It's hard to resist the lure of the lakefront in Toronto. Enjoy foreshore picnics and festivals, see historic flying boats, and dine at waterside cafes. Close to Watagans National Park and the famed Hunter Valley wine region, Toronto is a great base for exploring the Lake Macquarie region.

The western side of Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lake is a popular spot for sailing, rowing, fishing and cycling. Join tanned locals on the 3.6km cycling and walking path between the Toronto Sailing Club and Fassifern Railway Station to discover a petrified forest with trees created by volcanic ash 250 million years ago.

The wooden Toronto public wharf and a tour boat on Lake Macquarie

The Kurra Kurrin fossilised pines in Blackalls Park are culturally significant to the local Awabakal Aboriginal people, who have Dreaming stories about the ancient stone forest. You can learn more about local Aboriginal history and cultural heritage by visiting Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery’s fine indigenous collection.

The popular gallery also includes a sculpture park overlooking the glittering lake where exhibitions are held throughout the year. Art lovers should visit Dobell House, the former home and studio of William Dobell, a famous local artist who won the Archibald Prize for portraiture three times. The house is open on weekends.

Entrance to Dobell House with views towards boats moored on Lake Macquarie

Take a detour to Rathmines to visit the Catalina Memorial Park – once the largest seaplane military base in the southern hemisphere and a World War II base for Catalina flying boats.

Join fellow aviation buffs at Rathmines Catalina Festival, an annual air show in May where you can even take a Catalina scenic flight.

Those tempted to make a sea change should circle Lakefest on the calendar, which celebrates the area’s aquatic lifestyle every February. Lovers of good food and wine should also pencil in the Lake Mac Food & Wine Festival in October and visit the bustling Farmers and Artisan Market held on the first Saturday of the month.

Toronto is a two-hour drive north of Sydney and around 40min from Newcastle. You can also take the train up the coast or fly into Newcastle Airport from Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Accommodation options include motels, apartments and lakeside holiday parks.