At four and a half times the size of Sydney Harbour, Lake Mac (as it is affectionately known by the locals) has a range of experiences, from lake cruising, golden beaches, wilderness walks and quaint waterfront towns. Linking the lake, beaches and mountains are more than 90 villages, offering great surfing spots and heritage-listed towns throughout the area. So where do we start?
Breakfast is probably as good a place as any. So we head to Belmont to take on a stack of potato rosti, smoked salmon, eggs and hollandaise at Café Macquarie. I can’t actually think of a better way to start our day.
All that fuel comes in handy at our next stop, Speers Point Playground. The kids’ eyes pop at the site of the enormous play space. There’s an amazing tangle of climbing ropes, an enormous climbing tower and “epic” tunnel slide, flying foxes, a water play area and plenty for little kids too. In fact the wheel-chair accessible playground has something for every age, and every ability. It’s no wonder it was voted Australia’s best play space in 2011. If my kids opinion counts, it’s still number one!
Once we bribe our children off the equipment with the promise of ice-cream,we head to Warners Bay to grab a couple of scoops and scooter along the cycle path on the Esplanade until they can scoot no more. One of the greatest things about Lake Macquarie is how accessible the lake actually is to walkers and cyclists.
After our morning clambering, climbing and scooting we’ve worked up a pretty big appetite so we head back to Belmont and The Salty Dog at Lake Macquarie Yacht Club where we chill and enjoy watching the boats on the water and our son demolishing a magical feast of seafood. He even lets us have a little…
Heading back to Rafferty’s Resort we decide on a whim to take the turn off for Catherine Hill Bay and find ourselves downing a refreshing bevvy on the verandah of the Catho Pub. The gorgeous original weatherboard pub overlooks the quiet mining village of Catherine Hill Bay, a tiny and historic coal mining village nestled in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Entering Catho is a little like entering a time warp, the lovely village dotted with Heritage-listed timber miners cottages and even an old weatherboard church overlooking a picturesque beach that is home to an enormous coal loading dock, a reminder of the town’s unique working history.
Rafferty loves exploring the old dock and making up fabulous stories about its history – there’s a particular doozy about it being a runway for spaceships – while little Marlo is happy building sandcastles with her dad and collecting treasures in her bucket.
Stunning sun-drenched Catherine Hill Bay Beach is fully patrolled with its own surf life saving club and is a magnet for surfers but gently lapping waters are a little more to our kid’s taste so we head back to Rafferty’s Resort for a paddle in the lagoon pool where we are joined by another young family…. of the feathered variety. I have to say it’s not every day that you find yourself swimming alongside a family of ducks.
172 years after the first of my ancestors made Lake Macquarie home, I still have family living by and loving the lake, so there’s also a surprise visit from Grandma and Poppa, who live in neighbouring Summerland Point, and pop by for some cuddles with their excited grandchildren (and daughter).
They also join us for dinner at The Point Hotel in Speers Point, one of my dad’s favourite eating spots. In fact, he’s the only one of us who can actually conquer one of the enormous and delicious plates of BBQ pork ribs we all order.