1 April 2015
Newcastle, Australia’s seventh biggest city, has undergone a transformation from its industrial past, particularly around the city centre. The beachside city has a relaxed vibe offering plenty of things to see and do for families and travellers. Jump in the car or on a train and head two hours north of Sydney to enjoy all the great experiences Newcastle has to offer.
Here is a selection of family-friendly things to do in Newcastle.
1. Historic Fort Scratchley
Apart from some of the best views in Newcastle across the harbour and the city, Fort Scratchley has great historic significance as the only place on Australian social where guns have fired on an enemy vessel during war.
Take a tour and learn more of the fascinating history of the fort and Newcastle. The tunnel tour takes you through the maze of gun chambers and passageways which the kids will love exploring.
You can tour the fort grounds for free, while tunnel tours are $12 for adults, $6 for kids, or $30 for a family pass. Open Wednesday – Monday between 10am and 4pm.
2. Blackbutt Reserve
Located in New Lambton just west of the city centre, Blackbutt Reserve is a favourite amongst locals. Here you can get up close to wombats, koalas, goannas and beautiful Australian birds. The kids will love the treetop walk with animal viewing spots, while kangaroos and emus roam in the fields below.
There’s a large open field for picnics, plus plenty of free barbecues to use and a great playground for the kids. So take a picnic, go for a walk, and have a great Australian day out. It’s all free!
3. Hit the beaches
Is there a better free family outing than a day at the beach? Newcastle has some great beaches within easy reach of the city centre that are linked by a beautiful coastal walk called the Bathers Way, which takes about three hours from Nobbys Beach to Merewether Beach and passes these popular beaches:
Nobbys Beach – A favourite swimming spot for families and those learning to surf. Take a walk along nearby Macquarie’s Pier which features the harbour breakwall and Nobby’s Lighthouse.
Newcastle Beach – Known for its waves, this beach has a reputation for being one of the best surfing locations in Australia, and is a favoured spot for board riders wishing to catch that perfect wave off Newcastle Point.
Bar Beach – Newcastle’s quintessential family beach featuring a patrolled swimming area as well as a sheltered rock pool for children and those who prefer to swim in calmer waters.
Merewether Beach – A popular surfing beach and the home of four-times world champion surfer Mark Richards, as well as the location of Surfest, Australia’s largest surfing festival held annually in February.
4. Swim in the ocean baths
The popular ocean baths at Merewether Beach and the Newcastle Ocean Baths are one of the city’s outstanding historic landmarks with their Art Deco pavilion.
5. Quad biking at Stockton
To the north of Newcastle lie the Stockton Sand Dunes, the largest moving coastal sand mass in the southern hemisphere which have formed the background of many films, including the popular ‘Mad Max’ movies. Overlooking the brilliant blue of the Pacific Ocean, Stockton is a popular spot to enjoy quad biking, four wheel driving, sand boarding and camel rides. The sand is constantly reshaping the dunes providing new tracks to explore. A highlight is the shipwrecked Sygna, a Norwegian freighter that lost its battle with the 1974 cyclone that hit the Newcastle coastline producing 17 metre high waves.
6. Hunter Wetlands Centre
For a relaxing experience amongst nature visit the Hunter Wetlands. The area is a vibrant wetland ecosystem that is of national importance and has a growing reputation for excellence in conservation, education and ecotourism. Believe it or not, it has more bird species than Kakadu.
Explore the wetlands by canoe, walking and bike trails, or by Segway. There are boardwalks and viewing platforms, as well as a sensory walk created to give you a chance to stop, listen, look, smell and feel nature. There are also picnic spots, BBQs, feeding talks, a discovery zone and playground to enjoy. Spend a relaxing day with your family in nature and let your kids run around like they did before the age of computers.
Open daily from 9am – 4pm. $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Family passes are $25.
7. Newcastle Museum
The Newcastle Museum offers lots of hands on stuff for kids, and the ‘big kids’, especially at the interactive Supernova Hands-on Science Centre. Well laid-out and modern, the museum covers the history and stories of Newcastle and its citizens. The BHP Steelmaking Show is interesting and it pays to visit the museum on a regular basis for the ever-changing exhibits.
Free admission for general exhibition. Open Tuesday – Sunday between 10am and 5pm
As the name suggests, this park is right next to the foreshore and within walking distance to downtown Newcastle and Nobbys Beach. It’s a large grassy park with a kids’ playground, large covered area, picnic tables and bench seats around the pond, perfect for some family play time.
9. City Evolutions
City Evolutions is a landmark contemporary art project featuring a series of interactive digital projections along Newcastle’s oldest street, Watt Street. See Newcastle’s rich and vibrant past told in a series of light shows projected onto the city’s historic buildings.
10. Go to a sporting event
Newcastle hosts a great range of sporting events through the year. The Novocastrians especially love their ball sports with their beloved Newcastle Knights playing in Australia’s National Rugby League competition. Also well-supported is the A-League soccer team the Newcastle Jets. Enjoy a family day out watching a live game.
11. Sunday Farmers Market
Every Sunday the city holds a farmers’ market at the Newcastle Showground. Besides being a great place to pick up some fresh and great value produce, there are stalls that sell traditional market ware. When it comes to arts and crafts, it’s here that you will find the one of the Hunter’s biggest gathering of artisans.
12. Fernleigh Bike Track
Using an old abandoned coal and passenger train line running 15 km from Adamstown to Belmont, the Fernleigh Track is a popular walking and cycling path suitable for young children to the elderly. Former stations have been adapted to create interpretational features and welcoming rest areas. The track is built along a green corridor, taking in wetland, coastal and bushland environments. Paved and gently graded for people of all fitness levels with numerous access points, public toilets, drinking fountains and parking, with cafés, takeaways and local shops close by.