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Sydney sightseeing

Newcastle lies approximately 160 kilometres north of Sydney, a journey of two and a half hours by CityRail train. A visit to this city is a great day trip from Sydney, as direct trains leave from Central Station every hour during the day. On the way, you will have some beautiful views of mountains and rivers, particularly the area around the Hawkesbury River.


Newcastle is the seventh largest city in Australia and is the largest city which is not a state or federal capital. It has a population of approximately 300,000. Newcastle was founded on 30th March 1804 as a penal settlement, so has a selection of buildings which are old by Australian standards, as well as beaches, surf, impressive coastal scenery, bushland and a well-known lake. It is also an important port, especially for the export of coal, of which resource some 70 million tonnes passes through the city annually.

Most of the attractions of Newcastle are within walking distance of the Newcastle Railway Station. Customs House is just to the east of the station and has a clock tower with a time ball on top. Since Customs House was constructed in 1876, the ball was dropped every day at 13:00 as a visual time signal. However, since the earthquake of 1989 it has not worked properly, and is now used as a pub and restaurant. Next to it is the old Paymaster's Office for New South Wales Government Railways, dating from 1879. It also is now a restaurant. Beyond these two buildings is the site of the former Convict Lumber Yards. This is the oldest surviving example of a convict industrial site, which was in operation between 1814 and 1846. Moreover, beneath it is an aboriginal site which dates back several thousand years.


Further on still is Foreshore Park, an area which used to be railway yards, but has been transformed into a park, with the old warehouses used as shops and restaurants. To its eastern side is Fort Scratchley, constructed in 1882, due to fears of a Russian invasion. However, its first and only action occurred on 7th June 1942, when a Japanese submarine arrived and fired 24 shots at Newcastle. Fort Scratchley fired two rounds in reply before the submarine disappeared. The fort is now a Maritime and Military Museum.

Beyond the fort is the breakwater constructed by convict labour to protect the port. At its tip is the conspicuous Nobby's Headland, which was originally an island. Turning to the eastern foreshore, we come first to Nobby's Beach and then to the Ocean Baths, an interesting enclosed swimming area dating from 1922, when mixed bathing was first permitted in the city. Beyond is Newcastle Beach, the longest of the beach areas in the city, and then Fletcher Park at its end. Continuing south, we reach Bogey Hole, a swimming hole cut in the natural rock at the order of Commandant Morisset in 1819. Originally it was his private swimming place, but it became a public pool in 1863. The term ‘Bogey' Hole is evidently derived from the aboriginal word for bathing. Back from the Bogey Hole is King Edward Park, which was given to the city in 1865 but renamed later after the monarch of the time.


The rotunda in King Edward Park dates from Victorian times. In the farthest corner of the park is the Obelisk. A windmill was built here in 1821 on the orders of Commandant Morisset, and when it was demolished later, there was considerable opposition, since it served as a useful navigational marker. An obelisk was erected in its place, originally of wood but soon rebuilt in brick, and there it still stands. Near the Obelisk is the junction of Ordnance Street and Wolfe Street. From this point, proceed north along Wolfe Street to Church Street and turn right.

Here is the pride of Newcastle architecture, the Cathedral. It is built on the site of Newcastle's oldest church, originally constructed by convict labour in 1817. However, the use of poor workmanship and materials led to the demolition of the original church, and the construction of the present cathedral started in 1884. There were several disputes over its design, so it was not until 1902 that it was completed. The tower was added in 1979, but the earthquake caused considerable damage to the entire building; it has since been restored.

Continue east along Church Street to reach the Courthouse at the junction with Bolton Street. The Courthouse is an imposing piece of Victorian architecture, built in 1890. Now walk two blocks down the slope of Bolton Street to the Post Office, on the corner of, and facing, Hunter Street. This Post Office has survived the fate of many similar ornate buildings, and is still used for its original purpose. It was constructed in 1902.

This is our guide to Newcastle, and covers a good few hours of the day, which can be rounded off wonderfully by some time spent at the beach and some meals enjoyed in any of the restaurants around this historic city.

Newcastle is the entry point for the Hunter Valley.


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