Life & Style

On a budget? Here are the best free things to do in Newcastle

The best things in life are free, or so the song goes. And while we’re big fans of an indulgent dinner out and the occasional shopping spree, we tend to agree!

Looking for things to do that don’t break the bank? Keep reading for our guide to the best free things to do in Newcastle, whether you’re visiting or you simply want to be a tourist in your own city.

ANZAC Memorial Walk

This 450m cliff top coastal bridge walk provides amazing views of the Newcastle coastline, city and Hunter Valley, with multiple viewing platforms to help you take in the scenery. It’s also a fitting spot to reflect on the service of the ANZACs, and pay your respects.
Where: 24 Memorial Dr, The Hill

best free things to do in newcastle

Blackbutt Reserve

Blackbutt Reserve is an expansive bushland reserve featuring more than 10kms of walking trails, free wildlife exhibits, and plenty of space for the kids to picnic and play. It’s pretty hard to believe you’re in the middle of a city when you visit Blackbutt!
Where: Carnley Ave, Kotara

best free things to do in newcastle

Browse the city’s boutiques

Okay, so this one is only technically free if you don’t buy anything, but we stand by it – sometimes window-shopping is all you need to get the dopamine hit you’d get from buying something anyway. Newcastle has stacks of stunning independent boutiques – try areas like Darby Street in Cooks Hill, Maitland Road in Islington, and the eastern end of Hunter Street in the CBD.

best free things to do in newcastle

Christ Church Cathedral

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of Christ Church Cathedral. The building dominates the city skyline, and while we love spotting it from afar, it’s worth taking a look inside. You can even climb the tower for $10 to discover an alternative view of Newcastle.
Where: 52 Church St, Newcastle

best free things to do in newcastle

Discover our many independent art galleries

Newcastle is home to a swathe of independent art galleries, dotted across the inner city and out into the suburbs. We’re fond of The Lock-Up, a contemporary gallery housed in an 1800s police station; Onwards Gallery in Hamilton which also offers studio spaces; and Playstate on Fern, which regularly hosts life drawing classes, markets, and workshops.

best free things to do in newcastle

Explore our beaches and ocean pools

You could say Newcastle’s coastline is the jewel in the crown of our region. There’s a beach to suit everyone along the city’s coast, or alternatively, you can take a dip in one of our ocean pools (like the iconic Bogey Hole or the recently-refurbished Newcastle Ocean Baths). Whether you’re surfing, swimming, chasing after the little ones on the sand, or simply admiring the scenery, Newcastle’s beaches won’t disappoint.

best free things to do in newcastle

Fernleigh Track

Constructed where the Belmont railway line once lay, the Fernleigh Track is a popular walking and cycling path that takes you from Adamstown, close to the city, right through to Belmont in eastern Lake Macquarie. There’s 15km of track to explore and more than 10 access points, whether you walk, run, cycle, scoot, or skate.

Fort Scratchley

Climb up the hill to Fort Scratchley and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views over Nobbys Beach and up the coast, as well as over the Hunter River. General admission to Fort Scratchley is free, so you can explore its historic buildings and sites. If you’re keen to learn more about the former military fort, tours are available for a small fee.
Where: 1/3 Nobbys Rd, Newcastle East

best free things to do in newcastle

Get involved in a trivia night

There’s plenty of pub trivia happening across Newcastle on most weeknights, and it’s a fun (and free) way to catch up with friends and family while you test your knowledge. While most pub trivia nights are general knowledge, a few spots in town often host themed nights, like The Stag & Hunter Hotel, The Greenroof Hotel, and Warners at the Bay Hotel.

best free things to do in newcastle

Glenrock State Conservation Area

Glenrock State Conservation Area is a stunning spot for outdoor enthusiasts, just 10 minutes from the Newcastle CBD. There’s walking tracks, trails for mountain bikers, and even horse-friendly trails that traverse the bush. We love the Yuelarbah Trail that takes you through the coastal rainforest down to Glenrock Lagoon.

Go to a free event

Newcastle is home to heaps of free events all year round. In March, watch surfers take to the waves at Surfest; catch your favourite authors at Newcastle Writers Festival in April; and kick back at Friday Chill throughout summer. There’s plenty more events that you can get to for free – keep an eye on our What’s On guide to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the city.

best free things to do in newcastle

Green Point Foreshore Reserve

Discover the stretch of foreshore between Belmont and Valentine when you visit Green Point Foreshore Reserve. This picturesque reserve takes in views of Lake Macquarie and lush bushland for 7km. Walk, cycle, or even bring a picnic along to enjoy when you reach Green Point.

Hickson Street track

Tucked into suburban Merewether is Hickson Street lookout, a cliff top lookout with views over Burwood Beach. There’s a great track that leads you 500m down from the lookout to Burwood Beach, making for a lovely meander while you take in the landscape around you.
Where: 14 Hickson St, Merewether

Hunter Region Botanic Gardens

Hunter Region Botanic Gardens are slightly out of the way in Heatherbrae, but they’re well worth a drive if you’re wanting to enjoy a day outdoors. Simply wander around and soak up the beautiful gardens, take the walking trails, or pack a picnic.
Where: 2100 Pacific Hwy, Heatherbrae

Hunter Wetlands National Park

Great for wildlife enthusiasts and families, Hunter Wetlands National Park offers walking and bike trails, and plenty of areas to stop and watch for birds and other wildlife. For a small fee, you can visit the Hunter Wetlands Centre, which also has dip netting, an arts space, and animal house and reptile encounters. 

King Edward Park

King Edward Park is perched right on Newcastle’s coastline, and it makes for a dreamy spot for picnicking, playing, and simply lazing about. There’s so much to love about this inner city park – its pretty central rotunda, the towering Norfolk pines, views of the ocean, and of course, the off-leash dog area.
Where: Reserve Rd, Newcastle

Museum of Art and Culture (MAC), yapang

Hosting both travelling and MAC curated exhibitions, MAC offers variety and innovation in its expansive space out on the lake at Booragul. Make sure you take a stroll through the sculpture park, with work from local and national artists – you could even pack a picnic and enjoy it amongst the leafy grounds overlooking the lake.
Where: First St, Booragul

best free things to do in newcastle

Newcastle Museum

Newcastle Museum is a contemporary space that brings the story of Newcastle to life in three permanent installations, located in the heart of the city in the Honeysuckle Railway Workshops. The museum also puts on temporary exhibitions, and it’s always a great spot to take kids – they’re bound to learn something new!
Where: 6 Workshop Way, Honeysuckle

best free things to do in newcastle

Nobbys Lighthouse and breakwall

This working lighthouse on Nobbys Head has been a fixture of the city’s coast since 1854. It’s a lovely spot to look out over the ocean, and there’s even an art gallery open on the weekends. The lighthouse is only accessible by walking or cycling along the first part of the breakwall – but you can keep going right to the end if you fancy.
Where: Nobbys Rd, Newcastle

best free things to do in newcastle

Peruse local markets

Newcastle has an abundance of fantastic local markets, offering everything from fresh, local produce, to secondhand clothing, to locally-made arts, crafts, and other goodies. The Olive Tree Market has been a staple since 2008; the Newcastle City Farmers Market is a go-to for local produce; while Homegrown Markets offer stacks of goods from local businesses. Keep an eye out for smaller flea-style markets too at spots like The Conscious Exchange, The Edwards, and Lowlands Bowling Club.

best free things to do in newcastle

Play barefoot bowls

Speaking of bowling clubs – playing barefoot bowls is always a good time. It isn’t free at every bowling club, but it’s a super cheap way to have fun with your mates, especially on a sunny summer’s afternoon.

Search for street art

While we adore Newcastle’s art galleries, you don’t even have to set foot inside one to see some fantastic art – simply wander around the city. The CBD is home to lots of large-scale murals – try Museum Park, Civic Square, and the corner of King and Union streets. Trevor Dickinson is a local artist whose work depicts scenes of Newcastle – head to the pedestrian tunnel at Merewether Beach or Museum Park to see some of his work.

best free things to do in newcastle

Speers Point Park

Speers Point Park is a huge expanse of green space located right on the water at Speers Point, in Lake Macquarie. If you have kids in tow, don’t miss the playground with its enormous slide and plentiful play equipment.
Where: Park Rd, Speers Point

Try silent book club

Silent Book Club is a worldwide phenomenon offering meetups all around the globe, with Newcastle being the one and only available across NSW. The premise is this: every third Thursday of the month from 4.30pm-6pm, bring a book to The Press Book House, and read in silence with other people. It’s the perfect opportunity for book lovers to meet fellow book lovers and share a nice (and quiet) night together.
Where: The Press Book House, 462 Hunter St, Newcastle

best free things to do in newcastle

Walk the Bathers Way 

The Bathers Way is a quintessential Newcastle walk. Stretching from Merewether Beach in the south to Nobbys Beach in the north, this 6km path traverses the coast, undulating over cliff tops and providing plenty of spots for stopping along the way to admire the views and watch for dolphins and whales. There’s also ample spots to stop and start your walk, meaning you don’t have to do the whole thing if you don’t feel like it.

Warners Bay foreshore

This lakeside reserve is located on The Esplanade in Warners Bay. Not only does it have space to lay out a picnic and a path for walking and cycling, but there’s even a sculpture trail along the foreshore that you can explore when you visit next.
Where: The Esplanade, Warners Bay

Wine tasting at Vera Wine

Pop down to Hamilton wine shop Vera Wine on Saturdays at 12pm for free wine tasting. There’s no need to book – just head down to their Beaumont Street store and see what’s on offer that week. Each week has a different theme, whether that’s a different region, producer, or wine style, so you’re bound to discover something new.
Where: Vera Wine, 67 Beaumont St, Hamilton

best free things to do in newcastle