As far as successful family holidays go, the beautiful beachside town of Newcastle has to be one of Australia’s best kept secrets. Easy to get to and situated close to both Lake Macquarie the Hunter Valley, and only a few hours from Sydney, this tranquil city is surrounded by natural beauty, world class beaches and packed with things to do including museums, dining, shopping and sight-seeing.
Better still, being Australia’s second oldest city, Newcastle is steeped in colonial history with plenty of attractions to educate and entertain the kids while you are away!
• Start with Fort Scratchley Historic Site, an imposing structure standing guard over Hunter River Estuary; it affords stunning views of the city and coastline. Built over 200 years ago to guard the coastline from attack, kids can learn about Australia’s colourful military past on a fully guided tour of the site and underground tunnels.
• Then head to the Convict Lumberyard, a historically significant site for convict workers and industry. The site also contains archaeological evidence of indigenous life prior to 1804.
• Get back to nature at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, a sanctuary for over 200 species of wildlife with activities including trail walking, canoeing, feed talks and a children’s discovery playground, there is plenty of fresh air and space for the kids to run around.
• In the heart of town you will find a heritage listed police station converted into a museum and art space at the Lock-Up Cultural Centre. The kids will love visiting cells occupied by some of Australia’s most notorious bank robbers. With tours starting at $3 per head, it’s a steal.
• Also check out Newcastle Museum. They have activities and exhibits targeted directly at children, including under-5s. Check online for the latest events.
• Pack lunch and head a short 6km out of town to Blackbutt Reserve to relax and unwind. This vast nature reserve contains walking trails, picnic areas and open spaces. Perfect for spotting animals. Kids can also learn about local wildlife and ecosystems at the excellent Blackbutt wildlife exhibit.
• For something fun and when it’s time to stretch the legs, take a stroll up to Newcastle’s famous lighthouse to enjoy some spectacular views. If it’s warm, bring your bathers for family fun at historic Newcastle Ocean Baths and Merewether Baths. They are open all year round!
To really make your time in Newcastle easy and enjoyable, find centrally located accommodation. There is plenty of accommodation that will suit your family and budget and the Newcastle Crowne Plaza is a good place to start if you are travelling with kids. From here you can easily access all of Newcastle’s most interesting activities. You can also take advantage of the free (yes, free!) inner city bus service to avoid the stress of bundling kids into a car every day.
Newcastle is definitely a surprising holiday destination for keeping the kids busy and entertained, while having some fun and learning. Newcastle shares all of Sydney’s natural beauty, beaches and historical sites, but at one-tenth the size, it is easier to get around, more relaxing and cheaper – making it the perfect place to spend time with family. It’s hard to believe that it is still a secret from anyone! With so many interesting activities to stimulate the senses and blow off some steam – the whole family will be sure to enjoy a memorable holiday.
Carla C. Burton is a self-employed Travel and Hospitality writer with a BBA in Business Administration from Bond University. Although a Gold Coast native, Carla moved to Melbourne in 2008 to further her writing career in the Travel industry. Carla has become a top contributor to many Travel blogs world-wide and thoroughly enjoys the freedom that self-employment has provided her. To find out more about Carla or to follow her other posts, follow her on Twitter @CarlaCBurton.