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Your guide to FREE school holiday fun in the Hunter region

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Not everything in life has to cost money, least of all entertaining the kids during school holidays.

If you’re on a tight budget but want to keep the kids entertained without the help of screens, we’ve got you covered.

Switch off, pack the backpack and off you go.

mountain bike
The Hunter region is peppered with amazing mountain bike trails, an adrenaline pumping free activity.

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. 

Have you checked out the new Newcastle Ocean Baths? You guessed it – it’s free.

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!  

Newcastle Ocean Baths: Freshly revamped, this iconic city landmark welcomes swimmers of all ages with gradual depths to suit all levels of competence. And, the coffee is great here too!

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.  

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. 

Exploring the coastline by bike is a great way to wear the kids out, and it’s free.

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!

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 Arnotts biscuits, too.

wombat
Blackbutt Reserve is free for visitors to roam.

Heaton State Forest: Reconnect with nature with a bushwalk and picnic, enjoy spending time in the bush, and enjoy watching kids learn about mother nature. Hunter Lookout is a favourite for visitors, with bush and bird sounds guaranteed to relax, and the vistas out over the Hunter Valley, Pokolbin Range and lower Barringtons is spectacular.

Green Point Reserve, Sea Eagle lookout, Valentine, Lake Macquarie: With no shortage of room for the kids to run around and play, Green Point Reserve is also a spot that provides a breathtaking panoramic view to the southwest of Lake Macquarie Try spotting the local sea eagle at this magical spot.

Jordan Lucky
It’s FREE to follow the fantastic street art created by Jordan Lucky.

Jordan Lucky art trail: You can find the clever Newcastle artists’ works throughout the city and beyond. Here’s our top spots..

  • Marketown Shopping Centre, Newcastle West
  • Corner of King and Union Streets, Newcastle West
  • Corner of Bull and Bridge Street, Cooks Hill
  • Elizabeth Street, Tighes Hill
  • Hunter Street, Newcastle
  • Warners Bay Shopping Village, Warners Bay
  • Magnus Street, Nelson Bay
  • Darby Street, Cooks Hill
  • Corner of Brown and Withers Street, West Wallsend

Walk the Walk:

  • Walka Water Works, Maitland, Distance: 3.2km (per lap), Difficulty Moderate.
  • Anzac Memorial Walk, Newcastle, Distance: 450m or 6km (coastal), Difficulty Easy.
  • Glenrock State Conservation Area, Newcastle, Distance: 6.8km return, Difficulty Moderate to hard.
maitland regional art gallery
Get busy these school holidays with FREE art sessions…you don’t even have to clean up after them!

ARTSPACE, free family artmaking at Museum of Art and Culture, yapang, Sunday 14 and 21 April, 10am and 11am. FREE.

Curious Minds exhibition at SEEN@Swansea, Tuesday 9 April – Saturday 4 May. An interactive science exhibition created by local secondary school. FREE.

ART PLAY for the whole family at Sugar Valley Library and Museum. Young children and their families can enjoy simple art activities guided by friendly art educators. Art projects will be inspired by a digital storytime and works in the Museum. Sunday 21 April, 10.30am, Sugar Valley Library Museum, kirantakamyari. FREE

ART PLAY for the whole family at SEEN@Swansea. Young children and their families can enjoy simple art activities guided by friendly art educators. Art projects will be inspired by the exhibit on display at SEEN. Saturday 27 April, 11am at SEEN@Swansea. FREE.

Maitland Regional Art Gallery – Artist educators’ will be in the Gallery from 10am – 1pm every Tuesday – Friday between 13 to 28 April. 

For more school holiday ideas:

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