Newcastle History & Heritage
Step back in time in one of Australia’s oldest cities. From learning about the area’s indigenous, military and industrial heritage to swimming in a rock pool built by convicts, there’s a number of fascinating historical experiences in Newcastle on the NSW North Coast. Explore museums, embark on tours and walk the tunnels of a fort.
Learn about the local Aboriginal people’s rich culture and deep connections with the land on an indigenous heritage tour. Participate in traditional Aboriginal dance and hear Dreamtime stories on a bush tucker walk with the Yamuloong Centre, or join Sand Dune Adventures for a cultural quad bike tour to ancient Aboriginal campsites in the Worimi Conservation Lands, a place of Aboriginal significance.
European settlement & convict history
In the 1790s, colonists from Sydney arrived in the area in search of escaped convicts and discovered a place of abundant natural resources, including a deep harbour. Begin your history lesson at the Newcastle Museum, where you can learn about the city’s European settlement, as well as its industrial past and the 1989 Newcastle earthquake.
Originally a penal colony, Newcastle’s convict origins can be observed at the heritage-listed Bogey Hole, a rock pool carved out by convicts in 1819 for the personal use of Major James Morisset, and the Convict Lumberyard. Witness a snapshot of pre-1950s life in Newcastle at Miss Porter's House Museum.
Military & maritime history
For military history and spectacular views over the harbour, Fort Scratchley Historic Site is a must-see. It’s the only fort in Australia to have engaged the enemy in a maritime attack, having returned fire on Japanese submarines during WWII in June 1942. You can explore the fort’s intricate tunnel system on a tour.
For maritime heritage, join Nova Cruises, Spitfire Pilot Boats or Newcastle Kayak Tours and explore the port. Or hop aboard a Nova riverboat to historic Morpeth, where the Arnott’s family biscuit dynasty began in 1847.
It’s easy to travel between the city’s historical attractions on a Premium Bus Tour or Newcastle’s Famous Tram, a replica of the tram that serviced Newcastle in 1923. Both sightseeing tours include a stop at the historic King Edward Park, a city reserve with breathtaking ocean views, and the Newcastle Memorial Walk, which honours the sacrifices made by ANZAC soldiers during WWI.