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Catherine Hill Bay is a 1.5 km long east-facing bay bordered by prominent headlands and rock platforms. It is occupied by two sandy beaches (NSW 259 & 260) also known as Middle Camp Beach (Fig. 4.151 & 4.152), and backed by two valleys, the northern drained by Middle Gamp Gully which flows across the northern end, with a smaller creek flowing out towards the southern end. The backing slopes are the site of two coal mining communities, the northern Middle Camp and southern Catherine Hill Bay which dates back to 1873. Parking and good beach access to the beach is available in the north next to the cemetery, and in the south next to the road and Catherine Hill Bay SLSC. Middle Camp Beach (NSW 259) is now better known as Catherine Hill Bay, the name resulting from the wreck of the schooner Catherine Hill in 1867. While it was one of the first beaches 'discovered' by Sydney surfers in the late 1950s, the local coal miners had formed a surf club at the beach in 1928. Coal mines operate at either end, and masses of coal are piled above the southern headland. Up until 1963 a railway line ran along the back of the beach delivering coal to the southern jetty, for loading onto small coastal steamers. The main beach is 1.5 km long and sweeps in a gentle east-facing arc between the headlands. The surf club sits on the southern bluff, just above the beach. The beach receives waves averaging 1.5 m decreasing slightly to the south resulting in one bar cut by 5-6 beach rips with a strong permanent rip against the northern head. To the north the rips are often joined by a trough, creating a continuous rip and rip feeder channel along much of the beach. South of the southern rocks and 250 m long coal jetty is the second smaller more protected 150 m long north-facing beach (NSW 260). It is wedged in between the jetty, cliffs and a low rock platform. Waves refracting around the point average less than 0.5 m and maintain a steep reflective beach, which is used for launching small fishing boats.
Beach Length: 1.5km
General Hazard Rating: 7/10

Patrolled Beach Flag Patrols

There are currently no services provided by Surf Life Saving Australia for this beach. Please take the time to browse the Surf Safety section of this website to learn more about staying safe when swimming at Australian beaches. Click here to visit general surf education information.


Formal parking area
Change Rooms
Mobile Phone Coverage
Toilets Block M/F
Toilets Block Disabled


Surfcraft Prohibited
No Parking
No Dogs Allowed


High surf
Heavy shorebreak
Littoral currents
Fixed rips
Flash rips
Travelling rips
Shallow Water
Shallow Sandbars
Submerged Objects
Accessible Rock Platforms
Beach erosion
Beach exposure
Long beach
Uneven ground


SLSA provides this information as a guide only. Surf conditions are variable and therefore this information should not be relied upon as a substitute for observation of local conditions and an understanding of your abilities in the surf. SLSA reminds you to always swim between the red and yellow flags and never swim at unpatrolled beaches. SLSA takes all care and responsibility for any translation but it cannot guarantee that all translations will be accurate.