Stockton Beach

Desert Paradise by Kajo Merkert

Stockton Beach just outside Newcastle offers photographers some pretty interesting scenery and photographic opportunities.  From incredible sand dunes that make you feel as though you are in a desert, to Tin City (an old shanty town)  to a shipwreck that is beached in shallow water.

Special Photographic Features or Notes

There are a number of different things to shoot around Stockton Beach.  I will list some of them here.

The Wreck of the Sygna

For me, this is the Jewell in the crown of Stockton… I’m a sucker for ship wrecks or dilapidated buildings.  The wreck of the Sygna is about 2/3 of the way down the beach.  It sits just off shore and is easy to photograph once you are there.

The Wreck of the Sygna by Brent Pearson

The Sygna ran aground during a storm in 1974.  What is left of the wreck is nothing like the original wreck that was beached.  If you want to find out more about the wreck itself. Click here to go to the Wikipedia reference on the topic.

Tin City

Tin City is a collection of 11 corrugated iron shacks that were built in the 1930s.  They were used in the filming of Mad Max in the 1970s.  A strange almost ghost-town like atmosphere, I think Tin City is actually quite photogenic if you get there shortly after sunrise.   There are a few local dogs in Tin City, so you might not want to get there in the pre-dawn darkness in case you startle the dogs and annoy the locals.  However I was recently there and found the dogs to be quite friendly and welcoming to strangers.  If you want to get photos of Tin City, I would get there shortly after surnise.  The dunes in the background make a great backdrop for the eclectic dwellings.

Tin City by Brent Pearson

The Fresh Water Ponds

At the North end of Stockton Beach you get these lovely little freshwater ponds that are quite photogenic.  They have patches of grass growing around them and the blue water makes a lovely contrast to the yellows and oranges of the sand dunes.

Sand Dunes – Stockton Beach – Photo By Keith Pearson

These lovely lakes and ponds are constantly changing shape, to find them you need to head South From Anna Beach entrance and stay about 250 yards inland from the ocean. There are a series of ponds that start almost immediately you start driving.

Night Photography

Stockton is very remote and quite suitable for night photography.  The wreck of Sygna would look great under moonlight (alas we had terrible conditions when I photographed it). However you do get an eerie glow from some of the nearby towns as evident in the photograph below.

Broken Down by Kajo Merkert

Special Equipment

There are a few bits of special equipment I would recommend for Stockton Beach.

  • A REAL 4WD.  Forget the foo-foo pseudo 4WDs… you will be driving in some thick sand and going up over sand dunes.  If you are thinking of taking an “SUV” to Stockton Beach I would advise caution.    Any reasonable 4WD will get you around the beach…. It is a lot of fun
  • Polarising Filters.  Polarising filters make a significant difference when photographing the dunes, Tin City and the ponds.
  • Beach Permit.  Don’t drive onto the beach without a permit.  You can buy the permit from one of the local petrol stations.  Cost is about $12 for 3 days or $30 for a year.  If the rangers catch you on the beach without a permit it will cost you $180 fine.
  • Grad ND filters.  The beach faces South East, so if you are shooting sunrise, bring your normal kit of grad NDs.
  • Extra lens cleaning cloths – Salt spray can be problem on your lens element

Special Note:

You must deflate your tire pressureto around 16 – 18 psi to have any chance of driving on the soft sand. The service stations near the exits have air hoses that you can use to re-inflate your tires.


Navigation in the Sand Dunes can be extremely difficult.  It is very easy to get lost or disoriented.  I strongly recommend you recce this location in the daylight before doing a blind run through the dunes… there are some big dunes with some steep drop-offs and you could easily get severely bogged or damage your vehicle if you are not prepared for them.

Best Time of The Day

Pre-dawn and sunrise of course.  However sunset and night is also lovely.

Tidal Information

Tides won’t really be a factor for shooting Stockton beach.  You can get great shots at any tide.

Wind Information

Stockton is extremely exposed.  I would avoid it if there is really high winds unless you enjoy cleaning sand out of your equipment and salt off your lens.

Getting there

Click Here to see the location marked on Google Maps

There are multiple ways to enter Stockton Beach, from the North at Anna Bay, in the middle at Lavis Lane, and from the South (although I’m not sure of the specific directions from the South).  As I have only been to the beach through the North and Middle entrance, I am only going to describe these access paths.

From Anna Bay End (North)
Click on this link to see where you exit Stockton Beach from Anna Bay

From The Middle of the beach you enter from Lavis Lane (not far from Willamtown Airforce base)
Click on this link to see the entrance to Stockton Beach from Lavis Lane

Author Bio

Brent Pearson

1 Comment

  1. Top 10 Short Day Trips From Sydney - Postcards From Silvia April 8, 2017

    […] Pro tip: If you’re into photography, be sure to check out Tin City and Sygna Wreck too. […]

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