Winter may be well and truly here and while it may spell the end of sun-drenched weekends, now that we’re allowed to travel around NSW, the colder months shouldn’t mean we have to curb our wanderlust and go into hibernation.
Just two hours from Sydney, there’s a slice of paradise ready and waiting to be explored by adrenaline junkies, couples on the hunt for a romantic winter getaway or avid wildlife enthusiasts - and it doesn’t make a difference if the weather decides to play ball or not.
Yahoo Lifestyle was invited to experience exactly what Lake Macquarie has to offer and despite the drizzly weather, we spent an epic weekend in one of the most picturesque aquatic playgrounds in NSW.
Where to stay
The only place to stay when you visit Lake Macquarie is of course, right on the lake - and that’s exactly what we did.
We checked into Little Sea Sea Airbnb, in Swansea Heads, on a Friday evening and we were immediately greeted with a dazzling sunset over the Lake Entrance and the Wattagan Mountains.
It was the perfect introduction to the lake area, which is all about embracing the laid-back lifestyle, kicking off your shoes and leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind.
Little Sea Sea has everything you think of when you envisage a weekend on the water - uninterrupted lake views from your bedroom, a large deck with a BBQ and lounge chairs big enough to curl up on in a blanket, if the rain decides to rear its head.
It’s also newly-renovated and immaculately furnished and host Genina even has two kayaks on standby for any water sports fans eager to get out on the lake.
The two-bedroom apartment is just minutes from Caves Beach, Catherine Hill Bay and a short drive from the lakeside suburb of Warner’s Bay.
What to do
Being on the lake, the obvious thing to do is head straight for the water and Lake Macquarie offers up everything aquatic fanatics could ever want.
From paddle-boarding to jet-skiing, scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing, you could spend days trying your hand at new activities.
The famous JetBuzz Watersports Lake Thrill Ride, which is situated in a handy location at Rafferty’s Resort on the lake’s edge, promises a very different tour of the area.
If 360° spins, power brake stops and fish tails are your idea of the perfect boating journey- then get yourself onboard this 25 minute ride, which costs $50 per person or $179 for a family of two adults and two kids.
The team at JetBuzz Watersports also offer stand-up paddle-boards, kayaks and tinnies to rent, if you’re looking to keep your adrenaline going after you get off your jet boat ride.
If you prefer to stay firmly on land, but you still want to explore the great outdoors, you can hire bikes from Boomerang Bikes Automatic Bike Hire on the Warner’s Bay foreshore.
We rented two bikes for an hour, which cost $14 per person, and took in the views of Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lake, while making our way around the 9km shared pathway.
Bring snacks and chill out by the side of the lake, watching the world (and the massive pelicans) go by.
If you happen to visit the area on the first Saturday of the month, be sure to make your way to the Pelican Foreshore Markets, which open up again on August 1st, to support local suppliers.
You’ll be able to get your hands on everything from freshly ground coffee to chopping boards, local honey, homewares and ethical beauty products.
If the sun does decide to show up, there’s no shortage of beaches in Lake Macquarie, with one of the most popular being Caves Beach, just a few minutes drive from the Little Sea Sea Airbnb.
Just as its namesake suggests, the beach has a network of sea caves which can only be explored at low tide. Or else follow the coastal track to up to Quarries Head - a great lookout to spot passing whales in the winter months.
Where to eat
To fuel you up for the day of activities ahead, make your way to Mawson at Caves Beach for delicious coffee and a breakfast of champions.
I’m still dreaming of the smashed avocado on grilled sourdough, topped with Bulgarian feta, harissa oil and dukkah. I also added eggs and bacon to the dish because why not? I was on holiday.
If you’ve had a big meal the night before, Common Circus in Warner’s Bay is a delightful lifestyle shop which offers up the best coffee around and some light nibbles.
You can’t leave this place without trying their sumptuous toasties or salmon and cream cheese bagels.
When hunger strikes later in the day, make your way back to the water’s edge for a bite to eat or a long lunch at Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows.
The chefs have a paddock and ocean to plate ethos - meaning they serve up some of the best produce from the local area.
Share a wood fired pizza, a cheese plate or the pub classic, fish and chips, while enjoying the view across Caves Beach.
When it comes to picking a restaurant for dinner in Lake Macquarie, you can’t look past Mediterranean meze bar Sephardim.
We visited on a Saturday night and despite the place being nearly fully-booked, it didn’t affect the incredible service or food.
There was, however, a serious lack of wine by the glass, which was all forgotten about once the sizzling prawns in garlic, harissa and tomato sauce arrived.
Don’t look past the zaatar flatbread and dips or the Egyptian spice cauliflower on the menu and you’ll walk out a very happy customer.
If Italian cuisine is more your style, make a reservation at Salina Restaurant in Belmont for mouth-watering pasta dishes, pizzas and an impressive range of Italian and Australian wines.
The main events were the marinated goat’s cheese, quince paste and pistachio dukkah on toasted ciabatta bread and the Orecchiette with smoked salmon, sun-dried tomato, broccoli, basil and rocket in lemon cream sauce. You certainly won’t walk out of there hungry.
This journalist was a guest of Lake Macquarie City Council