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.
COVID-19 NOTE: Due to government directives regarding COVID-19, events & attractions listed on Newy with Kids may be cancelled or closed or reopened with reduced hours and COVID-19 protocols. Please check directly with organisers & venues to avoid disappointment.
1. You can easily spend hours at the Newcastle Museum. In addition to 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 in the BHP Steelmaking Show for the noise and smoke.
2. Do a self-guided tour of Maitland Gaol. (Snitch’s Gaol Exploration is suitable for primary school children).
3. Visit Fort Scratchley and do a tunnel tour.
4. Enjoy Tuesday Tales, a weekly storytime session at Newcastle Museum.
Art & Crafts
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
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 sits 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
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 at Tanilba 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
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. Visit a local skate park and skate, scoot and bike or just watch the local talent.
21. Try orienteering at a permanent course at Blue Gum Hills Regional Park in Minmi.
Beaches & Pools
22. Go for a swim at one of Newcastle’s family-friendly beaches or ocean baths like Merewether Baths (the largest ocean bath in the Southern Hemisphere), Bar Beach, Newcastle Canoe Pool and Grannys Pool.
23. Explore the caves at Caves Beach at low tide and in calm sea conditions.
24. Visit the Canoe Pool and see if you can find remnants of the concrete Map of The World.
25. Visit Redhead Beach and spot the iconic Redhead Shark Tower.
26. Visit family-friendly Grannies Pool at Blacksmiths. Its access has been upgraded so easier to get to with prams and wheelchairs.
27. Splash around at an aquatic playground. Suggestions: Lambton Pool or Maitland Pool.
28. Borrow kids books, kids CDs and kids DVDs from libraries as well making it an affordable way to access books, music and entertainment.
29. Visit your local library for Baby Book Time for babies, Storytime for preschoolers and school holiday activities for older kids.
30. Visit a Street Library in Newcastle & the Hunter and borrow or donate a book.
31. Enjoy a free family movie each month at Wallsend Library.
32. Borrow toys and games from the Newcastle and Hunter Toy Library located at New Lambton Library on Saturday mornings.
33. Go for a walk along Anzac Memorial Walk for great views of Newcastle’s coast and city.
34. 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.
35. Bike or scoot along Fernleigh Track, an abandoned coal and passenger line.
36. Enjoy the views from The Obelisk in The Hill in Newcastle.
37. 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!)
38. Walk along the sculpture walk at Warners Bay.
39. Enjoy Bathers Way from Nobbys Headland to Merewether Baths.
40. Explore Shipwreck Walk, a walk along the Stockton Breakwater which incorporates the wrecks and hulks of several iron and steel ships within the structure.
41. Walk through the boardwalk above the mangroves in Carrington.
42. Walk along Newcastle Harbour from Nobbys to Wickham. Optional stop for ice-cream at Queens Wharf.
43. Walk up to Nobbys Headland. It’s currently open every Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 4pm.
Parks & Playgrounds
44. Have a play at Toronto Foreshore Playground followed by a walk to the boat marina.
45. Go for a play at the adventure playground at Richley Reserve at Blackbutt.
46. Visit the Fairy Garden in Broadmeadow.
47. Stop off at the surf-themed Webb Park playground at Redhead Beach.
48. Visit Rathmines Park, former home to the RAAF Catalina Flying Boat Base. Now home to an amazing plane-themed playground.
49. 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:
50. Enjoy a cheap harbour cruise by taking the ferry to Stockton and back. Cheaper on weekends with NSW Transport Travel Cap.
51. Use your smartphone to explore outdoors by going geocaching. It’s a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.
52. 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.
53. Check out a local farmer’s market.
54. Go for a ride on a train. Suggestions: Edgeworth Trains or just the State Rail trains on the Sydney or Hunter Line or the new Newcastle light rail which runs from Newcastle Interchange to Newcastle Beach.
55. Drive up to the top of Mount Sugarloaf and see the view.
56. Go out for a meal where kids eat free. Check the Kids Eat Free (or Cheap) guide on Newy with Kids.
57. Treat the kids to an ice cream by the harbour anytime without stretching the budget. Stop off for an $2 soft serve ice cream at Lynch’s Hub. They serve plain vanilla plus a different house flavour each week.
58. Download and play augmented reality games like Pokemon Go or Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
59. Climb the tower at Christ Church Cathedral.
60. 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.
Here’s more articles you may be interested in:
- 10 activities you can do with your mums group in Newcastle
- Moving to Newcastle: a guide for families
- Best playgrounds in Newcastle for toddlers
In 2012, Reena founded Newy with Kids to share information about family-friendly Newcastle. Originally from Canada, she had no idea about what to do with her toddler and after searching unsuccessfully for a family guide, decided to start her own. Since that time, both the toddler and Newy with Kids have grown keeping Reena busy. If you see her out and about, say hi.