Surf’s Up: Sydney to Newcastle Travel Guide

Leave the hustle and bustle of Sydney behind on a road trip north. The city of Newcastle has shrugged off its industrial image and now attracts sea changers and holiday makers in search of sparkling beaches and a relaxed vibe.


Visitors watch the daily pelican feeding at The Entrance on the NSW Central Coast

New South Wales’ second largest city, thanks to its importance as a seaport, couldn’t be more different from its biggest. People would commute between the two if they could, but a train line too difficult to upgrade is Newcastle’s saving grace. It remains relaxed and contained despite its obvious natural assets that act as a magnet for surfers, walkers, cyclists and swimmers. The beaches, Hunter Street and some of the hip inner-city neighbourhoods – there’s a strong creative scene here – are within walking distance of one another, but jump in the car and you can be bushwalking in the Sugarloaf State Conservation Area or watching birds in the Hunter Wetlands National Park in no time at all.


People walking along the waterfront promenade at Newcastle’s Honeysuckle entertainment precinct

See all of Newcastle’s glorious coastline by walking the six-kilometre Bathers Way. Stretching from Nobbys Beach in the north to the Merewether Ocean Baths, it offers beautiful views and the chance to take a dip at numerous points along the way, picnic in parks, watch the waves batter the Bogey Hole and explore coves. Don’t miss your opportunity to go for a swim at the Newcastle Ocean Baths, with its Art Deco pavilion façade. You could stretch it out for most of the day then settle in for Italian dishes with a view at Merewether Surfhouse.


  1. At Brisbane Water, south of Gosford, Bouddi National Park is a small (in comparison to many NSW national parks) but mighty parcel of land with stunning beaches, temperate rainforest and several excellent walks. One of them is the eight-kilometre Bouddi Coastal Walk, some of it along boardwalks, that takes in isolated beaches, stunning lookouts and great coastal views from sandstone cliffs.

  2. Every day at popular holiday spot The Entrance, hundreds of hungry birds arrive for a meal. At 3.30pm at Pelican Plaza in the Marine Parade Memorial Park, a huge flock of big pelicans arrives to gorge on fish passed out to them by volunteers.

  3. If you didn’t think you’d ever be able to explore mangroves in the city, you’ve never visited Newcastle. In suburban Carrington at Throsby Creek, there’s been an initiative to rehabilitate the waterway and restore its importance as a breeding ground for birds and marine animals. Members of the public can find some solace on the Carrington Mangrove Boardwalk. When you’re done, Earp Distilling Co is just a mosey away.

  4. Dedicated viewers of Masterchef will likely remember Reece Hignell, who wooed the judges with his sweet nature and even sweeter pastry techniques. Cake Boi is his bricks-and-mortar shop serving up sweet treats. A favourite among regulars is the classic sponge just like his nan makes.

  5. Many people are afraid of what lurks beneath the ocean’s surface, but at Anna Bay’s Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters you can get close to these critters and discover that they’re (almost) as lovable as your dog. Venture into the shallow lagoon to meet rays, feed a tawny shark and even go for a snorkel, all while you learn more about them and their conservation.


Novotel Newcastle Beach

Set yourself up right on the beach at Novotel Newcastle Beach, overlooking an incredible surf break. All the rooms are spacious with contemporary appointments, and the hotel is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and bars.

Crown on Darby

Darby Street in the historical suburb of Cooks Hill is well known for its excellent boutiques and cafes, so if that’s your scene check in to Crown on Darby, with its stylish self-contained apartments.

Honeysuckle Executive Apartments

The Honeysuckle precinct is Newcastle’s premier entertainment district – Newcastle Museum is right on the doorstep – set on the marina. It’s all just downstairs when you stay at Honeysuckle Executive Apartments, with its choice of one-, two- and three-bedroom residences.


Sydney Harbour Bridge New South Wales

A road trip to Newcastle is as easy as booking a vehicle from Apex Car Rentals to collect on arrival at Sydney Airport. The city is a two-hour drive north, and one of the early highlights is crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You’ll track through Sydney’s northern suburbs before hitting the coast, where you can detour to national parks and coastal towns before arriving at your destination. While there are places you could stay overnight, it’s probably a good decision to spend as much time as you can around Newcastle.


Wallis Lake New South Wales

There are a number of options if you want to continue exploring before heading back to Sydney. The first is the Hunter Valley, one of the country’s premier wine regions. If you can’t get enough of the ocean, you’ll find the Barrington Coast, with uncrowded beaches around Forster and Tuncurry, twin towns set on Wallis Lake, a good choice. Seafood lovers might be pleased to know the lake is where the most Sydney rock oysters are grown in the state.