Located in New South Wales, Newcastle is a lively harbour city that offers picturesque beaches, spectacular coastal walks and a range of family attractions. From ocean baths constructed by convicts to Australian art galleries to family-focused museums, you can choose from a wide array of exciting experiences and attractions for all ages. Whether you’re looking for fun in the outdoors, like fishing and hiking, or educational sightseeing and historic tours with the kids at places like Fort Scratchley, Newcastle has everything you could want from a holiday destination. Explore the options for the best things to do with kids in Newcastle and plan your holiday itinerary.
1. Marvel at the wonders of flight at Fighter World
Fighter World is a fascinating aviation museum that celebrates the history of the Royal Australian Air Force. The museum provides a hands-on experience with relic aircraft in 2 hangars, including famous aircraft like the Avon Sabre, the Mirage III and the first Vampire jet. Some other highlights include a World War II Spitfire replica and a Hawker Hunter. When you visit, you can sit in the cockpit of some of these incredible jets to get a glimpse of what Australia’s fighter pilots experience on missions. The museum has an observation deck where you can watch the premier fighter squadrons take off and land. Be sure to stop in the gift shop to pick up souvenirs and model aeroplanes.
2. Catch a break at Newcastle Beach
Newcastle Beach has a sterling reputation as one of the best surfing beaches in all of Australia. Enthusiasts of surfing, longboarding and other wave sports flock to the area to catch the big waves. The beach has a regular lifeguard patrol all week during the summer season. If you want a low-key experience, you can walk the coastal path along Bather’s Way, which stretches between Newcastle Beach and Nobby’s Beach, and enjoy a dip in the ocean baths. The beach has many facilities for families, such as changing rooms and a snack kiosk.
3. Relax in the sun at Nobbys Beach
Nobbys Beach is a local favourite for families and swimmers. The beach has resident dolphins that frequent the area and great breaks for surfing. You can swim in the shallows and sunbathe, or you can spend your time in the public recreation area that offers barbecue facilities and kiosks with snacks and drinks. One of the highlights of the beach is walking along the break-wall underneath the historic Nobbys Lighthouse and seeing views of the coast.
4. Find unique wildlife at Glenrock State Conservation Area
The Glenrock State Conservation Area is a vast parkland that’s a popular spot for mountain biking and hiking. The park has a diverse landscape with rainforests, waterfalls and beaches for surfing, hang gliding and fishing. You can explore on your own or book a guided tour to experience the best of the park with an expert. As one of the last coastal rainforests in the region, the park is a habitat for diverse wildlife like bats, sugar gliders and bandicoots. You’ll also find fascinating aboriginal ruin sites along the paths.
5. Teach the kids about science at the Newcastle Museum
The Newcastle Museum is a science-themed museum for kids and features a hands-on science centre and numerous exhibits focused on learning. The diverse offerings cover everything from an immersive coal-mining experience to Newcastle history to kuueeyung transport. An ideal stop for things to do with kids in Newcastle, the museum hosts special exhibitions regularly, such as cardboard building, winter science and writing workshops for children. The permanent collection holds fascinating objects throughout science history, including a Model T Ford and the famous Fishing Tree, which was used by the Worimi people to search for schools of fish.
6. See haunting shipwrecks at Stockton
Take a short trip to Stockton, a suburb of Newcastle, to experience unique historic sites and outdoor kids activities in Newcastle. The area offers a quiet respite from the city and excellent fishing opportunities in the Hunter River, Stockton Beach and Newcastle Harbour. The main thoroughfare has a variety of shops and cafes, and you can have a picnic in the park on a sunny day. Cycling is also popular, especially along the banks of the Hunter River. With its maritime heritage, one of Stockton’s most popular activities is the Shipwreck Walk, a foreshore trail that travels along the breakwater to see the remnants of wrecks that have been repurposed into the structure. Other fun activities in Stockton include relaxing on the beach and birdwatching in the Hunter estuary.
7. Pay respects to Australian service members at the Newcastle Memorial Walk
The Newcastle Memorial Walk is a commemorative walking path that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing in Gallipolli. The path honours the sacrifices of the Australian soldiers in World War I and marks the beginning of steelmaking in the city. In total, the memorial walk was constructed using 64 tonnes of stainless steel and features steel silhouettes of soldiers and names of Hunter Valley soldiers who served. The first section of the walk is a long bridge stretching from the Strzelecki Lookout to a viewing platform, which is followed by a stairway that connects to the Bathers Way coastal path.
8. Explore themed gardens in Hunter Region Botanic Gardens
The Hunter Region Botanic Gardens is a spectacular garden space with over 30 hectares of tranquil gardens celebrating Australian flora. You could see over 3,000 living specimens in a natural setting with trails. The gardens have themes for hakeas, ferns, grevillea, acacia and exotics, such as succulents, cacti and orchids. The nearby Tomago Sandbeds catchment area is also managed by the gardens and provides a wetland habitat for wildlife. You can learn more about the garden and its inhabitants by visiting the visitor centre and the library. The grounds also have a shop, cafe and herbarium.
9. See the coastal views along Bathers Way
Bathers Way is a stunning coastal walk that connects Newcastle beaches to Nobbys Beach, forming part of the Great North Walk. You can walk, run or bike on the path to take in the views of the coast, and you’ll find beaches, viewing platforms, seating and shady areas along the way. Several paths connect to Bathers Way, including the Newcastle Memorial Walk.
10. Enjoy a swim at Bogey Hole
Bogey Hole is a popular swimming hole on the Newcastle coastline. The hand-hewn hole was created out of a wave-cut rock platform by prisoners for Major James Morisset, the longest-serving commandant of Newcastle. Once called the ‘Commandant’s Baths’, the Bogey Hole has been in use for decades. The pool has several safety additions, such as an iron safety rail, an access track, 2 bridges, and stairs and ledges cut into the rock face.
11. Get up close to wildlife at Hunter Wetlands Centre
The Hunter Wetlands Centre is a conservation sanctuary that offers 45 hectares of wetland habitat that’s home to over 200 wildlife species. You can enjoy many outdoor activities in the sanctuary, including canoeing, hiking, birdwatching and dip netting. Guided tours and feeding talks are available to learn more about the management of the sanctuary and its wildlife. Kids will also enjoy the children’s discovery playground. The visitor centre is home to a variety of reptiles and fish that live in the sanctuary, including an eel, blue tongue lizards, frogs, a crocodile and several snakes.
12. Explore a historic defence at Fort Scratchley
Fort Scratchley is a former defence installation and museum that was built to defend the city against Russian invaders. The fort has been decommissioned since 1972 and now houses a museum with historic guns, galleries, artefacts and Parade and Ceremony grounds. You can take a guided tour with an expert who can shed light on the rich and compelling history of the fort and its value to the city’s defence. The site has a shop with drinks, ice cream, souvenirs and gifts.
13. Swim and sunbathe at Merewether Beach
Merewether Beach is an iconic beach that’s popular for sunbathing, swimming, surfing and sunset viewing. The beach hosts the international surfing competition, Surfest, that draws visitors from all over. Along with spending time on the sand, you can explore the surrounding beach reserve that spans Dixon Park to Burwood Beach or enjoy a drink at the beachside cafe. The Merewether Ocean Baths are nearby and perfect for a relaxing soak.
14. Explore the picturesque Glenrock Lagoon
Glenrock Lagoon is a small coastal creek in the Glenrock State Recreation Area and the Awabakal Nature Reserve. The lagoon itself is popular for fishing and swimming, but it also offers one of the best bushwalks in the area. The Yuelarbah Walk. spanning from Kahibah to Burwood Beach, is an ideal walk for families with kids and offers stunning landscape views. As part of the Great North Walk, you can merge into the scenic walk that travels along waterfalls and bridges in the rainforest. You’ll find numerous lookout points along the way, as well as historic sites like the Burwood Colliery, a former coal mine.
15. Glimpse into an artist’s life at Dobell House
The Dobell House is the former residence of artist William Dobell, a famous Australian artist. The heritage home is now a museum dedicated to the artist’s life and work, as well as a notable architectural achievement of its own. Some of the highlights of the holiday home include the federation/interwar features, a gable with a decorative frieze and concrete walls with sand, shell, seaweed and fishbones from the lakeshore. When you visit, you can take in stunning views of Lake Macquarie. Inside, you’ll find an extensive exhibition on the artist and his works, individual exhibits showcasing the major eras of his work and a wide collection of original furniture and memorabilia.
16. Have interactive wildlife experiences at Blackbutt Reserve
Blackbutt Reserve is a beautiful nature reserve that offers natural bushland with nature trails, wildlife exhibits and children’s attractions. You can explore the exhibits, feed wildlife like emus and find out more about the local wildlife with educational talks and demonstrations. Another option to make this a memorable kids' activity in Newcastle is booking a private encounter to interact with reptiles, wombats and other wildlife. Some of the popular species include wallabies, koalas, brush turkeys and free-roaming peacocks.
17. Tour the stunning Christchurch Cathedral
The Christchurch Cathedral is a spectacular cathedral that houses Newcastle’s principal War Memorial and war memorabilia. One of the largest churches in Australia, the cathedral boasts 160 windows in total, 72 of which are gorgeous stained glass, and skyline-dominating height. You can visit the cathedral and tour the memorial garden to take in the beauty of this iconic building.
18. Take a walk in a sculpture garden at Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie
The Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie is an award-winning museum that offers a sculpture park, mosaic pathways, a cafe and numerous attractions. The museum is focused on national, international and Hunter-based artists and features a range of paintings, photography, print works, sculpture, ceramics and installations. Along with the permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating exhibitions that highlight different styles or artists. Some previous exhibitions include water-themed paintings, works by aboriginal artists and works from the 20th and 21st centuries. You’ll also find a gift shop with handcrafted jewellery, ceramics, bags, glassware and textile accessories.
19. Marvel at Australian masterpieces at Newcastle Art Gallery
The Newcastle Art Gallery is a large art museum that offers a massive collection of art donated by Roland Pope. The collection represents major eras in Australian art dating from colonial times to the present day and comprising a range of media, including print, painting, sculpture and photography. Several prominent bark works are part of the contemporary indigenous art collection. Another highlight is the collection of modern Japanese ceramics, which is one of the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Some of the key artists represented include David Boyd, Grace Cossington Smith, William Dobell, Bill Henson and Lloyd Rees.