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Your go-to guide for school holidays

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Six weeks is a long time. Six weeks with bored kids is an unbearably long time. 

But there are ways to fight off the boredom blues regardless of the weather, price, and age of your kids.

And the best bit is they’re all located right here in our region. 

We asked a handful of Hunter kids to tell us where they hoped to spend their school holidays. 

They were given the freedom to choose anywhere from Port Stephens to Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Maitland and into the Hunter Valley. 

Here’s what they came up with. 

Photo: Rebecca Riddle

OUTDOORS 

Glenrock: Located just 5km from the heart of Newcastle, Glenrock State Conservation Area is renowned for its mountain biking and hiking trails, beginners can even take a guided walk to really appreciate the region’s unique flora and fauna, waterfalls, ancient Aboriginal sites, and fishing. 

Surfing: There’s a reason our region hosts so many surfing events, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle are home to some of the best beaches in the world. Grab a board and get out among the waves, or if you need a helping hand there are plenty of willing teachers close by including, with surf lessons aplenty.  

Fernleigh Track: It’s free, it can be walked, cycled, wheeled or pushed. The Fernleigh Track is a 15km stretch of shared pathway linking Adamstown to Belmont, and by 2024 it will extend to 27km when it extends to Blacksmiths. Follow the former railway line past old train stations, rail tunnels and wetlands. 

Quad bikes: Port Stephens has become synonymous with quad biking, whether it be guided tours or hiring, the sand dunes of Anna Bay form part of the Worimi Conservation Lands, in which dunes can be seen towering as much as 30 metres above sea level, making it the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Treetops: Located in Blue Gum Regional Park in Minmi, Treetops Newcastle is a tree ropes course boasting more than 90 aerial challenges and 20 different ziplines, allowing visitors aged from just three-years-old to clamber along native gum trees at their own pace, within an age-appropriate course. 

Go Karting: There are three locations where kids can take the wheel and experience go-karting in the region. Broadmeadow, Warners Bay and Cameron Park are all home to tracks offering riding fun for those aged five upwards (depending on height). 

Merewether Ocean Baths: For those who are not confident in the waves but still want to submerge themselves in the salt water, the iconic 87-year-old Merewether Ocean Baths offers a way to swim or paddle in a safe, salty space – and it’s free!  

Skateparks: Charlestown, Bar Beach, Eleebana, Stockton, Islington, Mayfield, Nelson Bay, Cameron Park, Wallsend, Maryland, New Lambton, Maitland, Kurri Kurri – our region is full of skateparks. Drop, get air, grind, hang or flip at any of our chip bowls, scoops or gaps this summer.  

Cruising: Cruise Newcastle harbour onboard William the Fourth, an authentic operational replica of Australia’s first steam-powered paddlewheel ship. Or if you’d prefer a more modern approach Coast XP offers an array of tours, all times of the day, beyond Newcastle harbour, and Lake Macquarie, with walks, meals and helicopters optional. For Hunter River, Morpeth, dinner, bingo, lunch, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle tours there’s also Nova Cruises.

Hunter Wetlands Centre: Guided walking tours, canoe hire, dip-netting, geese feeding, bird-watching, art, a playground and a cafe mean all members of the family should be happy with a visit to the 45-hectare reserve that is home to 112 species of waterbirds and 45 species of migratory birds.

Lambton Pool: Developed as the City of Newcastle’s first inland swimming pool and opened in 1963, the popular watering hole attracts an average of 184,000 visitors annually. During the school holidays the large outdoor facility will be overflowing with recreational features including a diving pool, 100m water slide, aquatic splash park, and a giant inflatable obstacle course.

Blackbutt Reserve: Located on the edge of Kotara and New Lambton, this 182-hectares of bushland is home to walking trails, barbecues, a play space as well as two koalas, eight emus, 10 kangaroos, 19 wallabies, a dozen species of reptile, two species of frog and more than 40 species of bird. 

male on bike
Newy Rides. Photo: Peter Stoop

GET NEWY

Reacquaint yourself with what makes Newcastle tick by visiting some of the city’s most iconic locations.

Fort Scratchley: A former coastal defence installation located in Newcastle East and built in 1882 to defend the city against a possible Russian attack, Fort Scratchley is now an interactive museum run by volunteers who host regular tours detailing its past. Admission is free and the walk is worth the views.

Newcastle Museum: There’s more to this site than meets the eye. Founded in 1988 as a bicentennial project for the people of Newcastle and moved to its current Honeysuckle home in 2011, the museum is regularly a hive of activity, with events both inside and outside the venue. Interactive exhibitions and displays are sure to impress curious young minds. 

Newy Rides: Wear them out and learn something about Newcastle or Lake Macquarie in the process with a guided bike tour with Newy Rides. Two, three or four hour rides cruising the beach, city, harbour or Fernleigh Track with Ben are guaranteed to be both fun and entertaining.

Newcastle-A-Foot: What better way to explore the city than on foot. Discover a patch of Newcastle, be it laneways, architecture, street art or hidden secrets by walking with Becky for a couple of hours.

Lighthouse walk: Stroll, run, ride or push your way along Nobbys Headland (Aboriginal and dual name Whibayganba) to Nobbys Lighthouse where the ocean meets the Hunter River. Count the number of tugboats and tankers entering the harbour, winner gets to choose dinner!

Stockton: Catch a ferry to Stockton from Queens Wharf and wander the township once known as ‘Pirate Point’. Grab a bite to eat, ride the streets and impressive skatepark, shop local, swim, bowl and ferry back. Day done.

young boy on mountain bike
Dungog Common. Photo: Peter Stoop

EXPLORE 

Head out of the city for a day and explore our neighbouring townships.

Caves Beach: No longer considered a fringe suburb, Caves Beach is just 29kms from the heart of Newcastle and home to a beach worth exploring. Plan the tides and swell correctly and you can discover rock pools and hideouts the whole family will enjoy.

Dungog: Located near the Barrington Tops National Park, Dungog has a reputation as one of the best bush-walking and mountain-biking spots in the region. The quaint little township also has some good shops, eateries and wineries for the adults.

Morpeth: Explore the historic town of Morpeth, located in the Maitland LGA. The 200-year-old township boasts laneways filled with hidden treasures including lollies, teddy bears, ginger beer, Christmas, antiques, art, candles and fashion. There’s also some great food available in the town once home to Arnott’s biscuits too.

Photo: Mitch Revs Gallery

INDOORS 

Movies: If being indoors is more your thing, remember the Hunter is home to many cinemas including Charlestown, Greenhills, Charlestown Square, Maitland, Kotara, Glendale, Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay. Or try the traditional way to watch films by catching an $8 film at Lake Cinema in Boolaroo – new releases watched in a 48-year-old theatre.

Decked Out: If you want to release their creativity, the Mitch Revs Gallery is hosting workshops throughout the holidays, with kids aged 8+ encouraged to dream up a design and paint it on a skateboard, with the help of one of our city’s most iconic artists. 

Indoors & active: Two ingredients that don’t usually mix at home, but they will at Ninja Parc in Cooks Hill, Revolution Sports Park in Maryville, Pulse Climbing in Warners Bay and Adamstown, Dullboys in Warners Bay and Rutherford, Springloaded in Gateshead and Ice Skating Newcastle.

newcastle markets
Photo: Nash & Dash Markets

MARKETS 

Check out our comprehensive online markets guide

Photo: Newy Burger Co

EAT & DRINK 

At the end of all that activity you can guarantee you’ve set yourself to hear those two dreaded words uttered, sometimes with a bit more drama, but always demanding a pleasing solution. “I’m Hungry”. Here’s a few ideas.

Rascal: Home of impressive made-to-order burgers, worth taking your interstate visitors, guaranteed to fill little tummys and fun to try. Located at both King Street Newcastle and Charlestown’s The Corner.

Milky Lane: Located on Darby Street in Newcastle, this is a place to appreciate burgers and mouth-watering milkshakes. The artwork on the walls will impress too, try and guess the names that match the faces on the walls.

Newy Burger Co: Newcastle’s own burger joint on Hunter Street has named its burgers after local icons. Try the Redhead, Stocko, Dudley or Pasha Bulker and help local families through its pay-it-forward commitment too. Don’t leave without trying one of their sweet treats either.

For more school holiday ideas:

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