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Published January 14th 2021
Hop aboard the bright red tram
The Newcastle Light Rail is a bright red tram that travels through the city and runs parallel to the Hunter River in Newcastle. It only has 6 stops along the route, but it makes a trip to Newcastle city a lot more exciting for young kids and families. Every kid I know (and adults too!), love the thrill of riding a tram or a train, and this trip is no different.
The trams are modern, clean, spacious and cost $600 million dollars to build, with state-of-the-art technology. Children enjoy hopping on board, watching the city quietly gliding by and hearing the voice-over announcing the upcoming stops. It opened in February 2019 and families, workers, tourists and locals have been hopping aboard ever since...
Look for the bright red tram as it travels along the tracks. Photo taken at Newcastle Beach station.
When our family visited Newcastle to have a ride on the trams, we first had to get an Opal card for each of us - which you can buy at any newsagent. When you buy the card, the minimum amount of credit you can buy for adults is $20 and children is $10. Every time you get on and off the tram you need to tap on and tap off at the Opal Card Reader, to take the cost of the fare off your card. If you need to top-up your Opal card during the day, there are top-up machines at each station or you can do it online from your phone. Don't worry about leaving money on your card - the credit lasts for 9 years!
If you can't buy an Opal card, you can also tap on and off with an American Express, Mastercard, Visa credit or debit and you pay a standard adult fare - so you don't receive any child/ concession discounts or multi-fare discounts. You can also buy single trip tickets from ticket machines on the platform, however single trip tickets cost more than an Opal card fare and you don't receive any discounts or benefits.
The cost of riding the tram is $2.20 for adults and $1.10 for children, however, you can make multiple trips under the same fare as long as you tap your Opal card within 60 minutes of tapping off from your last trip. See here for details.
Tap your Opal card at the station when you get on and off. Top up machines are available at each station.
The Light Rail has 6 stations - Newcastle Interchange, Honeysuckle, Civic, Crown Street, Queens Wharf and Newcastle Beach. For kids and families, there are a wide array of things to do at most stops...
Civic stop is located just in front of the Newcastle Museum, which has free entry and school holiday activities. Learn about the history of Newcastle and also get your photo taken outside the museum, with the colourful street art which depicts Newcastle. After your visit, walk across to the riverside Honeysuckle precinct for lunch at a pub or cafe.
Queen's Wharf is the most central stop on the route, with Foreshore Park, Harrys Café de Wheels, riverside kiosks, bike hire and access to the city all nearby. If your kids love all kinds of transport, why not use your Opal card again and hop on the Stockton Ferry and take a short ride over the river to the Stockton Playground on the other side. When you come back, there is a Opal Transfer Discount if you transfer to Light Rail within 60 minutes of tapping off the ferry - your next tram trip will cost just 20 cents for adults or 10 cents for children. Ferries operate generally every 20 minutes - see here for the timetable.
Newcastle Beach is a popular spot to finish the day, at the end of the Light Rail route. Walk through the parkland to the tunnel under the road, which then opens up to Newcastle Beach Kiosk and the beach right in front of you. Take a walk along the coastal path to Newcastle Ocean Baths, or further along to Nobby's Beach and take in the views.
Spend your afternoon at Newcastle Beach, walking along the coastal path and enjoying the views
When you get to the tram stop and tap your Opal card and wait, it doesn't take long before a bright red tram comes along to pick you up. On either side of the station they have automated signs telling you how long to wait until the next one comes along. See here for a timetable, but generally:
Weekdays - trams operate every 7–8 minutes during and between the peaks, and 15 minutes in the early morning and evening.
Saturdays - trams operate every 15 minutes from 7am to midnight, and 30 minutes in the early morning.
Sundays - trams operate every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, and 30 minutes in the early morning and evening.
Although the Newcastle Light Rail is only 2.7 kilometres long and only takes a minute or two between each stop, it is enough time for children to look around at wonder and enjoy the experience. It also saves their little feet from walking a long way, so you can explore more areas around the city on the one day. It also saves your feet too!
Why don't you make a day of it and hop aboard this weekend?
The tram at Civic station, near the Newcastle Museum. Image: Wikipedia. Photo credit: By MDRX - Own work