DESTINATION: Lake Macquarie



JOHN ROZENTALS discovers seven really good things to do at Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie probably suffers a bit through its proximity to both Sydney and Newcastle, the perception often being that it just isn’t exotic enough to be a destination in its own right.

Yet it’s an area with diverse, appealing attractions for a broad range of tastes. Here are seven really good things to do around Lake Macquarie:

1) Wander through Dobell House, the former home and studio of one of Australia’s greatest artists, the late Sir William Dobell.

This significant waterfront attraction is run by a team of highly dedicated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers who really bring to life the many reproductions and relics housed here.

Dobell was twice winner of the prestigious Archibald Prize, in 1943 for a portrait of fellow artist Joshua Smith (himself an Archibald winner the following year) and in 1948 for a very Rubenesque portrait of much loved Australian artist Margaret Olley.

It’s absolutely fascinating to listen to the volunteers talk so passionately about the controversy surrounding the former painting and the subsequent court case which, for a while anyway, markedly damaged Dobell’s confidence as an artist.

Dobell House, 47 Dobell Drive, Wangi Wangi (phone 02 4975 4115 or visit www.dobellhouse.org.au)

2) Stroll or cycle the Warners Bay waterfront.

There’s a very attractive shared pathway that hugs the fringe of the lake at Warners Bay, and it’s very easy to spend an hour or two people-and-dog-watching. A cycle-hire facility is available.

If you time your visit well, the Warners Bay Art Bazaar is held on a Sunday three times a year and offers the chance to peruse a range of art and craft that’s a definite cut above that on display at most markets.

Warners Bay Foreshore Shared Path, The Esplanade, Warners Bay

3) Save plenty of space and have a truckie-sized breakfast at Q&Co

Walking or cycling at Warners Bay, should build up a substantial enough appetite to handle the size of the excellent breakfast tucker at Q&Co.

You’ll probably have to queue for a seat but the turnover seems rapid enough and the service is splendidly efficient.

Try the Classic Q with some bacon on the side and enjoy a couple of eggs you’re your own way and delicious crusty sourdough from the Sonoma Bakery. Be warned, though. Many of the dishes going past us looked large enough to be shared by a couple of people.

Q&Co, 450 The Esplanade, Warners Bay (phone 02 4948 8614 or visit qandco.com.au)

4) Visit the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery

This is the Hunter’s only waterside gallery and is well worth a look. The current show, First Class 16, features the highly provocative work of local HSC Visual Arts students and is on until April 30.

Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, 1A First St, Booragul (phone 02 4921 0382 or visit artgallery.lakemac.com.au)

5) Take a spin on the lake with JetBuzz

Simon Burn has been running his jet boat on the lake for nearly 10 years and is now firmly ensconced at the classy Raffertys Resort.

There are certainly plenty of thrills to be had, but there’s also the option of a quieter look around the lake in a kayak or paddle boat — or on a stand-up board.

JetBuzz, Lorikeet Circuit, Cams Wharf (phone 02 4972 1777 or visit www.jetbuzz.com.au)

6) Visit Redhead Beach

This golden stretch of sand and its landmark rocky headland offers a great way to start your Lake Macquarie experience — with the sort of breakfast or lunch that any beachside café would do well to emulate. Try the fish burger or the chicken Turkish. They’re awesome.

Red Head Beach Café, Beach Rd, Redhead (phone 02 9440 0414)

7) Stay at Swansea Gardens Lakeside Holiday Park

Cleanliness, tidiness and well maintained facilities are the bywords here. It’s centrally located between the lake and ocean beaches and offers a range of accommodation from unpowered tent sites to fully self-contained villas.

Swansea Gardens Lakeside Holiday Park, 15 Wallarah St, Swansea (phone 02 4971 2869

For general info on Lake Macquarie, see www.visitlakemac.com.au.

John Sheehan … passionate leader of an enthusiastic team of volunteers at Dobell House.

The waterside sculpture garden at the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery.

Redhead Beach Café … doing it exactly the way it should be.

Q&Co manager Jess El Diri … serving up some great tucker.

Simon Burn … has been running JetBuzz in Lake Macquarie for nearly 10 years.

Great for people-and-dog watching … Warners Bay Foreshore Shared Pathway.