The Newcastle and Hunter region is full of educational and entertaining museums and galleries. Enjoy a family day out with your kids to learn more about Hunter history, art, science and transportation.
Fighter World Aviation Museum
Located just 20 mins drive north of Newcastle at Newcastle Airport, Fighter World is an aviation museum and features a ‘hands on’ experience. Exhibited in two hangars, visitors can walk-around, touch and look into the cockpits of such famous aircraft as the Mirage III, the Avon Sabre, the Gloster Meteor, the first Vampire jet built in Australia and new in 2013 the mighty F-111. For admission costs and entry times, visit the Fighterworld website.
Visit Fort Scratchley, the only Australian coastal installation to fire on an enemy vessel during World War II. 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. Take a picnic and enjoy the view at Fort Scratchley or enjoy the small playground outside of the Fort, perfect if the kids get tired of the history stuff! For a special auditory experience, be near Fort Scratchley when the guns fire on special occasions such as Australia Day and Anzac Day. For tunnel tour costs and entry times, visit the Fort Scratchley website.
Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery
This waterfront gallery is in an idyllic lakefront location in Booragul. Although the gallery isn’t large, it hosts a number of interesting local and Australian exhibitions. For those who worry that the gallery might not be suited for kids, think again. As a family outing, Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery is an ideal spot and the staff are friendly and welcoming to kids. For parents with babies and young kids, there’s baby changing facilities, a café next door and a Family Activity Corner. If kids get restless inside, go for a walk outside through the wonderful Sculpture Park. For entry times, visit the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery website.
Discover life as a prisoner! Visit Maitland Gaol and learn all about the facility and its 150 years of fascinating history. Although Maitland Gaol closed as a correctional institution in 1998 after housing some of Australia’s most notorious criminals, you can experience life on the inside. Open seven days a week, your family can explore Maitland Gaol through a self-guided audio tour. The audio commentary provides stories about famous characters, and has comments and observations by former inmates, officers, other staff, assistants and researchers. There’s a specific self-guided audio tour for primary school kids. Additional guided tours such are also available on selected days.For admission costs and entry times, visit the Maitland Gaol website.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery
Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) presents various art exhibitions throughout the year. Of interest to parents is MRAG’s dedicated exhibition space for children and families called The Art Factory. It features interactive art displays and a comfy reading spot complete with a selection of books. This is conveniently located next to Seraphine Café allowing parents or caregivers to enjoy a coffee and cake or lunch while keeping an eye on their young ones. On the weekend, check out Free Art Sundays at MRAG for free art activities for children and their parents. In addition, MRAG offers a variety of programs for children and their parents throughout the year including school holidays.For entry times, visit the Maitland Regional Art Gallery website.
Miss Porter’s House
A National Trust property, Miss Porter’s House is now a living snapshot providing visitors with the experience of early to mid-twentieth century inner-city life in Newcastle. Built by the Porters in 1909, the family lived in this freestanding Edwardian terrace until 1997, when they left it to the National Trust with all its contents intact. Miss Porter’s House is open on the second Sunday of each month. For admission costs and entry times, visit the Miss Porter’s House website.
This museum in Honeysuckle is a favourite for local families and offers free admission. The interactive Supernova science exhibits will keep children entertained while the Newcastle and Fire and Earth’s exhibitions will educate visitors on the history of the region. Do not miss the 6 minute BHP Steelmaking Show featuring special effects. For toddlers, there is a small indoor play area called Mininova featuring plenty of equipment and soft mats to keep them safe while they toddle around. There’s also weekly book readings called Tuesday Tales (except in school holidays) as well as great school holiday fun. For entry times, visit the Newcastle Museum website.
Newcastle Art Gallery
With over 5000 works of arts including Australian art from colonial days to the present, Newcastle Art Gallery is a great place to take kids. On the second floor, there is an art corner where kids can colour. In conjunction with current exhibitions, there’s usually Kids Art Trail booklets to keep little art lovers interested. Every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am to 12:30pm, the Gallery offers ARTCART, a free hands-on art activity program for kids. It’s a popular activity with kids who love to create their own artistic masterpieces. There’s also activities that run every school holidays. For exhibition costs and entry times, visit the Newcastle Art Gallery website.
Richmond Vale Railway & Museum
Step back in time and discover the history of steam worked railways in the Cessnock Coalfield and the Hunter Valley. Families can ride on the historic steam trains on selected days of the month. The Museum located outside of Kurri Kurri contains a large range of artefacts, maps and photos which documents the history of the Richmond Main Colliery, the development of the South Maitland Coalfields, the equipment used and the social impact of coal mining on the local communities. For admission costs, train running days and entry times, visit the Richmond Vale Railway & Museum website.
Visit Tocal Homestead to view this magnificent homestead and its surrounding collection of colonial farm buildings dating back to the 1830s. Visitors are welcome to explore and interpret this wonderful site and enjoy the stunning views. Tocal Homestead is open selected Sundays throughout the year. For admission costs and entry times, visit the Tocal Homestead website.
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.