Lake Macquarie hacks for families
Nature, adventure, culture and cuisine – the Lake Macquarie region delivers families a parade of unexpected attractions. Pack your swimsuit and your stamina for these nine experiences, with hot tips from parents in-the-know.
Park & play
Burn some energy at Speers Point Park, at the very north of the lake. The Variety Playground here has been named among the best in Australia – for good reason. Kids can clamber up a rock-climbing wall, zip around on a flying fox, speed down a 9m serpentine tube slide, splash through water zones, scale a 12m climbing tower, get tangled in a spiderweb net… phew! The best bit? It has been designed to accommodate children with special needs, so features include wheelchair accessibility, tactile orientation totem poles and a quiet zone retreat.
Parent’s tip: The park is fenced, so you can relax while the little ones explore. Bring a picnic lunch, and fire up one of the barbecues.
Become an artist for a day
Built to inspire and engage creative minds of all ages, the Museum of Art and Culture (MAC) is the kind of place your family could easily lose a whole day in. A jam-packed roster of events – like the free ‘Family Artmaking’ sessions every Sunday – complement its dynamic and diverse exhibitions.
Parent’s tip: The alfresco sculpture garden is a leafy spot to spread a picnic rug while kids run amok completing the Discovery Trail – a fun and interactive way to learn about art while seeking clues.
Walk (or cycle) this way
Covering 8,000 hectares, Watagans National Park combines hiking and cycling with Indigenous artefacts. Explore streams and rainforest trails, but watch for signs of ancient Awabakal and Darkinjung Aboriginal art – more than 40 sites have been identified here. What a way to learn about the world’s oldest living culture amid nature.
Parent’s tip: The Boarding House Dam Circuit walk is an easy 30min loop, passing a staggering moss-covered cliff.
Did you know you can swim in Lake Macquarie? Do so safely in the Belmont Baths’ netted swimming enclosure. You’ll hear the action before you see it, with kids screeching down the 70m-long jetty, dive-bombing off the end. A wheelchair ramp gives access to children of all abilities, and grassy picnic areas enable parents to have a rest and watch from the shoreline.
Parent’s tip: If you’re visiting with tots, try Grannies tidal pool at Blacksmiths instead. Shallow areas let young ones splash about safely, with a wide pathway for prams and wheelchairs.
Take a tasty break
While in Belmont, pose for photos at eye-popping Block-by-Block street murals, fusing creations by artists from across Australia and New Zealand. One such project decorates the outside of Cafe Macquarie, a perennially popular family hangout thanks to the dedicated kids’ menu. Think milkshakes in jars and oozy ham-and-cheese toasties – with pimped-up versions available for mum and dad.
Parent’s tip: If you can’t tear the kids away from the Belmont Baths, pick up takeaway wraps, sandwiches and cakes.
Feel the need for speed
Got an adrenaline junkie in your family? JetBuzz Watersports will sate their need for speed. Drive down to Cam’s Wharf to meet the crew, who will strap you into jetboats that tear around Lake Macquarie and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a heart-stopping combination of high-speed slides and turns, 360-degree spins, power-brake stops and fishtails, with the boat reaching speeds of 80km/h.
Parent’s tip: The same crew also rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks from Cams Wharf, so you can explore the waterway at a leisurely pace, without scaring the pelicans.
Paddle in rock pools
Swansea’s Caves Beach deserves its name. Stretching 300m, it’s as popular among serious surfers as with families. The latter arrive at low tide to spot sea critters trapped in rock pools and to explore those namesake sea caves at the southern end. Have your camera poised – photo ops abound. Don’t forget boogie boards, too. Some epic sand dunes lead toward the sea.
Parent’s tip: While picnic tables are available, a family favourite is Boffee Café. Just try and convince hungry little explorers not to order the fairy bread pancake stack.
Make a meal of it
If you’re still lazing around Caves Beach come dinner time, opt for a more substantial meal at Caves Coastal Bar and Bungalows. The breezy establishment has a dedicated kids’ menu and a wide range of pizzas. The staff do their best to expedite young meals to avoid boredom, while you devour salt-and-pepper calamari and arancini balls.
Parent’s tip: Can’t bear to leave? Try the establishment’s light-filled accommodation, including the four-bedroom Beach House with private waterside patio.