Newcastle is far from a car-free paradise. In fact, it’s the only city I know that has introduced cars into its pedestrian mall and cut a railway that went to the centre, all in the name of revitalisation. However, my family lives without a car, and its our home, and there is a lot to do and see if you know where to look. Whether you want to ride a bike, walk or use public transport, it is possible and can be fun if you know how it’s done.
Newcastle is only a 2.5 hour train ride north of Sydney (costs under $7) and you can put your bike on the train. There is also an airport here and lots of regional buses. So come and visit!
MODES – Choosing and using transport
While you can usually pay for the bus, ferry and train by cash, these days it’s best to get an opal card and enjoy slightly cheaper fares and a capped $2.70 travel day on Sundays.
In the centre of Newcastle you can buy an opal card (with minimum top up value of $10) at the Mall Newsagency (in the Mall), Darby Street Pharmacy and Civic Grocer (on Hunter St). Woolworths (Steel St) and Nextra Marketown also sell them. Note you cannot buy Opal cards at the Newcastle Interchange or the ferry terminal but you can “top up” (put more value on your card). More details on Opal cards
You can take your bike on the train and on the ferry. Generally buses won’t let you take a bicycle, but most (not all) buses are accessible for wheelchairs and prams.
Much of Newcastle is flat and, while it sometimes seems a bit disjointed, there are some world class bike paths and cycling can be a great way to get around. You will need to access a helmet if you don’t want to break Australia’s strict rules for cyclists. There are great places for mountain biking, there are BMX parks and there are some challenging hills for road bikes.
Newcastle bike map will help you get around. More info on cool places to take your bike can be found here … under construction.
Newcastle has three docked bike systems (you need a credit card to access them):
- Docked electric bikes – Bykko is a new system of shared electric bikes where you can only have a bike for 30 mins at a time. There are about 19 stations spread between Merewether, Nobby’s and Wickham.
- Swipe&Ride docked bikes – Swipe & Ride is a system of shared basic bikes with two docking stations in the centre and one in the vineyards.
- Boomerang Bikes – Boomerang Bikes is a system of shared bikes including childrens bikes and bike seats. There is one docking station at Warners Bay foreshore and another in Nelson Bay.
Other convenient locations to hire bikes are:
- Lynches cafe – You can hire a variety of contraptions with wheels and pedals including a rickshaw and can also get great friendly advice making it a good option for families.
- Metro Cycles – This is one of the local bike shops (a short walk from the interchange) and they will hire a variety of bikes to you including mountain bikes so you can check out Newcastle’s famous mountain bike trails.
- Drift Cycles – This is another bike shop in Kotara (bus 14 from city) and hire e-bikes, mountain bikes (more pricey than metro), trailers and accessories and a short ride along the Fernleigh track from Glenrock’s mountain bike trails
The University of Newcastle has a bicycle library where you can hire bikes or buy a second hand bike at a reasonable price and sell it back for close to the same price. Note you will need to take a bus (number 11) or train (to Warabrook station) to get here.
The central part of Newcastle is quite walkable (provided you can walk around the various construction works). However, there are some steps and hazards around (beware if you have a pram of wheelchair). There are some fun paths away from cars to get around the central part of Newcastle if you know where to look.
Visit the Nobbys breakwall, fort scratchley, the cathedral, obelisk, Anzac walk, the various inner city art galleries and museums, stop for a break at a cafe or park, or for a dip at the beach or baths – Newcastle has a lot to see within walking distance of the centre and the Newcastle Visitors centre has put together some ideas for paths you could follow or stray from here.
ITINERIES – Journeys through our city
Here are some ideas for some picturesque, peaceful and potentially challenging days out. These trips combine public transport with walks and/or bicycle rides with potential places to take a bite, enjoy the scenery or just take a well deserved nap. There are some alternative suggestions and you are welcome to chop and change them to suit your day and your way of doing things. Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen (and mozzie repellent in Summer).
10 km easy walk with some sand and possibly mud- Forests, views, remote beaches, rockpools and patrolled swim spots (avoid this walk during high tides and swells)
16 km easy walk mostly paved – Forests, lake views, cafes, parks and art (lots of walking under the sun so avoid on hot days)
Option to walk over Munibung Hill (still working on/exploring this option)
14 km easy walk – This trek incorporates a range of natural spaces in Newcastle with a dash of suburbia in between
15 km easy walk – Enjoy every beach from Redhead to Merewether with some beautiful wetlands, wildflowers, forest and hills in between
There are a number of great cycleways/shared paths in Newcastle that can be incorporated into a ride
Bathers Way / Eleebana to Booragul lake cycleway / Fernleigh track / Greenpoint / Greenway from Fassifern to Toronto / Rasberry Gully path / Throsby creek and foreshore path / Wallsend to Glendale path / University and Jesmond park / Stockton cycleway
A good long route links up:
Fernleigh track to Greenpoint to Eleebana to Booragul lake cycleway and catch the train from Booragul after stopping for cake at the Lake Macquarie art gallery (making a map for this)
OR after speers point park go under the bridge then follow the bike path then the road to the Glendale to Wallsend path then University and Throsby creek and foreshore path
If you are looking for some pain you can always take a detour from Glendale and ride up Mt Sugarloaf
A shorter route could be a loop to the university and back which links up:
Throsby creek and foreshore path to University and Jesmond park then back through Lambton Park, past the Stadium and Racecourse then head to Merewether to finish the day with the Bathers Way
Or for a quick ride why not mix it with some public transport
- Catch the ferry to Stockton and ride the breakwall and cycleway
- Catch the train to Fassifern and ride to Toronto foreshore
- Catch the train to Maitland and ride to Walcha waterworks
There are some great mountain biking spots in Newcastle and they are within riding distance from train stations so you can get there without a car.
Awaba mountain bike park is about a 10 km ride from Dora Creek station
Glenrock is less than a 10 km ride away from Newcastle or a very short ride from Adamstown station along the Fernleigh track
ATTRACTIONS – Getting to our favourite spots
Catch the 13 bus, once you pass John Hunter Hospital (JHH) and get back on the main Road (Lookout Rd) you want the third bus stop (Lookout Rd Opposite Grandview Rd). Walk through the carpark and you can follow the trails down to see the animals or Richley Reserve.
Alternatively, you can take the first bus stop on Lookout Rd after JHH and walk to the small entrance near McCaffrey Dve (it’s closer to Richley Reserve) or catch the 25 bus from Broadmeadow Station or the 26 bus from Newcastle West to Carnley Avenue near Orchardtown rd, walk up Dunkley Ave to the end and once you enter the park through a short dirt track (prammable) you can veer right to Richley Reserve or left to where the animals are near Carnley Ave carpark. I recommend going back this way if you don’t want to head back up the hills.
Dudley Bluff and Redhead Lagoon
Catch the bus to Charlestown (14 from the city to the bottom of Charlestown Square) and then the 48 to the end of Ocean St or from Charlestown you can use the On demand service. Continue along Ocean St and go through the gate onto the bush trail. When you come to a picnic trail turn right for Redhead Lagoon or straight for Dudley Bluff (a few metres along there is a small track on you right which goes to redhead)
Catch the bus to Charlestown (14 from the city to the bottom of Charlestown Square) and the 48 to Ocean St before Bombala St. Turn left at Bombala St and follow to the end where you will see a track with signs to the beach. Alternatively from Charlestown you can use the on demand service to Dudley beach.
Glenrock Lagoon and surrounds
If you are happy to incorporate a long walk along the Fernleigh track, you can take the 14 bus to Kotara (Park Avenue before Dibbs St – The stop of St Pius X school) and walk along the Fernleigh track, through the tunnel and through beautiful forest to arrive and Glenrock National Park. Alternatively you can catch the 22 bus from Marketown to Glebe St, Kahibah and walk down Burwood Rd.
Catch the 14 to Belmont (careful, some buses only go to Charlestown so make sure it terminates at Belmont or Swansea). Descend at bus stop just after Evan St, cross over the Pacific Hwy and walk along Evan St. At the end cross the main road and turn right and then left into Ross St which you will follow until you reach Greenpoint (be careful there is no footpath most of the way and it’s quite a long walk). Alternatively catch the 41 from the centre of Belmont back to Crown St at The Shores Way.
Lake Macquarie City Council Art gallery
Catch the train to Booragul station (express trains don’t stop here) walk across the park to the crossing, cross the main road and walk down past the roundabout to the lake. Follow the lake path to the right and it will take you to the art gallery (you can take your bike on the train and ride if it’s easier – get off at cockle creek on the way if you don’t like carrying your bike up stairs, but you can’t avoid stairs on the way back unless you can make it to Fassifern station!).
Redhead Beach and Owens Track
Catch the bus to Charlestown (14 from the city to the bottom of Charlestown Square) and then the 48 bus to Beach St in Redhead
Tree tops adventures – Minmi
This is not easy but you can catch the 11 bus to Jesmond and then… still need to investigate this one…
Catch the train to Sandgate station and walk or cycle from there through the park and then along Sandgate Rd.
Stockton Sand dunes
Still investigating this one
Still investigating this one but there is information on how to get there here
Awabakal Nature Reserve
Number 48 bus from Charletown to the end of Ocean Street, Dudley and continue walking along Ocean St and through gate. Alternative stay on the bus to Cowlishaw St before Steel St, Redhead (opposite the bowling club) and continue on Cowlishaw to Allard St where you turn left and look on the right for a path to Alison St. Follow it all the way to the end and then continue following the road around to the right at the top of the hill (it becomes Collier Rd). There is a path away from the road which you follow almost all the way to the end of the street. Opposite Kay Lane you will find a small track to left which you can take into the Reserve.
Hunter Botanical Gardens
Catch the 140 bus from Newcastle Interchange. It will take you directly to the gardens but you will have to cross a busy highway to get there so be careful. It take approximately 30 mins on the bus and your stop is after the Hexham Bridge and Tomago (best to ask the driver).
Port Stephens buses and Hunter Valley Buses operate services to the airport and you can use your opal card or cash to pay. From the Newcastle Interchange catch the 130, 131 or 138 bus, or catch the ferry to Stockton and then catch the 136 bus.
This is not the easiest hospital to get to by public transport. The 29 and 41 bus pass the hospital and you could either catch the 14 to Belmont and jump onto either of these services or catch the 13 or train to Cardiff and then catch the 29.
By bicycle, if you have time, you can ride the Fernleigh track and then ride through Greenpoint Reserve to Greenpoint Drive. Just before you reach the main road,you will see Belmont Hospital to your right. If you are more confident from the Fernleigh track you can ride along Croudace Bay Rd
Tighes Hill Tafe
Catch the 11 bus or ride along the Foreshore and then Throsby Creek shared path
John Hunter Hospital
Catch 13 bus or from Tighes Hill Tafe or the University catch the 11 bus. Both these services will drop you at the front door of the hospital. You can ride up from Jesmond Park to the hospital as well.
Shopping for groceries
The city centre has lots of great shopping option including Local Crop and Harris Farm within walking distance of the CBD. However, for supermarkets you will have to either catch the 14 bus to the Junction or the 11 or 13 bus to Marketown. Both these places are also easily walkable or rideable.
University of Newcastle
Catch the train to Warabrook station and walk 10 minutes, or catch the 11 bus. You can also ride to the university along the number 6 route, which takes you along Throsby Creek, past tighes hill tafe and then follows the train line to Waratah Station where you cross and continue near the train line to the university.