Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lake doesn’t disappoint when it comes to natural diversions. But it also ups the arts and culture ante, delivering heritage-listed galleries alongside eye-opening sculpture trails.
An injection of art
If you’re in need of creative inspiration, head to Booragul, where the Museum of Art and Culture (MAC) sits lakeside amid five hectares of leafy grounds dotted with alfresco sculptures. There are plenty of reasons to linger outdoors before exploring inside exhibitions, which include a strong roster of Aboriginal art. You don’t have to go far to refuel – the on-site Three Bears Cafe serves up fancy corn fritters and gourmet pies, plus stellar coffee you can enjoy in its light-filled dining room or outside on the grass.
Step back in time
The late Australian portrait and landscape painter Sir William Dobell was fond of the Lake Macquarie region; his former home here is now a shrine to his life and creative work. Explore the one-time studio of the Archibald Prize-winning artist, his furniture and memorabilia so perfectly preserved you’d be forgiven for thinking he just popped out for groceries. The handsomeis heritage listed for its contribution not only to art but also to architecture.
Discover Lake Mac’s wild side
Wangi Wangi Point is part of the Lake Macquarie State Conservation Area. The 1.8km Wangi circuit walking track meanders through a glorious bushland of wattle, coastal banksia and orchids, leading to lookouts offering vistas of Pulbah Island. Keep an eye out for green sea turtles and dolphins below and sea eagles above. This patch of paradise is also home to squirrel gliders, kangaroos, lorikeets and the threatened pied oystercatcher.
Speers Point Park is a glorious swathe of green with a foreshore promenade offering horizon-hugging views over the lake. Bring snacks for a picnic after your stroll, then head to waterside Multi-Arts Pavilion (mima), a high-tech creative canvas for contemporary art and the newest outlet from the MAC. The dramatic cube-shaped building is an artwork unto itself, and it hosts installations, digital screenings and audio presentations.
Sculpture by the lake
Taking its cues from the MAC’s expansive sculpture park, the Creative Lake Sculpture Trail is a waterside loop linking seven larger-than-life installations. The best way to appreciate the artwork’s intricacies is on foot. Lace up your walking shoes for a 5km jaunt, taking in pieces by Sydney-based artist Alex Seton – his bronze deflated rubber lifeboat pool toy is a thought-provoking nod to privileged society – as well as by Guan Wei, Guy Maestri, Naidee Changmoh and Antone Bruinsma.
A foreshore thing
You can walk or cycle into the lakeside suburb of Belmont along the 15km Fernleigh Track (or at least part of it). For greens with a view, tee off at the suburb’s golf course. But we recommend heading straight to the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club’s restaurant Crusoe’s on the Lake for seafood platters piled high with blue swimmer crabs, tiger prawns, Sydney rock oysters and snapper.