If you’re looking for a fun day out with the family, and want to explore somewhere just a little further afield, here are some excellent suggestions for a family day out in neighbouring Newcastle:
1. Oakvale Fam & Fauna World Oakvale Farm is located in Salt Ash, 25km just north of Newcastle, and has been operated by the same family for 37 years. At Oakvale, you’ll be able to see an abundance of native Australian animals and plenty of domestic farm animals, set across 25 acres of land. Some of the animals you’ll find there include: dingoes, koalas, wallabies, llamas, pigs, chickens, ostriches, black swans, bearded dragons, many different pythons, turtles, ring-tailed lemurs, cows, kangaroos and many more.
In addition to all the wonderful animals, they also have Splash Bay, an exciting water play area. Whilst here, you can take part in an Animal Encounter with a snake or baby crocodile for $45. This runs for 20 minutes and includes a behind the scenes tour and photo.
Entry into Oakvale is $28.50 for adults and $16.50 per child (3-16), or $80 for a family of 4. They are open every day, except for Anzac Day and Christmas Day from 10am-5pm.
2. VRXP Online Now for something a little different - a virtual reality experience where you can pop on a headset and controllers, and explore various virtual reality worlds! At VRXP Online, there are experiences such as: underwater world, create 360° interactive paintings, blast some aliens, or defend your castle in a medieval world.
Here you are not attached to a chair, nor do you have to remain still. Instead, you are able to move freely, walk around or bend and reach for items. This is perfect for a family day out, kids birthday party or even a work bonding experience, this is something new and unusual and should be tried by everyone at least once, age is no barrier.
3. Speers Point Park This 2 hectare, lakeside, fully fenced playground is THE ultimate kids playground and once you arrive, they’ll never want to leave. Speers Point Park has everything that a kid could possibly want in a playground and even some things that they probably couldn’t dream of! There's a 4 story climbing structure which leads to a swirly slippery dip all the way back down; two flying foxes; an array of different play equipment such as a pirate ship and a water play area; a large open grassed area for ball games or just running about; and kids can bring bikes or scooters for the bike circuit which is fantastic. There are also some BBQ’s, tables and a café at the front of the park.
One of the special things about this park that makes it stand out from most others around, is the fact that they cater to wheelchairs and children who may be uncomfortable in a traditional playground setting. Here they have a wheelchair swing, tactile totem poles for kids with visual impairment and a secluded ‘Quiet Zone’, which allows kids who would rather play in a quieter environment.
There are plenty of public toilets, covered picnic tables and benches (one downfall, tables are in short supply, and the park could definitely use more), but there is plenty of shade under the enormous trees that you could throw a picnic blanket under. The Main Entrance is Park Road, off The Esplanade, Speer’s Point.
4. Newcastle Museum There’s always something exciting, fun and new to enjoy at Newcastle Museum, with new exhibitions coming in all the time. Current events happening at the museum right now include Galaxy Far Away...With Lego, Science Comes Alive with free science shows, Anzac Day will be commemorated, and two special exhibitions for the Under 5’s.
Permanent exhibitions include Supernova, a science exhibition where kids can have fun and safely learn about science and fire and earth, discovering the industrial heart of the Hunter region.
The museum is open 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Sundays, but during school holidays it’s open every day. Admission is free, but some special exhibitions may incur a fee.
5. Fort Scratchley Fort Scratchley was built in 1882 as a coastal defence to guard the city against possible attack by the Russians, however the guns there were not fired until June 1942 when Newcastle was shelled by a Japanese submarine. The Australian Army finally vacated it in 1942 and today it stands as an amazing museum for all to enjoy and explore, whilst constantly being maintained by a team of volunteers.
Visitors are free to explore on their own or there are guided tours that run through the vast expanse of tunnels underneath. Something sure to excite the kids is the reinstatement of the time honoured practice of firing a gun at 1pm to correspond with the Customs House time ball drop, and fires every day that the Fort is open, weather permitting. There is a display of artifacts and relics in the museum rooms that are a must see to understand this important part of Australian military history right in our backyard.
6. Stockton Beach Stockton Beach must be seen to fully appreciate all it provides and the beauty that it has. It is located at the southern end of the Newcastle Bight with rolling golden sand dunes and sand going all the way back into Port Stephens.
Aside from the golden sand, Stockton Beach has been the site of numerous shipwrecks and aircraft crash sites, some of which can be viewed from various locations around there. Council lifeguards patrol the beach during swimming season and the Easter Holiday period, and Stockton Surf Life Saving patrols on Sundays during the swim season.
There are picnic shelters and BBQ’s in the park beside the beach, a beach kiosk which runs beside the main car park, andyou'll find changing rooms here as well. Apart from the usual beach activities, at Stockton you can also drive 4WD’s, camp, try kite boarding, wind surfing or sail boarding, quad biking, fishing, and surfing, making it an adventure playground for young AND old.