Want some local knowledge about what to do in Newcastle, NSW with kids? As a local mum and founder of Newy with Kids, here’s 15 places I recommend to visit with your family.
Enjoy a holiday in Newcastle with your kids. This former steel city, located two hours north of Sydney, boasts amazing beaches, fun-filled parks, fantastic cafes and restaurants and unique shopping. Whether you have a baby, toddler or school-aged child, Newcastle is an ideal choice for parents craving a relaxing holiday while still keeping little ones entertained
So what you should do when you’re in Newcastle with kids? As a local mum, here’s 15 places I recommend to visit.
1. Nobby’s Beach
Start your tour of Newcastle at one of the city’s many beaches. Nobby’s Beach is a favourite with tourists and locals alike for its views of Nobbys Headland and Stockton Bight. Work up a sweat walking to the end of Nobbys breakwall and then cool off with a swim at Nobby’s Beach. The kids will love building sandcastles and frolicking in the surf.
For sweeping views back to Newcastle, visit Nobbys Headland. The Lighthouse Grounds are open from 10am to 4pm every Sunday and entry to the site is free. It’s a 10 minute walk (550 metres) from Nobbys Beach carpark to the gate. From the gate, it’s a 5 minute (220 metres) uphill walk to get to the Signal Master’s Cottage. It’s all paved so suitable for those pushing prams or strollers.
2. Newcastle Beach, Newcastle Ocean Baths & Canoe Pool
Once you’ve visited Nobbys Beach, walk around for a swim at Newcastle Beach.
If the waves are a bit rough, take the kids for a swim at the nearby Newcastle Ocean Baths. With its historic Art Deco façade, it’s a great place to float and count the coal ships moored offshore. There’s plenty of room to swim laps or splash around and the sandy bottom of the pool feels lovely squished between your toes.
For toddlers, the Canoe Pool next door is ideal. It’s a safe, shallow sandy pool that’s rumoured to have a concrete map of the world buried deep underneath. Set up a sun shelter and let the kids splash around and chase the resident seagulls and pelicans who hover nearby.
3. Newcastle Foreshore
Swap ocean views for harbour views and walk along Newcastle’s working harbour. The wide harbour path is perfect for pushing a stroller or following kids on a tricycle or a scooter. Children will love the hustle and bustle of the working harbour. If you’re lucky, you might spot a massive coal ship entering or leaving the harbour dwarfing the tugboats besides them. When it’s time to continue your travels, walk up to Queen’s Wharf and have a drink while you watch the Stockton Ferry zip back and forth across the harbour.
4. Queen’s Wharf
For harbour and city views, climb up 180 steps of the 40 metre Queens Wharf Tower on Newcastle Foreshore. This controversial phallic shaped tower won’t be around for much longer. It’s scheduled to be demolished in late 2018. (DEMOLISHED) Nearby is Newcastle’s renowned seafood restaurant Scratchleys. Having a tot doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the scrumptious seafood as Scratchleys offers a takeaway window where you can order a variety of things including fish and chips and ice cream cones. Grab a seat at one of the outside tables and chairs and wait until your order number is called and then enjoy both the food and view!
If you have time, take the ferry (it takes 5 minutes) over to to Stockton is a real treat for kids. With ferries running every 15 minutes departing from Queen’s Wharf, you can check out Stockton by foot or by bike before returning on the ferry. From the wharf in Stockton, you can walk to Stockton Beach and out to the breakwater on the Shipwreck Walk. There you’ll see remnants of shipwrecks.
6. Honeysuckle precinct
Honeysuckle is a waterfront dining precinct featuring numerous cafes and restaurants with cuisines including Modern Oz, Seafood, Italian, Thai, Japanese and Korean. There’s also plenty of places to get a drink including Honeysuckle Hotel, Dockyard Cafe and Five Sawyers.
7. Newcastle Museum
While in Honeysuckle, check out Newcastle Museum. (There’s no charge for admission).
The interactive Supernova science exhibits will keep children entertained while the Newcastle exhibition will educate parents on the history of the region.
For toddlers, there is a small indoor play area featuring soft mats to keep them safe while they toddle around.
Be sure to catch the 6 minute BHP Steelmaking show which features special effects. It runs every hour on the hour and provides a fascinating and entertaining history about the local steelmaking industry. For more information about Newcastle Museum including opening hours, visit the Newcastle Museum website.
8. Anzac Memorial Walk
Go for a walk along the Anzac Memorial Walk to spot coal ships and dolphins. This 450 meter cliff top walkway at Bar Beach is one of the top places for a view. It features incredible 360 degree views of Newcastle from the coast to city.
As it’s a tribute to Anzacs, it features history panels with information about different aspects of the conflict as well as listing the geographic place names of various conflicts. The walk is also pram and wheelchair accessible from the Strzelecki Lookout section enabling you to travel all the way to the viewing platform before looping back.
9. Bathers Way
For a scenic city walk, stroll along Bathers Way. It links Newcastle’s beaches from to Nobbys Beach to Merewether Ocean Baths. It is 6 kilometres long with a large 4 to 6 metre wide shared path and forms part of the Great North Walk from Merewether Ocean Baths to Sydney. You might not be able to do the whole distance with kids but break them up into different sections.
10. Fort Scratchley
Visitors can take a self-guided tour around the fort viewing the cannons and other above ground defence structures. Kids will be fascinated by the large cannons and views of the ocean. If you would prefer a full site tour and a chance to explore the underground tunnels, pay for a guided tour with one of the Fort Scratchley Historical Society volunteers. General admission to Fort Scratchley is free. Fort Scratchley is open six days a week, 10am to 4pm (closed Tuesdays). For more information, visit the Fort Scratchley website.
11. Bogey Hole
If it’s a hot day, check out this popular bathing spot located in King Edward Park. The Bogey Hole is a favourite with tourists and locals alike. The Bogey Hole was built by convict labour by order of Commandant Morisset who served as Commandant of Newcastle from 1819 to 1822. It’s best for families with older kids as the rocks can be slippery and watch out for the waves.
12. Glenrock Lagoon
Imagine a walk through the bush that ends up at a secluded beach. Welcome to the Yuelarbah Walk at Glenrock State Conservation Area near the suburb of Kahibah. This 500 hectare area between Dudley and Merewether is a wonderful nature escape so close to the city and offers opportunity for fishing and mountain biking as well as hiking.
As much as I love this 2.3km each way walk, I have to advise that it suits families with babies in carriers or older kids over 5 who don’t mind walking a lot. So for kids in between, I would recommend doing the first part on the boardwalk or halfway to Leichardt’s lookout or be ready to carry them back. Bring your swimsuit and towels in summer.
13. Blackbutt Reserve
See Australian animals up close at Blackbutt Reserve. Blackbutt Reserve is a 182 hectare reserve in the middle of Newcastle’s suburbs which features walking trails, children’s playgrounds and tranquil picnic areas with free electric barbeques.
However, its wildlife exhibits at the Carnley Avenue entrance are the main attraction as it is home to koalas, emus, wallabies, wombats and peacocks. A series of boardwalks make it easy to push a stroller and let young ones view the creatures up close in the enclosures. Admission is free but there is a parking fee. For more information, visit the Blackbutt Reserve website.
14. Merewether Beach & Merewether Baths
Another popular Newcastle Beach is Merewether Beach. Home to the famous surfing competition Surfest, it’s popular with surfers and swimmers alike. Definitely worth a visit.
Go for a swim at Merewether Baths, the largest ocean baths complex in the Southern Hemisphere. As well as being a massive pool, it’s extremely scenic with views out to the ocean. The baths feature two large swimming pools, one suitable for kids. There’s also picnic tables and shelters nearby.
15. Hunter Wetlands Centre
For more nature, visit the Hunter Wetlands Centre in Shortland. It’s a great nature outing with kids with a playground and plenty of picnic spots. Just don’t forget the Aerogard! There can be lots of mozzies around at certain times of the year. Go for a stroll around the wetlands on the walking tracks. The Sensory Trail is a big hit with the kids. There are informative signs that explain what plants to touch and smell. In addition, to the walking trails, there are plenty of boardwalks to get up close to the native birdlife.
There’s also the Discovery playground, suitable for kids of all ages. It’s conveniently located adjacent to a BBQ shelter and picnic facilities. This is a perfect location to cook up a BBQ lunch or enjoy a picnic from home. There’s also daily programs such as reptile talks, bird feeding talks, guided walking tours and dipnetting. Kids will be enthralled by the large tanks containing snakes, lizards, turtles and fish at the main entrance of the Centre.
Enjoy your time in Newcastle!
Need a list of local playgrounds? Check out the Parks and Playgrounds section on Newy with Kids.
There’s always plenty of family-friendly events happening in Newcastle, so check the Events calendar to see what’s on.