Nobby’s Beach and Headland

Linda Stewart

It has been a while since we rode our bikes so when the sun shone through we planned a special trip to Newcastle to explore the shared coastal walkway/bicycle track.  We picnicked in Nobby’s reserve where tables are set out in lovely surroundings that overlook both the city of Newcastle as well as the lighthouse and beach.

The cycling/walking track starts at Nobby’s Beach, pictured below, with the lighthouse perched on the headland on the southern entrance to Newcastle Harbour, and winds its way along the coast southwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACaptain Cook was the first white person to navigate the coastline around Nobby’s which was an island.  A long time later the island was joined to the mainland when a rock pier was built.  It took thirty-eight years to build and convict labour was used to construct the pier.  On the first day of 1858 the lighthouse became operational.

Nobbys Island, or Whybagarba, was significant to the local aboriginal people of Mulubinba (known today as Newcastle) and had been known to them for several thousand years before the arrival of the Europeans.

Nobbys was first sighted by Europeans on 10 May 1770 by Captain James Cook from the ship Endeavour. However, it was not until the discovery of coal by Lt. John Shortland in 1797 that the island was viewed as having any significance. 

Governor Macquarie ordered a pier to be built to join Coal Island (as Nobbys was then known) to Collier Point. Construction commenced on 5 August 1818 using convict labour. It took 38 years to complete the pier and during this time numerous convicts were lost to the sea as a result of working through all sea and weather conditions, night and day. 
In 1854 the NSW Government intended to blow up Nobbys to improve the harbour. Convicts constructed tunnels just above sea level to house the explosives. However, strong public protests forced cessation of the work.  

Nobbys was reduced from its original 43m to its current 27.5m (90 ft) over the period 1833-1857 because sailing ships were losing wind from their sails as they rounded Nobbys Head, and to accommodate the building of a lighthouse in 1858 to replace the coal-burning beacon located on the present Fort Scratchley site. The lighthouse was only the third to be built in NSW.

The site formed part of Newcastle’s World War 2 coastal defence during the 1940’s.  In 1942 the construction of three cottages commenced to house the signal master, his assistants and their families. They were the first point of contact for ships coming into port, co-ordinated the pilot boat and monitored all harbour activity. These duties were transferred to the Pilot Station in 1998 and the cottages were vacated. [Source:  Newcastle Now]

Nobbys1Today Nobby’s is a focal point of the Newcastle surf scene and the beach attracts large numbers of people in all seasons.  Being as exposed as it is to the ocean it is a well known surf spot for those who have the skill and courage to surf the huge waves whipped up by the onshore winds.  Nobby’s is a stunning beach but the surf can be treacherous as it churns everything in its path, sand, surfers and bathers alike.  The beach is well patrolled in summer months and attracts large numbers of teenagers because of its proximity to public transport.  The train used to drop day revellers within meters of the coast and the area is well serviced by buses.  The train has since ceased operation into the central business district of Newcastle, but that may be a post for another day.

The walkway is being extensively upgraded which made it difficult to cycle along in some areas.  However, we continued cycling as far as The Bogey Hole, before heading back to Nobby’s.  An addition to the coastal walkway is a memorial walkway and elaborate bridge, entering its final stages of construction, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZACS at Gallipoli.  I can’t wait until it is completed to share with others what already looks like a magnificent addition to our beautiful coastal walkways.

Posted as part of the A – Z 2015 Challenge


2 thoughts on “Nobby’s Beach and Headland

Your comments here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s