Moderately hazardous: 4-6
Highly hazardous: 7-8
Extremely hazardous: 9-10
Eighty-metre high Redhead Point marks the southern end of the rocky Newcastle shoreline, and the beginning of Nine Mile Beach (NSW 250). The beach initially trends due southwest as Redhead Beach (Fig. 4.145), curving to the south in the last 3 km as Blacksmith Beach, to terminate against the northern entrance wall for Lake Macquarie. The beach is backed by a sand barrier, which widens to 1.5 km in the north where extensive sand dunes dominate. On the northern side of the dunes the 10 ha Jewells Swamp drains to the beach via two small creeks including Crokers Creek, with a third Freshwater Creek draining the northern headland to cross the beach just south of the surf club. South of the dunes the 200 ha Belmont Swamp and Lagoon back much of the beach, together with the central Belmont sewer works and southern golf course. The only vehicle access is in the north at Redhead and south at Blacksmiths.
The northern Redhead end of the beach has a long and interesting association with swimming and surf life saving. The Redhead SLSC was formed in 1907 on what was then a private beach. The lifesavers were known as the 'Durham Boys', as most worked in the adjacent Durham coal mine. The first subdivision of the Redhead estate took place in 1911 thereby opening the beach to the public. Today the Lambton Colliery still operates at Redhead which remains a compact mining town surrounded by the Awabakal Nature Reserve to the north; the colliery and railway to the west; the Nine Mile Beach dunes to the south; and the ocean to the east. The public is however welcome with parking and a park adjacent to the surf club.
The beach extends for 10.4 km (making it 7 miles not 9 miles long) and for the most part is fully exposed to southerly waves which average 1.6 m, only decreasing slightly along Blacksmiths Beach. A well-developed double bar system runs the length of the beach decreasing to one bar at Blacksmiths. The inner bar is cut by rips every 200-300 m producing up to 50 rips along the beach. A wide, deep trough lies offshore, then the outer bar with rips spaced every 500 m or more (Fig. 4.146).
The Redhead surf club is located on a rock outcrop 100 m south of Redhead Point. The stretch of sand between the club and the point is known as Little Redhead and under most conditions has a strong, permanent rip against the point. Rips occur at the point, at the rocks in front of the club and all the way down the beach to Blacksmiths. Fortunately they are usually separated by attached bars up to 200 m long, upon which are the best place to swim.
At Redhead stay close to the surf club and swim between the flags. Be very careful if swimming near the rocks or down the beach, as it is rip-dominated and isolated, and there is also a sewer outlet across the beach. While Blacksmith usually has lower waves it is still rip-dominated so stay between the flags.
Redhead picks up any east or southeast swell and is best during summer when it is protected from northeast winds. Blacksmiths offers beach breaks and during large southeast swell the bar against the entrance wall can offer good rights. During bigger seas there are breaks either side of the northern entrance wall, known as Blacksmith Point.
This long beach usually has gutters most of its length, with permanent gutters at Little Redhead and off the Swansea breakwater. These gutters are fished for a wide range of species including tailor, bream, whiting and mulloway.