July 2020 School Holidays: What’s On in Newcastle & Hunter

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It’s school holidays again. However, with COVID-19, it’s a much different scenario than we’re used to. Here at Newy with Kids, we usually put out an extensive list of school holiday activities. The pandemic has changed that dramatically. So for these school holidays, we’re focusing on activities being offered in person by local libraries and art galleries as well as fun things you can do at home or outdoors with your family. Please note, this article is a work in progress – we’re still waiting for some last-minute confirmations so please keep checking back.

LibrariesMuseums & Galleries | Animals & Nature | Outdoor Fun | Indoor Fun | School Holiday Freebies


Lake Macquarie City Library

Lake Mac Libraries are rolling out a range of in-person programs. Lake Mac Libraries will feature a ‘Go Wild for Libraries’ theme, with colourful animal sculptures at each branch and a series of writing, illustrating and zine workshops to bring them to life. Activities and shows had been tailored to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, with smaller group sizes creating a more intimate atmosphere for participants.

Do your kids love drawing? Sign them up to join illustrator Kirrili Lonergan to create an illustration that will be included in a published book. If your kids prefer writing, sign them up for a writing session. They can get creative and produce a story to be published in a book with author Jess Black. Successful local zine-maker Bastian Fox Phelan will host the Thursday 16 July zine workshop at Charlestown Library, aimed at children aged 13 and older.

SEEN@Swansea (located in same building as Swansea Library) will host the new exhibition Tyrannosaurs: Ultimate Predators, featuring life-sized bone casts, models and information panels to catalogue the history of these prehistoric carnivores. It’s coming to SEEN@Swansea Friday 3 July. Opening Day is on Saturday 4 July from 10am – 2pm. See the King of the Dino’s up close and take home your own dino excavation kit. Due to COVID restrictions you may be asked to wait for entrance to the exhibition. SEEN@Swansea is open Monday – Sunday, 10am-2pm, gold coin donation entry.

In conjunctuin with the exhibition, kids can take part in the Dino Zines workshop. They will be be amazed by the king of the dinos, ‘T-REX’ and design their own dino mini-magazine with local Illustrator Tallulah Cunningham. Bookings essential as numbers are limited  to ensure social distancing.

For online fun at Lake Mac Libraries, enjoy story-time sessions with Lynn Jenkins and Katrina McKelvey, Little Bang Discovery on Demand and magic shows with JD’s World of Magic on the Lake Mac Arts and Libraries YouTube channel.

Newcastle Libraries

Currently, there are no in-person sessions scheduled for Newcastle Libraries. But there is a range of online sessions for kids of all ages.

These include:

  • Magical mandalas
  • Upcycled book sculpture
  • Art in the Field – nature journalling
  • Ceramics by Teval – online maker tutorial

For these sessions, visit the Digital Online Library Programs section of Newcastle Libraries.

Kids can also make worlds out of words with help from local authors Jess Black and Ed Wright as they dare kids imagination with wild and crazy creative writing challenges.

For younger kids, a hugely popular, fun-filled 4-session science program Little Bang Discovery Club hosted by Newcastle Libraries is now available online! Young children are already great scientists without even knowing it. This hands-on program combines everyday objects and experiences with genuine scientific enquiry methods that children and their accompanying adults will thoroughly enjoy. A different program is presented in each of the sessions. A parent or carer is required to participate with the children in these sessions. Ages 4 – 8.

Missing storytime? Watch very special Story Stomp series, with books by wonderful Newcastle authors and illustrators. Stomp your way through a fun-filled session of stories, songs, and craft developed to stimulate and grow the minds of 3 – 5 year olds. A new story stomp will be added each week!

Even though some library branches are closed, you can still access e-books, e-magazines and stream legal music with Freegal. For kids missing out on Storytime, log onto the Storybox Library where some of Australia’s best storytellers read their stories on screen. It’s a vibrant and interactive way for children to enjoy their favourite Australian children’s stories, and enjoy a storytime at home.

Newcastle Region Library has partnered with Curious Legends to present a fun & interactive series of live-streamed workshops – direct from their Newcastle Studio! Through make-at-home activities and fun games, kids and their families the world over get to explore theatre & puppety – Curious Legends style! Workshops will be live-streamed from their website & Facebook page with participants joining in from home. Everything is being designed with materials you can find around the house – from dancing spoons and bits of string to mobile phone torches for your own shadow theatre! A workshop schedule will be posted on their website each week – come for one or join them all! Each workshop will have a different way of participating.

Maitland City Library

Maitland Libraries have a range of exciting activities available online and in branch these school holidays. Explore new worlds with activities on space, get experimental with some great science projects, snap a selfie with an alpaca and add your own pet to a Wall of Fame. Follow the clues to hunt for words and create your own story, get coding with Moonhack and help the Lego astronaut on their space mission with their 14 day Lego challenge! 

You can also still access e-books, e-magazines and stream legal music with Freegal with Maitland City Library. For kids missing out on Storytime, log onto the Storybox Library where some of Australia’s best storytellers read their stories on screen. It’s a vibrant and interactive way for children to enjoy their favourite Australian children’s stories, and enjoy storytime at home.


Newcastle Art Gallery

The Newcastle Art Gallery has reopened but there is plenty of fun to be had online. Join a Newcastle Art Gallery Educator for a free 30-minute online class using materials from around the home. Developed for primary-aged children, these free webinars are designed to stimulate playful art making possibilities.

During Week 1, learn about Murrurundi born, Melbourne based artist Peter Atkins and his use of found and collected objects to create works of art, followed by a demonstration of a simple art-making activity you can do in your home using collected objects and other recycled materials.

In Week 2, learn about Newcastle born, Adelaide based artist Tom Gleghorn and his use of abstract expressionism to create works of art, followed by a demonstration of a simple art-making activity you can do in your home by splashing, dribbling and flicking paint.

Newcastle Art Gallery is also open with two daily sessions Tuesdays to Sundays. To avoid disappointment, book your free Gallery session via the Art Gallery website.

Missing out on weekend Art Cart? Explore Art Cart at home by downloading and discovering a range of accessible and hands-on activities. All inspired by iconic works of art in the Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection.

MAC (Museum of Art and Culture)

MAC is offering range of activities and shows had been tailored to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, with smaller group sizes creating a more intimate atmosphere for participants. Visit the gallery for in-person workshops. Kids aged 7+ can be inspired by some of the etchings from MAC’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, and create their own artwork using simple printmaking techniques.

If you prefer to stay home, Museum of Art and Culture has extensive online content. This content includes art tutorials and activities for kids, plus artist interviews and other educational content for adults. In addition a video series, they’re also developing a range of online resources which will allow parents and kids to create art at home. They’ve set up ARTSPACE@HOME (ages 2-8) and MAKERSPACE@HOME (Ages 8+) to help encourage kids to get creative. These programs are designed with creativity and sustainability in mind, with activities simply requiring the use of everyday household items (such as milk bottles).

Maitland Regional  Art Gallery

MRAG has now reopened with a limited numbers of visitors from 10am to 5pm daily. There’s no need to book, simply register on arrival. Every Sunday families are invited to drop into the art gallery for free art activities inspired by the exhibitions on display for Free Art Sunday.  However for the next little while, participants will need to register beforehand to support a COVID safe environment.

To support the community staying connected and creative from the safety and comfort of your own home, Maitland Regional Art Gallery launched MRAG from Home.  Your family can see an exhibition online, make your own artwork with downloadable work sheets or get doing with a range of activities designed to get those creative sparks firing. 

Maitland Gaol

Maitland Gaol has reopened for self guided audio tours on your own device only. As they are not a typical museum this is the only way to learn about the site and its history as there will be no guided tours. Pre-booking is recommended and there is a maximum of 50 people on site at one time.

You can also learn about Maitland Gaol from home with Snitch’s Spot. While the historic site was closed, Maitland Gaol created some fun online resources guided by the ghostly character ‘Snitch the Rat’ to entertain kids at home these school holidays. For those familiar with the Gaol site, Snitch the Rat is the voice of the children’s self-guided audio tours, and he comes to life in the newly launched ‘Snitch’s Spot’ on the Maitland Gaol website, where his picture can be seen for the first time. There are also activities for kids to try including making their own butter and liquid soap.

Newcastle Museum

Newcastle Museum is always a popular spot for school holidays. They have reopened (with limited non-interactive exhibitions). However, all public programs like Hunter Past in Photos, Tuesday Tales and school holidays science shows, remain temporarily suspended until further notice.

However, they have a variety of different online resources for curious kids. If you’re a fan of their science shows, check out the Discover section of their website to find science experiments and craft projects you can do at home. You’ll also find highlights of and insights into our important collection, videos, interviews and a whole lot more. Tune in on Tuesday mornings at 10:30am on Facebook for their preschool story time Tuesday Tales.


Leading Edge Rugby League Academy

Improve your kids’ rugby league skills during the school holidays. Leading Edge Rugby League Academy is a program designed to help young players improve their skills and knowledge of the game. Their school holiday clinics included speed & agility training, fundamental skills with football and correct contact/tackling techniques. The program suits U/8 – U/15s and runs on Monday 13 July and Thursday 16 July. To register, head to the Leading Edge Rugby League Academy website and complete the LERLA form.


Blackbutt Reserve

Playgrounds, walking trails, open spaces, shelters and barbecues at Blackbutt Reserve are open. The Boardwalk is now open to the public with strict one-way flow of foot traffic and social distancing measures in place at the animal exhibits. This follows advice of the NSW Government and the easing of restrictions around outdoor gatherings and use of outdoor equipment. The kiosk has reopened for snacks, coffee and animal food. However, public programs, including animal feedings, remain suspended until further notice.

Want to experience the great outdoors from your own loungeroom? You can still get up-close and personal with some of Australia’s most revered wildlife on Blackbutt Reserve’s Facebook page. Try a fun new activity each week, such as wildlife colouring in sheets and a whole host of other virtual animal encounters.


Whale Watching

It’s that time of year again – whale watching! You can spot whales already off the coast. Look for the telltale blows of water and the flash of black and white as they splash the water with their fins. 20,000 humpback whales are expected to travel past Newcastle on their annual migration. There they give birth to their babies in warmer waters before returning back with them to Antarctica. Wondering where is a good place to spot whales from the shore? We’ve done all the work for you. We’ve put together a list of the best whale watching spots in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens and flagged our favourites for those whale watching with kids.

Family Walks & Hikes

Go for a hike where there’s more room to stay away from other people. Hike along the Yuerlarbah Walk at Glenrock Lagoon. Do the Awabakal walk from Dudley to Redhead Walk and enjoy panoramic views of the coast. Enjoy the Redhead Coast on the Ken and Audrey Owens Walk.Explore Shipwreck Walk, a walk along the Stockton Breakwater which incorporates the wrecks and hulks of several iron and steel ships within the structure. For more walks, check out our roundup of local family walks.

Go for a bike ride

Newcastle is full of some of the most beautiful and fun bike paths to suit any cyclists – from little ones just beginning on their biking adventures to those kids who want some challenge and fitness. Here is a list of some of our favourite paved paths and mountain bike trails.

Play Frisbee golf

Take some frisbees and play frisbee golf at Jesmond Park or at Styles Point Reserve in Rathmines. For those unfamiliar with disc golf, it’s similar to traditional golf but instead of using golf clubs and a ball, you use a frisbee. The aim is to complete each hole with the fewest number of throws.

Scavenger Hunt

Take a walk around your neighbourhood and get some fresh air, exercise and a change of scenery. To keep kids occupied on this walk, we’ve come up with a neighbourhood scavenger hunt printable. It has lots of things that you and your family can look for on your neighbourhood walks. Bring some binoculars or a magnifying glass and get them to use their observational skills. And the scavenger hunt doesn’t all have to be done on one walk – do it over days or a couple of weeks. Print it off and let the kids check them out or keep it on your phone.


Virtual Tours

Visit Australian landmarks, zoos, aquariums, galleries, museums & world heritage sites from your home. Travel plans might be on hold at the moment due to COVID-19 but you can still explore Australia without leaving your home. Here are more than 30 virtual online tours you can do across Australia. Some involve Google Steet View tours while others let you view online exhibits.

Kids Movies

Going to see a new release movie is a school holiday favourite. However, with cinemas closed and movies delayed, watch one of the many kids movies. The Newy with Kids team has come up with an extensive list of family movies that you can watch with your crew while in lockdown. We’ve got something for everyone: classics, animals, sports, sci-fi, fantasy and comedies, even some cringeworthy gems from the 80s and 90s. We’ve chosen a selection from around the world including some great kids films produced here in Australia. So choose a movie, pop the popcorn, settle in and get ready for some family viewing.


Want to keep little minds interested? Get them listening to podcasts especially during school holidays at home. We love podcasts as kids can listen to the subject matter while relaxing, drawing or just playing with LEGO. And there are so many topics to choose from. No matter what your child is interested in, there’s a podcast for them. Choose from science, ethics, mysteries and music and more. Here are our picks for the best podcasts for kids. We’ve chosen a selection from around the world including some great podcasts created here in Australia that parents will love too! Either listen to the podcasts together or give kids some headphones.

Board Games

Unplug from your devices and spend some family time together playing board games during school holidays. Here’s a list of board games that you and kids might like. If your kids are preschoolers or in their teens, there’s a game to suit. The list includes some retro classics as well as some of the hottest games. Bonus: Some of these fun board games even have educational benefits. Just don’t tell your kids that. Just tell them it’s unplugged play, family style.


Visit Wallsend Village for school holiday freebies from Monday 6 July to 10 July 2020. Participating food outlets are providing a limited number of free food bonus. These include free finger buns from Bakers Delight and free small chips at Chop Roast.

Jesmond Central is also offering school holiday freebies from Monday 13 July to 17 July 2020. Participating food outlets are providing a limited number of free food bonus. These include free finger buns from Bakers Delight and free baby cino at Jamaica Blue.


Even though it’s winter, you still enjoy a fun day out with your family. Need some inspiration for a family excursion around the region? Check out the Newy with Kids eBook which contains 12 itineraries for a family day out in winter in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & the Hunter. For a limited time, it’s cost $5 and will definitely be useful in planning days out during the school holidays!

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