For more on Newcastle/Gateshead area see our article NewcastleGateshead
This area is not one that tourists in the past have flocked to, as it has been a heavy industry area. It gets its name from the two main rivers, the Tyne and the Wear, that flow here. It is made up of five regions: Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, and Sunderland with the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland being its two urban centres.
Throw in the areas of South Shields, North Shields (its name comes from the 'shielings' or 'shiels'—fishermen’s huts—on the riverbank), Washington, Jarrow, and Wallsend, which sit side by side with NewcastleGateshead, and you’ve got more than a week’s worth of holidaying in the area. North and South Tyneside are where the coastline and beaches are found. South Shields in South Tyneside has award winning sandy beaches. It also has a museum and art gallery. Sandhaven is a Blue Flag beach complete with dunes. Backing on to the seafront are a series of contemporary pubs and bars.
Ocean Beach Pleasure Park on the Coast Rd is brimming with traditional seaside activities. Step back in time and have a whirl on the waltzer, ride the rollercoaster, and try your hand at a game of hook-the-duck. Opposite the fairground is the restored Victorian South Marine Park with a boating lake, miniature railway, swans, and picnic spots.
You can take a walk along the South Tyneside Heritage Trail to the Souter lighthouse, built in 1871. It was the first to use AC current, advanced for its time. On view are the light tower, keeper’s living quarters, and engine room. A DVD, model, and display fill in the details. In the Compass room are hands-on exhibits that cover storms at sea, ship to shore communication, pirates, smugglers, lighthouse life, and shipwrecks.
St Mary’s lighthouse at Whitley Bay in North Tyneside is reached between the tides via a short causeway. It dates from 1898 and was built to help protect the shipping along a dangerous coast. It was closed in 1984 when modern navigational technology made it redundant. It’s now a visitor centre with a small shop, exhibition and a climb of 137 steps to the top. The tiny surrounding nature reserve is home to rock pools, cliff top grassland, a wetland habitat, and a beach.
Children and adults alike will enjoy close encounters with sea creatures in the Blue Reef Aquarium on the coast at North Tyneside. It uses the latest marine technology to showcase these creatures from around the world in naturally-themed habitats. There’s an underwater walk-through tunnel complete with sharks, stingrays, and reef fish. Don’t miss the piranhas, giant crabs and eels. Have a look at the Fascinating Frogs exhibit that includes poisonous ones and the huge cane toads. Blue Reef nursery houses the aquarium’s newborn babies where you can view tiny sharks.
Another attraction for children (and adults) is the Childhood Memories Toy Museum with a collection of toys, dolls, models, games, and more. Its collection of 6000 toys represents many generations from 1860 to 1960. Roker is a popular holiday resort.
Outdoor fans will want to allow time for the Leas where the beach, cliff, and grassland provide ocean views. Just to the south is Whitburn Coastal Park and Nature Reserve. Wallsend has its own sandy beach, Longsands, a Blue Flag (awarded for cleanliness) beach. It’s a haven for surfers and other water sports enthusiasts.
Sunniside, a section of Sunderland, is being redeveloped. It historic streets are home to 160 listed buildings. With new gardens, businesses, shopping, and dining, it’s being re-discovered by locals and visitors alike.
The Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens has a variety of attractions with four floors of interactive displays about the history of the area from its early foundations to the present day. It was rebuilt on the site of Victorian glass houses and houses a tropical rainforest in a stainless steel and glass rotunda. There are 2000 flowers and plants to enjoy as well as a treetop walkway.
The National Glass Centre, based in a contemporary glass and steel building in Sunderland, explores ideas through glass with galleries, artists’ studios, production facilities, and a craft and design shop. The high level tour around the workshops and furnaces to watch glassblowers at work is a unique experience. At noon there are glass blowing demonstrations. Shipley’s art gallery has collections by craft makers that include ceramics, glass, metalwork, jewellery, textiles, and furniture.
At South Shields near Hadrian’s wall is the Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum. It shows off the excavated remains of a Roman fort, built c AD160. It was the military supply base for 17 forts along Hadrian’s Wall. The museum on site holds the treasures found on the site digs. There’s also a reconstructed commander’s house. Another Roman site, Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum was the last outpost of Hadrian’s Wall along the river Tyne banks.
Railroad buffs can enjoy North Shields Stephenson Railway museum and take a ride on a steam train. Another railway museum, Monkwearmouth Station Museum, is found in Sutherland. It dates from Victorian times.
There’s 100 acres to explore at the Washington Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre. The wetland and woodland provide wintering habitat for migratory water birds and other wildlife. Depending on the time of year different ones can be seen. There are woodland walks and a breeding area. Attractions include lake-side hides, a wild bird feeding station, picnic areas, and a sustainable garden. There’s a café on site.
Washington Old Hall, home to US president George Washington’s ancestors, is open to visitors. The stone built 17th century home has parts of the original medieval hall incorporated in the building. Displays on Washington, carved oak furniture, paintings, a wildflower and nut orchard, and a small Jacobean garden are part of the attractions.
Another historic home in the area (technically it is in Northumberland but can easily be included when visiting the area) is Seaton Delaval, acquired in 2010 by the National Trust. The main house suffered a massive fire, but visitors can still take a look inside the ruined interior. Two wings remained untouched by the fire. A small garden and historic tiny church completes the experience.
Seventh century Tynemouth priory and castle, set on a steep headland between the river and the North Sea, are relics of the past. The priory was established in 1090 by Benedictine monks. Legend says the priory is the burial place of kings from the old kingdom of Northumbria, King Oswin in particular.
The castle and priory were the first fortifications that protected this section of the north-east coast and Newcastle from invaders abroad and from the enemy at home during the English Civil War. The Danes destroyed the original monastery, but the Benedictine order built a priory on the same site c 1090. Surviving is the east end of the church (c 1200) with its arches and lancet windows, and a chapel with sculpted roof vault (mid 15th cen). The castle’s magazine battery has been restored.
Bede’s World in Jarrow will fill you in on the Venerable Bede (AD 673-735), named as the father of English history. St Paul’s monastery at Jarrow served as headquarters to Bede in the 7th and 8th centuries.
The current parish church chancel originally was part of the monastic buildings. There’s an interactive Age of Bede exhibition where you can learn about medieval monastic life and Bede.
Medieval monastic ruins, an herb garden, recreated timber buildings on a demonstration farm, and ancient manuscripts add up to an entertaining way to present the history of the times. Next to the museum is the 7th century church St Paul’s connected to the monastery. St Peter’s is its sister church and the one where Bede lived as a young person. It was built in 674 and is one of oldest churches in Britain. It now serves as a parish church.
Newcastle and Gateshead have been busy re-inventing themselves by turning the old waterfront area into a northern Docklands with shops, restaurants, art, and housing. Black Gate and Castle Keep built by Henry II still stands and gives Newcastle its name. Bessie Surtees house, a 1700s black and white townhouse, sits in the old city centre. Stunning new architecture is found in the Sage Gateshead where 3000 steel panels and 630 panes of glass were used to create the building’s exterior.
Like most cities it has a number of museums and galleries. The Discovery Museum in Newcastle tells about the city’s past from the days of the Romans to the present. There’s a section on Tyneside inventions, a fun approach to science, and a walk through fashion. At the Great Northern Museum you’ll find a interactive model of Hadrian’s Wall and a planetarium.
Newcastle has seven bridges across the river Tyne. The tilting bridge, able to turn on pivots, is the most famous. It weighs more than 850 tonne, stands 20 metres high with 26 metre wings and is powered by eight electric motors.
Gateshead is known for its 200-ton steel sculpture, the Angel of the North. It’s a 15 minute drive from the city centre.
Sport lovers will want to visit the famous Newcastle racecourse, set in 800 acres of parkland, or take a tour of Newcastle United stadium. Tyne and Wear county really does have something for everyone, so put it on your itinerary for a week’s (at least) holiday.
Gibside, a short drive from Newcastle, is a riverside landscape garden (National Trust), much of it a SSSI. The estate was once the home of the Bowes-Lyon family and comes complete with a ruined mansion and a restored chapel.
Tyne and Wear Attractions
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.
Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum
Baring St, South Shields
Tel. 0191 277 1410
For photos and more details see our article Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Gateshead Quays, South Shore Rd, Gateshead
Tel. 0 191 478 1810
Bessie Surtees House (EH)
41-44 Sandhill, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 269 1200
Stoddart St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 261 1103
Web: Biscuit Factory
Black Gate and Castle Keep
Castle Arch, St Nicholas St, Newcastle NE1 1RQ
Tel. 0 191 232 7938
For photos and more details see our article Black Gate and Castle Keep
Blue Reef Aquarium
Grand Parade, Tynemouth NE30 4JF
Tel. 0 191 258 1031
Web: Blue Reef Aquarium
Cathedral Church of St Nicholas
St Nicholas St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 232 1939
Web: St Nicholas Cathedral
Childhood Memories Toy Museum
The Palace Bldg, Grand Parade, Tynemouth
Tel. 0 191 259 1776
Tynemouth Toy Museum
Blanford Square, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 232 6789
Web: Discovery Museum
Newcastle Rd, Fulwell
Sunderland, SR5 1EX
Tel. 0 191 516 9790
Near Rowlands Gill, Burnopfield, Newcastle
Tel. 0 1207 542 255
Great Northern Museum (formerly Hancock Museum)
Barras Bridge, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 222 6066
Web: Great Northern Museum
Holy Jesus Hospital
City Rd, Newcastle, NE1 2AS
Tel. 0 191 255 7610
Laing Art Gallery
News Bridge St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 232 7734
Life Science Centre
Times Square, Newcastle NE1 4EP
Tel. 0191 243 8210
Web: Life Science Centre
Monkwearmouth Station Museum
North Bridge St, Sunderland
Tel. 0 191 567 7075
National Glass Centre
Liberty Way, Sunderland, off the A1018
Tel. 0 191 515 5555
Web: National Glass Centre
High Gosforth Park, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 5HP
Tel. 0 191 236 2020
Web: Newcastle Racecourse
Newcastle United Stadium Tours
St James Park, Newcastle
Tel. 0 844 372 1892 to book a tour
North East Aircraft Museum
Old Washington Rd
Tel. 0 191 519 0662
Web: North East Aircraft Museum
St Mary’s Square, Gateshead Quays
Tel. 0 191 443 4661
Web: Sage Gateshead
Saltwell Rd, Gateshead
Tel. 0 191 478 4222; 0 191 433 5900 (Saltwell Towers visitor centre)
Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum
Buddle St, Wallsend
Tel. 0 191 236 9347
For photos and more information see our article Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum
30 Lime St, Newcastle NE1 2PQ
Tel. 0 845 271 0777
Web: Seven Stories
Shipley Art Gallery
Prince Consort Rd, Gateshead, NE8 4JB
Tel. 0 191 477 1495
Web: Shipley Art Gallery
Souter Lighthouse (NT)
Coast road, Whitburn, Sunderland
Tel. 0 191 529 3161 or 01670 773 966 (infoline)
South Shields Museum and Art Gallery
Ocean Rd, South Shields, NE33 2JA
Tel. 0 101 456 8740
St Andrew’s Church
Talbot Rd, Roker, Sunderland, SR6 9PT
Tel. 0 191 516 0135
St Mary’s Church Heritage Centre
Oakwell Gate, Gateshead
Tel. 0 191 433 4699
St Mary’s Lighthouse
Two miles north of Whitley Bay town centre, North Tyneside
Reached by causeway between tides from car park
St Peter’s Church
St Peter’s Way, Monkwearmouth
Tel. 0 191 516 0135
Stephenson Railway Museum
Middle Engine Lane, North Shields
Tel. 0 191 200 7146
Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
Burdon Rd, Sunderland
Tel. 0 191 553 2323
Tynemouth Priory and Castle
North Pier, Tynemouth
Tel. 0 191 257 1090
Victoria Tunnel Tours
Ouseburn Farm, near the Cluny (bottom of Stepney Bank)
Lime St, Newcastle, NE2 1PQ
Tel. 0 191 261 6596
Web: Victoria Tunnel Tours
Washington Old Hall (NT)
The Avenue, Washington village, Washington
Tel. 0 191 416 6879
For photos and more information see our article Washington Old Hall
Washington Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre
Four miles from the A1, east of Washington
Tel: 0 191 416 5454
For photos and more information see our article Washington Wetlands and Wildlife Centre
Tourist Information Centres
The Tyne and Wear area has information touch screen kiosks in a large number of locations.
Gateshead (Central Library)
Central Library, Prince Consort Road
Gateshead, NE8 4LN
Tel. 0 191 477 3478 (0 191 478 2060)
Portcullis, 7 The Arcade, Metro Centre
Gateshead, NE11 9YL
Tel. 0191 460 6345
St Mary's Church, Oakwellgate
Tel: 0 191 477 5380
Tourist Information Desk, Newcastle Airport
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE13 8BZ
Tel. 0 191 214 4422 (0 191 286 0966)
Main Concourse, Central Station
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5DL
Tel: 0 191 277 8000
Newcastle Information Centre
132 Grainger Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5AF
Tel. 0 191 277 8000
Unit 18, Royal Quays Outlet Shopping
North Shields, NE29 6DW
Tel: 0 191 200 5895
South Shields (Amphitheatre)
Sea Road, South Shields, NE33 2LD
Tel. 0 191 455 7411
Museum & Gallery, Ocean Rd
South Shields, NE33 2HZ
Tel. 0 191 454 6612
50 Fawcett St, Sunderland, SR1 1RF
Tel. 0 191 553 2000 (0 191 553 2001)
Park Rd, Whitley Bay, NE26 1EJ
Tel: 0 191 200 8535
Official NewcastleGateshead Tourist Information website: NewcastleGateshead
North Tyneside Council: North Tyneside Council
Sunderland: Visit Sunderland
Tyne and Wear Museums: Tyne and Wear Museums
Visitor Information Centres and most hotels have a city map, pocket guide, What’s On leaflet, and metro map. They can also book accommodation for you free of charge and sell tickets for cruises and bus tours.
Newcastle Central Station has a left luggage facility (fee charged) so you can forget your luggage for the day while you explore the city attractions.
Getting to and around the area
I travelled from London to Newcastle by rail with East Coast Trains: advance return fares booked online start from £30 Standard Class or £104 First Class. Book via East Coast Trains or phone 0 8457 225 225, or visit any staffed station. London-Newcastle is a three hour journey. The journey is partly scenic, and the trains are clean and pleasant to relax in, leaving the driving to someone else.
A great option once you arrive in the area is to hire a car and driver to take you to various locations. We used Grosvenor Cars, tel 0191 240 4242 (or if landline failure call 07872 601 098)
Web: Grosvenor Cars
North-east England Blue Badge Tourist Guides
12 Elgin Gardens, Walkerdene, Newcastle
Tel. 0 7905 697 296
Web: North East England Guides
They are professionally qualified to guide walking tours or transport tours of all the area’s attractions.
The Tyne and Wear Metro light rail system connects all major destinations in the city, linking central Newcastle with the airport in 22 minutes and the coast in 30 minutes. Trains run daily from 5.30am-midnight, every 5-10 minutes during the day and 10-20 minutes in the evenings. A Metro DaySaver (£3.20) offers a day’s unlimited travel.
Bright yellow QuayLink electric buses connect Newcastle and Gateshead’s quaysides with Newcastle Central Station, Haymarket Bus Station and Gateshead Interchange. For more information call Traveline North East on 0870 6082608.
City Sightseeing Bus
Central Station, 17 hop-on, hop-off stops
Tel. 0 1708 866 000
Web: City Sightseeing
Tours run year round every 30/60 minutes daily. Check website for full details
Newcastle Walking Tours
Newcastle Tourist Information Centre
28 Market St
Tel. 0 191 277 8003
Mon-Sat, June-end Sep, from 11am
Daily walking tours and twice weekly heritage walks
Tel. 0 1670 785 777 or 785 666
To stay in Newcastle/Gateshead we recommend Staybridge Suites
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Our Tyne and Wear Articles
Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum
Bedes World at Jarrow
Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum
Washington Old Hall
Black Gate and Castle Keep
Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
Washington Wetlands and Wildlife Centre
St Peters Church, Wearmouth
Other England Articles