Surrounded by golden beaches, a working harbour and a stunning coastline, Newcastle is the perfect destination for a relaxing break. There is tons of family fun to be had right across the city and in the region. Whether they want to slide down sand dunes, watch for whales or play in the surf, you can find it all here, two hours’ drive north of Sydney.
Here are five of our favourite ways to entertain children when you take them to Newcastle.
Newcastle is renowned for its incredible beaches and surfers like Mark Richards learned their skills on its waves. Drive the rental car to Nobbys Beach, a favourite spot for local families, not least because pods of dolphins can often be seen here. Walk along the break wall until you’re beneath Nobbys Lighthouse. There’s also a large park with barbecue facilities and a kiosk, so they can build sandcastles and splash in the ocean then have lunch on the grass.
If the surf is rough, take them to Newcastle Beach, right on the edge of the city, where there’s both an ocean pool and the shallow Canoe Pool. Toddlers can wade in the water here and watch the seagulls and pelicans.
To the south is famous Merewether Beach, where you’ll find the largest ocean baths in the southern hemisphere. One of the pools has a shallow end that’s great for kids. It’s also home to Surfest, which runs from February to April each year, and draws the world’s best surfers for the competition.
Kids love koalas, so take them to Blackbutt Reserve. This bushland park covers 182 hectares and features more than 10km of walking trails, picnic areas and playgrounds. One of its biggest attractions, however, is the wildlife walking track. From this elevated boardwalk you can spy on kangaroos, wombats, lots of birds and, of course, koalas. You can even buy special food from the on-site kiosk and feed the emus.
If you’re in Newcastle from June to November, look out to sea to spot some of the 35,000 whales that migrate along the coastline every year. From the land, one of the best spots to look out from is the Obelisk above King Edward Park. If you want a closer look, join CoastXP’s Encounter Tour. You’ll head out onto the ocean to watch humpbacks as they come up alongside the vessel, breach, tail slap and sometimes even spy hop. You might also see dolphins and long-nosed fur seals.
Set in the old Honeysuckle Railway Workshops, Newcastle Museum has exhibits that will keep them entertained while they learn something. Fire and Earth takes you into the world of coal mining and steel production, two of the region’s biggest industries, while Supernova is the hands-on science centre. There’s also the history of Newcastle to explore and a series of temporary exhibitions.
Head onto a bluff above the beaches to visit Fort Scratchley. It was built in the late 1880s when fears of a Russian attack grew. Expanded in the years that followed, in June 1942, it fired its guns at Japanese submarines attacking Newcastle. The big guns are still there, as are various historical buildings. Tours are held throughout the day (except Tuesday when the fort is closed) and the guns are fired at 1pm daily.
About 20 minutes’ drive in the rental car from the city centre is Stockton, where you’ll find the largest moving coastal dunes in the southern hemisphere. The Stockton Bight Sand Dunes cover 4,200 hectares and are part of the Worimi Conservation Lands.
This is a place for adventure and fun. Join a 4WD tour where you’ll visit Tin City, a collection of corrugated iron fishing shacks among the towering dunes, before going sandboarding.
If your kids are a little bigger, take a camel ride along Birubi Beach at Anna Bay. They follow the shoreline before heading into the dunes. It’s an experience the kids will be talking about for months to come.
If you need a little bit of adult time, drop them off at a creative workshop with Mitch Revs Decked Out. Suitable for kids aged eight and older, these two-hour classes with professional artists hand over the paint pens to budding Picassos so they can decorate their own skateboard deck. At the end they’ll have something to remember their trip and a deck they can turn into a functional skateboard.
If they need a bit of inspiration, join one of Newcastle Afoot’s Architecture, Street Art & Hidden Secrets Walking Tours. It’s an easy walk over two hours where you’ll learn all about the city and its new creative hubs.
Ready to explore Newcastle with the kids? Hire a rental car to make it easy.