26 best things to do in Lake Macquarie, NSW
A short drive from Sydney is a highly underrated part of New South Wales. Here are some things to do in Lake Macquarie, a region you should absolutely visit.
Around a 1.5 hour from Sydney is the region of Lake Macquarie.
Known for fishing, swimming, water activities, amazing nature and wildlife, it’s the perfect destination for a day trip or weekend away.
Lake Macquarie (or Awaba) is Australia’s largest coastal salt lake – which makes it bloody big, I’ll tell you that much for free.
The Lake is extremely swimmable, with some of the towns around its perimeter featuring dedicated areas for quick dips, surrounded by protective nets.
Best things to do in Lake Macquarie
The lake itself is twice the size of Sydney Harbour and surrounded by national parks.
Surprisingly, this is a truly underrated destination in New South Wales.
Teeming with good food, art and a helluva lot of natural beauty – you could easily spend an entire weekend there and barely scratch its surface.
Need some ideas? We’ve got plenty.
This guide to Lake Macquarie will cover:
Is Lake Macquarie worth visiting?
Lake Macquarie in New South Wales is perfect for a weekend getaway.
It’s quiet, but extremely beautiful, brimming with wildlife and gorgeous flora. If you particularly love water activities, it’s the destination. for you.
This region often gets overlooked by travellers heading to better known destinations, like the city of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.
MORE FOOL THEM because the Lake Macquarie region is packed full of fun and unique things to do, making it the ideal day trip from Sydney (or weekend getaway).
Is Lake Macquarie good for swimming?
As Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lake, there’s plenty of places to go for a quick (or lengthy) dip around Lake Macquarie.
Some of the towns in the region like Belmont and Toronto have baths (Belmont’s are netted too). There’s also some good swimming to be had from areas such as the Pelican Foreshore, Catherine Hill Bay Rock Pool and Grannies Pool.
Lake Macquarie water activities
1. Kayak on the lake
As a part time resident, I reckon you can’t visit Lake Macquarie without doing for a kayak. Many other locals feel the same way.
It’s a popular past time among those who live in the area. Some go out to fish. Others get out and paddle first thing as part of their daily exercise.
It’s a big social activity too. I’ll never forget one Christmas when a group of retirees turned up at my local park, their kayaks decked out in tiny fairy lights and proceeded to have a BBQ, before paddling off again.
A very Australian moment indeed.
Visitors can enjoy a similar experience – just hire a kayak when you get there.
Lake Macquarie Kayaks for example, will drop off kayaks and stand-up paddle boards at your location of choice, charging by the hour or day.
2. Cruise around the lake
This weekend experience is one of the most popular things to do in Lake Macquarie.
Board a boat and cruise around the lake, as far south as Swansea.
A BBQ lunch is included, with tea and coffee cake for dessert. There’s also a bar onboard, where you can purchase additional drinks.
Tickets for adults are $59.
3. Time your visit for Float Your Boat
This light festival comes with a twist.
For two nights in winter (next dates are 24 and 25 June 2022), boat owners will deck out their boats in bright lights.
Spectators can then spread out to watch the flotilla drift by and vote on their favourite.
Find out more information on this year’s event.
4. Go to the beach
When in Australia, one must head to the beach. We’ve got over 10,000 of them, so why wouldn’t you?
Lake Macquarie is connected to the Tasman Sea by a short channel, making it a salt water lake, as mentioned above.
Known for its beautiful beaches, there’s plenty to choose from – notably Catherine Hill Bay, Redhead Beach, Caves Beach and Blacksmiths Beach, among many others.
In addition, many of these stretches of sand tend to be much more less populated than those of Newcastle (and certainly Sydney), making them ideal for a day out at the beach.
Discover the best beaches in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
5. Take a ride in a private seaplane over the lake
Keen to hear about some Lake Macquarie water activities?
Grab a couple of friends for a thrilling adventure via seaplane over Lake Macquarie.
Take in the beautiful views of the lake from a bird’s-eye view.
Fly with the doors open for fresher perspective… if you dare.
6. Hire a houseboat
Let the gentle waters of the lake lull you into sleep and wake up to the most glorious views.
For a unique experience in Lake Macquarie, consider renting a houseboat on the lake for the night.
Find out more about booking a houseboat and explore availability and rates.
7. Chase thrills on the lake
Lake Macquarie is a bit of a playground for those who love their watersports.
Jump on a jet boat to high-speed slides and turns, 360° spins and power brake stops. Expect to get wet!
See what other water adventures you can get up to on the lake.
Nature-based adventures in Lake Macquarie
8. Explore the numerous nature trails in the area
One of the best free things to do in Lake Macquarie is to go bushwalking and hiking.
There are tons of cool walks to do around the area, from the popular to the lesser known.
Take in water views along Leggy Point walking loop. Extending through Glenrock State Conservation Area, this walk boasts wildflower displays, along with opportunities for birdwatching, swimming and surfing.
The Fernleigh Track, which extends into Newcastle, is a heritage rail trail, favoured by walkers and cyclists alike.
Awabakal Reserve takes you through dense bush, to coastal cliffs where you can enjoy views of nearby Dudley Beach and perhaps even spot whales during migration season.
Stroll beside the water’s edge along the Rail Trail in Toronto, or enjoy sunset views of the Lake along the Warners Bay Foreshore.
Check out the full list of local walks.
9. Visit the Watagans National Park
One hour from Newcastle and not far at all from the Lake itself, is the Watagans, as the park is colloquially known.
There’s so much to do here that you could easily spend the day exploring (or even camp overnight!).
At the very least, don’t miss out on Gap Creek Falls (hidden deep within the rainforest, accessed by the Gap Creek Falls Trail), or the Moss Wall at Boarding House Dam.
10. Explore the caves at Caves Beach
Caves Beach is, funnily enough, known for the caves which line its shores.
They’re lovely to look at and explore any time of the day and as you can imagine, look quite nice during sunset.
11. Meet the local wildlife
The Lake Macquarie area is teeming with wildlife – particularly of the marine and feathered variety.
As a #birdnerd myself, I positively froth at the mouth every time I visit and am surrounded by kookaburras, rosellas, cockatoos, sea eagles and cormorants.
I once saw a Tawny Frogmouth sleeping in a tree and got so excited I nearly wet myself.
You’re guaranteed to come across wildlife in some form or the other in Lake Macquarie, because in regions like this, nature prevails.
12. Check out Wallarah National Park
New South Wales has some really beautiful national parks and this one is no exception.
Close to Gosford, Newcastle and Sydney and only 2kms from Swansea, visitors to the park can go for scenic walks and ride mountain bikes.
Or bring your rods and have a reel good time trying to land a big one.
Campsites are available nearby for those wanting to extend their time in nature to a two or multi-day event.
13. Climb Mount Sugarloaf
Mount Sugarloaf (an extinct volcano) is worth the journey if you fancy 360 degree views of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the surrounding area (both countryside and ocean).
Despite being classed as a mountain, it’s not a harrowing walk, as it’s only 48m high.
It takes around 30 minutes to summit, a walk which can be enjoyed by families and those with a moderate level of fitness.
Relaxing things to do in Lake Macquarie
14. Have brekky on Toronto’s foreshore (followed by a dip in the Lake)
Onto more relaxing things to do in Lake Macquarie.
Toronto is home to some grand cafes and restaurants, situated along The Boulevarde (which is the suburb’s main street).
Indeed, many locals and visitors go here to while the hours away over a cuppa or meal.
Tinto Espresso Bar & Infuzion Cafe is one of my favourites – it is situated right on the Lake.
Get there early for a good seat, sip a coffee, dig into some brunch and watch the world go by.
There’s also a jetty right by the cafe, so you can go for a quick dip after if you feel so inclined.
Although keep in mind that the area is not netted, so you could get more up close and personal with local marine life than you might like.
15. Enjoy a private Italian-inspired picnic
Gather a group of friends and sit down to a delicious luxury picnic, inspired by the Mediterranean.
You may not be dining to views of the Amalfi Coast, but the lake views more than make up for it.
16. Hunt down some gorgeous antiques in Teralba
Teralba is a small village near Toronto with a heck load going on.
The entire main strip is covered in art – from the local laundrette, to random fire hydrants on the street.
As well as being a damn good sight to look at, Teralba is home to several excellent antique shops.
Unlike other antique stores in the region, hipsters don’t really know about this area, so the prices are not inflated.
It’s really quite difficult to visit Teralba and not walk away without having spent money, but you will definitely be satisfied with your bargain.Get off the beaten path and get to Lake Macquarie in NSW for a true #Australian experience. Click To Tweet
17. Score cheap tickets at the Lake Cinema in Boolaroo
Lake Macquarie is home to one of the sweetest little cinema in the region.
At Lake Cinema in Boolaroo, tickets are a mere $10.
This independent cinema showcases a range of films and is a must-visit for movie lovers.
18. Soak up some culture at the Museum of Art and Culture
The local art gallery is a true gem.
Although it does feature touring shows from time to time, it tends to exhibit the art of those with a strong connections in the lcoal Hunter Region.
You’ll also find a strong emphasis on Indigenous art and exhibitions.
19. Visit Dobell’s House
Sir William Dobell is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists. I know I was surprised and delighted to find out that he hails from Newcastle!
After spending some time abroad, Dobell settles down in a little house in the suburb of Wangi Wangi, where he paints piece after piece in his attic studio.
Following his death, his house opened as a museum and is run by very knowledgeable volunteers.
Although the rooms are littered with prints of Dobell’s famous artworks, you can find a door on which he painted flowers, for his sister.
Museums around Australia have offered oodles of cash to purchase and exhibit this door. The museum has refused, choosing instead to keep the room intact as was during Dobell’s life, for the enjoyment of visitors.
20. Go formal dress shopping in Toronto
For some unknown reason, Toronto has long been considered the regional hub for formal dress shopping.
Come October, the main street will be full of teens, flitting from store to store, searching for their dream dress.
Thankfully, the stores there have largely kept with the times.
Gone are the wide-skirted taffeta nightmares of the early noughties, replaced with dresses that are a little more chic.
Two dresses in my wardrobe of recent times hail from Toronto. They’re great for weddings!
21. Snap pictures of urban art
Lake Macquarie is quite the hub for artists. This is becoming evident in the sheer amount of urban art, popping up all over the region.
My favourite spots for art are the suburbs of Teralba and Toronto.
There are some bigger murals being created. The one in the image above can be found at the Swansea Belmont Surf Life Surf Club. There’s another cool mural in Boundary Street, Dudley and a wildlife mural adorning Cafe Macquarie in Belmont.
22. Take a dip in the Belmont Baths
The refurbished Belmont Baths are an excellent place to head to if you want to cool down from the oppressive heat, without dealing with sand.
Lake Mac is a salt-water lake and so swimming in it can often be dangerous, as bull-headed sharks are occasionally spotted around its perimeter.
The baths in Belmont are netted, so families can enjoy the facilities risk-free.
23. Explore the CREATIVE Lake Art Trail
If you want to stretch your legs ane take in some art and gorgeous views, head to Warners Bay.
There’s an eclectic bunch of sculptures lining the paths, by nationally and internationally renowned artists.
The trail is about 5kms long but you can see some great works on shorter sections.
Read more about the trail and plan a scenic stroll.
24. Visit the Pink Caves of Munmorah State Conservation Area
Tucked away between Budgewoi and Catherine Hill Bay, is a true hidden gem of Lake Macquarie.
These fairy floss coloured rocks are coloured pink, contrasting with the turquoise blue water.
You can take a 4km return walk along Moonee Beach Trail to view them. Read more about how to safely access this site.
Please only plan to witness this natural phenomenon at low tide.
25. Snap a picture of the Shark Tower on Redhead Beach at sunrise or sunset
Redhead Beach is nice to visit in itself. Its shark tower is recognised as a local icon.
It makes for a nice prop for photos during sunrise or sunset and for kicks, you can also pretend to lean on it from afar, leaning Tower of Pisa-style.
26. Check out the Swinging Bridge at Dora Creek
Hidden behind the Sanitarium Factory in Dora Creek is the very cool swinging bridge.
It’s great fun to cross, provides plenty of awesome photo ops and the spot where its located is ideal for kayaking!
Phew! I spend a lot of time in Lake Macquarie and even I’m impressed by this list.
It’s a fantastic spot for families, couples or even those just looking to get out and explore nature.
The region is perfect for a day or weekend trip from Sydney. And best of all – it’s quiet.
Where to Stay in Lake Macquarie
Have you visited Lake Macquarie? If not, is it something you’d be interested in doing?
When you visit Lake Macquarie, you are walking on the traditional lands of the Awabakal people. We invite you to learn more about Australia’s Indigenous history and pay respect to the Traditional Owners of the lands you visit.
Also takes no time at all to travel by train from Sydney, with some lovely views on the way, though I’m not sure the mountains quite compete with Rio de Janeiro!
Haha they do all right!
The nature trails look incredible! I’d love to get off the beaten path in Lake Macquarie. I lived in Melbourne for a few years and it still pains me to recall how much I used to spend at the cinema – and that was a few years ago, so I’m guessing the prices have gone up even more!
I reckon it’s probably gone up, it’s $21.50 a pop at my local and it’s not even a nice cinema!
Lake Cinema at Booragul is a retro village cinema, with plush comfortable seating. Prices are incredibly low ($8 / ticket) as the owner believes everyone should be able to go and enjoy a film. The staff are friendly and the place is always spotless. They have several films on throughout the school holidays as well as normal viewing at weekends.
One of my best friends is from Toronto (Canada) and I remember how she answered my question where she was from quite unclear and for the first day or so I thought she was from Tromso in Norway haha. Lots of confusion here.
But anyway, Lake Macquarie indeed looks like a great offbeat adventure. Love all the arts, antiques and great views! Could totally see myself spending kayaking around 🙂
Haha yeah I can see how it could cause confusion! It’s definitely a place best seen by kayak.
Thank you for sharing so many nice things to do! I’d probably go to the Redhead Beach first. The picture looks so peaceful. And afterwards visiting the Lake Cinema. Sounds like so much fun. I will definitely not get bored there!
It’d be pretty hard to get bored, that’s right – particularly if you’re a fan of the outdoors!
I haven’t made it to Australia yet! I’d love to go sometime soon. I saved this pin for when I do visit. Thanks for all the great tips.
Hope it helps!
Aw, that photo of the frogmouth, gorgeous!!!!!! How did you even notice him??! To my shame, I’d never even heard of Lake Macquarie so this was most educational. Sounds insanely relaxing… Watagans would probably also have camping options, and together with all the walking trails would make this a pretty nice holiday destination! 😀
I was kayaking past with a neighbour and she pointed him out! It’s really nice, I was happy to spend the summer there but wish we could have done a lot more bushwalking… it was too bloody hot most of the time. I think you’d like the Watagans. My little brother regularly goes camping there. It’s a perfect destination for nature lovers and weirdly art lovers too, which you wouldn’t expect so much.
Nature and art, I love that!
Me too! It’s a great place.
Feeling left out of this article ….This is a great read about the “top half” of Lake Macquarie ….. the ” bottom half” is just as interesting ….. maybe next time ???? In the mean time, just a heads up, the inaugural launch of Lake Macquarie Open Studios weekend will start on 2nd November 2019 and will showcase the foreshore artists living and working on our beautiful Lake. Well worth exploring ……
I will say I’ve spent a lot of time in the top half and not as much in the bottom and it’s certainly a failing on my part! I look forward to expanding on this list in time. Thanks for heads up about the weekend, will try and get there for a little explore!