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Newcastle, NSW

Interesting historic city, the second largest in New South Wales.

Newcastle is the second-largest city in New South Wales and the sixth-largest in Australia. It is located at the mouth of the Hunter River. It is known, quite reasonably, as the 'gateway to the Hunter Valley' and certainly is the commercial, administrative and industrial centre of the region. It has numerous beaches, a rich heritage of Victorian architecture, a fascinating early convict history and a substantial number of excellent restaurants and upmarket accommodation options. Historically a coal and steel town (exploiting the excellent harbour at the mouth of the Hunter River and the vast deposits of coal under the Hunter Valley) it has had to reinvent itself in the past two decades. Today it is a modern city with an elegant and updated harbour foreshore (lots of chic restaurants and pleasant boardwalks) and enough attractions to keep an interested visitor involved for at least a week.


Newcastle is located 168 km north-northeast of Sydney via the Newcastle Freeway.


Origin of Name

In 1804 a convict settlement was established on the Hunter River to exploit the coal deposits in the Hunter Valley. It was originally known as Coal River then Kingstown and then, in an act of imitation, Newcastle after the famous coal port in the north of England. The first official reference to Newcastle was made by Governor King in 1804.


Things to See and Do

The city is so large and the number of attractions so great, that it needs to be broken up into bite-sized chunks. This is the way I would approach exploring Newcastle. I have tried to make it simple by starting with the activities around the harbour, then moving to the end of the southern breakwater and travelling down the coast following the Great North Walk, and finally focussing on the sites in the CBD with historically interesting buildings. This may seem rather complex but it is manageable.

1. Around the Harbour
The Boat Harbour
Walking Beside Harbourside Park
Queens Wharf
Customs House
Railway Station
Visitor Information Centre
Maritime Centre
Newcastle Museum

2. Along the Coast - Nobbys Lighthouse to Bar Beach
Great North Walk
Nobby Lighthouse
Nobbys Beach
Fort Scratchley
The Ocean Baths
Newcastle Beach
Bogey Hole
Memorial Walk

The Obelisk
King Edward Park
Strzelecki Lookout
Shepherds Hill
Susan Gilmour Beach
Bar Beach

3. The Historic Buildings in the CBD
Hunter Street Buildings - Public Works, Police and Court House
Watt Street 
Longworth Institute
Former Stationmasters Residence and Police Station
A Walk Up Bolton Street
The Newcastle Club
Christ Church Anglican Cathedral
Church Street - Terraces and Mansions
Laman Street
Newcastle Art Gallery
Tyrrell Street Tower
Jesmond House
Cooks Hill

4. Reserves and Parklands in the Greater Newcastle Area
Blackbutt Reserve
Birdwatching at Stockton
Hunter Wetlands Centre
Mt Sugarloaf Lookout

1. Around the Harbour

The Boat Harbour
At the furthest end of the harbour (just off Wharf Road and below Fort Scratchley) is "The Boat Harbour", a small stone harbour constructed between 1866 and 1873. It contains the Pilot Station, established in 1866, and the Tug Wharf and has been used continuously for nearly 150 years. The earliest pilot station was a convict-manned whaleboat which commenced operations in 1812. Tugs still take the huge coal and container ships from the ocean up the Hunter River to their moorings. Beyond the pilot station is King's Wharf.

Walking beside Harbourside Park
Behind the Boat Harbour is Harbourside Park. The enormous barbecue and shelter shed in the park was originally a railway shed (c.1880). The park was once the site of the Newcastle East Marshalling Yard. Today it has play areas and the walk along the shoreline from the Boat Harbour to Queen's Wharf is an ideal way to experience the importance and dynamic activity of the harbour.
The large pond in the park is known as the Frog Pond. It was originally a well fed by a freshwater spring which was the major source of freshwater for the first European settlers. Groups of convicts carried over 100 gallons of water a day to the prison in Scott Street and ships docking in the harbour used it to restock supplies.
The original shoreline of 1797 lay close to this site. Note that the harbour foreshores are entirely man-made. They were constructed from about 1840 with a combination of ship's ballast, the dredging of the river mouth and sand taken from the dunes to the east.

Customs House
Just beyond Harbourside Park is the former Customs House (now the Customs House Hotel), a large and graceful building adorned by a prominent clock tower. One of Newcastle's most impressive architectural monuments, it was designed by colonial architect James Barnet and built in 1876-77 with the Watt Street wing added between 1898-1900. This block of land was once occupied by a convict stockade which was built in 1805 under the supervision of Commandant Charles Throsby. It functioned as the major work area for convicts, being principally a lumber yard. It was destroyed by fire in 1851.

Railway Station
Opposite the Customs House, in Scott Street, is the Newcastle Railway Station. Considered a fine example of Victorian railway architecture it consists of five buildings, symmetrically arranged and was built in 1878. The line to Sydney was not completed until 1889. It is now a public social area,

Queen's Wharf
Located to the west of the Newcastle Railway Station is Queen's Wharf which is the hub of tourist activities in the city. It is where the "Famous Tram" leaves from; where you can catch a ferry and take a short 15 minute trip across to Stockton on the northern side of the harbour; where you can catch trains at the nearby railway station; and where there are a number of chic waterside restaurants. 

From Queen's Wharf and the Boardwalk to Throsby Creek Marina
There is a path that runs along the foreshore. It is now edged by trees and a narrow park, apartments and, beyond the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the Boardwalk full of restaurants at Honeysuckle Drive. Beyond is the Throsby Creek marina and a run of cafes and restaurants. It is a fine example of the way the city has reinvented itself from a coal and steel port to a place of fine dining and a chic nightlife.

Newcastle Museum
Located at 6 Workshop Way, the Newcastle Museum has a range of displays relating to the industrial and technological heritage of the city, including a major coal mining exhibition (Fire and Earth - the hot and heavy heart of the Hunter - and a steel making simulation), items of social history and the Supernova Science Centre -  a child-oriented, hands-on, interactive science display on the top floor which includes Mininova for 3 to 8 year olds. It is housed in three National Trust-listed buildings - the Locomotive Boiler Shop, New Erecting Shop and Blacksmith and Wheel Shop. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm and entry is free, tel: (02) 4974 1400. Check out http://www.newcastlemuseum.com.au/your-visit for more information.

2. Along the Coast - Nobbys Lighthouse to Bar Beach
Great North Walk
There is a plaque on the Observatory Tower announcing that you have reached the end of the 250 km Great North Walk which stretches from Sydney Cove to Newcastle, a 14-day walk taking in a wide range of environments and attractions, both natural and man-made. This is where you can start the very pleasant, 3.9 km walk from Queen's Wharf to Glenrock. The excellent Great North Walk website (http://www.thegreatnorthwalk.com/QueensWharf_Glenrock_guide) explains that the route is: "Walking south over the railway, follow signs through historic Newcastle past the cathedral to the Newcastle Obelisk. Then cross Reserve Road to King Edward Park and follow the cliff past Bar Beach, Dixon Park to Merewether and then Burwood Beach. Pass Murdering Gully to reach Glenrock Lagoon." It is defined as an easy walk. It certainly is a pleasant way of experiencing some of Newcastle's premier attractions.

Nobbys Head, Nobbys Beach and the Southern Breakwater
There is plenty of parking below Fort Scratchley (follow Nobbys Road to the area between Horseshoe Beach and Nobbys Beach) and there is an easy walk out to the lighthouse and southern breakwater.
Beyond the car park an isthmus extends out to Nobbys Head with its lighthouse and southern breakwater which shelters ships entering the harbour and the Hunter River.
Captain Cook, when he travelled up the coast in 1770, described Nobbys as a "small round rock or Island, laying close under the land". At the time it was not connected to  the mainland.
While searching for escaped convicts in 1797 Lieutenant Shortland took shelter in the lee of Nobbys and named it Hacking's Point. Shortland found coal on the "island" and subsequently Lieutenant James Grant renamed it Coal Island. Coal was mined there until 1817 but the hillock remained as Nobbys by 1810.
In 1818, using convict labour and local rock, the convict settlement built a pier from Fort Scratchley out to Nobbys. It has been claimed that this is the oldest rock-fill breakwater in the Southern Hemisphere. It was named Macquarie Pier after Governor Macquarie who travelled to Newcastle to lay the foundation stone. Work was halted in 1823, recommenced in 1836 using rocks from Nobbys Head, completed in 1846 and rebuilt in 1864.
Towards the end of the "headland" are five bas-relief sculptures depicting various aspects of Newcastle and its history. Along the isthmus there are also remnants of very old military fortifications though they are not accessible.
Today the headland offers fine views north along Stockton Beach towards Port Stephens and extensive views south as well as fine views back across the city.

Nobbys Lighthouse
By 1855 Nobbys "island" had been reduced from 61 metres to 27 metres. A lighthouse  was erected in 1857 to replace the coal-fire beacon on Fort Scratchley which had been established in 1804. The original lighthouse, which was constructed in 1858 and which was only the third lighthouse built in Australia, was designed by the great colonial architect Edmund Blacket. It has since been replaced. The original 20,000 candle power light was attended by three keepers. The light was converted to electric operation in 1935 and subsequently de-manned. The light is elevated 25 metres above the sea and can be seen 24 nautical miles out to sea.
It is possible to walk along the artificial promontory, with Nobbys Beach to your right, past the lighthouse and along to the end of the breakwater. Check out http://www.lighthouses.org.au/lights/NSW/Nobbys%20Head/Nobbys%20Head.htm for more details.

Fort Scratchley and Maritime Museum
There is a short drive up a steep hill to Fort Scratchley which overlooks Nobbys Beach and the entrance to the harbour. Lieutenant Shortland named it Braithwaite's Head in 1797 but, over the years, it had a variety of names including being known as Fort Fiddlesticks by the convicts. Being elevated and at the mouth of the Hunter River it was a natural place for a warning beacon and in 1804 a signal mast was placed on the hill. The hill became known as Signal Hill. The mast was replaced by a coal-fire beacon in 1813 which burned until Nobbys Lighthouse was completed in 1858.
The army started to use the site as a training ground in 1843. When fear of a Russian invasion occurred in the 1870s it was decided that Newcastle, because of its strategic importance as a coal and steel producer, needed to be properly fortified. The fort, designed by Lieutenant Colonel Peter Scratchley, was built between 1881 and 1886. Today it is "one of only two examples of late 19th-century military fortifications in New South Wales".
The fort’s brief moment of glory came in June, 1942 when a Japanese submarine attacked Newcastle. The guns of the fort fired on the submarine. These were the only shots ever fired at an enemy vessel from the Australian mainland.
The military left the site in 1972 and it is now the Fort Scratchley Historic Site. It is open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm six days a week. It is closed on Tuesdays. There is both a self-guided tour of the barracks and defence structures and organised tours (they last about 90 minutes) of the site and the tunnels.
Inside the fort there are five Museum Rooms open to the public that have been carefully curated by members of the Fort Scratchley Historical Society. The Rooms cover the history of the site, from pre-Fort use by the Awabakal people; its purpose as the first coal mine in Australia; its pre-World War I relevance; Novocastrian involvement in World War I and the site's important role in protecting Australia's coastline during World War II. Check out the City of Newcastle site - http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Fort-Scratchley/Home - for more information.

Newcastle Beach
Newcastle Beach is the city's main beach. It is edged by multi-storey hotels and is known as a safe swimming destination, particularly from in front of the surf club at the northern end of the beach. At the northern end is a huge ocean pool with a  large and safe children's wading pool. The southern end is noted for its surfing. Check out the surf and weather through the beach's surfcam at http://www.coastalwatch.com/surf-cams-surf-reports/nsw/newcastle-beach.

King Edward Park - The Obelisk and Band Rotunda
King Edward Park was proclaimed a recreational reserve in 1865. At the time it formed the southern boundary of Newcastle.
There is an army fortification zone on the hilltop at the southern end of the park. The military remnants can be seen near the car park at the top of The Terrace. The fortifications were established in 1890 but rebuilt during World War II when it was known as Park Battery. A cement fortress and a series of pillboxes remain.
From King Edward Park there are good views eastwards over the ocean. To the north are Newcastle Beach, Nobbys Head and the long arc that is Stockton Beach.
The Terrace has many fine Victorian terrace houses (c.1890).
To the west of The Terrace is The Obelisk. The City of Newcastle website explains: "The Obelisk is one of our city's oldest navigational markers. The first navigational marker on the site was built in 1820 and was known as the Government Flour Mill. During a strong wind it would grind 10 bushels of wheat per hour. This had been at the instigation of Colonel Morisett, who appealed to Governor Lachlan Macquarie to erect a windmill to grind flour for the settlement. As it was situated upon a prominent knoll the windmill was visible for many miles along the coast, and was used as a guiding mark for the masters of sailing crafts approaching the port of Newcastle. In 1847 the Government decided to demolish the mill and it was submitted to auction. It was purchased by a Newcastle resident. The action roused a storm of protest in shipping quarters, where it was claimed that the old windmill was a guiding mark for mariners entering the harbour. Petitions were at once forwarded to the Governor, but the purchaser sped up the demolition and the building was down before the Government could cancel the sale. However, continued agitation by the shipowners compelled the Government to act, and in 1850 the Obelisk was erected on the spot where the old windmill stood." For more information check out http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Explore/History-Heritage/Heritage-attractions/Obelisk.
Down the hill from The Obelisk is an octagonal band rotunda (1898) which was built by carpenter Thomas Hardman. It is characterised by columns, balustrades and intricate lacework, all in cast iron, as well as a frieze around the base.
The depression - it is almost a gully - was once the site of a paddock for the Australian Agricultural Company horses which worked in a coal pit at the corner of Bingle Street and Anzac Parade. It now features a sunken garden.

The Bogey Hole
York Drive in King Edward Park winds down to the Bogey Hole at the bottom of the cliffs below the fortifications. The Bogey Hole is nothing more than rock pool exposed to the Pacific Ocean. It is, in fact, a bathing pool which was built by convict labour for the personal pleasure of Major James T. Morisset, the military commandant from 1819-1822 who did much to improve the breakwater, roads and barracks in the settlement. Known for many years as Commandant's Bath it became a public pool in 1863.
As you stand and watch the waves washing over the pool the extent of the achievement and the grossness of the indulgence becomes apparent, for the convicts must have dug this hole between waves, waist high in water.
And it was all for the Commandant’s morning swim. For that morning swim convicts must have spent hours each day with waves battering them, with their skin turning blue and wrinkled, with blisters raw and stinging from the salt water, and it was all for the indulgence of an officer who wanted a morning swim.
A sign on the path down to the pool notes that "In 1863 the Bogey Hole was opened as a segregated public pool with men permitted to swim on certain days and women on others. By 1884, the pool had been deepened and enlarged seven times its original site. In 1893 a dripping cave near the pool which originally served as a change room was superseded by purpose-built dressing sheds - complete with fresh water showers."

Shepherds Hill and Strzelecki Lookout
Continue south of King Edward Park and the land rises to Shepherds Hill - the name is probably a variant of Sheep Pasture Hill, the name given to the outcrop by Lt-Col. Paterson in his 1801 survey report. Strzelecki Lookout, at the end of High Street, is named after the famous Polish geologist and explorer whose chemical analyses and research into coal deposits from 1839-45 influenced the development of the region. The lookout offers extensive views to the south with Swansea in the distance. Hang-gliding is common from the hilltops.

Newcastle Memorial Walk
The City of Newcastle website explains: "Newcastle's Memorial Walk is a spectacular coastal walk with a personal connection for thousands of locals. The Walk is located above Memorial Drive The Hill, on Strzelecki Headland (between Bar Beach and King Edward Park). The Anzac walk was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in 1915 and the commencement of steel making in Newcastle; it acts as a magnificent memorial to the men and women of the Hunter who served their community and their country. The structure cost $4.5m to build and is a 450 meter long cliff top walkway that links Newcastle's Strzelecki Lookout to Bar Beach. The walk features a 160 metre cliff top bridge adorned with steel silhouettes of soldiers inscribed with close to 4,000 family names of almost 11,000 known Hunter Valley men and women who enlisted during World War I. For more detailed information check out https://newcastle.nsw.gov.au/explore/things-to-do/walking-and-cycling/newcastle-memorial-walk.

Susan Gilmore Beach and Bar Beach
Memorial Drive winds around the edge of Shepherds Hill to tiny Susan Gilmore Beach, named after an American ship which was wrecked there and Bar Beach, a popular and patrolled family beach behind which is Empire Park.

3. Historic Buildings in the Central Business District
Hunter Street Buildings - Public Works, Police and Court House
Beyond the corner of Watt Street and Hunter Street are three impressive historic buildings. They also represent the work of three of New South Wales's most significant government architects. On the corner, is the old Public Works Department Building, originally a post office (1860) but redesigned by James Barnet in 1872 for the Public Works Department with the upper floor added in 1877. A plaque on the building notes that several of Newcastle's major thoroughfares are named after noted British engineers - George Stevenson, Thomas Telford, James Watt, Matthew Bolton and Thomas Newcomen.
Next door, at 90 Hunter Street, is the Police Station, a two-storey sandstone building designed by Mortimer Lewis in 1859 and extended by James Barnet in 1890. It now houses The Lock Up Art Space (check out http://www.thelockup.org.au for current exhibitions) and inside it has an historic lock up which features the original padded cell and exercise yard of the old Police lock up.
On the corner of Hunter and Bolton Streets is the Post Office - a fine piece of Edwardian Classical architecture designed by W.L. Vernon and erected on the site of the old courthouse in 1903. With its ground-floor arcade, first-floor colonnade, parapet and cupolas it was apparently based on Palladio's Basilica at Vicenza. There is a war memorial outside and the Bolton Street annex was formerly a Bond Store (1875-1903).

Watt Street
Watt Street, which runs from the harbour up to King Edward Park, was Newcastle's first street. It was a track down which convicts pushed barrows of coal to a wharf near the site of the present Customs House. Initially known as High Street the name was changed in 1823. Its early history is now a distant memory.
This is a walk down the street from Church Street. On the corner of Watt Street and Church Street, where the police station now stands, was Government House, the residence of the penal settlement's commandant. It was built in 1804 and destroyed by fire in 1823.
Opposite, the north-western corner, was originally the location of Newcastle's first courthouse. It then served as the first post office (1828), a temporary customs house (1839) and a presbyterian manse (1859).
A little further down, to the left, where St Philip's Presbyterian Church (1905) now stands, a military barrack was erected in 1816. The original St Andrew's Presbyterian Church was built here in 1850.
Over the road, where there is now a carpark, the subaltern's barracks were erected for junior military officers in 1818. Further down Watt Street at the King Street intersection, the north-western corner is the approximate site of the penal settlement's commissariat store which stood there from 1812-1849. And on the right-hand side of the road, just before the corner of Watt and Hunter Streets is the former site of a large building erected to house convicts in 1820. There is a very detailed history of the street at http://www.jenwilletts.com/watt_street_newcastle.htm.

Longworth Institute
Located at 127-131 Scott Street is an extraordinary building which looks as though it has just stepped out of Central Europe. This impossibly ornate two-storey red-brick building, with an elaborate facade, was designed by Frederick Menkens who emigrated from Germany, bringing with him the baroque style of his native land. This was his favourite building and he subsequently worked from a room on the first floor. Its highlights are the superb oriel windows, the carved keystones to the ground floor windows, the door, the superb ornamental detail and the niche above the first floor which contains a sculpture of 'Commerce'. It was built in 1892 for brewer Joseph Wood as offices and auction rooms. It subsequently became the Longworth Institute - a library, art gallery and music recital centre.

Former Stationmasters Residence and Police Station
Located at 92 Scott Street is the outstanding stationmaster's residence which dates from 1858. It has been beautifully restored. It has fine iron columns supporting a porch with ornate cast-iron lacework. Opposite, at the corner of Pacific and Scott Streets, is a building partially obscured by hedges and trees. It is the former Newcastle East Police Station (1880) built originally as a water police residence.

A Walk Up Bolton Street
Walk up Bolton Street from Scott Street and admire the historic buildings. There is the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd building on the corner of Hunter Street and Bolton Street; the Newcastle Morning Herald (1858); the Court Chambers (1898) on the corner of King and Bolton Streets - which has a considerable variety and degree of ornamentation about the gables, windows and doors and has a corner plaque with the bust of a judge, together with the name of the building and architect.
At the corner of Bolton and Church Streets is the Grand Hotel (1891) with its elegant verandas and ornate tile and brickwork and, at the top of the street and dominating the corner is the 1890 Court House with its imposing archway and the pillars of justice overseen by the lion and unicorn and a bust of Queen Victoria. It is a symmetrical design with a central block flanked by two wings and a pediment capped by a small tower.

The Newcastle Club
Walk towards Christ Church Anglican Cathedral and you will cross over Newcomen Street. If you turn right and walk for one block you will reach the Newcastle Club which has buildings which date to the earliest times of European settlement. The building which is now part of the southern section of the club is Claremont (c.1840) one of Newcastle's oldest buildings, it was built for the Australian Agricultural Company which owned one million acres around Port Stephens. The substantial and handsome wall on the corner of Newcomen Street and King Street was erected by convicts.

Christ Church Anglican Cathedral
Behind the Newcastle Club and looming over the city is Christ Church Anglican Cathedral which replaced an earlier Anglican church which dated from 1817. This impressive building had a very chequered history. Its construction was drawn out and piecemeal. Originally designed by J. Horbury Hunt in 1869, work did not commence until 1883 as a result of financial difficulties and arguments about design. Canon Selwyn's interference and determination to wrest control from Hunt slowed construction which ceased again in 1885 and did not recommence until 1891. Although the building was dedicated in 1902 the chancel remained incomplete until 1912. The nave was finished in 1928, the tower in 1979 and the central spire still awaits construction. There is a separate timber bellcote on the grounds, 72 stained-glass windows, a wealth of religious adornment inside the church and fine views from the grounds.

Church Street - Terraces and Gracious Mansions
While most architects would throw up their arms in horror at the mix of the old and the new along Church Street (mostly new on one side and beautiful Victorian terraces on the other) there is an argument for starting at Watt Street and proceeding along the street, past the Christ Church Anglican Cathedral until you reach Perkins Street where, to the left, there is the impressive St Mary's Star of the Sea Catholic Church (1866). Further along are two fine 19th-century mansions at 49 and 51 Church Street - Marlborough House is a very fine, two-storey red brick house with arched windows and doors, while Woodlands is a rather beautiful mansion built in 1878 for Joseph Wood of Castlemaine and Wood Brewery with quoins, columns and cast-iron lacework, set in an attractive garden with stone fencing.

Laman Street
Laman Street is another street filled with interesting architecture. On the corner of Laman and Dawson Streets is the Baptist Tabernacle Church (1889) with elaborate pillars and arched entranceway and, just beyond it, to the right, is St Andrews Presbyterian Church (1880s), an impressive building designed by Frederick Menkens with an impressively tall spire.
Over the road from the Baptist Tabernacle Church is the Civic Park with its enormous shady trees. There are two war memorials and the unusual Captain Cook Memorial Fountain.

Newcastle Art Gallery
Located at 1 Laman Street is the Newcastle Art Gallery. Founded in 1945, and formally opened in 1957, it houses over 3000 works, focusing principally on Australian art dating back to the colonial period, with works by Arthur Streeton, William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Brett Whiteley. There are also fine collections of Australian and Japanese 20th-century ceramics and Aboriginal bark paintings from Arnhem Land. The gallery is located opposite Civic Park and is open every day except Monday from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm , tel: (02) 4974 5100. Check out http://www.nag.org.au/ for additional information.

Tyrrell Street Tower
On the corner of Brown Street and Tyrell Street is a large stone tower, one of two built in 1865. Fires lit in their crenellated peaks served as navigational markers to orientate ships entering the harbour. The views down the hill over the harbour and the mouth of the Hunter River are a reminder of what the city was like when it was a coal port in the mid-19th century.

Jesmond House
Located on the corner of Barker Street and Ordnance Street is the huge mansion known as Jesmond House. Built in 1870 it was considered Newcastle's most fashionable house with an elaborate staircase leading to the second-storey veranda with its beautiful central pillar, ornamental cast-iron fencing and ornate columns. On the other side of Barker Street, at number 11, is Bryn-Y-Mor Lodge (c.1880) which was originally built as stables for Jesmond House. Over the road from Jesmond House is King Edward Park and The Obelisk.

The Obelisk
The City of Newcastle website explains: "The Obelisk is one of our city's oldest navigational markers. The first navigational marker on the site was built in 1820 and was known as the Government Flour Mill. During a strong wind it would grind 10 bushels of wheat per hour. This had been at the instigation of Colonel Morisett, who appealed to Governor Lachlan Macquarie to erect a windmill to grind flour for the settlement. As it was situated upon a prominent knoll the windmill was visible for many miles along the coast, and was used as a guiding mark for the masters of sailing crafts approaching the port of Newcastle. In 1847 the Government decided to demolish the mill and it was submitted to auction. It was purchased by a Newcastle resident. The action roused a storm of protest in shipping quarters, where it was claimed that the old windmill was a guiding mark for mariners entering the harbour. Petitions were at once forwarded to the Governor, but the purchaser sped up the demolition and the building was down before the Government could cancel the sale. However, continued agitation by the shipowners compelled the Government to act, and in 1850 the Obelisk was erected on the spot where the old windmill stood." For more information check out http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Explore/History-Heritage/Heritage-attractions/Obelisk.

Cooks Hill
If you want to admire the finest of Newcastle's elegant historic buildings you will be richly rewarded by simply walking the streets of Cooks Hill which lies to the south-east of the city centre between the harbour and King Edward Park.
Cooks Hill is named after Samuel and Elizabeth Cook who took up residence in this area in 1869.
Some of the most notable buildings in the area include Newcastle's oldest surviving church, St John's Anglican Church, located at the corner of Parry and Dawson Streets, which was designed by Edmund Blacket in the Early English style he favoured and built in 1856-59 with the church hall erected in 1860.
The terrace groups from 39-45 Union Street were built around 1880 and are fine examples of late Victorian housing. Strathearn (1889), in Bull Street, has been beautifully preserved and remains impressive. At the corner of Bull Street and Corlette Street is a corner store which was the birthplace of famous Australian painter William Dobell.


Other Attractions in the Area

4. Reserves and Attractions in the Greater Newcastle Area
Blackbutt Reserve
Blackbutt Reserve is a beautiful area (182 ha) located at Carnley Avenue, Kotara. It is a recreational area of tall blackbutt forest, woodland and rainforest which contains a wealth of flora, birdlife and other animals. The surrounding vegetation is quite dense and lush with a good canopy, perhaps a reminder of how the land here looked before white settlement.
The best recreation area is the Black Duck Picnic Area at the southern end of Carnley Avenue. There is a large carpark, a very large, open grassed area for play with childrens' recreational facilities, toilets and shelter sheds.
Up near the kids playground are emus, wallabies and kangaroos in large compounds. The Wildlife Exhibit is open daily from 9.00 am-5.00 pm and is free. It includes wombats, owls, snakes, lizards, frogs and native birds. .At 2.00 pm, the park offers Koala Encounters where you can have a pat and a photo. No bookings are required for this, meet at the Information Cottage. Usually, the koalas sleep in the trees close to the viewing area.
A wooden pathway leads past observation platforms which overlook enclosures with beautiful and brilliantly coloured bird species including the black-winged stilt, the rufous night heron, turquoise and king parrots, rosellas, coucals, curlews, the crested pigeon, the peaceful dove and lorikeets. The walkway leads to a larger viewing area which encircles an enclosure full of koalas in tree forks. Beyond it is a rocky ledge occupied by wallabies and wallaroos. For more information on the animals check out http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Blackbutt-Reserve/Animals-Experiences/Our-Animals.
Near the carpark is a large signpost which features a map of the whole reserve with its access points and its walking trails.
From the southern end of the Black Duck Car Park is a sign indicating the circular Main Ridge Walk (2.4 km) and the Rainforest Walk (2 km). Another trail behind the kangaroo enclosure heads off to the northern picnic areas.
The park also has Main Ridge Picnic Area with walking trails heading off into dense bushland. The trails range in length from the very pleasant Senses Track (150 m) through the Rainforest Walk (1.5 km) to the Main Ridge Walk.

Birdwatching at Stockton
Located north of Stockton Bridge, this is possibly the best area in New South Wales to view large numbers of migratory wading birds. It is part of Kooragang Nature Reserve, a designated "Ramsar" site for its significance for migratory wading birds. Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service manage the site. Some 34 species of migratory waders flock to the Hunter estuary in their thousands  between October and April. They include Pacific golden plover, eastern curlew, common greenshank, marsh sandpiper, Terek sandpiper, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit, red knot, red-necked stint, sharp-tailed sandpiper and curlew sandpiper. Two species of migratory tern, the white winged tern and common tern also occur at Kooragang Island.. While here they build up fat reserves, eating delicacies found on and in the mudflats of Fullerton Cove at low tide. At high tide they roost on nearby high ground, particularly along the Stockton dykes and sandspit conserving energy for the long flight north to Siberia and northern Asia. There is an excellent, downloadable brochure - http://www.hcr.cma.nsw.gov.au/kooragang/KWRP_information_brochure.pdf - which focuses on the Kooragang Wetlands on Ash Island and the Kooragang Wetlands Information Centre. There are a number of walks through the wetlands all of which can start at the Information Centre.

Hunter Wetlands Centre
The Hunter Wetlands Centre is a 45 hectare area which is part of the Hexham Swamp. It is located at 1 Wetlands Place, Shortland. Started in 1981 by Dr Max Maddock, by 1988 it had been returned to its natural state after long periods as a rubbish dump and a football field. As the excellent website (http://www.wetlands.org.au) explains "In the period from 1986 to 1988 a massive amount of work was undertaken on the site to improve its recreation, conservation and education values.
A canoe channel was excavated to connect with a flood mitigation channel leading into the adjacent Ironbark Creek and Hexham Swamp. The canoe trail now has the appearance of a typical NSW tidal coastal creek, with regenerating mangroves and a border shoreline of swamp casuarinas.
"Walking trails were constructed, an observation tower was erected near the egret colony and directional signs were placed strategically throughout the site. A perimeter fence was erected and landscaped picnic areas were installed.
A number of service clubs have contributed to facilities on site through funding and construction of site improvements, providing picnic shelters, viewing areas, bridges, boardwalks and deck areas."
The land was rehabilitated and landscaped with native flora, assisted by Greening Australia (Hunter Valley) who planted 2,290 trees.  The Australian Plant Society have made a significant contribution to the site and, together with other volunteers, have planted tens of thousands of native flora throughout the site. All plant details have been recorded including the species, the number of plants, the locality and people who planted them.
The Visitor Centre, hosting an interpretative display area, theatrette, classroom, research library and café was officially opened as a Bicentennial Project in November, 1988. There are also "Guided Ecotours", Reptile Talks and Daily Bird Feedings. Today there are walking trails, ranging from 300 m to 1.6 km, interpretation trails with help stations, a bicycle trail (3 km - also suitable for walking) which takes in an old Aboriginal stone manufactory site, a canoe trail along Ironbark Creek and its tributaries, bicycle and canoe hire, picnic and barbecue facilities.
There are five main trails through the Wetlands: (a) the Sensory Trail (b) the Freckled Duck Enclosure (c) the Boardwalk (d) the Egret Tower and (e) the Rainforest Shelter.
There are around 170 species of birds on the grounds, including about 30 which breed on-site. Some, such as the freckled duck and magpie geese are rare or endangered.  Other species include black swans, ibis, superb blue wrens, nankeen night herons, brown honey sparrows, little grebes, yellow-faced honeyeaters, dusky moorhens, red-rumped parrots, willy wagtails, swamp hens and egrets. The latter can be viewed from a special viewing tower. There are also reptiles, amphibians, mammals, insects, fish and other pond life. The centre is open seven days from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm.

Mt Sugarloaf Lookout
Located 26 km due west of the Newcastle CBD is the access to Mount Sugarloaf which, at 412 m above sea-level, offers magnificent views of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Lower Hunter Valley. The two large steel structures at the top are television transmitters.
The view from the car park is eastwards across West Wallsend with the Hunter estuary at Newcastle in the distance and, beyond that, the ocean. The large inland body of water to the south is Lake Macquarie and at night time the lights of Cardiff at the northern end of the lake are clearly visible.
The bitumen walkway which heads off from the carpark winds its way up and around the summit and leads to The Pinnacle where there are 360° views. To the south-east is the Central Coast and its hinterland. On the western shore of Lake Macquarie are the stacks of Eraring Power Station. Then there are the Watagan Mountains to the south-west and Cessnock to the west, Kurri Kurri to the north-west and Maitland to the north.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Awabakal and Worimi First Nation peoples.

* In 1770 Captain James Cook noted what is now called Nobbys Head at the mouth of the Hunter River. He did not enter the river.

* In 1797, while pursuing a group of escaped convicts, Lieutenant John Shortland "discovered" the river, which he named after Governor Hunter. He reported coal deposits at Nobbys Head.

* By 1798 ships were collecting coal from the riverbanks and selling the coal in Sydney.

* In 1799 a shipment of local coal was sent to Bengal. It was Australia's first export.

* In 1801 a convict camp known as King's Town (after Governor King) was established to mine the coal and cut timber.

* The first coal mine in Australia was sunk at Colliers Point, below Fort Scratchley, in 1801. That same year the first shipment of coal (24 tons) was sent from Newcastle to Sydney.

* The settlement closed in 1802.

* By 1804 Governor King, decided that the site's isolation, combined with the hard manual labour of coal mining, lime-burning, salt-making, timber-cutting and construction work, would make Newcastle a suitably harsh penal colony for recidivists.

*  Lime was sourced from Aboriginal middens at Stockton.

* Salt was extracted from the mangrove swamps around Stockton.

* In 1804 Lieutenant Charles Menzies was placed in charge of the penal settlement.

* Menzies resigned and Charles Throsby was placed in charge from 1805-08.

* By 1814 Newcastle was the major prison in New South Wales with over a thousand convicts.

* The settlement remained small but it did start to develop. In 1816 a public school was built at East Newcastle (the oldest public school in Australia) and the following year both a gaol and a hospital were erected, though no buildings survive today.

* The convict settlement only lasted for twenty years. It ceased in 1822.

* The convicts were moved further up the coast to Port Macquarie in 1823 as settlement of the Hunter Valley began.

* When the town site was surveyed in 1822-23 there were 71 convict homes and 13 government buildings.

* The Australian Agricultural Company acquired sole rights to the coal in 1828 and opened the first modern colliery in 1831.

* In 1831 the AAC opened Australia's first railway in Newcastle.

* In 1844 a novel, Ralph Rashleigh, by ex-convict James Tucker, described dung-eating, flogging and murder at the Newcastle penal colony.

* By the 1850s the industrial base of the city had been established and the commercial sector began to grow.

* The rail from Newcastle was extended to Maitland in 1857.

* The prosperity of the 1870s and 1880s saw the building of substantial structures. Today the city has a strong heritage of Victorian architecture.

* The population increased eight-fold between 1860 and 1890.

* By  1900 the population of Newcastle exceeded 50,000.

* In 1911 BHP chose the city as the site for its steelworks.

* The steelworks opened in 1915 with the government providing port facilities and roadways. The city was now focussed on steel production, iron-smelting and subsidiary industries.

* From 1939-1942 Newcastle became an important part of Australia's World War II war effort.

* In 1942 Newcastle was bombed by a Japanese submarine.

* In 1989 Newcastle experienced an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale. 13 people were killed and 162 injured.

* In 1997 the 272 metre S.G. Universe carried 148,000 tons of coal to from Newcastle to Sydney.

* In 1997 BHP announced plans to abandon most aspects of its steelmaking operations in Newcastle by the year 2000.

* In 2007 heavy storms in the area resulted in the MV Pasha Bulker, a bulk carrier ship, running aground on Nobbys Beach.

* In 2008-2009 a total of 90.8 million tonnes of coal was shipped out of Newcastle.

* By 2009 the local Health Service and the University were the area's largest employers.


Visitor Information

Newcastle Visitor Information Centre, 430 Hunter Street, tel: (02) 4974 2109, Open Monday - Friday 9.30 am - 4.30 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am - 2.00 pm.


Useful Websites

There is an excellent official website. Check out http://www.visitnewcastle.com.au.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

3 suggestions
  • The big tip for Newcastle Council: If it wants businesses to succeed and not have vacant shops is to not charge exorbitant parking fees. Why not put parking limits in place and charge if you exceed the limits? Make coming to Newcastle accessible to everyone. I came and paid $8 plus credit card fee for 2 hours and found that it was a waste of money. May have gone to Kmart shopping centre and parked for free. (Visitor from Melbourne)

    Steve Nelson
  • Stockton.
    The small fort.
    Mental Health Facility history.
    ATV rides on the beach.
    Camel rides on the beach.
    4WD bus tours on the beach and wakeboarding
    Shark and Stingray centre.
    Nelson and Shoal Bay areas.
    Plus markets at The Station and Growers Markets.
    Over 300 vineyards and boutique restaurants plus the spectacular Hunter Valley Gardens attraction.

    Sue O'Neill