk you’ll be greeted to the extensive views of Bar Beach and Merewether Beach in the distance. 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. The 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 at the far end. Merewether is signalled by the appearance of upmarket looking cafes. Once here you’ll spy the Merewether Ocean Baths just behind.

The shoreline of a golden sand beach. There are rocks placed in the shallow waterrs and the gentle waves are crashing behind them, The sea is dark blue with the sunlight reflecting of the surface. The sky is clear and blue.
Beach walks along the Bathers Way.

Merewether Baths

The Merewether Baths were a welcome sight for us on a warm winters day. There is ample seating around the pools for you to sit, relax, refuel and ultimately take a dip. Like Newcastle Baths, Merewether has that same old-time feel about it. 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.

A close up of the number 2 block swimming lane at Merewether Baths on the Bathers way. Beyond the picture is a little out of focus but shows the ocean pool and the numbered block on the opposite side of the pool. They read from 10 to 4. They sky is pale blue with a little cloud. The blocks are white and worn a little. The numbers are bold and in black paint.
Swimming lanes at Merewether Baths.

Merewether was very much being enjoyed the day we visited. Locals were out swimming laps, lying by the pool or simply enjoying the sandy surrounds. We stopped for a quick drink and bite to eat before heading back to enjoy Bathers Way in reverse. Which we very much did. The late afternoon sun capturing the landscape in new and pleasing ways.

A concrete walkway separates an ocean pool from the ocean surrounding it. There is a metal hand rail that runs down the side of the walkway. Numbered blocks can be seen on the far side of the ocean pool. They are white and the numbers on them are black. The ocean in the background crashes into the edge of the pool. The sky is light blue with a few grey clouds.
Merewether Baths ocean pool.

Nobbys Lighthouse

Once back at Nobbys Beach, you can add Nobbys Breakwall and lighthouse onto your walk. We’d say the return walk to the end of the Breakwall probably adds an extra 4 km onto the trail. 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.

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 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 the lighthouse sits atop. Alas, you are now on the breakwall path. The wind picks up a little here, and so you’d be wise to hold onto your hat and keep those sunglasses on. Sand whipping the face and into the eyes isn’t much fun.

The turquoise ocean gently laps the golden sand beach at Nobbys Head, Newcastle. To the right is the stone mound that a white lighthouse sits atop. There is a grassy patch that circles the bottom of the stone mound before the beach starts. The sun is setting and casting low shadows across the sand. The sky is perfectly clear and blue.
Nobby’s Lighthouse viewed from Nobby’s Head.

Nobbys Breakwall

From the lighthouse, the walk continues almost another kilometre to the end of the breakwall. Originally known as Macquarie Pier, the breakwall replaces the original wood and stone structure built in 1846. Once the breakwall had been constructed, sand began to accumulate around the island, forming Nobbys Beach. The beach looks completely natural and so it’s hard to believe Nobbys Island was ever once disconnected from the mainland.

As we walk, the cool breeze of the sea is refreshing and the ever glowing sun brings out the golden tones in the sand brilliantly. The 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 winters afternoon.

From the end of the breakwall there are wonderful views back over Newcastle and neighbouring Worimi State Conservation Area and 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 walk.

A woman dressed in black trousers and a white t shirt walks down the centre of Nobbies Breakwall on the Bathers way walk. She is carrying a grey rucksack and her brown curly hair is blowing in the wind. The path is smooth and straight but to the sides are stacked boulders. Either side of the path is the ocean. It is blue and a little choppy. The sky up above is clear and blue.
Walking Nobbys Breakwall.

The Bathers Way Recap

As a straight-from-the-city coastal walk, The Bathers Way is up there. No wonder it’s such a popular trail with locals and tourists alike. Not only are the pools and baths you pass 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, but it feels local, rather than being a visitor hot spot. Perhaps that was helped by the fact we visited in winter and not summer. We loved The Bathers Way and ultimately were hugely impressed with the beauty of the Newcastle coastline, how much it’s looked after and how much enjoyment people get out of it.

Getting to & from The Bathers Way

The Bathers Way begins right in the heart of Newcastle, just a short walk from the train station and next to ample parking. We began The Bathers Way after completing two other hikes in the area. Please refer to our Munmorah State Conservation Area guide (coming soon) for information on getting to/from Newcastle to complete The Bathers Way.

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 a car, consider hireing one from Rental.Cars.com. We frequently use their services if we’re visiting a place and need a set of wheels.

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.

Accommodation

Stay at nearby Lake Macquarie. We visited Newcastle and completed The Bathers Way from a stay at nearby Lake Macquarie. Here we stayed at the Squids Ink Motel right on the lakefront. It was a beautiful location and we captured the most fantastic sunset shots. For more in depth information on accommodation options in and around the Newcastle area, again, please refer to our Munmorah State Conservation Area guide. It contains all you’ll need to know.

A couple walk along a wooden jetty that stretches out over a peaceful lake. The sun is setting and the clear sky is bright with hues of yellow, orange, purple and blue. At the far side of the lake the silhouettes of low lying hills can be made out.
Sunset over Lake Macquarie from the Squid’s Ink Motel gardens.

Local Supplies in Newcastle

As Newcastle is a major city along the NSW coast, finding and buying local supplies won’t be a problem. We like to travel with our own packed lunch when we have a full day of hiking and so find the local Coles and Woolworths supermarkets have a great selection.

Should you want to combine The Bathers Way with a more leisurely and drawn out day trip, then you’ll find numerous cafes and eateries littering the coastline as you pass through each section of the walk.

Total Costs for The Bathers Way

  • Packed lunch & snacks: $10AUD/person ($7USD)
  • Parking for the afternoon: Free

= $10AUD/person (47USD) + fuel and accommodation costs if you’re not local.

Five Hiking Gear Essentials for The Bathers Way

These are our five gear essentials for walking The Bathers Way. 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 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – although a trainer would more than suffice on this walk, we’d still recommend a good, lightweight hiking boot or shoe. You’ll be glad of the extra support they offer whilst pounding those boardwalks and scrambling across the sand.
  • The North Face Venture 2 waterproof/windproof Jacket– we were lucky to have great weather for The Bathers Way, however, coastal walks can often feel exposed and windy, so carrying a good windproof jacket is a must.
  • Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack -this is one of the best rucksacks I’ve ever owned and it’s perfect for a full days hiking. The dual body straps distribute the load evenly and make carrying even the heaviest backpack manageable.
  • Karrimor 1L Clear Water Bottle x 2 – These water bottles fit perfectly in the side pockets of the Osprey Skarab rucksack, so it just makes perfect sense.
  • Nikon D3400 Digital SLR Camera – the lookouts, ocean pools and beaches along The Bathers Way are stunning. You’ll be sure to want to photograph them.

Trail Navigation

Although the coastal trails around Newcastle, and in particular The Bathers way, aren’t too hardcore, you may still want to have some maps to hand. To be fully prepared, consider downloading a GPS guided map before you set out. We recommend Wikiloc or AllTrails. For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during the hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.

Bonus Tips

  • Be pool ready: Biggest regret of the walk is that we did not have our swimmers to hand. 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. If you want a quieter time, consider completing The Bathers Way on a weekday.
  • Explore the coast: The Newcastle coastline is simply stunning. There’s certainly much more to see beyond The Bathers Way. 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, then let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it.


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