Just a short two hour drive north of Sydney along the NSW coast, the city of Newcastle has plenty of fun options for those visiting with a dog, from dog-friendly beaches to waterside walks to terrific off-leash dog parks. Find out more about what it’s like to visit Newcastle with a dog…
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Newcastle
Add some of these dog-friendly sightseeing ideas to your itinerary on a visit to the city of Newcastle with your pup.
1. Head to the Beach
There’s a number of excellent dog-friendly beaches in the Newcastle and adjacent Lake Macquarie areas, although naturally the most popular swimming beaches are out of bounds for pet dogs.
The closest dog-friendly beach to the centre of Newcastle is Horseshoe Beach. This smallish beach is just inside Nobbys Head, on the harbour side of the peninsula from the popular Nobbys Beach. It’s hemmed in by the dune area behind it, so ideal for letting dogs off-leash, and there’s a convenient large carpark at the western end.
Alternatively, head north of the harbour to Stockton, where there are two more dog-friendly beaches. On the eastern side of Stockton, dogs are allowed off-leash at the Pitt Street Reserve, including Little Beach. It’s a calm small beach, great for a walk or doggie swim, and generally quieter than Horseshoe Beach. There’s also a small beach next to the off-leash Ballast Ground.
Heading further south to the Lake Macquarie region, there’s three off-leash dog beaches, where dogs are allowed on the sand all day long. The northernmost is the Nine Mile Beach Off-Leash Area at Redhead, with dogs allowed off-leash in between Second and Third Creeks. The best access point is the small carpark on Cain Street, where there’s also a convenient map.
Further south on Nine Mile Beach is the Blacksmiths Beach Off-Leash Area. The off-leash area starts at Awabakal Avenue and extends north to the Belmont Golf Club boundary. Note that this section of beach also permits 4WDs with permits to drive on the sand, so keep an eye out.
The final off-leash dog beach in the region is Hams Beach, at the suburb of Caves Beach. The off-leash area is adjacent to the car park off Mawson Close. Dogs are not permitted on Caves Beach itself further to the south, including near the impressive sea caves, one of the most popular things to do in Newcastle.
There’s also plenty of off-leash parks along the shores of the huge Lake Macquarie, that are adjacent to the water and are often good for letting your dog have a swim, such as the Croudace Bay Dog Park.
For more details on all of these dog beaches, including the possible swimming spots along the shores of Lake Macquarie, check out my guide to the dog-friendly beaches of Newcastle.
2. Walk to Nobby Lighthouse
There’s plenty of dog-friendly walks available in the Newcastle region, perfect for exploring the area, whether along the coastline, the water’s edge or in nearby bushland reserves.
One of the most popular dog-friendly walks in Newcastle is the walk out to Nobbys Lighthouse and the Newcastle Breakwall. The walk starts and ends next to the excellent off-leash Horseshoe Beach, although there’s no direct stairs between the two – instead we resorted to scrambling up the rocks to the walkway. Note that dogs need to be leashed on the walking path.
The total length of the walk to the end of the Breakwall and back is about 3km, although you can turn around earlier if you’d prefer. There’s no shade along the walk, so it’s not the best option in the middle of a hot day. Instead, one of the most popular times to complete the walk is sunset.
If you’d like to extend your walk, consider continuing along the Newcastle Harbour Foreshore. There’s a flat concrete path along the foreshore past the CBD and Queens Wharf, all the way to the marina at Wickham.
3. Catch the Ferry to Stockton
While Stockton is just across the harbour from Nobbys Lighthouse and the centre of Newcastle, it’s a long almost 30-minute drive to reach the enclave, due to no direct bridge. However, there is a ferry that completes the crossing, and like on Sydney ferries, small dogs in a carrier bag are allowed on this ferry.
If you have a small dog, a fun dog-friendly outing would be to take the ferry over to Stockton. The ferry between Queens Wharf and Stockton Wharf takes just 5 minutes and operates roughly every half an hour. On the ferry, your dog is required to travel on the outside deck, as well as stay in their carrier bag.
From the Stockton Wharf, it’s a short walk to the off-leash dog beaches in Stockton, Little Beach and the beach at Ballast Ground, near the 16ft Sailing Skiff Club. Both of these beaches are almost always quieter than Horseshoe Beach and great to visit with timid dogs.
4. Follow the Bathers Way
For a longer waterside walk in Newcastle, consider walking along the Bathers Way with your dog. This coastal footpath starts just south of Nobbys Beach and stretches for 6km to the Merewether Ocean Baths, along the spectacular Newcastle coastline.
Midway along the Bathers Way is one of the most popular new sightseeing destinations in Newcastle, the Newcastle Memorial Walk, including the Anzac Bridge. This elevated walkway provides spectacular views of the coast, plus the city centre on the other side. Unfortunately though, this new part of the walk is off-limits to dogs – you’ll need to detour via the old footpath.
Also be warned that this walk has plenty of steps up and down along the way. Allow all morning or afternoon to complete the walk, including returning to your starting point, or just walk one section of it. Make sure you keep your dog on a leash.
5. Walk the Lake Macquarie Sculpture Trail
For an easier dog-friendly walk with less steps, instead head to the shores of Lake Macquarie, where you’ll discover the Lake Macquarie Sculpture Trail, with leashed dogs welcome to join you.
This flat concrete mixed-use path stretches for 2.4km from the Lions Club carpark in Eleebana to Warners Bay. Along the way are a number of interesting sculptures to stop and view. Also close to the starting point is a 380m-long elevated boardwalk around the Redbluff headland.
There’s plenty of waterside seats to stop at on this walk – perhaps grab a coffee or fish’n’chips for lunch along the way. In Warners Bay, the most dog-friendly cafe is Cafe Napoleon, who offer complimentary puppucinos for four-legged guests.
You can also continue on the lakeside path all the way to the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery at Booragul, almost 9km from Eleebana.
6. Head to the Blue Gum Hills
If you’d prefer to hike through the bush with your dog, one of the best dog-friendly bush walking spots near Newcastle is the Blue Gum Hills Regional Park.
This regional park is located inland from Newcastle, near Minmi and the Pacific Motorway, about a 40 minute drive west of the city centre. Dogs are permitted to be walked on-leash in this park away from the picnic areas and children’s play areas.
There’s a variety of walking tracks, with some historic sites to see along the way. It’s best to use a map on your phone to navigate.
7. Go Wine Tasting in the Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley wine region is right on the doorstep of Newcastle. It’s just a 60 minute drive from the centre of Newcastle to Pokolbin in the heart of the valley.
Head to the Hunter Valley for a day or even just an afternoon of wine tasting. There are plenty of wineries that will allow your dog to join you while you enjoy a tasting, sometimes even inside the cellar door.
Some of the most dog-friendly cellar doors include Briar Ridge Vineyard, Pepper Tree Wines, Tintilla Estate, Hanging Tree Wines and Hungerford Hill. For more details, see my guide to visiting the Hunter Valley with a dog. Plus, make sure you make a booking at each winery.
8. Go Shopping for Dog Treats
Interested in a spot of dog-friendly shopping with you pup? Don’t miss stopping at the Gourmet Dog Barkery, located at the end of Groves Road in Bennetts Green.
This dog treat store stocks an incredible range of their own handmade dog treats and biscuits. As well as everyday treats, there’s also tempting treats that are ideal for birthday and Christmas gifts. Dog visitors are also likely to receive a sample or two!
Are Dogs Allowed at the Sea Caves at Caves Beach?
A popular sightseeing spot on the southern edge of the Newcastle region are the sea caves at Caves Beach. While dogs are allowed off-leash at the nearby Hams Beach, they are not allowed to the south on the patrolled section of Caves Beach.
While I’m not certain that dogs are definitely prohibited from the section of beach and cliff containing the caves, to access the spot, you’ll need to walk past the patrolled section of Caves Beach, with clear no dog signs on all the access paths.
Instead, try to glimpse the caves from the lookout above with your dog, like we did.
Dog-Friendly Parks in Newcastle
There’s a huge number of off-leash dog parks in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas, with 17 off-leash areas listed by the City of Newcastle, and an astounding 30 managed by the Lake Macquarie City Council.
At the moment there is one fenced dog park in the City of Newcastle, the Acacia Avenue Dog Park in North Lambton. This dog park has separate areas for large and small (or active and quiet) dogs, along with high fences, sheltered seating and drinking water fountains. On Google Maps, search for the “North Lambton Dog Off-Leash Area”.
Some other off-leash dog parks within Newcastle include the Carrington Foreshore, where it’s also possible to walk along the mangroves, and an off-leash area in King Edward Park, adjacent to the Bathers Way.
Note that a few of the areas are time-restricted, from sunrise to 9am and 5pm to sunset, plus dogs are only permitted in any of the off-leash areas from sunrise and sunset. For maps of each area, download this brochure.
The Lake Macquarie area is home to two fenced dog park. The first fenced dog park was the Speers Point Dog Exercise Area. This fabulous park is large with plenty of shade and seating, and even has some agility equipment. Unfortunately though, there’s not a separate area for small dogs, so if you have a smaller timid dog it’s best to avoid the busy times of day.
The more recent fenced dog park near Lake Macquarie is the Thomas H Halton Fenced Dog Park, located in Croudace Bay Park in Eleebana. The fenced area is at the southern end of the park, south of the skate park. A smaller fenced area, it includes shaded picnic tables and bench seats, plus agility equipment.
Many of the off-leash dog parks in the Lake Macquarie area are located along the shore of the lake, so some doggie paddling is often possible on hot days.
Are Dogs Allowed on Public Transport in Newcastle?
The same rules apply for dogs on public transport in Newcastle as in Sydney: dogs are permitted in a carrier on buses, the light rail and on ferries, with permission from the driver or crew. However, dogs are prohibited on trains and at train stations.
For a fun dog-friendly outing with a small dog if you have a carrier bag, see my above description of visiting Stockton and its off-leash dog beaches by ferry. Note that on the ferry, your dog is also required to travel on the outside deck.
Dog-Friendly Cafes in Newcastle
There’s a wide range of dog-friendly cafes in Newcastle. Most cafes with outdoor dining tables will be happy to accept well-behaved dogs on a leash.
For lunch, we headed to Cafe Inu. This popular cafe just west of the city in the industrial area of Carrington is open for brunch and lunch, with a Japanese twist. Expect teriyaki chicken in bowls and Katsu sandwiches to be amongst the menu options.
There’s also a long list of drinks, including craft coffees and puppycinos. As well as the outside tables, dogs are allowed on a few of the indoor tables, just inside the entryway.
Dog-Friendly Pubs in Newcastle
If you’re looking for somewhere for casual dinner or a relaxing drink, there’s plenty of dog-friendly pubs in Newcastle to choose from.
Along the Newcastle Foreshore, an excellent dog-friendly spot is the Queens Wharf Hotel. Dogs are welcome in the outdoor seating area overlooking the harbour. The pub is open daily from 10am until late.
A few blocks back from the waterfront in the centre of Newcastle is The Family Hotel, which is surprisingly dog-friendly everywhere, including inside, at least last time I checked. Alternatively, the long-established Clarendon Hotel has a dog-friendly beer garden.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Newcastle
The majority of the dog-friendly accommodation options in Newcastle are either pet-friendly caravan parks or B&Bs. However, there are an increasing number of pet-friendly hotels and motels to also consider.
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Pet-Friendly Caravan Parks in Newcastle
We stayed in our campervan at Blacksmiths Beachside Holiday Park, just a short walk from the patrolled Blacksmiths Beach, and a short drive (or long walk) from the off-leash dog beach at the northern edge of the town.
Dogs are permitted on the powered and unpowered sites all year round, plus there are two dog friendly cabins. Both have a doggy door to the enclosed verandah, plus a dog bed and water bowl provided. Just call to discuss in advance, as some breeds are prohibited.
If Blacksmiths is booked out, consider the nearby Belmont Lakeside Holiday Park. True to its name, this park on the shores of Lake Macquarie also allows pets year round on sites, and has some dog-friendly cabins, complete with dog doors onto the verandah.
Another pet-friendly caravan park in the region is the NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park. Adjacent to the off-leash Pitt Street Reserve, including Little Beach, up to two pets are permitted on sites, including their ensuite sites. Dogs are not permitted at peak periods including Christmas and the Easter holidays, plus you need to book directly rather than online.
Pet-Friendly B&Bs in Newcastle
A delightfully pet-friendly B&B is Tantarra Guest House in Warners Bay, that states “pets are most warmly welcome”. A quiet hideaway, perfect for a relaxing stay, the guest house is set in Balinese-style gardens with an outdoor pool.
There are three guest rooms, each with a private ensuite, and a breakfast hamper is included. Dogs are naturally allowed inside, although are not permitted to be left alone, and dog massages and pampering can be organised.
Dog-Friendly Hotels & Motels in Newcastle
The recently opened QT Newcastle in the heart of Newcastle welcomes dogs as well as human guests. Located just off the waterfront on Hunter Street, this luxury hotel mixes eclectic design touches with a thoroughly modern hotel.
To stay with your pup, book a Pup Yeah! package. One dog up to 20kg is permitted per room, with a designer bed provided for your dog, as well as your dog’s own mini-bar and a dog section on the in-room dining menu. There is an additional fee of $150 per stay for your pet.
A more affordable option in Newcastle are Jesmond Executive Villas, in the suburb of Jesmond. The spacious one-bedroom budget apartments are pet-friendly, and feature a fully equipped kitchen. Although reviews online are mixed, I’ve heard good reports from recent pet owners who have stayed at the property. Contact Jesmond directly to make a booking with a pet.
Quest Newcastle also recently announced that they are pet-friendly. Contact the hotel directly to book a Pawfect Pet Package for one of their serviced apartments. Your pet will be provided with their own dog bed in the lounge room, food and water bowls in the laundry, plus of course delicious pet treats.
Another option to stay close to Lake Macquarie and the Pacific Motorway is the Bay Hotel Motel in Bonnells Bay. Contact the motel directly to make a booking to stay with your pet. An additional fee of $25 per pet is charged, plus a room deposit.
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Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.