Enjoy fun festivals and foreshore picnics, admire the sculpture park and William Dobell collection, and savour the waterside dining in charming Toronto, on beautiful Lake Macquarie. Just south is the heritage-listed Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park, a World War II base for the Catalina flying boats.
On the western side of Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lake, Toronto is a popular spot for sailing, rowing, fishing and cycling. On the 3.6km shared cycling path between the Toronto sailing club and the Fassifern Railway Station is a petrified forest created by volcanic ash 250 million years ago.
The Kurra Kurrin fossilised pines in Blackalls Park, Fennell Bay are culturally significant to the local Awabakal Aboriginal people, who have Dreaming stories about the ancient stone forest. You can also explore Aboriginal cultural heritage in Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery’s fine indigenous collection.
The gallery is a wonderful attraction, with a sculpture park overlooking the shimmering lake and exhibitions throughout the year. The permanent collection includes important works by William Dobell, a famous Australian artist who lived and worked at Dobell House in nearby Wangi Wangi.
Dobell won the Archibald Prize for portraiture thrice. His home and studio is open on weekends. On the short drive south from the gallery to Dobell House take a detour to Rathmines and visit the Catalina Memorial Park, once the largest seaplane military base in the Southern Hemisphere.
Catalina flying boats from the Rathmines RAAF base took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, a decisive naval battle against Japan in May 1942. The annual Rathmines Catalina Festival is an air show in May that honours the RAAF flying boat crews. You can take a Catalina scenic flight, too.
Check out the events calendar for more festivals such as Lakefest, which celebrates the area’s aquatic lifestyle in February. The Lakemac Heritage Festival in March attracts classic boats from around Australia. The enticing Farmers and Artisan Market is on the first Saturday of the month.
Toronto is less than two hours’ drive north of Sydney. A great base for exploring, Toronto is near the magnificent Watagans National Park and the Hunter Valley wine region – Best Tour offers wine-tasting tours. Accommodation options range from lakeside caravan parks to waterfront retreats.