Looking for a short summer break or a last-minute getaway? An easy 90-minute drive from Sydney, Lake Macquarie is the ideal destination for fun in the sun, blissful beaches, nature walks and action aplenty.
Halfway between Newcastle and the Central Coast lies laidback Lake Macquarie. The region is dotted with chilled out towns along its 30km coastline and with the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere (at twice the size of Sydney Harbour) no visit is complete without a dip – or several. The area boasts everything from top surf spots to family-friendly beaches, as well as secret bays and serene lakefront locations perfect for long days by the water.
A hidden gem is lakeside Naru Beach, known for its white sandy shores and calm waters. It’s only accessible via a dirt road through the rainforest, making it a great pick for those who want to get away from everything – and everyone.
At the other end of the spectrum, Redhead Beach is a classic, wide-open beach at the end of a nine-mile stretch of sand backed by soaring red cliffs. Make sure to snap a pic in front of the 1930s timber shark tower.
Caves Beach is a must on any Lake Mac itinerary. The beachfront caves and rockpools make it one of the more popular beaches, but you can also head to Ghosties Beach to avoid the crowds and explore one of the best walk-through beach caves on the East coast – just be sure to visit at low tide!
Blacksmiths Beach is perfect for relaxing, as the sheltered inlet known as Grannies Pool is crystal clear and ideal for young kids to splash around in. On the other hand, if your trip is all about surfing, then Dudley Beach will tick all the boxes – it’s a favourite spot for local surfers.
Perfect picnics and picturesque walks
Lake Mac has endless lakeside parks and playgrounds to kick back and have a relaxing picnic.
Pelican Foreshore Reserve is one of the area’s most beloved picnic areas where you can relax on the shaded grass, fish from the small jetty or cook a BBQ. Speers Point Park boasts the ‘Best Play Space in Australia’, as well as bathrooms, BBQs, sheltered tables and more.
For an easy day of strolling or cycling, take the 9km one-way Warners Beach Foreshore track, which hugs the lake foreshore. The boardwalk is elevated over the lake for 400m, offering spectacular views. You’ll end up at the Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie, which is absolutely worth a visit.
For more serious hikers, you can tackle the Yuelarbah walking track – a 7km return walk through the serene coastal rainforest and valleys of Glenrock State Conservation Area. You’ll come across a couple of stunning waterfalls on your way.
If you need a bit more action and excitement, there’s plenty of watersports and activities to keep you entertained. You can hire a stand-up paddleboard, kayak or paddle boat to explore the lake and its uninhabited sand islands at your own pace. For something more high adrenaline, JetBuzz Watersports offers seriously thrilling jet boating on the lake.
Lake Macquarie Cruises offers lunch and dinner tours, as well as private charters, while Lake Macquarie Sailing Tours runs morning and afternoon tours which are tailor-made for families and small groups on board its 28-foot yacht.
Lake Mac is also a haven for fishing lovers. You can catch dusky flathead, bream, yellowtail kingfish, whiting and luderick in the Swansea Channel, or head out to other fantastic fishing spots such as Shingle Splitters Point, Belmont Bay or Speers Point Jetty. B&L Fishing & Cruises also offers deep-sea fishing charters for those with a competitive spirit and love of open water.
Where to eat
Grab a coffee, bagel or some homewares from Common Circus in Belmont, or swing by local favourite Brennans for a toastie and decadent waffles. As well as the classic fish and chip meal by the beach, long lunch and dinner spots include The Royal Crown Hotel in Dudley, by the marina at Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, or lakeside at The Boat Shed Bar.
For fresh produce at the farmers markets, try the Lake Macquarie City Farmers Market on the first and third Saturday of the month, Toronto Monthly Markets on the first Thursday and the Respect All Markets Cooranbong on the third Sunday.
Finish a day of exploring by kicking up your heels at the historic Toronto Hotel’s tapas bar The Mulberry, or head to Caves Coastal Bar and Bungalows for cool cocktails.
Where to stay
Whether you’re looking for a spacious cabin by the beach or a quiet campsite overlooking the lake, Lake Mac Holiday Parks at Belmont, Blacksmiths, Swansea or Wangi Point have you covered.
If it’s a little bit of luxury you’re after, stay at the polished Rafferty’s resort or the stylish Bulc Boutique Bed and Breakfast. Selby Cottage is historic, nautical-themed accommodation with the lake right at your doorstep.
For more to do on the Central Coast, check out the best down-to-earth food and drink offerings here.