The Newcastle metropolitan area is the second most populated area in the Australian state of New South Wales and includes most of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas. It is the hub of the Greater Newcastle area which includes most parts of the local government areas of City of Newcastle, City of Lake Macquarie, City of Cessnock, City of Maitland and Port Stephens Council.
162 kilometres (101 mi) NNE of Sydney, at the mouth of the Hunter River, it is the predominant city within the Hunter Region. Famous for its coal, Newcastle is the largest coal exporting harbour in the world, exporting over 97 Mt of coal in 2009–10 with plans to expand annual capacity to 180 Mt by 2013. Beyond the city, the Hunter Region possesses large coal deposits. Geologically, the area is located in the central-eastern part of the Sydney basin.
Newcastle is on the southern bank of the Hunter River mouth. The northern side is dominated by sand dunes, swamps and multiple river channels. A "green belt" protecting plant and wildlife flanks the city from the west (Watagan mountains) around to the north where it meets the coast just north of Stockton. Urban development is mainly restricted to the hilly southern bank. The small town of Stockton sits opposite central Newcastle at the river mouth and is linked by ferry. Road access between Stockton and central Newcastle is via the Stockton Bridge, a distance of 20 km (12 mi). Much of the city is undercut by the coal measures of the Sydney sedimentary basin, and what were once numerous coal-mining villages located in the hills and valleys around the port have merged into a single urban area extending southwards to Lake Macquarie.
Newcastle has a borderline oceanic/humid subtropical climate like much of central and northern New South Wales. Summers tend to be warm and winters are generally mild. Precipitation is heaviest in late autumn and early winter.