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Secret Newcastle swimming spots only a local knows

A show-stopping coastline – 14 kilometres in fact – strung out with beaches, inlets and ocean baths is undoubtedly Newcastle’s biggest drawcard.

Apart from the obvious places to swim (we’re looking at you, Newcastle Beach), Australia’s second oldest city is also home to a number of secret swimming spots only a local knows. Pack your cozzies (swimmers/bathers/togs) and dive on in:

The Bogey Hole, King Edward Park Newcastle

One of Newcastle’s most Instagrammable landmarks, Australia’s oldest sea baths lie spectacularly at the base of a rugged cliff. Follow the barefoot crowd (towel flung casually over the shoulder) through King Edward Park and descend the stairs to the iconic heritage listed baths. Convicts risked life and limb to carve out the private swimming hole from the exposed rock shelf for then Commandant of Newcastle, James Morisset, in 1819. Deriving its name from the Dharawal word meaning “to bathe”, the Bogey Hole was later enlarged and made a public sea bath accessible to all. Time your dip when the surrounding seas are calm. Swimming can be treacherous when the baths are pounded by crashing waves although it makes for great photos.

The Soldiers Baths, Nobbys Beach

Encircled by a rock seawall beneath historic Fort Scratchley lies a magical and little-known sea pool. Believed to be NSW’s first ocean baths (as distinct from pools excavated from rock like the Bogey Hole and harbour pools) you’ll find remnants of this oval shaped pool at the very southern end of Nobbys Beach. Also known as Fortification Baths, the pool opened in 1883 with a floor of coal shale and sand. Sadly, storms damaged the baths and a build-up of sand meant that by 1907 they were largely unswimmable. Bathing soldiers in fact had a lucky escape when an overhanging cliff collapsed into the pool. While best seen at low tide from the Bathers Way, swimming or snorkelling is best on an incoming or high tide.

Ladies Baths, Merewether Beach

Merewether Beach’s first ocean pool ‘The Ladies’ Baths were reserved for female swimmers and children (men bathed nude in ‘The Gulf’ at Merewether) only. Located at the beach’s southern end the remains of the small pool built in 1926 are today dwarfed alongside the adjacent Merewether Baths. Families still love the Ladies Pool however given it’s a safe, protected spot for kids to cool off and explore. From the rooftop bar of Merewether Surf House you can clearly see the pool below. Order an Aperol Spritz and take in the view.

Susan Gilmore Beach

Reputedly a nudist beach, this swimming spot is a carefully guarded local secret – especially by dog owners who bring their pooches here to cool off. You’ll find the 100m stretch of sandy beach beneath the cliffs at the northern end of Bar Beach. Named after the 'Susan Gilmour', an American clipper that came to grief ashore in 1884, the beach once had its own surf club but was later deemed too dangerous for swimming. Accessible at low tide you can reach the beach by walking around the wide rock platform from Bar Beach.

*This is an unpatrolled beach and swimming is at your own risk. The Surf Lifesaving Association says the beach is only safe at low tide and even then, to watch closely for rocks and rips.

Little Park Beach

While no secret to Stockton locals (aka Stocktonites), this secluded curved inlet isn’t immediately obvious to visitors. Formed as a result of construction of the harbour entrance walls, Little Park Beach is found to the north of Newcastle Harbour. Visit midweek (catch the ferry from Queens Wharf) and yours may be the only footprints along the 200m stretch of sand. Take a stroll first along Shipwreck Walk named for the hundreds of ships that came to grief in the 19th and early 20th century.

And for something out of town...

Ladies Well

Head out of town for a baptismal swim in this dreamy swimming hole in the foothills of the Barrington Tops. Found in the cool waters of the Allyn River in the east of Chichester State Forest, Ladies Well is hemmed by granite boulders and lush forest. Especially popular in summer, it features gushing cascades and sun-drenched rocks to warm yourself post dip.

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