Lake Macquarie; 5 things to know before you go

sunrise at Lake Macquarie

Always ask a local. Ours this week happens to be a lady quite in the know. Having lived on the gentle slopes of Lake Macquarie for some 47 years, she knows a thing or two about why the lake district is such a perfect spot to unwind for a day, a week or a lifetime. Her bayside B&B Overnight Reflections is perched right on the water where you can hear the soft waves lap against the jetty. There’s a little stretch of lawn decked with colourful chairs just waiting for you to open a good book and a bottle of blanc.

As the mid-morning trade wind blow in, the whisper of thin clouds pulls westwards across the sky and the lake chops and changes. I love places that remind me they were there long before we were. I’m not sure why it’s taken us so long to explore this vicinage of the Central Coast and now that we have, here are the 5 things to know before you go:

1. The largest lake in the southern hemisphere

Firstly, Lake Macquarie is vast. Being 3 times the size of Sydney Harbour it takes a good hour to drive around, longer if you stop at some of the little townships tempting you along the way. Knowing this helps you navigate your holiday and pinpoint where to stay. With some expected Covid restrictions, you’ll need to plan ahead for boat and water sport hire. But on a whim, you’ll always find a grassy patch on the lake’s edge. Towards the ocean, the jagged headland of Redhead Beach, rocky outcrops and cavernous stones of Caves Beach edge the bay where surfers sit on the clear wild waves. 

Sunrise on Lake Macquarie

2. City of villages

While your choice of holiday spots might land you in a locale unfamiliar to you, as your criss cross the more familiar towns, you’ll pass dozens of little villages. It’s helpful to know before you go which is which and who’s who of the lake’s little black book. As you drive north into the city of Lake Macquarie Toronto offers plenty of café’s, restaurants and shopping. Along the esplanade of Warners Bay the line of stores and cafés provide a picture perfect view of the water. It’s here the Sculpture trail, cycling and walking tracks attract tourists, evening joggers and playful pups.

3. Nature walks calling

Offering stunning views of Lake Macquarie and nearby Hunter, Mount Sugarloaf gives nature lovers the choice of several trails leading from the car park to the picnic areas and amazing lookouts from the incline along the summit. Starting at Teralba, Yuelarbah Track leads you to the shores of Lake Macquarie, heading along Speers Point and continues past the Warners Bay foreshore. The trail finishes at the Glenrock State Conservation Area where you can soak up views of the lagoon and surrounding native bushland. 

Green Point Foreshore Reserve is one of Lake Macquarie’s most scenic natural attractions. From Shores Way in Belmont you can follow the walking track taking in the Lake as well as the rainforest. There’s also the Belmont Lagoon Walk tucked between the ocean and the Lake and home to a large variety of birds and marine life. 

Discover more nature walking tracks here:

Readhead Beach, Central Coast

4. Chasing sunsets

You don’t have to be a keen photographer to go in search of the setting sun. For many, it’s the quintessential way to soak up the ambiance of a holiday. Listed in Australia’s 101 Best Beaches, Catherine Hill Bay has clearly earned its place. The coastal stretch and village forming Lake Macquarie’s southern peninsula is also a heritage-listed mining village.

The wharf at Belmont with its picturesque jetty, the 100 year old wooden (and now much loved) shark tower at Redhead Beach, or the sun dipping into the horizon at Warners Bay esplanade make wonderful backdrops. An evening walk on Mount Sugarloaf during the golden hour is magnificent!

5. Food, glorious food!

When you find a beachside café overlooking a roaring sea, it kind of feels like an unexpected prize. Fortunately, two of the best views of the coast also boast tempting bites at Red Head Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows. For a more café feel, try Canon at Warners Bay, Casanova Italian at Toronto’s, Crusoes on the Lake at Belmont or nearby Sesame’s for an Asian fusion twist. If you’re looking for a taste of the familiar, Kotara’s roof level of Westfields is beautifully decked out with open restaurants (Thai, Greek, Steakhouse) under fairy-lit treetops. 

Our pick? Takeaway or a picnic on the grassy knoll at Rathmines or Caves Beach. It reminds me when I asked our B&B host what was it that makes the lake so special for her. “There’s never a crowd” she replied. It’s also what makes it a truly peaceful getaway for many Sydney-siders too. Really, I can’t think of a more compelling reason to go. See, the locals always know best.

Sunset at Redhead Beach

Like to read more about our favourite Hunter Valley getaways?

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