Under a two-hour drive north of Sydney, Lake Macquarie is an ideal destination for a self-driving day trip or a mini break.
Local tourism rep Georgia Cook provides travel editor Winsor Dobbin with her top tips.
Not to be confused with Port Macquarie, you’ll find Lake Macquarie south of Newcastle.
Travellers can take in superb views during a 90-minute circumnavigation of the largest coastal saltwater lake in Australia – or stop and explore the best of the region.
Stop 1: Catherine Hill Bay
A State-Heritage-listed historic mining village, Catherine Hill Bay features a patrolled beach that has twice been named among Australia’s 101 Best Beaches. Popular for swimming, surfing and fishing, the beach is home to a former coal-loading jetty which is a favoured subject for local photographers. If you’re looking for a spot to sit back and unwind, a small but scenic picnic area overlooks the beach and has tables, barbecues, toilets and off-street parking.
Stop 2: Caves Beach
Drive time from Catherine Hill Bay: 15 minutes
This is a perennial visitor favourite with its extensive network of sea caves and rock pools for low-tide exploration. Guaranteed to keep the whole family entertained. Also home to the Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club – featuring facilities including a kiosk, bathrooms, barbeques and picnic tables – Caves Beach is an Australian classic.
Stop 3: Pelican Reserve Foreshore
Drive time from Caves Beach: 10 minutes
This is one of the region’s most loved picnic areas, so pull out your rug and claim a spot on the shaded grass. This little gem also offers a small sandy beach area where the water runs crystal clear and bright blue – perfect for a dip on a warm spring day. The reserve comes complete with barbecues, covered picnic tables, a boat ramp, public toilets, and a fenced playground for the kids.
Stop 4: Redhead Beach
Drive time from Pelican Reserve Foreshore: 17 minutes
Situated in an idyllic location at the northern end of a stunning nine-mile coastal stretch, Redhead Beach backs onto magnificent red cliffs and is renowned for its iconic shark tower. Take a dip, try your hand at fishing or join the local surfers. Redhead Beach’s Cargo Espresso Bar is also well worth visiting for an early morning coffee, homemade botanical soda or a bite to eat.
Stop 5: Redhead Bluff Lookout
Drive time from Redhead Beach: 2 minutes
Head up onto the headland to find one of Lake Macquarie’s most breath-taking views. The Lookout is the perfect spot to enjoy panoramic ocean vistas while taking a moment to block out all distractions. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of passing whales during migration season!
Stop 6: Belmont Foreshore
Drive time from Redhead Bluff Lookout: 13 minutes
The recently renovated Belmont Baths feature a jetty (perfect for practicing big splash bombs), a large netted swimming area, brand-new amenities block, change rooms and foreshore landscaping. Just down the road you’ll find Common Circus, which his known for its homewares and gifts as well as fresh cuisine.
Stop 7: Red Bluff Boardwalk
Drive time from Belmont Foreshore: 10 minutes
Lake Macquarie offers walking trails galore, with the Red Bluff Boardwalk being one not to miss. This elevated boardwalk stretches 380 metres with viewing decks over the glistening water at Eleebana. The boardwalk is part of a 9 kilometre route which travels around the lake from Belmont to Booragul. Along the way you can enjoy picnicking, bike riding, or a visit to one of the popular Warners Bay cafes, all while soaking in the beautiful lake scenery.
Stop 8: Warners Bay Foreshore
Drive time from Red Bluff Boardwalk: 2 minutes
This lively lakeside town has plenty to entertain visitors: from boutique shops to quirky eateries and a foreshore perfect for pre- or post-meal strolls. With cafes aplenty this is a foodie’s haven. If picnics are more your style, head over the road to the lake shore and pick a nice spot to enjoy the afternoon.
Stop 9: Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie (MAC)
Drive time from Warners Bay Foreshore: 9 minutes
Overlooking the shores of Lake Macquarie, the MAC is the premier art destination for the region. This award-winning contemporary arts space hosts a comprehensive collection featuring distinguished pieces. Alongside a permanent collection are regularly changing exhibitions as well as a diverse visitor program including workshops, installations, performances, and other activities.
Stop 10: Toronto
Drive time from MAC: 13 minutes
Lakeside relaxation and waterfront dining are a few of the pleasures you can expect to enjoy when visiting. The vibrant sailing scene is clear with a yacht club and marina loved by locals. Don’t forget to stop by one of the most talked about locations to get a bite in Lake Mac. Greg and Audrey’s is an American style eatery known also for its ice creams.
Stop 11: Wangi Wangi Village
Drive time from Toronto: 10 minutes
Wangi Wangi is popular with families and water lovers. Beautiful surrounds, peaceful lake views, good company and friendly wildlife make it the perfect place to relax and unwind.
To learn more about the Lake Macquarie and find where to stay, visit www.visitlakemac.com.au