Newcastle & Port Stephens
169 km from Sydney | 2 hr drive time | 3 day trip
Newcastle has come a long way in recent years from a coastal industrial city with a lot of potential, to a thriving cultural and surf centre with gorgeously restored heritage buildings, hip bars, and a laid back attitude. It's surrounded by water with the Hunter River to one side and the Pacific Ocean to the other. All highlight and some places to stay in your camper van are mapped at the end of the article.
Visit Fort Scratchley to learn about the city's military history (it once had to defend itself), explore the underground tunnels and take in some great city and coastal views.
The Harbour Foreshore is a promenade, with a replica of Australia’s first built steamship, restaurants and bars. The Newcastle Regional Museum, is housed in one of the city's many historical buildings with engaging exhibitions. Queens Wharf, is a colourful and cosmopolitan hub with restaurants, boutiques, a brewery, and an observation tower that gives you commanding views of the city. Enjoy the soaring architecture, stained glass and peace in Christ Church Cathedral. Visit the 'lock up', a police station turned artists' studios. Its padded cell is still in tact.
Christ Church Cathedral overlooks the city of Newcastle
Take a cruise and explore Newcastle Harbour, or enjoy a full day tour along the Hunter River up to Morpeth. A scenic drive from the city centre winds along spectacular coastline, past the Bogey Hole, an historic rock pool chiseled into the rocks by the first convicts, and through King Edward Park with its lookout point and panoramic coastal views.
See the rich birdlife and wildlife in the 160 acre Hunter Wetland Centre. Feed emus and cuddle a wombat at the Blackbutt Reserve.
Walk the 5 km scenic and historic coastal walk known as Bathers Way. Another beautiful walk is Nobby's Head to the lighthouse to surround yourself with ocean views and fresh salt air.
Surf Fest Newcastle
Where to Stay
Stockton Beach Holiday Park is across the river from Newcastle on a headland. Ferries between Stockton and Newcastle run every 30 minutes. Walking from the holiday park, the ferry journey, and the walk to the centre of Newcastle will take you around 24 minutes.
Port Stephens is a large inlet and is known as the dolphin capital of NSW and you can get a close look at these playful and charismatic guys by taking a dolphin tour. Nelson Bay is the main town.
Dolphins at Port Stephens. Photo: LisaSkeltonPhotography via IG
Port Stephens is the perfect place to explore by kayak, paddle board or bicycle and there are plenty of places from which you can hire the equipment you need.
Tomaree Peninsula on the south side of the harbour has near-deserted beaches, national parks, undulating sand dunes and Nelson Bay on its tip. Clothing is optional on Sumarai Beach. One Mile Beach has gently sloping powder-soft sand and incredibly blue water. The Tomaree Peninsula National Park has coastal walks with panoramic views and is home to the endangered quoll.
If you like sand dune landscapes, Worimi Conservation Land is a must.
Stockton Sand Dunes. Photo: _danieltran_ via IG
Swimming at Port Stephens. Photo: JamayaHardy via IG
Barrington Tops National Park is on the inland side of the Great Dividing Range. Dungog is a main access point to the Barrington Tops National Park, which contains two 1600 metres of alpine plateaus that fall away steeply to just 400 metres. The park is noted for its wildlife and some unusual local flora, and has a variety of walking trails and picnic areas.
Where to Stay
There are so many caravan parks in Port Stephens in which you can stay in your campervan, four right by the beach, and all with a full range of facilities. We've mapped them for you below.
Add on trips
Newcastle - Hunter Valley Loop
You could make Newcastle and Port Stephens part of a loop starting and ending in Sydney. Travel up through Ku-ring-gai Chase & Brisbane Waters National Parks to Newcastle, Port Stephens and Myall Lakes, and return via the Hunter Valley, Wollemi & the Blue Mountains National Parks.
Sydney to Brisbane Drive
For those with more time on their hands and a bold sense of adventure, make Newcastle and Port Stephens the first leg of a Sydney to Brisbane drive, known as the Legendary Pacific Coast.
- Hunter Valley Wineries and Highlights
- Wollemi & Blue Mountains National Parks
- Brisbane Waters & Ku-ring-gai Chase National Parks
- Newcastle & Port Stephens
- Newcastle | Port Stephens | Myall Lakes
- Sydney to Brisbane Drive
- Campervan Hire Sydney