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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Stuck for some school holiday ideas?

Take stock parents and carers, we are midway through the first week of January 2021.

This means you’ve made it to the halfway mark of the summer school holidays.

With the blur of Christmas and New Years behind us, it is now time to enjoy some fun before the kids begin a new school year.

If you’ve exhausted all the Netflix family-friendly films, are tired of wandering shopping centres searching for bargains, and have drained all your play-date mates of enthusiasm, here’s some tips that might help keep the boredom blues at bay.

As a parent of two busy, not-so-little-anymore people myself, I’ve done some digging and compiled a list of activities in and around Newcastle that will hopefully fill the last few weeks of January with fun-filled memories.

You can thank me later.


The Newcastle Art Gallery is presenting a behind-the-scenes tour of intimate moments of Australian and international musicians.

WE CAN BE HEROES: a backstage pass takes audiences into the epicentre of festivals such as Austin City Limits, Big Day Out, and Lollapalooza.

The free exhibition is a view through the lens thanks to four of the country’s best music photographers, featuring homegrown local musicians to international superstars, acts from the 70s through to today.

Some of the featured musicians include names such as Angus and Julia Stone, Baker Boy, Boy and Bear, Dave Grohl, David Bowie, Delta Riggs, DMA’s, Dr G Yunupingu, Flight to Dubai, Gang of Youths, Garbage, Grinspoon, Iggy Pop, Kira Puru, Kwame, Midnight Oil, Mo’Ju, Nick Cave, Paul Dempsey, PJ Harvey, Powderfinger, Saltwater Band, San Cisco, Silverchair, Skeggs, The Beatles, The Jungle Giants, The Preatures, The Prodigy, Violent Soho, and You Am I – There’s bound to be one in that list that the kids recognise!

The exhibition includes rarely seen touring images, unreleased press images, backstage portraits and views from the stage.

Other NAG Workshops include Make a Musical Instrument (suitable for ages 5-12 years), Learn how to create iconic rock music symbols with local artist Rosie Turner (teen masterclass for 13 to 17 years), Hour of Power held from 4pm to 5pm from Friday to Sunday each week.

Music lovers can also snap a picture in front of the original NEON BALLROOM sign from local legends Silverchair, as well as viewing a selection of posters from epic Newy gigs sent in from the public featured in the gallery’s interactive Smart space.

Art Cart is also on every Saturday during the school holidays. Led by Newcastle Gallery educators, activities are suitable for children of all ages.

Lake Macquarie is also home to several activities for the creative members of the family.

Watercolour workshops and exhibition tours at the MAC in Booragul, on Wednesday and Thursday 13 and 14 January.

A collage workshop for teens will be held at Swansea Library on Saturday 16 January from 10.30am.

A cardboard craft workshop will take place on Friday 15 January at the Rathmines Theatre.


If you don’t let them know they’re learning during the school holidays, they’ll think they’re just having fun at the Let’s Find Out Science Show at the Warners Bay Theatre.

This one-hour interactive show offers kids $8 demonstrations in physics, chemistry and biology, helping them discover giant stick insects, water wheels and film canister rockets, with the help of Scienza Viva, on Friday 22 January.


Kids often learn a lot about the hear-and-now by taking a step back into the past. Some of the city’s iconic learning hubs are hosting glimpses into history that might impress your brood.

Newcastle Museum is exploring where art meets science in a unique Cyanotype workshop. Visitors can learn about the world’s first photographic process in a hands-on workshop during two separate one-hour sessions on Wednesdays 13 and 20 January. Cost is $12 per person.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays the fun turns into pop-up science experiences with roaming, hands-on slime, eyeballs, rockets, prisms, squids and more. Sessions to be held on Tuesdays 12 and 19 January, as well as Thursdays 14 and 21 January. The two-hour sessions run from 10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm.

Fort Scratchley: Built in 1882 to defend the city against a possible Russian attack, it is now an interactive museum run by volunteers.

Boasting one of the best panoramic views of Newcastle and with space for kids to run wild and free, this historic landmark includes picnic space, rolling grass hills overlooking the ocean, tunnel tours and daily gun firing at 1pm (weather permitting). Open every day except Tuesdays, admission is free.

For the war enthusiast or future pilot in the family, check out the Service and Seaplanes – The story of Rathmines RAAF exhibition at the Rathmines Theatre open Friday 15 January, Saturday 16 January, Sunday 17 January, Thursday 21 January and Friday 22 January from 10am to 3pm.


Reptile rescuer, Teresa Purnell, will answer all your burning questions when she hosts An insight into snakes for kids aged 10+ at Warner’s Bay Theatre, Wednesday 20 January at 6pm.


Harry Potter is among the attractions hoping to lure young readers to Newcastle Libraries these school holidays.

Wallsend, Newcastle, Lambton Park, and Islington Libraries are all hosting interactive storytelling sessions, music and dance, virtual reality demonstrations, animation workshops, and fairytales with a twist throughout January. Sessions are free but must be booked online prior to the event.

Lake Macquarie libraries have their own set of activities for book-lovers.

Meet the Illustrator: Have you seen a tree for me? will let young readers get first-hand tips from children’s book illustrator Jenni Goodman at the Belmont Library on Tuesday 12 January.


The Queens Corgi, Cats and Dogs 3: Paws Unite and Pokemon Detective Pikachu are among the family-friendly films screening at Newcastle Civic Theatre throughout January.

The Rathmines Theatre grounds are expected to be filled with picnic blankets as it plays host to outdoor family-friendly films from 4pm to 6pm on Friday 15 January, Tuesday 19 January and Friday 22 January.


Aboriginal weaving workshop, Speers Point Park, Monday 11 January; Aboriginal Art in the Park at the MAC, Booragul, Tuesday 12 January; African drumming workshops in Speers Point Park, find some rhythm on Friday 21 January. Free for all-abilities.

Indigenous sculpture workshops will explore the identity of Australia’s diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities through story, dance, song, kinship, carvings, painting and markings on bodies and objects. Sessions will be held at the MAC, Booragul on Wednesday and Thursday 20 and 21 January.


If being outdoors is more your thing, look no further than Newcastle and its surrounds.

Aside from its multitude of world-class beaches, the steel city offers a plethora of family-friendly, outdoor activities.

Blackbutt Reserve in Kotara is a unique natural attraction where you can explore the wildlife exhibits and participate in nature-based activities and enjoy two main picnic areas each with their own unique features.

There’s also 10km of walking trails, an adventure playground with rope courses, bridges, swings and slides, and an adventure tower.

From Saturday 9 January, locally based tourism operator CoastXP is adding an 8.5km guided coastal hike through Wallarah National Park to its itinerary.

Taking in Caves Beach and the rugged coastal wilderness to the south, the COVID-safe, 2.5 hour hike focuses on the area’s Aboriginal heritage, native flora and fauna, geology, and history since European settlement, winding up with a drink at Caves Coastal Bar and Bungalows.

Wear them out at Multi-sports at Feighan Oval in Warner’s Bay. Hosted by GekoSports, cost $38 per person, Tuesday 12 January, Thursday 14 January, Tuesday 19 January and Thursday 21 January from 9.30am to 12.30pm.

Rockpool Ramble at Swansea, Wednesday 13 January, 4pm to 6pm.

Come and try disc golf at the Rathmines Disc Golf Course (Did you even know there was such a thing?) on Thursday 14 January, free.

Kayak on the Lake for kids aged 10+ on Saturday 9 January from 9am to 11am. Must be accompanied by adults. Cost $15 per person.

A Sand sculpture workshop and competition might be just the trick to unleash their creative and competitive side. Hosted by master sculptor Steve Machell, this three-hour session at Blacksmiths Beach on Saturday 16 January could also win the family some great prizes.

Kite building, decorating and flying at Blacksmiths Beach on Monday 18 January and Rathmines Theatre on Tuesday 19 January.

If your home has an early-bird (I have two) then get up and go to the Pre-dawn bird watching at Belmont Lagoon on Wednesday 20 January at 6am.

Go exploring with an expert. Sea caves explorations at Caves Beach, hosted by geologists, free.

A seagrass saunter in Wangi Wangi, meet at the Dobell Drive boat ramp on Wednesday 20 January at 9.30am to discover creatures that call the seabed home – and there are a lot of them!

Lifeguards will be offering free lessons on beach safety at Redhead Beach on Friday 8 January and Caves Beach on Friday 15 January from 9am to 10am.  


Wrap up the day with traditional holiday dining at the ‘Fish and Chips Pop-up’ at Belmont 16s every weekend from Friday 1 January to Sunday 31 January.

Sammy’s Tucker food van will also be on hand at Blacksmiths Beach Saturday 9 January to feed hungry holiday-makers.

For more ideas like this:

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