WHEN they think of the North Coast, most people think of the relaxed lifestyle, idyllic beaches and lush hinterland - not Australia's regional murder capital.
But statistics obtained from the state homicide squad have revealed the strip between Newcastle and the Queensland border had the second highest number of murders in the state last year, even as NSW topped the nation for the number of people murdered.
The Northern Star spoke to police in every state and confirmed that the NSW northern region was the regional murder capital of Australia.
Of the 84 murders across NSW in 2011, 20 were in the Northern Region police command, which runs from north of Newcastle to the border.
This was only one less than the North-Western Metropolitan region of Sydney.
The tally across the Northern Region was more than double that of Central Sydney and Western NSW, which had nine murders each.
The state had 15 more murders than in 2010.
The Homicide Squad confirmed of 84 incidents resulting in the deaths of 94 people, 83% had been solved by police.
Three of the 84 were missing persons cases presumed to be murders.
Victoria closely followed NSW with 81 murders last year while Tasmania had the fewest: four.
So far this year the Northern Region sits equal third with three murders behind the South-West of Sydney with four and Central Sydney with five.
Homicide Squad commander Detective Superintendent Michael Willing said most of the murders in the Northern Region stemmed from domestic disputes.
Despite NSW having the most murders of any state, it also had the best clear-up rate.
No homicide case is closed until it is solved, police say.
This year 19 people have been murdered in NSW with 12 listed by police as solved.