The Newcastle Museum is located in the popular Honeysuckle precinct, just a short walk from the city and the Hunter River. The historical precinct is interesting in itself, as it used to be an abandoned railway wasteland along the river until it became part of an urban revitalisation project. Many of the original railway buildings from the 1800s have now been renovated and preserved, creating a modern, industrial precinct that is interesting to walk around. The Newcastle Museum opened in its present location in 2011 in the original Honeysuckle Railway Workshops and showcases the history of the Newcastle region.
At the entrance to the museum, there are two large steelworks hooks, which represent the BHP steelworks history of the city. If you have kids, they will be pulling your arm inside and towards the first highlight of this fascinating museum...
The entrance to the Newcastle Museum, with large, original hooks from the BHP steelworks
When you walk in the door and turn left, you enter into the children's science exhibition Supernova, where kids can be hands-on with everything they see. There are over a dozen tables with experiments to play with - where kids learn about the laws of physics, without even knowing they are learning. A favourite experiment for kids is at the far end of the room, where a full-sized car is attached to a long steel pole, with long ropes at the other end. Children then pull down on the ropes and lift the car. This experiment shows how levers work and kids also feel like superheroes when they lift the car!
Just around the corner, taking up the other half of the large museum space is Mininova - a play area for children under 115cm. This popular area is always busy, particularly in the summer school holidays, as a cool, air-conditioned place to play and learn. See here for details and here for events and activities for kids.
A wide range of colourful experiments to touch, turn and twist!
Across the hallway from Supernova is A Newcastle Story, which is an exhibition about the history of Newcastle. It begins with indigenous tools and fossils and then leads into iconic Newcastle images - such as an original diving block from Mereweather Beach and a full-size, original Newcastle tram that you can sit in.
When you walk in further, there are smaller rooms and exhibition spaces which are divided into themes. View sporting memorabilia from years gone by, items from the Newcastle band Silverchair, milk cartons from the original Oak factory, Arnott's memorabilia, a cash register from the late 1700s and swimwear fashions at Mereweather Beach over the decades. You will be surprised by the range of exhibits and the eclectic history of Newcastle, all in the one place. See here for details.
Learn about the history of Newcastle, with surprising exhibits and interesting stories
Newcastle was known as "steel city" for 84 years, producing steel for the country until BHP ceased production in 1999. BHP was the city's biggest employer and at its peak employed about 13,000 people. The Fire and Earth exhibition shows photos, tools, clothing and equipment that was used by the workers over that time. Don't forget to go downstairs, under the main exhibit, and walk in the dimly lit exhibition and learn about the coal mining history of the region. Although the kids may find it "boring", the adults will find it an interesting insight into the decades of industry in the region. See here for details. Also don't miss the BHP steelmaking simulation on the hour (for a sneak peek, see the YouTube clip below).
Learn about the industrial history of the city at Fire and Earth Exhibition, at the back of the museum
The Newcastle Museum is an enjoyable tourist attraction to visit, for all ages. If you spend time playing in Supernova, watching the shows, taking part in the children's activities and reading the exhibition spaces, you could easily spend a few hours inside the historical venue.
After your visit, stop at the café for a slice of cake or go for a walk and soak up the history of the area and the views over the Hunter River, just a short walk away. Why don't you take a trip to Newcastle city and explore it for yourself, this weekend?
The history and colour of the Honeysuckle Precinct