Winter Adventures in Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie is an adventure-seeker’s wonderland. Bordered by Newcastle and the Central Coast, it’s an easy drive to the Hunter Valley and only 90 minutes from Sydney.

Named after its main attraction — a 110-square kilometre body of water and the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere — it’s the ideal base for all kinds of water sports, from kayaking to jet boating and stand-up paddle boarding. Positioned between national parks and forests, as well as unique beaches such as Caves Beach, it’s also a great spot for mountain biking, hiking and 4WD touring.

Aerobatic Thrill Flight
Get a taste of what it feels like to be Australia’s Red Bull Air Race Pilot, Matt Hall, with a scenic joy flight over the lake. Departing from Lake Macquarie airport, strap yourself in before reaching speeds of up to 400km/hr during a simulation of the Air Race Track plus manoeuvres such as high G turns, rolls and spins.

Scenic Helicopter Flight
Skyline Aviation will give you a bird’s eye view over Lake Macquarie’s golden beaches on a 10-minute flight. If you want to stay in the air longer, there are flights that also take in Newcastle’s beaches, from Blacksmiths to Redhead.

Skydive over Lake Macquarie
If you’re going to jump out of a plane you might as well do it somewhere scenic. You’ll drop from an altitude of up to 15,000ft and freefall at over 200km/hr for up to 60 seconds before you leisurely float back to solid ground in five to seven minutes.

Hang Gliding and Paragliding
Whether you want to learn how to enjoy a solo free flight or are happy to hand over the reins to someone who knows better on a tandem flight, this is the place to do it. Choose between a foot launched soaring flight or a 3000ft high altitude aero-towed flight. The flights take in the beauty of the Newcastle region, from coastal ridges to the inland mountains of the Watagan National Forest.

Gyrocopter Flights 
This unique aircraft looks like a mini helicopter but is a rotorcraft that develops lift via an unpowered rotor which needs air flow to generate rotation. An engine-driven propeller provides forward thrust. Give it a go and enjoy aerial views over Lake Macquarie.

Kayaking out to a sand island is a lovely way to enjoy your own little piece of Lake Macquarie. The great thing about Lake Macquarie Kayaks is that it’s a mobile hire business, so you can get your kayak or stand-up paddle board delivered to any part of the lake or to your accommodation and they’ll pick it up when you’re done.

Anglers will be in heaven here. Since commercial fishing was banned you can find species such as mulloway, bream, dusky flathead, tailor, squid, luderick and sand whiting. Lake Macquarie is linked to the sea via the Swansea Channel, which is where you’ll find large schools of Australian salmon over the Winter.

Jet Boating
Go for a thrill ride along the lake. You’ll travel at up to 42 knots and experience high-speed slides and turns, 360° spins, power brake stops and fish tails. There’s also the option of extending the trip to open water, travelling along the Swansea Channel and into the ocean where the boat will chop, spin and surf on waves.

Snorkelling and Diving
There are shore dives, boat dives, instructor-led dives and equipment hire if you know what you’re doing and want to explore on your own. There are also snorkelling courses and they’ll let you in on the best coastal and Lake Macquarie underwater sites to check out.

You bought that beast of a car for a reason, so make the most of it. Blacksmiths Beach is renowned for being one of the only spots where the closer you get to the tide, the softer the sand becomes. So reduce your tyre pressure to take on those big dunes. Stockton Beach and Nine Mile Beach require permits and Watagans National Park is for serious drivers, with steep gorges and rocky ridges.

Mountain Biking
The Awaba Mountain Bike Park is one of the best in the country, with a 12km loop that is almost all single track. The majority of the track is a dry, smooth, hard-packed surface but it also takes in dense rainforest. Ideal for all levels, beginners won’t have too much issue with it. Seasoned riders will be drawn to the Monkey Face downhill track, a technical descent known for being one of the most challenging in Australia.

If walking backwards off a cliff is your thing, you’ll want to do it at Gap Creek Falls in Watagans National Park. A 45-metre waterfall is one of the most spectacular things you can take in when you feel like replacing the surety of a footpath with the thrill of a cliff face.

Walking Trails
One of the prettiest walking tracks is the Boarding House Dam Walk in Watagans National Park. The half-hour circuit takes in a creek, moss walls, rainforest and the dam. Stop at the picnic area for a rest before heading back to town. The Coastal Walking Track at Wallarah National Park is a picturesque trail; in winter you’re likely to spot passing humpback and southern right whales.

Watch the Sunrise from a Beach Cave
Caves Beach is one of those places that look too good to be true. The best time to explore the caves is at low tide so check the coastal report and get there early. You’ll be rewarded with a sky that runs the gamut of colours from orange to pink to purple as you start the day exploring the sea caves and rock pools.

Camp Among the Pines
Ignore the rest of the world and enjoy the quiet solitude of Watagans National Park as you set up camp among towering pine trees for a night. It’s just you, your love and nature.

Text and photos courtesy of Destination NSW

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