70 Free & Low-Cost Things to Do With Kids in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & Hunter

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Looking for some affordable family fun? You don’t always have to spend lots of money on activities and outings to entertain babies and kids. There are lots of free and low-cost things to do in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter. Get out and enjoy some affordable family activities and day trips. Here are some ideas for your family for free things to do in Newcastle, NSW.

Museums

free things to do in newcastle

1. You can easily spend hours at Newcastle Museum. In addition to the Mininova soft play area for younger kids, there’s interesting science and historical exhibits for older kids to check out. One of our family favourites is the BHP Steelmaking Show, for the noise and smoke. Please note: Mininova and Supernova remain temporarily closed due to COVID safety measures.

2. Do a self-guided tour of Maitland Gaol. (Snitch’s Gaol Exploration (children’s tour) is suitable for primary school children).

3. Visit Fort Scratchley and do a tunnel tour.

Art & Crafts

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4. Hire a Music Kit or Adventure Pack from MAP mima, Speers Point Park and enjoy a self-directed STEAM activity.

5. Enjoy free drop-in art activities. Visit Newcastle Art Gallery and enjoy free Art Cart drop-in art activities on weekend mornings or on Sunday mornings at Art Space at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery and Free Art Sunday at Maitland Regional Art Gallery. Please note: Newcastle Art Gallery is currently closed for redevelopment, due to reopen in 2024.

6. Get your photo taken with the Brett Whitely egg sculpture in front of Newcastle Art Gallery. From the right angle, the egg and nest sit right on your head.

7. Wander through the Sculpture Park at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in Booragul.

8. Get your photo taken in front of a Mister Trevor Dickinson mural. Suggestions: Newcastle Museum, Mayfield Pool, Newcastle Beach Tunnel or Merewether Beach Tunnel.

9. Go hunting for street art. There are murals all over the Newcastle region including Newcastle CBD, Mayfield, Wickham and Belmont.

Animals & Nature

Free and low cost activities - Blackbutt Reserve

10. Visit the animals at Blackbutt Reserve. There are koalas, emus, wallabies, wombats and peacocks and lots more critters in the wildlife exhibits.

11. Get out into nature at the Hunter Wetlands Centre. There’s reptile talks, bird feeding talks, walking and cycling tracks. Kids can even try dipnetting for a gold coin donation.

12. Try to spot koalas at Tilligerry Habitat atTanilba Bay.

13. Snorkel or explore rock pools at the beach at low tide. Suggestion Merewether, Caves Beach.

14. Go to a headland and watch for dolphins (or whale watching in season). Suggestions: Fort Scratchley, Nobbys Headland, Redhead or Dudley Bluff.

15. Visit the Hunter Region Botanical Gardens at Heatherbrae.

16. Get back to nature with a day out at  Kooragang Wetlands at Ash Island.

Sports & Exercise

free things to do in newcastle

17. Play Frisbee Golf at Jesmond Park or at Styles Point Reserve in Rathmines.

18. Walk or run a 5K ParkRun.

19. Play barefoot bowls at a local bowling club.

20. Get on your bike! Ride one of the many kid-friendly cycle paths in the region.

21. Pack the kids, scooters and helmets in the car and take the kids for a scoot at one of these 5 playgrounds with scooter tracks.

22. Visit a local skate park and skate, scoot and bike or just watch the local talent.

23. Try orienteering at a permanent orienteering course at Blue Gums Regional Park at Minmi or Brickworks Park, Wallsend.

24. Take your own basketball or netball and shoot some hoops at one of these regional playgrounds with basketball courts.

Beaches & Pools

free things to do in newcastle nsw

25. Go for a swim at one of Newcastle’s family-friendly beaches or ocean baths like Newcastle Baths, Merewether Baths (the largest ocean bath in the Southern Hemisphere), Bar Beach, Newcastle Canoe Pool and Grannys Pool. Please note: Newcastle Baths are currently closed for renovation, due to reopen late 2023.

26. Explore the caves at Caves Beach at low tide and in calm sea conditions.

27. Visit the Canoe Pool and see if you can find remnants of the concrete Map of The World.

28. Visit Redhead Beach and spot the iconic Redhead Shark Tower.

29. Visit family-friendly Grannies Pool at Blacksmiths. Its access has been upgraded so easier to get to with prams and wheelchairs.

30. Splash around at an aquatic playground. Suggestions: Lambton Pool or Maitland Pool.

Local libraries

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31. Borrow kids books, kids CDs and kids DVDs from libraries, an affordable way to access books, music and entertainment.

32. Visit your local library for Baby Book Time for babies, Rock n Rhyme for 0-3, Story Stomp for preschoolers and school holiday activities for older kids.

33. Visit a Street Library in Newcastle & the Hunter and borrow or donate a book.

34. Enjoy a free family movie each month at Wallsend Library.

35. Borrow toys and games from the Newcastle and Hunter Toy Library located at New Lambton Library on Saturday mornings.

36. Master cool builds in a brick building challenge at LEGO® Club, held on Tuesday afternoons at Wallsend Library and Wednesday afternoons at Newcastle (City) Library during school term. Please note: Maitland City Library LEGO® Clubs are currently temporarily suspended, but LEGO is still available in their libraries for the kids to play with.

Local Walks

free things to do in newcastle nsw

37. Go for a walk along Anzac Memorial Walk for great views of Newcastle’s coast and city.

38. Walk or cycle along the foreshore of Lake Macquarie. Suggestions: Warners Bay to Speers Point or Eleebana to Valentine. Stop for a picnic and enjoy the views.

39. Bike or scoot along Fernleigh Track, an abandoned coal and passenger line.

40. Enjoy the views from The Obelisk in The Hill in Newcastle.

41. Walk a section of the Great North Walk. The Yuerlabah Track starts at Queens Wharf in Newcastle and finishes at Teralba. (Smaller sections can be tackled!)

42. Walk along the Sculpture Walk at Warners Bay.

43. Enjoy Bathers Way from Nobbys Headland to Merewether Baths.

44. Explore Shipwreck Walk, a walk along the Stockton Breakwater which incorporates the wrecks and hulks of several iron and steel ships within the structure.

45. Walk the Throsby Creek Walking Loop through Maryville and the mangroves at Carrington.

46. Walk along Newcastle Harbour from Nobbys to Wickham. A stop for ice-cream at Queens Wharf is optional.

47. Watch hang gliders launch and enjoy spectacular views on the Hickson Street Track walk, Merewether.

48. Enjoy beach views, bush tracks and great views of Glenrock Lagoon on the Yuelarbah walk from Kahibah to Burwood Beach through Glenrock State Conservation Area.

49. Try the Newcastle version of the Bridge Climb and walk across Stockton Bridge.

50. Walk up to Nobbys Headland. It’s currently open weekends and public holidays from 8am to 4pm.

free things to do in newcastle nsw

Parks & Playgrounds

51. Have a play at Toronto Foreshore Playground followed by a walk to the boat marina.

52. Go for a play at the adventure playground at Richley Reserve at Blackbutt.

53. Visit the Fairy Garden in Broadmeadow.

54. Spot a snake and frog, play handball and walk through the misting jets at The Station playground.

55. Stop off at the surf-themed Webb Park playground at Redhead Beach.

56. Visit Rathmines Park, former home to the RAAF Catalina Flying Boat Base. Now home to an amazing plane-themed playground.

57. Visit a new park or playground that you haven’t visited before. There’s plenty listed in the Parks & Playground section of Newy with Kids.

Plus more fun:

things to do in newcastle with kids

58. Enjoy a cheap harbour cruise by taking the ferry to Stockton and back. Cheaper on weekends with NSW Transport Travel Cap.

59. Download and print a Newy with Kids Scavenger Hunt and have fun whilst exploring the region. There are 8 locations to choose from.

60. Use your smartphone to explore outdoors by going geocaching. It’s a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.

61. Attend one of Newcastle’s free festivals like Living Smart Festival, Riverlights, etc. For information about upcoming free and low-cost events, make sure you’re following the Newy with Kids Facebook page or subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.

62. Check out a local farmer’s market.

63. Go for a ride on a train. Suggestions: the State Rail trains on the Sydney or Hunter Line or the new Newcastle light rail which runs from Newcastle Interchange to Newcastle Beach.

64. Drive up to the top of Mount Sugarloaf and see the view.

65. Go out for a meal where kids eat free. Check the Kids Eat Free (or Cheap) guide on Newy with Kids.

66. Treat the kids to an  ice cream by the harbour, beach or lake by trying one from our list of Best Ice Cream Shops in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter.

67. Download and play augmented reality games like Pokemon Go or Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

68. Climb the tower at Christ Church Cathedral.

69. Go stargazing on a clear night. If your knowledge of astronomy is lacking, spot planets and constellations using ABC Beginner’s Guide to the Night Sky.

70. Watch fighter jets take off from Williamtown RAAF base.

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