Want to get out for the day and need some inspiration? After enduring lockdown in your home for the past couple of month, you’re probably itching to get out and drive around the region. With regional travel in NSW being permitted as of 1 June 2020, start planning some day trips to support the local economy over the next few months.
Here are some of our best day trips from Newcastle ranging from beach spots to visiting coastal spots, wineries, lakes and lighthouses. These spots in Lake Macquarie, Hunter Valley and the Central Coast are far enough away to feel like you’re getting away but close enough to just go for the day.
**As things are slowly opening up due to COVID-19 pandemic, many attractions are currently closed but are getting prepared to open. Check with the attraction beforehand to avoid disappointment.**
Just up the road from Newcastle is the beautiful holiday destination of Port Stephens. There’s no shortage of things to do in Port Stephens. Laze away at one of the many ocean and bay beaches. There’s 26 to choose from including the family-friendly Little Beach. Feeling more active? Bring your bikes and cycle from Shoal Bay out to Fingal Bay and back or head for a hike up the headlands. The walk to the summit of Tomaree Headland gives you a spectacular 360 view of Port Stephens.
You can also explore the area on a boat cruise. Dolphin cruises leave from the bustling spot of Nelson Bay. Visit between and you can opt for whale watching cruises. More than 35,000 whales, mainly humpbacks pass Port Stephens each year on their migration to and from Antarctica. For an adrenaline rush, go sandboarding or four-wheel driving across the Stockton sand dunes or take it slower with a camel ride. If you feel like visiting attractions, there’s plenty to choose from including Toboggan Hill Park, Oakvale Wildlife Park, Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters and Fighter World.
- Distance from Newcastle: 60.5 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 57 minutes to reach Nelson Bay from Newcastle.
- For more information, visit Port Stephens Tourism website
Head to the Central Coast for a day out. There’s lots of different things to do. Head to one of the many beaches for a swim, surf, fish or snorkel. Some favourites include Umina Beach, Ettalong Beach, Copacabana Beach, Terrigal and Avoca Beach. Towering over the Central Coast coastline is the Norah Head lighthouse. Visit for a guided tour and climb the 96 steps to the top for a spectacular view. Feel like a walk? Do the Coast to Lake Walk – either in parts or in its entirety. It’s a self-guided 7.6 kilometre walk from Memorial Park in The Entrance round Blue Bay and Toowoon Bay before cutting back across the peninsula to The Entrance.
Time your return to watch the daily pelican feed. The Pelican Feed takes place at 3:30pm on The Entrance waterfront and is one of the Central Coast’s most popular tourist attractions. Want to see more creatures. Visit Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park or Australian Reptile Park, both located on the Central Coast. There’s also TreeTop Adventure Park and NetWorld which offers hours of active fun for kids to soar through trees and jump around? Still have energy? Go horseback riding, quad biking, kayaking and more at Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures.
- Distance from Newcastle: 64.2 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 1 hour 32 minutes to reach The Entrance from Newcastle travelling on Pacific Highway or 1 hour 18 minutes via the M1 (88.1 kilometres).
- For more information, visit Central Coast Tourism website
Escape to the scenic countryside of the Hunter Valley on a day trip. One of Australia’s major wine regions, you have your pick of cellar doors to visit to sample and stock up on wine. Some family-friendly wineries include Peter Drayton Wines, Misty Glen Wines, Whispering Brook and Tulloch Wines. For a fun family excursion involving critters, visit Hunter Valley Zoo. Enjoy hands-on, interactive animal experiences with Australian & exotic animals. The picturesque Hunter Valley Gardens is also a fun spot for families. Little ones will love wandering through the Storybook Gardens which bring classic children books to life.
Follow up with a session of aqua golf and putt-putt. There’s a challenging 18 hole putt putt course beside the lake. For sweet treats, head to the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company to experience a wide range of delicious choccies or the gelato bar at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. If you head to the Hunter Valley on a selected Sunday, visit the Richmond Vale Railway Museum. It’s the only operating heritage railway north of the Hawkesbury River.
If you like a scenic drive, travel down the Tourist Drive 33 along the Convict Trail. This road was built by convicts between 1826 and 1836 as an overland route from Sydney to Newcastle. At the time, Newcastle was only accessible by sea. As you drive along, notice the stone retaining walls and bridges crafted by convicts. For families who like to swim, sail, water ski and fish, head up to Lake St Clair, 30 minutes north of Singleton.
- Distance from Newcastle: 64.9 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 58 minutes to reach Pokolbin from Newcastle travelling on the M15.
- For more information, visit Hunter Valley Tourism website
Head inland to Maitland for a family day out. The mighty Hunter River divides Maitland and East Maitland. It’s also a great location for a family walk or bike ride. Be sure to notice the signs that show how high the river peaked during the famous 1955 Maitland floods. On the Maitland side is the area called The Levee. Here you’ll find shopping, cafes and restaurants and beautiful historic building.
For a unique experience, visit Maitland Gaol. The gaol is one of the Maitland’s most iconic tourist sites and provides locals and visitors with the opportunity to experience life on the inside of this once high-security prison. For an art fix, visit the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. Often there are interesting exhibitions that targets kids and families. If the kids need to burn off some energy, head to Magic Garden, Maitland Park’s fenced all-abilities playground with equipment suited to a range of ages.
Go back in history and visit the historic village of Morpeth. It was once one of the busiest river ports in New South Wales with boats carrying goods up and down the Hunter River. Today it’s a quaint village with lots of beautiful heritage-listed buildings. You can walk by the original Arnotts Bakehouse at 148 Swan Street, where the famous Arnotts brothers sold their biscuits back in the 1860s.
- Distance from Newcastle: 31 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 34 minutes to reach Maitland from Newcastle travelling on the A43.
- For more information, visit Maitland Tourism website
Located 30 minutes south of Newcastle, the Lake Mac region is centred around Lake Macquarie, the largest coastal saltwater lake in Australia. With this natural backdrop, there are lots of fun outdoor (and a few indoor) activities to enjoy with your family. Start with visiting some of the beaches in the area like Redhead Beach, Caves Beach and Blacksmiths Beach. Time your visit right to Blacksmiths Beach and you can enjoy the tidal Grannies Pool, a popular spot for those with babies and younger kids.
If you feel like walking, there’s a range of walks to choose from including the Eleebana to Speers Point Walk which encompasses a sculpture walk. You’ll end up at Speers Point Park, a massive all-abilities playground for kids of all ages. Further south is Caves Beach, a series of caves which can be explored during low tide. Even further is the historic mining village of Catherine Hill Bay. This heritage-listed village features a former coal-loading jetty and appears in a lot of iconic photos of the area. For a hit of culture, visit the Museum of Art and Culture in Booragul.
- Distance from Newcastle: 15.5 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 21 minutes to reach Warners Bay from Newcastle travelling on Pacific Highway.
- For more information, visit Visit Lake Mac website
Step back into time by visiting Dungog, a beautiful village in the banks of Williams River. Wander through the main street on a self-guided walking tour. It contains architecture dating from the 19th and 20th centuries including the James Theatre and the Dungog Museum located in the heritage-listed former School of Arts. Enjoy lunch at one of the cafes in town or head to a local community market. If you’re visiting Dungog on a weekend or during school holidays, visit an authentic working dairy in Dungog. At Farm Visit, they are all about opening the farm gate to close the gap between Australian farms and your kitchen. You’ll get up close to cows, see them being milked and learn how to make butter as well as sample milk.
- Distance from Newcastle: 76.5 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 1 hour and 7 minutes to reach Dungog from Newcastle travelling via Clarence Town Road.
- For more information, visit Visit Dungog website
Escape to the World Heritage-listed gondwana rainforests of Barrington Tops. There’s an extensive walking track network which includes short and easy walks that are ideal for a day trip. Start with a short walk along the Gloucester Falls walking track. Only a 1.8 kilometre loop, it features waterfall views, scenic lookouts, and birdwatching opportunities and makes for a great family day out. The Aeroplane Hill (6 kilometre one-way) walking track offers scenic views, wildlife, and wetlands in the sub-alpine region of Barrington Tops National Park while the Antarctic Beech Forest walking track (2.5 kilometre loop) offers rainforest, cascades, scenic views, and birdwatching. After your walk, enjoy a picnic lunch at the Gloucester Tops picnic area or Gloucester Falls picnic area.
- Distance from Newcastle: 168 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 2 hours and 41 minutes to reach Barrington Tops from Newcastle travelling via The Bucketts Way.
- For more information, visit Barrington Tops Tourism website
Enjoy the tranquillity of Myall Lakes, a series of freshwater lakes north of Newcastle. Here you’ll find walking tracks, swimming, fishing and kayaking spots. Head to Myall Lakes National Park and walk the 2-kilometre Treachery Headland walking track for views of Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse. Bring a picnic as there are plenty of picnic areas to choose from. Nearby, you’ll find the villages of Smiths Lakes, Blueys Beach and Pacific Palms. These picturesque towns are great to stop for a bite to eat. Go for a swim or surf at Blueys Beach, Boomerang Beach or Seal Rocks. Drive up to the historic Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse near Seal Rocks. Even though you can’t climb it, there is a great lookout point. From here you might be able to spot dolphins or whales (during whale migration season).
- Distance from Newcastle: 125 kilometres
- How to get there? By car, it will take you approximately 1 hours and 37 minutes to reach Myall Lakes from Newcastle travelling via Pacific Highway.
- For more information, visit Barrington Coast Tourism website
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Started in late 2012 by a local mum and newcomer to Newcastle, Newy with Kids has grown into a thriving go-to family guide for the Newcastle & Hunter region. Parents visit the Newy with Kids website to find things to do with babies, kids and teens. Whether it’s local attractions, upcoming events, kids eat free, school holiday activities or birthday party ideas, Newy with Kids is the best website for local parents to find local kid-friendly activities and information 24/7.