How many times have you crossed Stockton Bridge by car? Stockton Bridge turns 50 on 1 November 2021 and if you don’t mind traffic noise, you can actually walk across it. It’s Newcastle’s version of Bridge Climb!
This mighty landmark can be seen from many points in Newcastle and has a fascinating history. Before Stockton Bridge was built, people wanting to travel between Newcastle and Stockton in their car had to catch the vehicular ferry known locally as “the punts”.
These harbour ferries operated from 1916 to 1971 and at their peak, the ferries ran 24 hours / 7 days a week. The Kooroongaba and Lurugurena, and later the Koondooloo travelled back and forth on the harbour. They ferried passengers and cars from a wharf in southwest Stockton (adjacent to what is now Punt Road) to a wharf in Newcastle near Perkins Street.
The journey took just seven minutes. During the day, the demand was so great that ferries ran every 15 minutes. Overnight, this service reduced to one per hour. The service proved extremely popular and on busy days, almost 5000 vehicles crossed the river on the punts.
Due to increasing demand, there were calls to build a bridge to Stockton. On November 1, 1971, the $6.5 million Stockton Bridge was officially opened to traffic linking Kooragang in Newcastle to Stockton. At the time it was built, it was the second-longest bridge in New South Wales at 1024 metres. Only the Sydney Harbour Bridge was longer. With the opening of Stockton Bridge, the vehicular ferries ceased.
You can walk across Stockton Beach and experience for yourself Newcastle’s own “Bridge Climb”
Park under the Kooragang side of Stockton Bridge.
You’ll spot murals of local wetland birds on the bridge pylons.
You’ll then need to climb up the stairs to Stockton Bridge.
This walk isn’t for the faint-hearted or easily scared kids as you’re walking along the centre of the bridge with traffic whizzing by on both sides. But as you can see from the photos, you’re separated from the traffic with the shared pathway being in the centre of the two lanes on each side.
From here, you’ll see amazing views of Newcastle Harbour to the south as well as the waterways and mangroves to the north.
Look for the plaque on the fence at the top centre of the bridge which commemorates the opening of Stockton Bridge back on 1 November 1971.
It explains how the bridge replaces the vehicular ferry service. If you’re wondering what happened to the three Stockton- Newcastle ferries after the service finished, that’s an interesting story.
As they were surplus to requirements, they were sold for $12,000. The new owner planned to take them and the Sydney Queen (a former showboat) overseas to the Philippines where they could be resold. However, the vessels never made it there. Kooroongaba sank in heavy seas just off Crowdy Head and the other three vessels ran aground at South West Rocks.
Keep walking across the bridge until you come to the Stockton side and descend down the stairs.
Here you’ll find the National Park area which is a bird roosting area. Great for little birdwatchers.
You’ll also find a few more murals here.
Disappointingly, there is a lot of rubbish dumped under the Stockton side.
You’ll then have to turn around and walk back to the Kooragang side. If you want to save the walk back, bring two cars and do a car shuffle, parking one car at Kooragang and one at Stockton.
Good to know
Distance: Approximately 1km but kids will need to be able to climb steps and have the stamina to walk up to the summit of the bridge and down to Stockton (and do the walk in reverse)
Getting There: Park at Kooragang Island or at Stockton.
Bring: Bring water, sunscreen, hat, insect repellent.
Amenities: Toilets are located at Shell Coles Express at Kooragang Island. You’ll find public toilets in Stockton near Lexy’s at the Beach and Stockton Active Hub.
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