Six reasons to road trip to Lake Macquarie this summer

With a sparkling lake, stunning (uncrowded) beaches and glowing golden sunsets, Lake Macquarie might just be the most perfect summer holiday destination in NSW. So grab your swimmers and pack the car, it's time to hit the highway!

1. It's close to Sydney

Lake Macquarie is just a 90-minute drive north of Sydney, so makes for an easy weekend (or week-long) getaway. Short on time? You can even pop up just for the day.

Catherine Hill Bay
Catherine Hill Bay

2. Quiet beaches

Escape the crowds of Bondi and enjoy a patch of sand all to yourself at one of Lake Mac’s many beaches. Redhead BeachCaves BeachCatherine Hill Bay and Blacksmiths Beach are firm favourites, and all are patrolled over summer. Visit Redhead for its striking headland cliffs and Caves Beach for its collection of rocky caves that reveal themselves at low tide. The sandy stretch north of Caves Beach known as Hams Beach is dog friendly, so feel free to bring any furry family members along.

For more seclusion, head off the beaten track to Pinny Beach. This quiet cove may look serene, but is known to have strong currents, so unless you’re a competent surfer, it’s best to bring a picnic and admire the crashing waves from the shore.

North of Redhead, Dudley Beach is a nice quiet spot too, popular with surfers and filled with rock pools and platforms to explore. If you head into the inviting turquoise water, make sure you're aware of your surroundings and watch out for rips.

Dudley Beach
Dudley Beach

3. Water activities on the lake

A magnificent lake at Lake Macquarie, who would’ve thought? Lake Mac is one of Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lakes and is a top location for a paddle on a kayak or SUP. You can also hire tinnies to putter across the sparkling blue water, or head out on a sailing boat for some sightseeing. The lake is more than twice the size of Sydney Harbour, so there’s plenty to explore.

Jet Buzz Water Sports offer thrilling speed boat rides that skip and spin across the water, and they hire out boats, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards too.

Lake Macquarie Sailing Tours offer sunset sails to the serene Pulbah Island, and Lake Macquarie Cruises let you enjoy lunch or dinner on the water. Take a tour of the Lake Macquarie coastline with CoastXP to go in search of dolphins, turtles, seabirds and other marine life.

CoastXP Lake Explorer Tour

4. Picnics by the water

Of course you can admire Lake Mac from the shore as well, so pack a picnic of local produce (the Hunter Valley is an amazing source for cheese, olives and of course, wine) and roll a blanket out to catch some summer sun. For the best views and facilities, head to the Pelican Foreshore Reserve (which has a fenced playground kids will love) or Caves Beach. Both have picnic tables, public barbecues and dreamy water outlooks. Osmund Reserve in Swansea is also a great shaded picnic spot on a part of the lake that's perfect for swimming, with clear blue shallows stretching offshore.

Reids Reserve, Swansea Heads

5. Mesmerising sunsets

With so many prime waterfront viewpoints, it’s no surprise that Lake Macquarie puts on some stunning sunsets. Hang out at Belmont Foreshore or the nearby Belmont 16s until sundown to watch the water light up with an intense golden glow. The west-facing suburb of Valentine is also a great place to watch the sun tap out (the waterfront Valentine Bowling Club gets some of the best views).

For an elevated outlook across the whole area and nearby Hunter Valley at dusk, head to the summit of Mount Sugarloaf. It’s a steep but short walk, and the vista is worth it.

Sunset at Raffertys Resort jetty
Sunset at Raffertys Resort jetty

6. Relaxed outdoor dining

With so many water views, Lake Mac is also an excellent destination for summer al fresco dining. At the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club in Belmont you can sit on a deck overlooking the water, and at Trinity Point, 8 at Trinity offers relaxed dining with an Italian-inpired menu. Head to Warners Bay on the foreshore to choose from a selection of outdoor cafes and restaurants options along The Esplanade, while Caves Coastal Bar and Bungalows provides a casual chic outdoor experience on the shores of Caves Beach.

Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows
Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows

Need more summer road trip inspiration? Check out Visit NSW's Cool Coast to Intrepid Inland and Legendary Pacific Coast itineraries, both featuring Lake Macquarie.

For more ideas on what to do with your family in Lake Macquarie view our Visitor Guide and Map for free online here.

Enjoy a weekend of adventure in Lake Macquarie
How to spend a weekend in Lake Macquarie