Sometimes, a great weekend escape is just a 90-minute drive away—and this is the case with Lake Macquarie. The stunning region boasts 32km of pristine coastline and has over 90 different towns worth exploring.
Twice the size of Sydney Harbour, Lake Macquarie is the largest coastal saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere. This makes Lake Mac perfect for water activities—kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and dining with picture-perfect lake views.
Here’s everything you need to know about Lake Macquarie.
Lake Macquarie First Nations History
Lake Macquarie’s original name is “Awaba”, an Awabakal word meaning flat or plane surface. You’ll now also find a small town called Awaba just inland from Toronto. The Awabakal people are a group of First Nations people who descended from the Awabakal tribe. Its clans are now dotted along the Mid North Coast of NSW, their traditional land spanning from the Lower Hunter River and Awaba in the north, all the way to Wollombi in the south.
Before colonisation, the Awabakal people were known for being epic defenders of their territory and would successfully guard the area against the neighbouring Gamilaraay people. For more information about the Awabakal people, you can head here. There are also a number of cultural tours around Awaba which will give you a deeper understanding of the region. Muurrung Marai tours are a favourite and take you through Nobby’s head, the Strzelecki War Memorial, and Glenrock State Forest.
Where To Stay In Lake Macquarie
Just a 200m stroll from the legendary caves of Caves Beach (see below), this classic two-storey beach house has it all. There's a swimming pool, a fully kitted-out kids area complete with a games room and bunks, a firepit, and ample outdoor dining areas. Book your stay here.
Best Restaurants And Cafes In Lake Macquarie
Built into an old fish and chip shop at Marks Point, Papatya is a local charmer that does coffee in the morning and cocktails at night. While the mood is casual, the food is elevated and impressive. On the brunch menu, you'll find a mushroom and jalapeno toastie, a smoked brisket Rueben sandwich, and banana pancakes with roast figs, whipped ricotta, regal honey, and hazelnut ginger crumb. Perched across the road from the lake with outdoor seating available, this is a sweet spot to soak up the Lake Mac sunshine. Dinner is mezze-style and a must-do, where local ingredients take centre stage. Think mussels with cider and zhoug butter, crab and cucumber sandwiches with lime mayo, and braised beef cheek with chimichurri.
A stone's throw from the sparkly waters of Caves Beach, Mawson is a great spot to kick off your morning or wind down after a busy day exploring the area. Fuel up with coffee or a superfood smoothie or settle in for a boozy brunch with a Bloody Mary. We love the breakfast Nasi Goreng and the Mawson pancakes served with your choice of bacon or berries. For lunch and dinner, there are classics like fish and chips and chicken schnitzel alongside some more Italian-leaning items like a prawn and scallop linguini and a neat collection of pizzas with gluten-free bases available. Prefer to hang at the beach? Everything is available to take away.
Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows
For uninterrupted beach views, freshly shucked oysters, and chill vibes—Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows is perfection. The recently renovated venue has a sprawling lounge area, deck, and roaming backyard that peers out across the beach below. The menu complements the views and the vibe: friendly pub classics like parmi, pizzas, and burgers. Pair that with pub-friendly prices, cocktails on the deck, a helping of sunshine, and you've got yourself an idyllic spot for a long lunch. Pro tip: you can stay on-site too at one of the property's beachside bungalows.
Things To Do In Lake Macquarie
JoyAir Joy Flight
What better way to get acquainted with this pretty part of the world than by seeing it from above? Let JoyAir take you sky-high with a scenic tour of the region from above in one of their cherry red seaplanes. Flights take off on the waters of Warners Bay and you can opt for a quick 10-minute tour, soaring over the lake, or a longer 15 or 20-minute journey that'll go up to Newcastle and over the ocean too. Book here.
Once you've explored the lake, it's time to hit the ocean waves. Coast XP has you covered with whale watching and adventure cruises, showing off the best of the Lake Mac and Newcastle coastline year-round. Our top pick is the Adventure Tour, available November through May, where you'll cruise up and down the coastline spotting sea turtles, dolphins, and more.
Wallarah National Park
While Bouddi National Park definitely steals the spotlight a lot of the time for being one of NSW’s most beautiful coastal national parks, Wallarah National Park is its very underrated sister. This epic place sports a rocky spot known as Pinny Beach, the iconic Coastal Track for big rugged cliff-top views and the Yondeo Trail perfect for those riding on two wheels.
If you thought an endless string of sand islands was only possible to find in the likes of the tropical Cook Islands, think again. Mini sand archipelagos exist right in the heart of Awaba at a stunning spot called Naru Beach. Come the weekend, you can practically roll on in here with your kayaks and paddleboards, cruise on up to a sand island of your choosing and set up a picnic for the entire day on your own private bank. And yes, the water truly is that colour.
For the more adventurous out there, Caves Beach has your name written all over it. It’s definitely one of the more popular spots to visit and, as its name suggests, gives way to a whole heap of incredible cave exploring. Just make sure to stay safe and check the tidal timetable before you visit the caves.
Olney State Forest
If being transported to a misty, mossy, magical forest is hot on your to-do list, look no further than Olney State Forest. Part of the Watagan Mountains—“watagan” meaning “many ridges"—these mountains are actually made up of a chain of state forests including Olney, Watagan, Wyong, Heaton, Awaba, and Ourimbah State Forest.
Olney State Forest is home to some incredibly wholesome walks. The Abbotts Falls Walking Track winds through dry eucalypt forest and then trails down wet gullies of bluegum and rainforest, all the way to Abbotts Falls. There’s also Rock Lily Walking Track, which starts from the Basin Camping area and passes by rock lilies, geebung, ferns, rocky overhangs, and more deep rainforest gullies.
Keen to explore more? Suss out the misty rivers and crystal falls at this bohemian town in NSW.
Image credit: Destination NSW | Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows, Airbnb, Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows, Destination NSW
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