There is a hidden gem in the city of Newcastle, NSW, that not many people know about. For locals, though, it was just a part of life growing up in this coastal city. It was a place that they could cool off, enjoy the sun and waves in a spot that was so unique, that in 2003 it became Heritage Listed. Kids would run, jump and dive, and adults would swim laps or lay on the warm rocks. Then, the inevitable waves would come crashing over the edge, and suddenly everyone was holding on for grim death to avoid being washed out to sea. This, is the Newcastle Bogey Hole.
Table of Contents
- What is the Newcastle Bogey Hole?
- What to expect at the Newcastle Bogey Hole
- What to do at the Newcastle Bogey Hole
- How to get to the Bogey Hole
- Where to Stay
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What is the Newcastle Bogey Hole?
Newcastle Bogey Hole is the oldest Sea Bath in Australia, and the oldest surviving European Construction in the Newcastle area. Original construction of the baths was in 1819, when the Commandant of Newcastle, Major James Morisset, had convicts hew the baths out of a natural rock platform at the ocean’s edge for his own private use. It is unsure whether the construction began from scratch, or whether there was a natural rock pool at the location to begin with. Either way, what resulted was the most unique, famous, and historical place in Newcastle.
Originally, the Newcastle Bogey Hole was named the “Commandant’s Baths” for obvious reasons. This eventually became the “Bogey Hole” after the local Indigenous word for “to bathe”. In 1863 the Bogey Hole was enlarged to 7 times it’s original size, and an iron rail was installed around the edge for safety. It was then opened up for public use, complete with its own caretaker who would hand swimmers a fresh towel after they emerged from the pool.
These days, the Bogey Hole has changed a bit. The rail is still in place, however in 2016 a refurbishment improved safety and access even more, opening the wonders of the Bogey Hole to everyone. The one thing that has never changed, however, is how amazingly unique and beautiful the Newcastle Bogey Hole is!
What to expect at the Newcastle Bogey Hole
When you arrive at the Newcastle Bogey Hole, you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe you arrived at the wrong place. From the car park there is not much view of the baths themselves, just the top of the stairs leading down. Once you reach the top of the stairs, however, take a glance down and you will get your first sight of this magnificent place.
The Bogey Hole is an incredible sight when you first lay eyes on it. Literally carved out of rock, most visitor’s first reaction is just to stop and stare. From above, you can see the stairs leading down to the swimming hole itself, which is an amazing sight as the waves crash against the base of nearby cliffs, and wash in and around the swimming hole itself.
The stairs leading down are made of steel and end at a nicely positioned swimming platform. This is a far cry from the dodgy stairs that were once carved into the rock itself, that became mossy and slippery, before disappearing completely once you got close to the pool. The new variety are safe and easy to negotiate for almost anyone.
Once you are at the bottom, find a place to put your belongings that is safe. I don’t mean safe from thieves, but safe from the waves. The Bogey Hole can be dangerous on big surf days as the waves crash in, hence the chain railing around the seaward side. On days with normal surf, though, the odd large wave can appear from nowhere, and unsuspecting towels, bags and phones disappear. So find a safe place to put them!
What to do at the Newcastle Bogey Hole
Swimming in the Newcastle Bogey Hole is a surreal experience, particularly when the waves are washing across. You feel like you are in a pool, due to the size and shape of the swimming hole, but the waves washing across and crashing nearby are a constant reminder that you are not. The bottom is as smooth as a piece of slate, and the water is always fresh due to the constant washing in and out of the waves.
Many of the locals can be seen sitting along the seaward side holding onto the chain “rail” as the waves crash in. This is something we used to do a lot as we were growing up in Newcastle. These days, I am more safety conscious, but the allure of the unique nature of the Bogey Hole is enough to get me up there again and again. If you try it, be aware that it is fraught with danger, but then, isn’t that WHY we do it?
Please do not try it on a big day of surf. Sometimes, even on a normal day, things can get hairy, so make certain to hold on!
One more thing to enjoy at the Newcastle Bogey Hole is the views. On a nice day you can see all the way to Port Stephens in one direction, and down past Merewether Beach in the other. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to cool off on a summer’s day, which is probably why it is so popular in summer!
Once you are finished cooling off, head back up the stairs and into King Edward Park, where you can stretch out on the grass, enjoying the sun and a picnic.
How to get to the Bogey Hole
Finding the Newcastle Bogey Hole can seem tricky if you are new to the area. In reality, it is actually fairly easy to find.
Basically it is located at the very bottom of King Edward Park. If you are in the park, head around York Drive, and when you are close to the cliff edge, stop and have a look down at the base of the cliff. It’s down there! You can park at the lookout on York Drive and walk down the stairs located there if you like.
The best way, though, is to drive up from South Newcastle Beach along Shortland Esplanade. Just before the road bends up toward King Edward park, there is a turn to the left that takes you right into the Bogey Hole Carpark.
Click HERE for a google maps location.
Where to Stay
If you are in the Newcastle area, I would definitely recommend staying somewhere if you have the time. This is for two reasons.
Firstly, because Newcastle is a great place and there are so many amazing things to do! Have a look HERE for a few ideas.
Second, because the Bogey Hole is simply amazing, and you will probably want to spend a bit of time there. The very best time to see it is in the early morning, and photos with the sunrise can be incredible. Stay overnight nearby and check it out!
The good news here is that there is actually quite a few accommodation options available within walking distance of the Newcastle Bogey Hole. Lining Newcastle Beach are several great Motels that are perfect. There are also several other options around the CBD area of Newcastle itself.
The Newcastle Bogey Hole is an incredible place. For someone that has lived the majority of their lives in Newcastle, I still visit it whenever I am in town, and usually combine it with the ANZAC Memorial Walk for a great day out. It is a slice of history, wonderful views that are “So Newcastle”, and a unique experience all wrapped into one.
Definitely on the “Must Do” list for any visitor to Newcastle, NSW, Australia!
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