Newcastle Surfest: Australia’s Biggest Surfing Festival

Posted on 16 August 2016

What is Surfest?

Surfest is Australia’s largest, most enduring annual surf event held in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales. Many of the finest world-renowned surfers compete at this prestigious Australian leg to ramp up their ranking at the World Surf League tour.

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The star-studded surfing festival began in 1985 as part of the city council’s initiative to promote its high-quality surf areas, beautiful beaches and amazing tourist attractions in Newcastle and the Hunter Region.

It is the only annual international event held in Newcastle, NSW and it attracts over 200 world-renowned professional surfers across the globe.

Why is Surfest Held in Merewether, Newcastle?

Maybe a better question would be, why not?

Newcastle may have been famous for its industrial past (with steel and coal as its main draw) yet the city also prides itself for its great beaches, unrivalled surf swells and incredible hordes of surfers, surfing enthusiasts and spectators. Small wonder why the city set the Guinness World Record for the longest line of Surfboards. They won by a long shot after lining up 608 surfboards (no less!) at Nobby’s Beach last 2015 in honour of Surfest’s 30th anniversary.  

Merewether, Newcastle’s popular surfing destination,  is also home to four-time surfing world champion and a true-born Novocastrian, Mark Richards. Last March 2009, the Merewether Beaches were declared as a National Surfing Reserve that spans some two kilometres of breathtaking coastline, from Dixon Park to Burwood Beach. Check this video to see what mean:

Surfing Dixon Park, Newcastle- 8th June 2016 from Beau Pilgrim on Vimeo.

When Does Surfest Start?

February is the Surfest month and it is easy to see why.

It’s one of the hottest months of the year in Newcastle and the best chance to witness the perfect swells for surfing competitions. The event often lasts for 11 days – but check with the organisers directly for the complete program as this is subject to change.

Who Won Surfest 2016

In the Women’s final, Aussie surfer and crowd favourite Sally Fitzgibbons finished first, grateful for  the crowd’s energy and the timely swells. Fitzgibbons won the crown with a significant lead of 2.96 against six-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore.

Meanwhile, in the Men’s final, leading World Surf League elite surfer Matt Wilkinson bagged the Mark Richards trophy and was very enthusiastic about it. For the Central Coast pro surfer, this was a good start and a great boost of confidence for his upcoming WSL legs.

Visit for a complete list of previous winners.

Why is Surfest Important?

Besides supporting surfing as an immensely enjoyable sport, the annual Surfest matters for a couple more reasons.

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Newcastle Surfest marks the city’s celebration of its rich surfing culture. While England is mad about football and US is crazy about basketball, Australia, Newcastle in particular, is passionate about surfing. It seems written on the DNA of every Novocastrian.

Moreover, since Surfest is the only annual world-renowned sporting event in Newcastle, it lends an opportunity for Novocastrians to showcase the best of the city and its surrounds: its hospitable and fun-loving people, fantastic vineyards and wineries as well as the unique attractions and sights  await to be explored.

Getting to Surfest

The Newcastle Airport is less than an hour drive from Port Stephens. While the airport does not have direct international flights, it has domestic flights to Brisbane, Melbourne, and the Gold Coast. From these airports, you can book and board international flights.

Trains and buses are the common types of public transportation you need to reach Newcastle, NSW. Or you could rent a car at the airport. You can plan your trip using this trip planner.

Getting Around Newcastle

Whatever mode you want to travel, the city of Newcastle has made it convenient for you. With your transportation and accommodation all sorted out (choose either an upscale property like The Gateway Inn Newcastle or a contemporary suite like Crowne Plaza Newcastle), it’s time you discover 24 awesome things to do in Newcastle, New South Wales.

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There are also many great restaurants to choose from but if you are looking for a rare combination of great food and value, here’s one bistro in the inner city of Newcastle you really can’t miss.

SOURCES: History of SurfestSurfest Official Program (PDF)