Secrets of Lake Mac

Lake Mac is full of secrets, you just need to know where to look. From mysterious marine critters to famous film locations and historic sites, we are revealing a few hidden gems in our city.

Backyard fossils

Lake Mac has long held a reputation for being a fossil hot-spot in NSW.

At Swansea Heads you can search for fossils at low tide on the exposed rock shelf. These fossils are remnants from a volcano blast 250 million years ago and are preserved so well that in many samples, their knots, bark and growth rings are clearly visible.

Other hot-spots include a petrified forest at Fennell Bay and Fossil Wing Creek at Eleebana, where significant insect fossils were discovered in 1898.

We’re so fortunate to have these reminders of our ancient planet in our own backyard, but it’s important they’re respected and preserved. 
Fossils along the Lake Macquarie coast at Redhead (11).jpg

Move over Hollywood

It’s not every day we see Hollywood stars in our city! 

Hugh Jackman, who played Wolverine in the X-Men film franchise, was back on home soil in 2009 to film his blockbuster, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Blacksmiths Beach was transformed into a World War II battlefield, recreating the D-Day landing at Normandy. More than 100 extras featured as they fought their way through smoke and sand, putting Lake Macquarie up on the big screen.

Get wrecked

Australia has more than 11,000 shipwrecks, or so the story goes, with six of them located along Lake Macquarie’s coastline.

The most prominent shipwrecks in our area include the SS Bonnie Dundee (1879), the Catherine Hill (1867), Shamrock (1903) and the Scotch Queen (1919).

Sunk in the shallow waters of Swansea Channel is a mystery vessel. It sits about 100 metres off the beach, not far from Swansea RSL and is encrusted with various forms of sponges, corals and marine life.

It may be a diver’s dream, but we don’t recommend snorkelling near this site due to boat traffic and tidal changes.


Mane attraction

Lake Macquarie was once home to two zoos.

Carey Bay Zoo, officially known as Toronto Zoo, opened in 1944 until 1958. The zoo featured a collection of Australian and exotic animals, a children’s fun fair, kiosk and swimming pool. It’s now the site of Paradise Palms Caravan Park.

Stony Creek Zoo, located at Blackalls Park, opened to the public in 1952 before being moved to Charlestown and closing shortly after in 1954.

Locals have fond memories of rival lions at Carey Bay Zoo and Stony Creek Zoo, roaring to each other across the lake in the early evening.

Not just a pretty lake

It’s named after Australia’s largest coastal salt water lake, but Lake Macquarie is  predominantly made up of native vegetation which covers 58 per cent of the local government area.

From lush forests on the slopes of the Watagan Mountains to a stunning coastline - we’re home to an incredible range of natural environments.

This diversity makes Lake Mac the perfect place to explore and feel connected to nature, while supporting the health and wellbeing of our communities. Discover seven of our best city walks.

There’s a Spider-Man in all of us

Test your child’s ability to handle heights on the Hunter Region’s tallest climbing net in Cameron Park.

Pasterfield Sports Complex features netball and basketball courts, an AFL field, cricket grounds and a large playground with xylophones and drums.


Nude never looked so good

Dive below the surface of our lake and you might spot cool critters like seahorses, pipefish and nudibranchs (otherwise known as sea slugs) living in our marine ecosystems and seagrass beds.

Most sea slugs boast vibrant colours, move slowly and deter predators by stealing their stingers and reusing them to protect themselves.

Seagrasses grow on the bottom of the lake, providing habitat for young fish and other species.

Let it snow

Mount Sugarloaf transformed into a winter wonderland for the first time in July 1965.

No one predicted the 10-centimetres of snow that covered Mount Sugarloaf’s slopes by sunrise.

As, hundreds of excited locals raced up the mountain to see the spectacle, police were forced to close the road to the summit by mid-morning due to heavy traffic. 

A similar scene wouldn’t grace Mount Sugarloaf for another ten years, in June 1975.

But even without the white stuff, Lake Macquarie’s highest point offers amazing views and trail walks destined to please all adventure lovers.

Not just for grannies

Grannies Pool along Swansea Channel at Blacksmiths, is a secret spot for many locals, with its natural beauty and calm, shallow water drawing people in. The tidal pool is protected by a break-wall, providing the perfect spot for younger kids to splash around.

Its original name was Chanty’s Pool, named after Bert Chant, a local who looked after the area. The name later changed to Grannies Pool, due to the generations of grandparents who taught their kids how to swim there.

Parking and accessible pathways mean it’s perfect for prams and wheelchairs.


Breakfast of champions

The Swing Bridge in Cooranbong is a well-known landmark in Lake Mac, especially to those locals living on the western side.

Once home to the old Sanitarium Factory, ‘Weet-Bix’ workers were known to row or swim across Dora Creek to get to work – that’s until a swing bridge was funded by the factory in 1934.

It’s hard to find in the backstreets of Cooranbong but that’s all part of its charm. You can experience the wobbly bridge up close before exploring Sandy Creek Tack, a gentle 1.5km walk along Dora creek.

In 2022, a new bridge was built to for pedestrians and cyclists travelling between Cooranbong and Morisset. It provides the perfect view of the original swing bridge, sitting directly adjacent.
Dora Creek swing bridge.jpg

What’s in a name

With flocks of pelicans inhabiting the lake, it’s no wonder Swansea was originally named Pelican Flat.

The name was quickly discarded to the history books, when local postmaster Robert Talbot, petitioned the change it to Swansea in 1887. He said the area reminded him of the coal port in Glamorgan, Wales.

Chilly welcome

Next time you’re in Belmont, take a good look around and you might stumble upon decades worth of rich history.

Cold Tea Creek was built during World War II to prevent enemy tanks proceeding north to Newcastle.

You can still see timber posts or ‘tank stops’, which formed a barrier to any tanks that gained entrance to the ditch.

Nowadays, the area provides many trails and amazing birdlife.

cold tea creek.jpg

A Modern Art Guide to Lake Macquarie
Lake Mac Sweet Spots