The Stockton Ferry is a regular ferry service across the Hunter River, from the northern Newcastle suburb of Stockton to Queens Wharf, near the city centre. Although you can drive between the two places, which takes 25 minutes, it is a much easier commute to the city for those who live on the north side of the city, or those coming down from Port Stephens. It is also popular with tourists staying at the NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park, as quick access into the city for dinner, shopping or to enjoy the bars at Queens Wharf.
What I personally like about catching this scenic ferry from Stockton to the city, is that there is free unlimited parking near Stockton wharf, it is a quick 5 minute trip across the river and it runs regularly, so you're never hanging around waiting at the wharf for long. On the weekends, it is also popular with cyclists and surfers, who can store their bikes and boards on racks inside the ferry. Why would you drive, when you can cruise?
The ferry service runs Monday to Friday between 5am - 11pm, Saturdays between 5:30am - 12pm and Sundays between 8:45am - 10pm. At the time of writing, it runs every 20 minutes - so even if you miss one, the next one isn't far away (and you can see where it is!). See here for the latest timetable.
As the trip is so short, it is also very cheap. Most regulars use an Opal Card, which has a reduced price of $2.20 adult one way and $1.10 for a child. You need to buy a card beforehand and then tap when you get on and also tap it when you get off. If you don't have an Opal Card, you can purchase a single ticket on board for $2.80 adult and $1.40 child. The captain will be standing by the ticket machine on board. See here for details.
* Prices correct at the time of writing, January 2018.
Modern and comfortable seating inside, with a bench of seating along the back, if you want to sit outside
If you are hopping on the ferry to visit Stockton, why not go for a walk to Stockton Beach for a swim, surf or fish and take in the view of the Stockton Sand Dunes, the largest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. Cyclists also catch this ferry regularly, as there are extensive bike paths on both sides of the river which are part of the The Breakwall to Breakwall Cycle path, which is a 25 kilometre bike ride.
If you are looking for a short walk, also check out the Shipwreck Walk along the river, which explains the dangerous history of ships entering the port during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Over 100 ships have been wrecked on its shores, one of which can be seen along Stockton Breakwall. Many people then stop for lunch at the popular Lexies on the Beach at Stockton Beach, before returning again on the ferry.
Visit Lexies on the Beach - just turn right when you get off the ferry and you will find it along the beachfront, on the other side of the Big 4 Holiday Park
If you catch the ferry to Queens Wharf, you can turn left or right off the ferry and take a walk along the scenic Newcastle Foreshore cycle path. At Queens Wharf itself, there is also a whole range of activities to enjoy with restaurants, bars and funky cafes in historical buildings. Nearby is also Harry's Café de Wheels and if you walk straight ahead it will take you into the shops of the city centre. The wharf is centrally located, so you can walk or hop on a bus (and soon a tram!), to anywhere in Newcastle.
As my family live in Port Stephens, we often drive to Stockton and hop on the ferry for a morning at the Newcastle Museum, which is a 10 - 15 minute walk from Queens Wharf, towards the Honeysuckle restaurant precinct. It is a beautiful walk along the Newcastle Foreshore, with an interesting parade of tug boats out on the water and cyclists on the path.
Turn left or right when you get off the ferry, and walk along the Newcastle Foreshore pathway
Ferries have been travelling back and forth across the river since the 1800s and it is easy to see why - it is an easy mode of transport that is used by the whole community, 7 days a week. Although the Stockton Ferry isn't high up there on the list of things to do in Newcastle, it is used by hundreds of workers, cyclists, surfers, walkers, tourists and locals every day. It doesn't matter how old you get, or how short the ride is, you instantly relax when you are out on the water. Why don't you hop on and go exploring this weekend?
Feel the wind in your face, as you cruise by Newcastle's iconic landmarks