You don’t have to leave town to have a break. Check out what we did on our Newcastle staycation.
Enjoying a Newcastle Staycation
A weekend away? Not exactly. We’re actually having a staycation, a holiday in our hometown. Between my job and my husband’s work shifts, it’s a challenge arranging a long holiday away. So we’ve started to organise shorter and more convenient breaks. Well it doesn’t get any more convenient than a hotel staycation: Spacious rooms, buffet breakfast, in-house restaurant, room service and only a short drive from home. I have to confess though, it does feel a bit strange to be checking into the Novotel Newcastle Beach. After all, we live in Newcastle but I’m willing to try this new experience, especially as I could do with a break.
The reception staff welcome us to the hotel with big smiles and advise us to have a nice stay. We just have one night at the Novotel Newcastle Beach but with a 2pm check-in and a 5pm checkout the next day, it’s practically a weekend break. Yes, you read that right, a 5pm checkout. With the Family&Novotel promise, you can request a 5pm late checkout when you stay a Saturday night Novotel is especially suited for families with free accommodation and breakfast for two children up to age 16 when sharing their parents’ or grandparents’ room. If you need another room, a second room for kids can be booked at 50% off the best unrestricted rate.
We’ve opted for two rooms and we’re impressed with the set up. We have two studio rooms connected with an outer door. We prop open the studio rooms so my daughter can run between them. She quickly chooses a room and gets comfortable on the bed with the TV remote and finds the kids channel. “Look Mummy” she exclaims “I can watch Dora the Explorer and see the ocean at the same time”
Well, that’s one happy kid and we’re not even five minutes into our staycation. I’m happy as well. The hotel rooms are clean and pristine (and a lovely change from the state of our house during this past week). I flop down on the hotel bed and three thoughts simultaneously go through my head: “Wow this bed is comfortable”, “Oh yes, I can see the ocean” and “Whoever thought of the staycation idea was a genius”.
I love holidays as much as the next person but honestly packing and travelling for a family holiday can sometimes cancel out any benefit from the actual holiday. I love the minimum travel involved in a staycation. Our holidays in the last few years have involved a long car trip or a plane ride so it’s a nice change to simply arrive and start enjoying the break.
We’re definitely ready for a break. We wait until Dora finishes and then convince our little explorer to leave the hotel. We don’t have far to go. It’s only 100 metres from the hotel to Newcastle Beach where we enjoy a glorious Saturday afternoon. In between frolicking in the waves, we build sandcastles and examine seaweed and coral. The beauty of staying right at the beach is that we can linger long after all of the other families have packed up to go home. After enjoying Newcastle Beach without any crowds, we return back to the hotel to wash off all the salt and sand.
We’re refreshed and and ravenous by the time we wander downstairs to the hotel restaurant Bistro Dalby. Our mouths water as we read the menu as everything sounds delicious. Finally, we make a decision and I opt for a Scotch Fillet while hubby orders the Lamb Roulade.
Our meals arrive and we tuck in. My steak is incredible and cooked to perfection. It’s one of the best tasting steaks I’ve had in years and I polish it off quickly along with the accompanying vegetables. Hubby is quickly devouring his lamb so I grab a mouthful before it disappears. It’s delicious as well. Our little one is also enjoying her fish and chips meal off the kids menu. (The kids menu has a great range of healthy and delicious dishes to choose from). The waiter then asks if we want to order dessert. My answer should be “no” but then I spot the double chocolate pistachio brownie on the menu and it’s a lost cause. As you can imagine, it’s doubly delicious and I try not to think about how many calories I’ve consumed.
It’s then back to our rooms to put a sleepy child to bed. Mr Mummy Project and I then have time to ourselves without any distractions which is a rare treat. Next morning, I forgo my much anticipated Sunday sleep-in. I’ve had a great night’s sleep and am full of energy so decide to go for an early morning run. Newcastle Beach is a hive of activity with runners, walkers, surfers all taking advantage of the beautiful morning. My running route takes me past the hardy swimmers in Newcastle Ocean Baths and around Nobbys Beach out to the breakwater. The ocean and harbour views prove a great distraction and I run further than I intend – I need to to make up for the previous evening’s dessert.
Returning back to the hotel, it’s breakfast time and we return again to Bisto Dalby for a buffet breakfast. There’s plenty to choose from and after my exercise, I’m starving. After a big plate of food and a couple of cups of delicious coffee, we’re ready to enjoy the second day of our weekend break. To celebrate the spirit of a staycation, I’ve deliberately not made a list of things to do. Instead we’re just going to let the day unfold and just enjoy our hometown. We leave the hotel and start walking towards the harbour.
Our first “discovery” is Pacific Park. I’ve driven past this park numerous times but walking through it is a completely different experience. There’s grass, massive huge trees and covered tables that are perfect for a picnic and games of tag and hide and seek. I make a note to return here again especially when I spot the Solar Fountain, Australia’s first solar powered fountain in the corner of the park. With alternating water pressure, this hidden spot looks like a fun place to cool off in summer. Venturing further, we walk through the Convict Lumber Yard. This is actually one of the oldest industrial workplaces in Australia and is a reminder of Newcastle’s rich historical past. I can tell I’m in holiday mode as I actually stop and read plaques in front of the different sculptures.
We end up down at one of my favourite spots, Foreshore Park aptly named as it’s on Newcastle Foreshore. It’s a large area perfect for running around or playing in the playground. After a short play there, we debate what to do next. Options include walking up to Fort Scratchley or out to the breakwater at Nobbys or walk along the harbour to Honeysuckle. The harbour wins and we walk along while our daughter scoots along the wide path. Just as we approach Queens Wharf, the Stockton ferry approaches.
Change of plan! Instead of ice cream at Queens Wharf, it’s off to Stockton. It’s been years since I travelled on the Stockton ferry preferring the convenience of driving. But it’s one of those activities that I’ve been meaning to do with my daughter as she’s a huge fan of boats. Bonus – it’s Transport NSW Family Funday on Sundays so a family can travel for $2.50 per person all day. It’s a quick 5 minute trip across the Hunter River and soon we’re across on the other side looking back towards Newcastle. It’s interesting to see Newcastle’s iconic skyline from a different angle. We stroll eastward towards the harbour entrance and discover a playground with great views. A few minutes later, a ship’s horn blasts and a massive coal ship glides into the harbour.
It’s then time to return to Newcastle on the ferry and we venture down to the Honeysuckle precinct. Even though we’ve been many times before, we can’t resist visiting the family-friendly Newcastle Museum. With free admission, it’s a great place for a visit and there’s plenty to keep the whole family occupied.
We’re a bit tired after we leave the Museum so decide to catch the bus down Hunter Street back near the hotel. With free travel zone within the CBD 7 days a week, it’s a useful option to get around.
After a couple of hours of relaxing in our hotel rooms, we’re re-energised and head again to Newcastle Beach. This time, we base ourselves near the Canoe Pool, a favourite of local families. The shallowness of the pool means that the water is lovely and warm. My daughter amuses herself alternating between splashing around in the water and building elaborate sandcastles.
As for Mr Mummy Project and I, we just relax and hang out. We laugh and chat with our child, count the coal ships on the horizon, admire the talent of the surfers, listen to the hypnotic sounds of waves and just appreciate the amazing city we live in. And that’s when I realise the true value of a staycation. It’s a chance to rediscover, reconnect and recharge with minimal fuss.
Disclosure: The Mummy Project was a guest of Accor Hotels.