Lake Macquarie is a fabulous long weekend destination for families. It’s only 90 minutes drive from Sydney and it offers one of Australia’s largest lakes, over 30km of coastline and beaches, exceptional parks and playgrounds and lots of opportunities for screen-free fun .
We went for a long weekend at the start of summer. Two mums, five kids under 10 and husbands left at home. Here’s what we learned.
Where to stay at Lake Macquarie with kids
Holiday rentals are the way to go when you’re staying at Lake Macquarie. For our trip, we wanted to stay close to the beach and to have space for the kids to run around outside. We also wanted a proper kitchen so that we could cook for ourselves.
The place we chose was Baykeeper, a stunning holiday home within the housing estate in the heritage town of Catherine Hill Bay. Catherine Hill Bay is one of Lake Macquarie’s best spots for snorkelling and diving and the shipwrecks are teeming with marine life. The beach is also popular with local board riders becuase if its excellent surf break.
Baykeeper is about a 250m walk down a sandy track to Moonee beach. Moonee beach is a wide, slightly wild, un-patrolled beach. It’s not the best beach in the area for littlies to swim. But it is a great place for them to burn off energy running around, flying kites and building sand castles.
The Hamptons-styled house has 4-bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a full-sized, open plan kitchen, a dining table that comfortably seats 10 and lots of very usable living space. The house is new and everything was spotless and in perfect working order.
What we loved most about the house was the size and layout. The living area downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs meant that nap times for the baby didn’t impact the older kids’ play time. Plus the outdoor shower a novelty for the kids, was very practical, especially when we all came back sandy from the beach.
Families are well catered for at Baykeeper. There were kid-friendly cutlery and crockery, lawn games, a 55″ TV and a bucket and spade for the beach. When we stayed there was no highchair, but we’ve been told that there is now one available.
Alternatives to holiday rentals
For those who prefer hotel or resort accommodation, here are good options on the eastern side of Lake Macquarie:
- Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows overlooks Caves Beach, possibly the most family-friendly beach at Lake Macquarie. There are 18 luxury beach bungalows and 34, 2 and 3 bedroom villas and townhouses with views across Caves and Hams Beaches. The onsite restaurant, with its paddock and ocean to plate ethos, is a great place for a long lunch.
- Raffertys Resort is nestled in the bush on the lake at Cams Wharf. There are two, three and four bedroom, full self-contained resort cottages and terraces. Plus tennis courts, pools, a boat ramp, and jetty where you can go fishing. The super fun JetBuzz where you can rent SUP, kayaks or go jet boating is located within Raffertys Restort.
Things to do at Lake Macquarie with kids
The great thing about Lake Macquarie is that so many of the best activities there are free. Here are 5 of our favourites:
1. The Speers Point playground
This huge all-abilities playground is a favourite with families. Our gaggle of kids especially loved: the giant spiral slide, the climbing tower and nets, the flying fox and the water play area. If we’d brought out bikes, the bike circuit with two intersecting tracks would have also made the favourite list.
To make life easy Sal’s by the Lake café is right next door to the fully enclosed play area.
2. Caves Beach
Caves Beach is known for the network of sea caves at the southern end of the beach, which can be explored at low tide. The very Instagramable beach is patrolled during over summer and offers a long stretch of sand perfect for walking. It also has well maintained barbecue and picnic facilities.
3. Watersports with JetBuzz
JetBuzz is Lake Macquarie’s destination for water sports. Hire a kayak or paddleboat and explore this tranquil corner of the Lake, or try your hand at stand up paddle boarding. JetBuzz is also home to their famous jet boat thrill ride, and tinnie and larger boat hire.
The kids loved trying SUP for the first time and racing each other in the kayaks. JetBuzz is a great option if you’ve got a baby or toddler in your group too. The water in the lake is calm, there’s plenty grass and shade and the sandy beach is clean and makes a great spot for sandcastle building.
4. Bowling, putt putt and dodgems at Dullboy’s Social Co
Dullboy’s Social Co is a great spot for indoor fun at Lake Macquarie. As you walk in it feels like you’re stepping into an American entertainment arcade. There are lanes and lanes of ten-pin bowling, a diner serving Americana meals with lots of healthy options too. We tried bowling (it was the first time for all the kids) and it sure brought out some friendly sibling rivalry.
The competition continued to the putt putt course, where the 4 year old surprised everyone with his hole-in-one.
We couldn’t leave without letting the kids explore the arcade games (you need to load a pre-paid card to play, so don’t worry if you don’t have a stack of coins) and have a ride on the dodgem cars. Actually, all 7 of us went on the dodgems and it was a lot of fun.
5. Dinner at Belmont 16s
Belmont 16s is one of the largest clubs in the Hunter region and it’s one of the most family-friendly places to eat in Lake Macquarie. The Club features 6 different dining options and we tried three of them. The kids had pasta from Marios, Louise had a summer prawn special from Salt Steak & Seafood and I had a Thai beef salad from Sails Eatery. Even though we ordered from different food outlets, our meals all came at the same time so we were able to eat together.
The other thing we really liked about Belmont 16s is the location. There is something extra special about a meal shared with friends, watching the pelicans land on the lake as the sun is setting. And after dinner the kids could run around on the lakes edge to burn off some energy before bed.
Getting to Lake Macquarie
Getting to Lake Macquarie is easy. The Lake is about 150km north of Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast. If you’re driving from Sydney, take the M1 (it used to be the F3 freeway) heading north. For the eastern towns of Lake Macquarie (including Charlestown, Swansea and Belmont), take the Budgewoi Swansea Charlestown exit. For towns in the west of Lake Macquarie, exit the freeway at the Morisset, Toronto or Cardiff exits. Either way, with average traffic conditions it should take you around 90 minutes.
There are daily, direct flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney to Newcastle Airport, approximately 1 hour from Lake Macquarie. A number of car hire companies to allow you to self drive from the airport to Lake Macquarie. There are also shuttle buses that operate to and from the airport to Lake Macquarie.
A number of train services operate regularly between the New South Wales Central Coast, Sydney, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. Stops include Cardiff, Morisset, Wyee and Fassifern. The CountryLink Express rail service stops at Fassifern, 15 minutes from Lake Macquarie.
Janeece Keller is the founder and editor of Family Travel. She mostly travels with her husband and two young kids. She has a large blended family that lives in Australia and Europe. She has visited 52 countries and lived on 3 continents. From camping to luxury resorts Janeece tries to make sure her family has diverse holiday experiences each year. She is an avid hiker and ocean swimmer who loves good food, margaritas and heading off the beaten path.