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The ultimate guide for visiting Fort Scratchley and Newcastle museum

With a rich indigenous history, architecture dating back hundreds of years, and an array of historical landmarks and museums, Newcastle is the ultimate destination for those looking to add a little culture and history to their seaside escape in NSW.

Newcastle is, in fact, one of Australia’s oldest cities—originally a convict settlement and the home of the first European coal mine in the country. Take a glimpse into the region's colourful past and discover some of Newcastle's top cultural attractions with our guide to Fort Scratchley and Newcastle Museum. 

Discover Fort Scratchley

Fort Scratchley History

Fort Scratchley, located on the picturesque headland overlooking Newcastle's coastline, played a crucial role in the city's industrial and military Newcastle history. Originally named Braithwaite's Head, Fort Scratchley dates back to 1801 and is considered the birthplace of coal mining in Australia. The area was once a penal colony with some of the country's most dangerous convicts sent to mine coal and cut timber. 

An earthen battery was constructed in 1828, but in 1876, with fears of a Russian attack, Major General Sir William Jervois and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Scratchley were sent by the British Government to establish the city's naval defences. Jervois and Scratchley oversaw the fort's construction with the addition of troop accommodation, the Commandant's cottage and barracks buildings completed in 1886. 

Springing into action on the night of 7-8 June 1942,  the Battery's 6-inch guns fired at a Japanese submarine that bombarded the city with two dozen shells following the Attack on Sydney Harbour on 31 May. In 1962, Fort Scratchley's guns were decommissioned, and in 1972 the fort was finally closed.

A Man In A Hat Talking To A Group Of People at Fort ScratchleyImage Credit: Eluminate Media

Fort Scratchley Today

In 1977, Fort Scratchley became home to the Newcastle Regional Maritime Museum and the Military Museum/Fort Scratchley Historical Society in 1982. Restoration works were completed in 2008, and today, Fort Scratchley stands as one of the city's historic landmarks, offering visitors a chance to delve into Newcastle's military past.

Newcastle Museum

Newcastle Museum sits in the heart of Newcastle on Workshop Way, only minutes from Crystalbrook Kingsley. The museum is located in the historic Honeysuckle Railway workshops, with an array of exhibitions and collections on show, highlighting significant moments from Newcastle's past and present.

A Group Of People Walking Down Newcastle MuseumImage Credit: Destination NSW

Newcastle Museum Exhibitions

The museum of Newcastle features a range of permanent exhibitions, including 'A Newcastle Story', which explores early Aboriginal life in the area and Newcastle's transition from convict settlement and mining base to the thriving cultural hub it is today. 'Fire and Earth' is a dramatic audio-visual program which delves into the steel-making process, an industry deeply connected to Newcastle's roots. And 'The Supernova' is a hands-on science centre where kids can learn all about physics, biology, astronomy and robotics through a selection of fun interactive exhibits.

Newcastle Museum also hosts special exhibitions like 'Cultural Resurgence', showcasing artworks made using traditional Aboriginal techniques and 'Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Ocean Predators' featuring million-year-old fossils, gigantic replicas and interactive activities for kids. 

A Wall Covered In PostersImage Credit: Destination NSW

Newcastle Museum Collection

The museum of Newcastle is also home to over 12 500 objects that give insight into the region's past. Discover a range of artefacts and historical objects from St Augustine's pipe organ and The Buck steam engine to ancient fossils, items from some of Australia's sporting greats and historic industrial machinery like the BHP ladle.

Newcastle Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am till 5 pm. Be sure to check out the website for the latest museum exhibitions.

Where to stay in Newcastle?

Located a 5-minute walk from Newcastle Museum and a 5-minute drive from Fort Scratchley, Crystalbrook Kingsley provides the perfect luxury base for your historical tour of Newcastle. A sophisticated hotel with a Newcastle history of its own, Kingsley features luxury accommodation that combines elegance and sustainability, with park and harbour views, upcycled fittings and furnishings and deluxe amenities, all in the heart of Newcastle.