1 lake, 2 people, 3 days, 4 locations
If you’re anything like us, you like to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and escape to somewhere tranquil. You like exploring new places. And you count the days until your next adventure. But once you’re in a new place you’re often stumped for what to do. Well, be stumped no more. Here’s a roadmap for a great three day weekend for two around Lake Macquarie.
First of all, Lake Macquarie is gorgeous. Everywhere you turn there’s a beautiful view, whether it’s from a point or a secluded bay. And there are lots of both. The lake is also convenient to get to. It’s just 90 minutes from Sydney and only 30 minutes from Newcastle.
First on our agenda was to find a place to stay. And Wangi Point Lakeside Holiday Park was our pick. It is at the very tip of Wangi Point, which is so long that it almost touches Swansea on the other side of the lake. The holiday park offers a combination of campsites, cabins and villas. We chose to stay in one of the villas, which are perched on top of a hill, with great tree-filtered views of the lake.
One of the best features of Wangi is its plentiful birdlife. We were greeted by two ducks wandering across our front lawn on arrival. They seemed very used to people and were happy to have a quacky waddle around while we took pictures. We were also visited by a very friendly kookaburra who was sitting on our deck railing as we came out one morning.
Our stay at the holiday park was very peaceful. Each morning we got to wake up to birdsong from lorikeets and other small birds. It’s a great place to just relax and let your worries float away. A walk around the nearby conservation area is also recommended.
- So we were settled into Wangi, but needed a bite to eat before venturing out. Where to go? We headed to Wangi Deck Cafe. The cafe has a modern and funky look and a really relaxed vibe. The deck is large and overlooks a park and the lake of course, so it’s a great place to chill in the morning. The food is outstanding and the freshly squeezed juices are highly recommended.
Later on, when it was time for dinner, we went to Vita which is great little cafe and restaurant, and it was a great choice. At Vita we got the best food we had on the entire trip, hands down. Michelle and Carl, who have run the place for the past thirteen years, have a great approach to food: good home cooked food with excellent flavors and no preservatives. Except if this is “home cooking” then it must be the home of an exceptional cook. This food would not be out of place at a fancy French restaurant with a much higher price tag. The restaurant itself, converted from an old baby health care center, is simple and understated, lending itself well to the style of the food. If you can’t make it there for dinner, they bake fresh pastries as well, which are a great option as a light morning meal on the go.
Warners Bay is in the north end of the lake, and has an extensive foreshore with several beautiful parks and walking paths. If you’re looking for a bite to eat there are many tempting places along The Esplanade. Sit down and relax with a cup of coffee or enjoy a long lunch, with views over the lake. If you’re into cycling you can rent a bike from a convenient rack right on Warners Bay Foreshore. Just swipe your credit card and you’re good to go. Just remember to wear a helmet (available from the nearby Subway). You can then ride all the way to Booragul to the west or to Belmont to the South. In some sections you’ll have to go along the roads, but there are extensive bike paths that go right along the side of the lake. In one section, around Eleebana, you even get to ride on an elevated boardwalk out over the lake.
Swansea is where the lake connects to the ocean. Around this area there are several good beaches. On the north side of the entrance there is Blacksmiths Beach, which is part of Nine Mile Beach, which stretches all the way up to Redhead Point. The sand here is beautiful and if you’re into fishing, the wavebreak is a great spot. On the south side of the entrance you’ll find Caves Beach. As the name suggests, there are several caves along the beach front. The biggest one is large enough to walk around inside and has a few side passages for you to explore. It’s recommended to go at low tide, as it can be hard to access the caves at other times.
Vita Cafe and Restaurant in Wangi may have won the prize for the best food, but the Lakehouse Cafe in Murrays Beach isn’t far behind. And they easily win the prize for best location! It’s nestled in a grove of trees, perched above walking paths, overlooking the lake. We headed there for breakfast on a rainy morning, and the mood was hauntingly beautiful. We enjoyed a big breakfast with the light rain dripping on the tin roof above and the mist lazily evaporating from the lake. Magical! In fact, we loved it so much that we went back there for lunch the next day.
On one of our nights we went to the Swansea Hotel for dinner. The hotel is pretty much what you’d expect from your local pub: a few different areas for socialising, a good size bar, a pokies area, a restaurant area, and a back deck with live music. In terms of food there’s all the obvious crowd pleasers, as well as a selection of chef’s specialties. As an added bonus we managed to double our money on the keno.
The highlight of our trip was a helicopter flight! Now this might stretch your budget, but it’s a fantastic experience, so if you can afford it it’s absolutely worth it! We flew with a company called Skyline Aviation. They operate out of Lake Macquarie Airport, which is just a few minutes north along the highway from Swansea. They have a range of small helicopters. The one we flew in seated four people, including the pilot. Our pilot, Michael, was very friendly and funny, but also meticulous and professional, which put us at ease instantly. As he described it, a small helicopter is kind of like a dirt bike in the sky. It’s small and nimble and lets you do a couple of moves that the bigger aircraft can’t necessarily pull off. The flight took us up along Nine Mile Beach, over Redhead Point and up to Newcastle, then down to the lake again where we explored the northern parts before heading down to the Swansea area. From up in the air it’s clear how large the lake really is, but also how close everything is. Most places you want to explore are just a short drive away, and there’s always another beautiful spot just around the corner.
The Watagans National Park is a vast forested area, which offers ample opportunities for hiking, camping, 4WD driving and general exploring.
As we are always attracted to lookouts, we chose the Monkey Face circuit for a short hike. There are spectacular 180 degree views from the Monkey Face lookout and we packed the camera and binoculars to enjoy the scenery. Apparently black cockatoos are often seen from the lookout but we weren’t so lucky to spot them on our visit. There is a picnic area nearby to enjoy your lunch in this spectacular surrounding. Just around the corner is Gap Creek Lookout which is a high rock platform that has more fantastic views over the Watagans. There are large rock formations that you can climb on or squeeze between in some instances.
There are plenty of hiking tracks in the Watagans National Park to explore for all levels of fitness. If hiking is not for you then perhaps you would be interested in exploring the Watagans by horse.
This leads me to our next adventure: horse riding in the Watagan mountains. We joined AAA Horse riding and More on a fantastic 2 hour trail ride into the foothills of the mountains and through beautiful rainforests. They can arrange trail rides from 1 hour up to full day treks depending on your capabilities. For those who want the Aussie outback experience, there is an overnight camp option as well. For the little ones (4 years and under) they also offer 30 minute pony rides. We can highly recommend taking a trail ride with Wayne; the landscape is spectacular and there’s certainly not a shortage of horses, ponies and dogs to meet on arrival. It is an animal’s (and human’s) paradise. Many of the dogs join you on the trail ride as well.
The horse riding was the last thing we managed to squeeze into our three day weekend. With lots of happy memories we headed home. But we’ll be heading back to Lake Macquarie soon!