Want to explore the coast of Newcastle with your family? Jump on board CoastXP, the adventure boat tour headed by Dominic May. As residents of Newcastle, we’ve seen many of the beautiful sights of Newcastle but never from the water. So we were keen to experience the adventure boat CoastXP. We signed on for the two-hour Encounter Tour, a nature-based tour which focuses on the Humpback whale migration.
The tour starts from Harbour Square just outside Rydges Newcastle in a custom-made eco-tourism vessel. Seating 20, the Atmos provides 360 degree views and situates us close to the waterline making for an immersive journey. Following a short safety briefing, we begin the tour.
As we travel through Newcastle Harbour, Dom tells us interesting factors about the Port of Newcastle and its tonnage as well as indicating points of interest including the David Allan dredge, Christ Church Cathedral and the statue Destiny.
His commentary is targeted to tourists but there’s plenty of interesting facts about our city that I didn’t know.
The Atmos slows down as a coal ship glides into Newcastle Harbour accompanied by three tug boats, the newest being the Svitzer Glenrock.
He then accelerates and we power through the swell at the mouth of the harbour between Nobbys Headland and Stockton breakwater.
We don’t have to go too far before we spot wildlife. There’s two New Zealand Fur Seals sunning themselves on a navigation buoy. One seal waves its arm in greeting before returning to its nap.
It’s then off to find whales. At this time of the year, Dom explains that the humpback whales are returning south to Antarctica with calves in tow.
We cruise to a spot approximately 2½ to 3 nautical miles from shore and wait to see if we can spot any whales. From here, we can see the beautiful expanse of Newcastle coast south to Caves Beach and as far as Port Stephens in the north distance. It’s incredibly peaceful and we’re amuse ourselves by watching bluebottles gliding by and spotting Shearwaters skimming across the swells looking for food.
A black mark on the horizon and a puff of air interrupt our quiet musings. We briefly see a whale before it dives under the water. We then spot another – it’s black body visible against the blue water. We wait a couple of more minutes but the whales have gone deep.
It’s time to move south. Dom accelerates the boat and we approach the coast just off the lush green of Glenrock State Conservation Area. From here, it’s easy to see how Redhead got its name as the red in the headland stands out. Closer in, we can see Merewether Baths and surfers riding the waves.
As we return north up the coast, we’re in for a surprise when a pod of dolphins approaches us. It’s a treat to see them up close frolicking through the waves.
We pass Bar Beach and see where the cliff is completely sheer. It’s a sight we’ve never seen before as you can’t see the magnitude of the sheerness from the top of the cliff or from the Anzac Memorial Walk.
It’s nearing the end of our tour and we’re returning to the harbour but we’re in for one last surprise. We spot more whales! This time there’s between three and four of them and they’re slapping their fins at us and blowing before they disappear under the waves.
We slowly cruise back to Honeysuckle past yet another coal ship, this one heavily-laden departing from the harbour.
We arrive safely back at Harbour Square marvelling at the sights we’ve seen and the creatures we’ve spotted. It’s been a remarkable tour. As we return, I ask my 8 year-old daughter what she liked best about the tour. Her answer “The seals, whales and dolphins, going fast through the waves and Dom answering my questions.”
NwK Verdict about CoastXP
We highly recommend CoastXP tours if your family enjoys adventure and being on the water. It combines sightseeing, history and marine life with stunning views of the city and coastline. Dom’s commentary throughout the trip about local knowledge, history, geology and Aboriginal heritage as well as his enthusiasm makes it a memorable trip. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, these tours make you appreciate what we have in Newcastle.
- CoastXP is suitable for kids aged 3 and older
- The tour alternates between high speed travel through the waves and slow cruising and/or drifting to spot whales, dolphins and other marine life. If your child is easily bored, this might not be the right experience for them
- Weatherproof jackets are provided onboard should you need them
- Atmos seats 20 passengers with adult and child life jackets and lifeboats
- Atmos also includes a toilet onboard
- Tours depart from Harbour Square Boat Dock in Honeysuckle near Rydges Newcastle for the Adventure Tour and Encounter Tour. Tours depart from Pelican Boat Ramp for the Lake Explorer Tour and Trinity Bay Dining Experience.
- Tour includes complimentary high-quality digital images of your trip emailed to you after the trip
- Price for a tour starts from $99 for adults, $75 for children. Prices vary depending on the tour.
- If you could organise a group of friends and/or family to book the same Coast XP tour, it would be a fun and memorable group experience.
- For information about tour dates & times, visit Coast XP website
Disclosure: Newy with Kids received complimentary passes in October 2018 for review purposes. All opinions are our own.
Thank you to Dom from Coast XP for participating in a Newy with Kids Q&A
What inspired you to start CoastXP?
CoastXP began as a combination of my passions. I love the ocean, tourism and working with people. CoastXP allows me to share the passion I have for the ocean with loads of different people, I enjoy the reactions passengers get when I show them the beautiful Hunter Coastline as well as the marine life we have on our doorstep like dolphins, whales and seals!
Do you have a tourism background?
I do! Before starting CoastXP I have been lucky enough to work in some of Australia’s most scenic coastal locations including Heron Island, North Stradbroke Island, Coffs Harbour, Lord Howe Island, Port Stephens and Sydney. All of these have been tourism related whether it be driving tourist boats, tutoring marine studies students or teaching scuba diving!
I also hold a Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Tourism Management/Leadership and Management) from the University of Newcastle, so much of my studies has also revolved around tourism!
What’s your connection to Newcastle?
I have a strong connection to Newcastle as a coastal city. Having grown up on the Coffs Coast I moved to Newcastle six years ago to study here. Once I arrived it soon felt like a home away from home. The people are amazing and so is the coastal lifestyle we live, many aspects of Newcastle feel like Coffs, only bigger!
Who is the CoastXP tour aimed to? Is it tourists or locals?
Ideally, CoastXP is aimed at both locals and visitors alike! I don’t believe any of us need a reason to go on an adventure in our own backyard, but if you are searching for one, I have taken out many locals who have never seen Newcastle from the water, or they have come on a tour while a friend or family member is visiting!
I have also taken out many visitors, it is a fantastic way to see a large portion of the Hunter Coast! I have been lucky enough to take out international visitors from the UK, US, China, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, France and Austria just to name a few!
What does the tour include?
CoastXP tours are approximately 2 hours, departing from the Honeysuckle Foreshore, tours focus on the marine life which inhabit the coastline, local geology, Aboriginal heritage as well as unique destination landmarks including wrecks, cliffs, islands, sea caves and ships. During the cooler months of the year between June and November, we are also lucky enough to share a large portion of our tours with New Zealand fur seals and humpback whales on their annual migration, as well as dolphins year round!
Do the tours run year-round?
They sure do! During June – November we operate our Encounter Tour along the Newcastle Coastline, the tour takes into account Newcastle’s best sights a well as whales, dolphins and seals, the Encounter Tour often goes as far south as the Merewether Ocean Baths along the Newcastle Coastline. During the warmer months from November to May we operate our Adventure Tour along the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Coastline, this tour takes into account the sea caves along the Lake Macquarie Coastline as well as the historic Catherine Hill Bay. We are also keen to be launching a few new products in the coming months which we are very excited about!
Tell us more about your vessel?
Our vessel (Atmos) is a brand new custom built eco-tourism vessel. The design allows for unobstructed 360° views, with the result of a truly unique experience. With its rigid inflatable design, Atmos comfortably seats up to 20 passengers. It is constructed for a wide range of offshore conditions and features a large canopy providing shade and protection from the elements in hot, cold or wet conditions. Atmos is powered by two V8 Yamaha engines, giving a total 700hp to provide you with an incredibly safe and smooth ride, suitable for all ages.
What can people expect to see on a CoastXP tour?
No two CoastXP tours are the same, each tour we encounter something different whether it be the marine life along the coastline, the ships entering or exiting Newcastle Harbour, as well as wrecks, cliffs and sea caves.
Is CoastXP suitable for kids? What age is best? Safety features?
CoastXP tours are perfect for children, we accept children from 3 years of age. Any age is great, and we find that kids love being out on the water, seeing the sights of Newcastle and especially dolphins and whales! We provide wet weather jackets to every passenger onboard during wet or cold conditions, as well as having special childrens lifejackets.
Do you have a favourite part of the Hunter Coast?
It is really hard to pick just one favourite, some of my top picks would have to be the cliffs at Cooks Hill and Dudley as well as the sea caves at Caves Beach and Pinney’s Headland.
What do you think of all the changes happening in Newcastle?
I love the sense of community in Newcastle, I am optimistic about what the area will be like once the major developments are over because of the opportunity that will arise for people to come together and enjoy all Newcastle has to offer!
To book a CoastXP tour visit www.coastxp.com
In 2012, Reena founded Newy with Kids to share information about family-friendly Newcastle. Originally from Canada, she had no idea about what to do with her toddler and after searching unsuccessfully for a local family guide, decided to start her own. Since that time, both the toddler and Newy with Kids have grown keeping Reena busy. If you see her out and about, say hi.