Summer is here and to celebrate, here’s a list of 100 ideas of fun things to do with your family in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens and the Hunter. The list has been updated with lots of 2017/2018 summer activities and events, many of them free and low-cost so it won’t bust your budget.
100 FUN FAMILY THINGS TO DO THIS SUMMER IN NEWCASTLE & SURROUNDS (Updated with 2017-18 Events)
- Go for a play at the revamped Webb Park at Redhead Beach.
- Visit Newcastle Museum. There are so many things to do in this fantastic family-friendly museum. For dino lovers, Dinosaur rEvolution, Secrets of Survival is on until 28 January 2018 featuring animatronic dinosaurs.
- Get a family Cringeworthy Christmas Portraits taken at Charlestown Square. You’ll be able to dress up in awkwardly festive gear including ugly sweaters, tinsel boas and Christmas accessories.
- Enjoy a skate and surf-focused event at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery on Sunday 10 December. It’s an exciting full-day event featuring skateboard demonstrations from pro skater Poppy Starr, free stand-up paddleboarding on the lake, an all-ages amateur skate competition, live entertainment and more.
- Enjoy Christmas carols with your friends and family.
- 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.
- Watch a magnificent summer sunset.
- Go for a swim at the Bogey Hole.
- Climb up 180 steps to the top of Queens Wharf Tower on Newcastle Foreshore. It might be your last summer to do so as the tower is scheduled to be removed in late 2018.
- Visit the Dinosaurs to Dodo exhibition at SEEN@Swansea. It’s the first-ever exhibition of more than 120 prehistoric and dinosaur scale casts, fossils and resin replicas from local collector and paleontologist, Michael Dawson. Exhibition on now and runs until 4 February 2018
- Visit family-friendly Grannies Pool at Blacksmiths. It’s access has been upgraded so easier to get to with prams and wheelchairs.
- Enjoy food, entertainment and browse for gifts at Christmas markets. There’s heaps to choose from around the region. Suggestions: Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Farmers Markets, Olive Tree Market and Five Senses Market.
- Visit a Street Library in Newcastle & the Hunter and borrow or donate a book.
- Make a time capsule to open in a year.
- Hike along the Yuerlarbah Walk at Glenrock Lagoon.
- Splash around at an aquatic playground. Suggestions: Lambton Pool or Maitland Pool.
- Drive up to the top of Mount Sugarloaf and see the view.
- Bring your dog to Lambton Park on Saturday 16 December for Pups in the Park for some canine fun! There will be free giveaways, food and market stalls, information about how to be a great dog owner, and you can snap a photo of your pup with Santa.
- Visit a new park or playground that you haven’t visited before. There’s plenty listed in the Parks section of The Mummy Project.
- Visit Newcastle Art Gallery and enjoy free ARTCART drop-in art activities on weekend mornings.
- Take your family to the movies to see a new-release movie like Coco, My Little Pony, Ferdinand, Jumanji:Welcome to the Jungle and Paddington 2. Suggestions: Reading Cinemas Charlestown, Event Cinemas Glendale and smaller theatres like Lake Cinema in Boolaroo or The Regal Cinema in Birmingham Gardens.
- Walk up to Nobbys Headland. It’s currently open every Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
- Celebrate NYE with your family and friends at events in Newcastle, Nelson Bay and Maitland.
- Enjoy a month of free art activities and fun for everyone during Free Art January at Maitland Regional Art Gallery
- Go camping with your family. Suggestions: In a campground, in your backyard or even your living room.
- Take on the Aquatic Challenger inflatable obstacle course at Speers Point Swim Centre on January 5, 12, 18 at Speers Point Swim Centre and January 13 & 14 at Swansea Swim Centre.
- Watch a movie under the stars. Suggestion: Newcastle Permanent Cinema Under the Stars in Singleton on Friday 5 January, Nelson Bay on Saturday 6 January, Newcastle on Saturday 13 January and Maitland on Friday 19 January.
- Visit the Tree of Knowledge in Wickham, one of the oldest and most historic trees in Newcastle.
- Enjoy drop-in family board game afternoons with Newcastle Region Library. Join them for an afternoon of retro board gaming. All the classics will be there as well as our amazing jumbo sized games. Family fun guaranteed! Sessions include: Newcastle Library on Friday 12 January from 1-4pm, Wallsend Library on Wednesday January 17 from 1-4 pm, Beresfield Library on Friday January 19 from 1-4pm and New Lambton Library on Tuesday January 23 from 1-4pm.
- Join master sculptor Dennis Massoud for a sand sculpting workshop before putting your new skills to the test in a fun, family-friendly sand sculpting competition at Blacksmiths Beach on Saturday 13 January.
- Walk along Newcastle Harbour from Nobbys to Wickham. Optional stop for ice-cream at Queens Wharf.
- Get down to Redhead Beach for the Lake Macquarie Festival of Surfing on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 January. There’s market stalls and free yoga.
- Go for a hike, visit the animals and enjoy a reptile show (on daily during school holidays) at Blackbutt Reserve.
- Enjoy Bathers Way from Nobbys Headland to Merewether Baths.
- Walk or cycle along the foreshore of Lake Macquarie. Suggestions: Warners Bay to Speers Point or Eleebana to Valentine.
- Go for a ride on a train. Suggestions: Edgeworth Trains, Walka Works Trains, Richmond Vale Railway or just the State Rail trains on the Sydney or Hunter Line.
- Have a play at Toronto Foreshore Playground followed by a walk to the boat marina.
- Visit Fort Scratchley and do a tunnel tour.
- Get back to nature with a day out at Kooragang Wetlands at Ash Island.
- Lie down, relax and have a cloud watching session.
- Go for a swim at the ocean baths at Newcastle or Merewether. (Make sure you check the cleaning schedule though!)
- Walk along Newcastle Harbour from Nobbys to Wickham. Optional stop for ice-cream at Queens Wharf.
- Join a discovery ranger and explore Glenrock after dark on a guided tour on 10 January or 23 January.
- Take the ferry to Stockton and back (or vice-versa if you live on the Stockton side).
- Get your kids to join the Summer Reading Club at their local library.
- Enjoy the views from The Obelisk in The Hill in Newcastle.
- Beat the heat and enjoy a family movie at Wallsend Library during January. Movies include Pixels, Wreck it Ralph and Ratchet and Clank.
- Walk or cycle through Fernleigh Tunnel on the Fernleigh Track.
- Stay up late and star gaze.
- Visit Blue Gum Hills State Park in Minmi and learn about the park’s mining heritage. Check out the maze and mining themed playground.
- Go snorkelling at rock pools: Suggestion: Nobbys Beach, Little Beach at Nelson Bay.
- Visit Stockton Beach. It’s the largest moving coastal sand mass in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Relax in a rotunda. Suggestions: Lambton Park, King Edward Park, Centennial Park, Dangar Park in Mayfield and Maitland Park.
- Play hide and seek in a local park.
- Get your photo taken in front of a Mister Trevor Dickinson Suggestions: Newcastle Museum, Mayfield Pool, Newcastle Beach Tunnel or Merewether Beach Tunnel.
- Wander through the Sculpture Park at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in Booragul.
- Enjoy some outdoor music at Friday Chill (starts January 12) in Pacific Park in Newcastle or Music in the Podium at Warners Bay.
- Walk along Green Point Reserve between Belmont and Valentine.
- Try to spot koalas at Tilligerry Habitat at Tanilba Bay.
- Wander through the Garside Gardens, the sunken garden at King Edward Park.
- Visit the historic village of Catherine Hill Bay.
- Visit the family-friendly Blacksmiths Beach.
- Roll down a hill. Suggestions: King Edward Park, Foreshore Park or Mount Sugarloaf.
- Explore the caves at Caves Beach at low tide and in calm sea conditions.
- Do a self-guided tour of Maitland Gaol. (Snitch’s Gaol Exploration is suitable for primary school children).
- Walk or run a 5K ParkRun.
- Play Frisbee Golf at Jesmond Park or at Styles Point Reserve in Rathmines.
- Do a torchlight tour of your backyard at night and see what you can find.
- 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!)
- Visit the historic village of Morpeth.
- Spot a rainbow. Hint: You can always find them in fountains especially Civic Park in Newcastle.
- Get your hands on a large box and let your kids’ imagination go wild.
- Go dipnetting at Hunter Wetlands Centre.
- Celebrate Australia Day with events around the region.
- Fly on a flying fox at Wickham Park, Speers Point Park, Webb Park in Redhead or Fingal Bay Playground
- Celebrate diversity at the Riverlights Multicultural Festival in Maitland on 10 February 2018.
- Visit a marina and play “I wish that was my boat”. Suggestions: Wickham, Nelson Bay and Belmont.
- Get some friends together and play cricket in the park.
- Go see the Spiders exhibition opening at Newcastle Museum on 24 February.
- Go geocaching. What’s geocaching? It’s a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.
- Go boating on Lake Macquarie whether it’s a tinnie, a ferry or your own toy boat.
- Visit the cannons at Gregson Park in Hamilton.
- Visit the Canoe Pool and see if you can find remnants of the concrete Map of The World.
- Walk up to top of Tomaree Head Summit in Port Stephens. For those with young kids, drive to the top of Gan Gan Lookout at Nelson Bay for a panoramic view of Port Stephens and surrounds.
- Watch pro surfers at Surfest at Merewether Beach between 3 and 25 February 2018.
- Visit Rathmines Park, former home to the RAAF Catalina Flying Boat Base. Now home to an amazing plane-themed playground.
- Play barefoot bowls at a local bowling club.
- Visit a local skate park and skate, scoot and bike or just watch the local talent.
- Participate in the Light Up Newcastle Lantern Walk in Honeysuckle on February 24 to celebrate Chinese New Year.
- Explore rock pools at the beach at low tide. Suggestion Merewether, Caves Beach.
- Walk through the boardwalk above the mangroves in Carrington.
- Spot a coal train or cruise ship leaving or entering Newcastle Port, the largest bulk shipping port on the Australian east coast.
- Explore Shipwreck Walk, a walk along the Stockton Breakwater which incorporates the wrecks and hulks of several iron and steel ships within the structure.
- Go to a headland and watch for dolphins. Suggestions: Fort Scratchley, Nobbys Headland, Redhead or Dudley Bluff.
- Check out the historic headstones at Cathedral Park adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral.
- Visit the Fairy Garden in Broadmeadow.
- Visit Watagans National Park, an hour from Newcastle.
- Visit Little Beach in Port Stephens, a top summer spot for families.
- Visit the Hunter Region Botanical Gardens at Heatherbrae.
- Try orienteering at a permanent course at Blue Gum Hills Regional Park in Minmi. Orienteering involves using a detailed map and usually a compass to navigate one’s way round a course with designated control points (check points), which are drawn on the map.
Always check opening days & hours before setting out to avoid disappointment.
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Any other suggestions?
Guide to locations on photo collage (left to right)
1 – Nobbys Beach
2 – Newcastle Museum
3 – Nobbys Lighthouse
4 – Wickham Community Garden – next to Wickham Park.
5 & 6- Newcastle Museum
7 – Connolly Park in Carrington
8 – Blue Gum Hills State Park in Minmi
9 – Newcastle beach next to Canoe Pool
10 – Empire Park in Bar Beach near Tennis courts
11 – Walka Water Works
12 – Wallsend Brickworks park
13 – Fairy Garden at Broadmeadow
14 – Lambton pool
15 – Mural at side of Newcastle Museum nearest to pedestrian rail crossing
16 Blackbutt Reserve playground – Carnley Avenue entrance
17 – Gregson Park in Hamilton
18 – top left – Caves Beach, top right Islington Park bottom left Koalas at Blackbutt, bottom right Jesmond Park Frisbee
19 – top left – Rathmines Park, top right Hunter Wetlands Centre playground bottom left Civic Park in Newcastle, playground at Blackbutt, Carnley Avenue
20 – Koorangang Island (Ash Island) Reserve
21 – Edgeworth Trains
22 – Maitland Pool.
23 – Newcastle Foreshore near Scratchleys.
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