Looking for some affordable family fun? You don’t always have to spend lots of money to entertain kids. There’s lots of free and low-cost things to do in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter. Here’s some ideas for you.
10 Free & Low Cost Things To Do With Kids in Newcastle & the Hunter
Arts & Crafts
Drop in to ART CART at Newcastle Art Gallery on Saturdays and Sunday mornings from 10:30am – 12:30pm. Working with Gallery educator and volunteers, kids can make art inspired by current exhibitions.The art gallery also offers Toddler Play Dates every few months which are a low-cost fun morning out.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery offers Free Art Sunday from 11am to 1pm every Sunday. Families are invited to drop into the art gallery for free art activities inspired by the exhibitions on display. Each activity takes around half an hour to complete. Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery also has a kids art corner. There’s also a sculpture garden outside which is fun to walk through (Free).
Visit Newcastle Museum
You can easily spend hours at the Newcastle Museum. In addition to Mininova soft play area for younger kids, there’s interesting science and historical exhibits for older kids to check out. One of our family favourites in the BHP Steelmaking Show for the noise and smoke. Stop by on Tuesday mornings at 10:30am (except school holidays) for Tuesday Tales at Newcastle Museum. It’s a lovely little storytime session for kids under six. (Free)
Visit Your Local Library
The libraries are full of great free programs for parents and kids. For those with babies, there are some terrific programs to introduce your babies to books. These library programs provide parents with practical ideas on using stories, rhymes, songs and music to help babies develop early literacy skills. Newcastle Region Library offers Baby Book Time for babies and Rock & Rhyme for toddlers. One not to miss is Wacky Wombat for kids aged 3 to 5. It’s a fun session of stories, drama, dance, songs and craft for kids.
Maitland City Library offers Baby Book Club and storytime for older kids under 5 while Lake Macquarie City Library offers Babies into Books and Books and Babies for babies under 1. For kids 1 – 3 they feature Read and Rhyme Time and Storytime for preschoolers. During school holidays, all three library networks offer fantastic free and low-cost activities for kids. You can also borrow kids books, kids CDs and kids DVDs from libraries as well making it an affordable way to access books, music and entertainment.
Visit The Animals at Blackbutt Reserve
It’s always a great day out visiting the animals at Blackbutt Reserve. There’s koalas, emus, wallabies, wombats and peacocks and lots more critters. A series of boardwalks make it easy to push a stroller and let young ones view the creatures up close in the enclosures. Older children can participate in the Koala Encounter (extra charge) every day at 2 p.m. where they can get up close and personal with one of the resident koalas. (Admission free, car parking charge)
Rides the Trains or the Ferry
On the last Sunday of every month (except for December), the Lake Macquarie Live Steam Locomotive Society provides model train rides to the public. There’s a variety of trains such as steam and diesel and different rail routes (both elevated and ground-level) so you can easily spend a couple of hours watching and riding trains. (Gold coin donation)
For other experiences, get on a train or take the Newcastle Ferry across to Stockton on a Sunday as part of NSW Transport Family Funday Sunday. For $2.50 per person, your family can enjoy unlimited travel all day Sunday in Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Hunter areas, by train, bus and ferry.
Get out among the Wetlands
Get out into nature at the Hunter Wetlands Centre. There’s reptile talks, birdfeeding talks, walking and cycling tracks.
You can take the kids dipnetting to find bugs in the mud or do the Discovery Zone treasure hunt. (Adults $10. Under 3 free. Kids are $5 or $2 during school holidays).
Get Up High
There are some terrific vantage points to see views around Newcastle. One of my favourites is Fort Scratchley where 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. It’s free to walk around the site but tunnel tours cost extra.
Also for spectacular views, visit the Newcastle Memorial Walk recently opened on Anzac Day. It’s pram-friendly and wheelchair friendly from the Strzelecki Lookout side. This beautiful commemorative walkway is a wonderful place to discover the history of local Anzacs as well as enjoy stellar views. Also, keep an eye out for dolphins and whales. The last time I walked on the walkway, I saw a pod of dolphins.
Nobbys Headland is also open on Sundays if you want to walk up to the lighthouse and through the Signal Master’s Cottage. It’s a short but steep 550 metre walk up to the gate. (Free admission)
If you have sporty kids, there’s plenty of places to get your sport on. There’s cute bike paths in Islington Park and Speers Point Park which are perfect for little ones to bike or scoot.
If you have a Frisbee, check out the Frisbee Golf courses. There’s one in Jesmond Park and one in Rathmines at Styles Point Reserve.
There’s also basketball courts available to use as well as numerous skate parks in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland. There’s so many fantastic parks and playgrounds around the region from the humongous Speers Point Park to small local neighbourhood parks like the Laneway Park in Adamstown. Check out the Parks and Playground Guide on The Mummy Project.
There’s also free 5K ParkRuns all over the region on Saturday mornings that you can walk, run or stroller with your kids. Mum and Bub walks are occasionally offered by National Parks and Wildlife Service at Blue Gum Hills Regional Park. This involves wheeling a pram or walking with kids on a walking track with a NPSW Park Ranger. ($10 per family)
Don’t buy too many toys and games, borrow them instead. Visit the Newcastle and Hunter Toy Library located at New Lambton Library on Saturday mornings. This service staffed by volunteers allows members to borrow three toys for up to a month. The library features a variety of toys for children ages birth to 8 years. Toys include baby toys, train sets, puzzles, blocks, Lego, bikes, scooters, dress ups, musical instruments and much more. ($15 per year)
There have been some amazing family-friendly community events organised in the past couple of years. Family Fun Day at Newcastle Writers Festival, The Big Draw, Laman Street Opening, Living Smart Festival, Riverlights Festival in Maitland, Winter Heat, family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebrations. The list goes on and on.
For information about upcoming free and low-cost events, make sure you’re following The Mummy Project Facebook page.
What other suggestions do you have for free and low-cost activities around Newcastle & the Hunter?