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Newcastle's 6 Hidden Gems

Best Things To-Do with Kids

Parents and children alike will fall head over heels for Newcastle once they discover all the activities this up-and-coming city has to offer

Sights and Sounds Harbour Cruise

As the busiest coal export harbour in the world, there's plenty to look at and learn about on this 1.5-hour cruise. The sunny skies and sparkling water immediately put you in relaxation mode and there's enough space for the kids to roam in safety. We get a bird's-eye view of the giant container ships in various stages of loading or unloading and the running commentary reveals all sorts of interesting facts. The kids love it, and it isn't just the smorgasbord of treats on offer for afternoon tea that wins them over.

Blackbutt Reserve

This 182-hectare oasis is a perfect spot for a picnic, and is a quick 10-minute drive from the city centre. The playground is "awesome" and the peaceful pond and symphony of birdsong provide a sublime backdrop for lunch. There are picnic tables and barbecues aplenty, but if all you feel like is a drink and an ice-cream, there's an on-site kiosk. So beautiful is Blackbutt Reserve that these facilities, frankly, would be enough. But a world of Australian wildlife housed in outstanding natural habitats awaits. The kids delight in touching the soft fur of the koalas, the cool snake scales, and the friendly wombat, and the staff tailor the facts they share about each animal to the kids' ages. 

Newcastle Museum

Housed in three old railway workshop buildings, this museum has got it right when it comes to engaging the kids, and offers much more than just a glimpse into Newcastle's history. Its Supernova and Mininova exhibitions appeal to the youngest of children right through to teens. For pre-schoolers, there is an action-packed soft-play area, and kids of all ages will be endlessly amused in the more grown up Supernova section where they can press buttons, haul on ropes, throw balls and rub their hands together to do everything from make a ball hover in the air, lift a car off the ground and create enough energy through movement to run a battery. Never has science been so exciting! If you can drag them away for the Light & Sound Show, do so. A tribute to Newcastle's history, the short show is a dramatic simulation of steel production using water vapour, loud noise and holographs. Be ready with a comforting hug for the littlest ones, though - the show can be scary for some. A great lunchtime option across the road from the museum is the Wharf Bar & Restaurant.

Coco Monde

The hot chocolate at this fabulous cafe is not to be missed. In fact, it's the best I've ever had. Ever. Have it the traditional way, or with a dash of peppermint or chilli; you won't be disappointed. Everything - from the chocolate to the marshmallows to the fabulous macarons - is made on site, and a tasting plate is the best way to sample a little of everything. The chocolate fondue will ease any guilt at such decadent indulgence - it comes with healthy fruit for dipping! Coco Monde is located on Darby Street, a three-block strip of boutique shopping and restaurants. Parents wanting to have a look around should do so before going to Coco Monde - it's the perfect reward for patient children! For dinner, be sure to go to Cafe Zaytoon, a Persian mezze-style restaurant new to Newcastle. Chef Bob Babak Abbaszade bases the menu on his favourite recipes his grandmother cooks in Iran. It's a culinary adventure that's delectably different. Opt for the chicken and rice for kids with not so adventurous taste buds.

Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie is the perfect antidote to a hot summer's day, boasting the largest permanent coastal saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere, over 30km of pristine coastline and the cool escape of the Watagan Mountains in the west. On your way to or from Newcastle, visit one of Lake Macquarie's four uncrowded, patrolled beaches - Redhead, Blacksmiths, Caves Beach and Catherine Hill Bay are all ideal for families. The award-winning Lake Macquarie Variety Playground at Speers Point is fun for all ages and abilities. It features a giant slide, double flying fox, 12-metre-high climbing tower, spinning equipment, water play area, a maze, swings, a wheelchair-accessible play boat, a bike circuit with two intersecting tracks, and more. Parents can relax at Sal's by the Lake Cafe next door. Picnic and barbecue facilities are also available, with Speers Point Swim Centre alongside.


Fort Scratchley

Perched on a grassy headland overlooking the iconic Nobby's Beach and the Newcastle Ocean Baths, this historic site is the only Australian fort to have fired at an enemy during wartime - the Japanese in 1942. A guided tour takes you into the underground tunnels, where many of the cannon-like guns are still in working order. Our volunteer guide was the last commanding officer at Fort Scratchley and has a wealth of information to share. Some kids will be more interested in the fort than others, but there is a playground and space to roam for restless legs. Be sure to walk or drive from the fort to Nobby's Lighthouse for a wander, and stop at Scotties up the road for lunch or a snack. It's known as having the best fish and chips in Newcastle, and serves great coffee and scrumptious breakfasts.


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