Culture and heritage

Maritime heritage

Signs and trails - Hunter Valley

Shipwreck Walk, Newcastle

The Oyster Bank, a sandbank at the entrance to the Hunter River and Newcastle, was the cause of many shipping tragedies. To minimise the risk of vessel loss, a stone break wall was constructed on either side of the entrance. Partly built over existing historic wreck sites, additional hulks were placed between these to complete the base for the northern breakwater, totaling over fifteen sites. The Adolphe, lost in 1904, is a visible reminder of the many hulls that now lie beneath the wall.

In 1992, the breakwater was renamed, "Shipwreck Walk" and the location of each individual wreck site identified with a concrete marker. The project was an initiative of the Newcastle Region Maritime Museum, the (then) Maritime Archaeological Association, Newcastle City Council, with support from a range of Government agencies. Access to the trail is via Stockton on the northern bank of the Hunter River.

Although it does not have its own marker, the breakwater is also near to the original entrance to the river. Here, in March 1805, the Francis was wrecked north of that entrance. The Francis played an important role in rescuing survivors of one of Australia's most significant shipwreck events - the Sydney Cove wreck in the Furneaux Group of islands, Tasmania, in 1797. On the third of three rescue voyages, Lt Mathew Flinders was among the ship's company. Later that year, George Bass conducted initial exploration to determine whether Tasmania was an island and later, he and Flinders circumnavigated Tasmania to put the issue beyond doubt.

Adolphe, Newcastle Breakwater

The wreck of the iron barque Adolphe 1904 is a feature of the Newcastle skyline, visible above the stone work of the northern breakwater constraining the harbour entrance.

Incorporated into the Shipwreck Walk, the Adolphe is serviced by a dedicated viewing gantry that extends over the wreck site, allowing visitors a safe view into the body of the hull. An interpretative sign provides additional information on the loss and interesting historical photographs of the wreck being pounded by the sea. The can be reached. Located in Stockton, the northern breakwater and viewing platform leads from Griffith Park accessible from Pitt Street that skirts the ocean shore.

Page last updated: 31 August 2012