Sometimes the best places to relax and unwind from that endless city stress can be right under our noses all along.
Take Lake Macquarie for example, just an easy 90 minutes north from the Sydney CBD on a good day in traffic.
The largest saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere and more than twice the size of Sydney Harbour, Lake Macquarie is an aquatic playground.
Yet, in the cooler months it can often be overlooked as a winter weekender.
Well, take it from us, this really is a destination that doesn’t lose the fun appeal without the cozzie and beach towel in tow, and here are just a few good reasons why.
1. Let Lake Mac Float Your Boat
Dozens of boats light up the night skies and calm waters of Lake Macquarie during the region’s perennial favourite boating regatta Float Your Boat – an event where passionate boat owners are encouraged to decorate their vessels in lights and take part in a parade around the lake.
The June 28-29 event features two flotilla parades following a course from Marmong Point Marina to Wangi Wangi on the first night, and Marmong Point Marina to Belmont on the second. Join the fantastic foreshore celebrations featuring live music, food and entertainment.
2. Have a whale of a time
With whale season well underway, it’s time to check out the hottest spots to view nature’s most majestic mammals as they flip and frolic off the NSW coast. Bring the binoculars and try your luck at Redhead Bluff, Awabakal Viewpoint, Caves Beach Walk or the Ken and Audrey Owens Walk.
For the ultimate up-close-and-personal experience, hop aboard a whale watching tour with Coast XP to enjoy an unforgettable voyage, with plenty of opportunities to get close to playful humpback whales. In the unlikely event you don’t spot a whale – they’ll offer you another cruise free of charge.
3. Get toasty in the Watagans National Park
Nothing beats toasting fluffy marshmallows over a campfire on a winter’s night, and what better place to do so than Lake Macquarie. It’s not uncommon for holiday parks to have a ‘no campfire’ policy so finding a cosy campsite where this is allowed really is a treat!
Hidden deep in the Watagans Mountains you will find The Pines Campground, where you can light a campfire and enjoy the dancing flames as the sun sets behind the wall of forest trees.
4. Fly high
If you fancy an entirely different view of Lake Macquarie, Skyline Aviation operates helicopter joy flights departing from Lake Macquarie Airport and taking in the sights of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the coastline from Umina Beach and Terrigal past Caves Beach, Blacksmiths, Redhead and Bar Beach all the way to Newcastle Harbour.
5. Giddy up
The glorious foothills of the Watagan Mountains are perfect for being explored via horseback so take advantage of lessons, full-day rides and even overnight stays with the experts from AAA Horse Riding. Explore incredible trails that take you into the foothills of the Mountains, through rainforest and past some of the most spectacular scenery in Lake Macquarie, that will be sure to take your breath away.
6. Cruise the Lake
Jump onboard Lake Macquarie Cruises’ ‘Lunch on the Lake’ and experience the hidden highlights of beautiful Lake Macquarie – the largest coastal saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere. Cruise the Lake and indulge in a freshly prepared BBQ buffet lunch served onboard the vessel consisting of fresh local prawns, scotch fillet minute steak and gourmet beef sausages with a selection of salads to compliment. Enjoy a selection of petit fours for dessert, with complementary tea and coffee or select from a full range of drinks available from the fully licensed bar.
7. Get adventurous
For the ultimate winter challenge – which will put you firmly outside your comfort zone, why not try abseiling the spectacular sandstone cliffs at Gap Creek Falls in the Watagans National Park with the team from Out and About Adventures. Offering sequenced programs beginning with small cliffs and progressing over a series of descents – the perfect way to master the rope!
8. Creative LAKE and cake?
You can’t say you’ve been to Lake Macquarie without visiting Warner’s Bay. Check out the flavour filled fare at Travino’s Café, Table 1 Espresso or Little While Bull Espresso on The Esplanade before exploring the foreshore.
Winter offers the perfect temperature to walk or bike around the Lake, which is the best way to appreciate Creative LAKE. Along Warners Bay Shared Pathway you’ll find a selection of unique artworks including a bronze sky pig, a young monk and bronze sculpture titled ‘Darwin’.
9. Get back on track
Winter is the time to explore one of the most popular shared pathways in the Lake Macquarie region, Fernleigh Track. Loved by walkers and cyclists alike, the track follows a heritage coal rail line from Belmont to Adamstown. Those keen to enjoy the warm winter rays while meandering along the track will be treated to beautiful bushland and wetland areas.
10. Caves galore
From sunrise to sunset, there is so much to love about a day on Caves Beach. This iconic beach is a firm family favourite for low tide cave exploration, beach cricket, long walks, meditation, building sandcastles, and just chillaxing. Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows perched on the hill above, is the perfect hotspot for 5pm sunset drinks.