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Stockton, NSW

Sleepy coastal town and "suburb" to the north of Newcastle.

Although it is only five minutes from Newcastle by ferry, Stockton has a unique character and an intriguing history which is far removed from the nearby bustling steel city. Stockton's glorious long beach which stretches 33 km to the north - all the way to Port Stephens - makes this "northern suburb" of Newcastle a superb hideaway for holidaymakers. It is a fisherman's paradise with the Hunter River, Stockton Beach, Newcastle Harbour and deep sea fishing all being ideal fishing grounds. In many ways Stockton is a sleepy, old fashioned seaside town with a mix of 19th century cottages and elegant newer houses. The main street and shopping centre are unpretentious. The beach cafe is classy and the open parklands are ideal for relaxation and picnics. It is a hidden gem.

Location

Stockton, just north of Newcastle, is located 179 km north of Sydney via the Sydney-Newcastle freeway. It is only 2 km (only five minutes by ferry) from the Newcastle CBD but, by road, it is 20 km via Mayfield, Kooragan and the Tourle and Nelson Bay bridges.

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Origin of Name

The local Worimi Aborigines knew Stockton as 'burrinbingon'. It was a popular destination because of the rich supplies of fish, pippies and oysters.

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Things to See and Do

Cycling around Stockton
It is hard to imagine a better place to cycle by the sea than Stockton. There are numerous designated cycleways, the area is beautifully flat, and the changing scenery from the Breakwater to views across to Newcastle's CBD to pleasant journeys along the banks of the Hunter River is ideal for everyone from the committed cyclist to family holidays.

The Shipwreck Walk and Stockton's Maritime History
Stockton is a maritime suburb. The Shipwreck Walk runs along the foreshore in both directions from the ferry terminal. Heading up river it reaches the Ballast Ground where sailing ships deposited their ballast before loading up at the port. Towards Stockton Beach it heads towards Pirate Point and out on the Shipwreck Walk Breakwater where the hulks of visible wrecks have been incorporated into the structure. Across the water it is easy to identify Nobbys Head and the lighthouse.

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 hundreds and 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. They build up fat reserves, eating delicacies found on and in mudflats of Fullerton Cove at low tide. At high tide they roost on nearby high ground, particularly along the Stockton dykes and sand spit 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.

Heritage Buildings
There is little to appeal to those interested in historic buildings with the notable exceptions of the slipway and boat harbour opposite the Boatrowers Hotel at 130 Fullerton Road; the old Police Station which dates from around 1882; St Pauls Church and old Rectory at 34a Maitland Street; and the gracious "The Laurels", located at 46 Fullerton Street on the corner of King Street, which was built by William Quigley in 1897. The architect was Ralph Snowball who was also a brilliant early photographer of Newcastle and the district. Check out https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157608912691810/

Stockton Beach and Tin City
Stockton Beach is one of the state's little known wonders. It stretches from the breakwater at the mouth of the Hunter River for 33 km up the coast to Port Stephens. With the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere (and they really are massive), Stockton Beach is a popular spot for sand board riding and 4WD tours. The arc of the beach is tempting to visitors who want to walk and walk. Among the sand dunes is the famous Tin City, reputedly built as a base for shipwrecked sailors although some believe that the shacks were built by homeless men during the 1930s Depression. The easiest way to access this remarkable collection of eleven buildings is to drive along Stockton Beach. This can only be achieved in a 4WD. Tin City was used to shoot a number of scenes in the 1979 movie Mad Max. The houses have no power, no water and no sewerage. They are also prone to being covered by the shifting sands of the area. Writing about the place for the Newcastle Herald, Tim Elliot observed: "Then there's the sea. Erosion of the frontal dune has become so bad that when the tide is high and surf big, waves rush up and into the huts.
"All of this is, of course, part of Tin City's charm. It's not just surreal, it's post-apocalyptically surreal, from the half-buried shacks and the wind that goes shooshooshoooo in your ear to the Sahara-like dunes that tower over the shacks to the west, dunes so gargantuan that when the photographer and I start walking up them in order to 'get some perspective' we give up after 20 minutes, having only ascended one quarter of their height.
"These dunes have secrets. One day in the 1980s, [one of the residents] found the half-buried skeleton of an Aboriginal girl. There are also ancient Aboriginal middens, dotted throughout the sandy swales, white shoals of sun-bleached shells periodically uncovered by the wind. Some of them date back 1200 years. Then, a jet fighter will scream overhead, on a training run from nearby Williamtown air force base." Check out http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2013518/welcome-to-tin-city-stockton/ for the full story. If you want to see what the dunes actually look like check out http://www.worimiconservationlands.com/ which has a 3 minute video which explains the connection of the Woremi people with the land and shows the scale of the dunes. There is also a useful, downloadable map of the beach. It shows that access to the beach can be had at Lavis Lane off Cabbage Tree Road and Gan Gan Road off Nelson Bay Road.

Fishing
Stockton, which is strategically located on a peninsula at the mouth of the Hunter River, is a fisherman's paradise with the Hunter River, Stockton Beach, Newcastle Harbour and deep sea fishing all being easily accessible. It is regarded by many anglers as one of the best fishing areas in New South Wales. Certainly the small number of men who live at Tin City manage to eke a reliable food supply from fishing in the ocean.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Stockton was inhabited by Worimi Aborigines who called the place "Burrinbingon" and lived off a rich harvest of oysters, pippies and fish which is evidenced by the large number of middens in the area.

* In 1797 Lieutenant John Shortland, who had travelled up the coast from Sydney searching for escaped convicts, discovered the Coal River and came ashore at the present site of Stockton.

* By 1799 a saw pit was operating at Stockton and timber was being shipped to Sydney.

* In 1800 convicts who had seized a ship named the Norfolk were washed onto the point

* By 1800 the Stockton peninsula was officially known as Pirate Point. This continued until 1862.

* As Newcastle grew Stockton became a northern industrial suburb. By 1838 there were lime kilns, salt works and a foundry on the peninsula.

* In 1853 a vitriol works was built.

* A tin smelter and a textile factory were opened in 1872. Several shipbuilders and slipways were constructed along the river.

* The Stockton Coal Company was fully operational by 1886.

* Stockton Borough Council began in 1889 and its imposing Council Chambers stood where the Stockton RSL Club now stands.

* In 1898 the Stockton mine disaster resulted in the deaths of eleven men. The tragedy is commemorated by the Memorial Gates at Lynn Oval.

* The Adolphe was wrecked on Stockton Beach in 1904. The wreck is still visible on the breakwater.

* From the late 1800s to the early 1900s sailing ships tied up on the Hunter River bank near Stockton . If they were carrying ballast they would unload it. The area is now known as the "Ballast Ground".

* In 1951 the Stockton Cottage Hospital closed down. The building still stands on the corner of Monmouth and Mitchell Streets.

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Visitor Information

Coming from the north you will get information on Stockton from the Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, 60 Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay, tel: 1800 808 900. From the south check out Newcastle Visitor Information Centre, 3 Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle, tel: 1800 654 558.

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Eating

Lexie's On The Beach, Mitchell Street, Stockton, tel: (02) 4928 4226, see http://lexiesonthebeach.com.au for a menu.

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Useful Websites

The Newcastle website - http://www.visitnewcastle.com.au/pages/nature - has useful information on the Stockton sand dunes and Kooragang wetlands.

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Got something to add?

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

11 suggestions
  • Where are the two posts that were the entrance to the coal mine? They record the names of the miners that were killed in the cave-in.

    Gudrun Sharples
  • Stockton locals usually adorn their cars with pirate point surf (PPS) distinctive stickers. They has adopted noonad local brand shorts and skirts as a point of difference. These are highly sought after.

    Rauf
  • The ferry takes 2.5 minutes to the “mainland” and runs every 20-30 minutes.

    Rauf
  • I don’t believe there is a petrol station in Stockton … this would be good advice to give to tourists and visitors. Also advice re basic shopping needs ie supermarket, banks and atms, even take away food shops.
    Thank you

    Bridget
    • In theory Bridget is quite correct but if we start listing petrol stations and stores we are confronted with two problems (a) they change on a regular basis and will need to be constantly monitored and updated (b) no one likes a website that is out of date … and so we try and keep information that is timeless. We don’t always succeed.

      Bruce Elder
  • Really love your part of Australia, envious of the great sailing waters, but no closer to who named it Stockton? Maybe someone from Stockton-on-Tees?

    John Stockton
    • And I have scoured the sources and can’t find an explanation, either. So someone hopefully will read this who actually knows why Stockton was named Stockton.

      Bruce Elder
  • Stockton’s laneways are a unique feature of our community , most locals will tell you that as children they learnt to ride a bicycle peddling through the laneways – & most residents prefer this mode of transport to this day ! I have often thought it would be to our advantage to enhance these wonderful laneways & run small tour groups in & around these plentiful laneways

    Trish Burke
  • Noting the comment from Trish Burke re laneways – Yes I learnt to ride my bike safely through the lanes first then did (at the time) enormous loops up and down the streets then the big ride to Williamtown!! – In those days (60’s) very few cars in Stockton! – We lived on the corner of Mitchell & Monmouth at 145 Mitchell – my sister was in born in the cottage /ladies hospital across the road!!.

    Currently live in Sydney but going back for the ‘WoodStockton’ event at the bowlo this Oct 2018 long w/e 🙂

    Brian Pickering