Beaches, bikes and bushwalks
Just coast along with the locals
side club is another local hangout and is home to The Terrace. An a la carte menu features dishes such as a blue swimmer crab and chorizo paella, and slow-braised lamb shoulder from the Hunter Valley. If you’re a craft beer fan, you’ll be happy to hear there are 16 on tap here, from the familiar (Little Creatures) to the not so known (Brewcult). More: salina.com.au; theboatshedbar.com.au.
T THE DOBELL CONNECTION: One of the region’s most notable residents was the both cherished and controversial artist William Dobell. Although the Archibald Prize winner hailed from Newcastle, he spent close to 30 years (1942-1970) at his homestudio in Wangi Wangi. The lakefront property, now known as Dobell House, was recently listed under the NSW Heritage Act, thanks to the dedicated efforts by the volunteer-run Sir William Dobell Memorial Committee. Although there are no original art pieces on display (not of financial value, at least), there is furniture, photos, memorabilia and other possessions of the artist. Open 1pm-4pm. More: dobellhouse.org.au.
A ART WORKS: The sophisticated Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery at Booragul offers this visitor a welcome respite from warm autumn temperatures and a fascinating look at some of the country’s most notable artists. Recently, a giant inflatable rabbit, enormous “breathing” pillows and tempting-to-touch balloons intrigued visitors to the Soft Core exhibition. The current exhibition, to April 30, is all about contemporary Australian artist Fiona Hall and is the latest in an annual series of case studies. After your visit, wander the sculpture park and then enjoy the lake views from on-site Awaba House Restaurant Cafe as you indulge in morning tea. Also take home a piece of Lake Macquarie in the form of a stylish art gallery souvenir made from Hunter and Central Coast creatives. The gallery has a small gift shop where you can buy gorgeous pottery, handmade jewellery and unique trinkets crafted from silver cutlery, as well as the city’s own fruity Lake Mac Tea blend. More: artgallery.lakemac.com.au; awabahouse.com.au.
HOME AND HEART: Homewares addicts should call into Belmont’s Common Circus, billed as “a l lifestyle store”. It’s such a hidden gem that some locals don’t even know about it. Here you can browse beautiful bed linen and alpaca blankets, leather stools, soy candles, handpainted wall tiles and other fine prod- ucts while you wait for your cold-pressed juice; open seven days. More: commoncircus.com.au.
PEDAL POWER: There are multiple cycling tracks throughout Lake Macquarie, thanks to council investment in a network of shared pathways. If you’re after a thigh-burner, tackle the 18km Red Bluff Boardwalk track, from Belmont to Booragul. This is a good one for a full day, allowing plenty of time to stop into Warners Bay cafes and shops, and the art gallery. For a 30-minute post-lunch pedal, stick to the paved path that skirts the lake at Warners Bay and travels past foreshore parks and playgrounds. You can pick up a bike from the automated hire rack opposite the shops on The Esplanade. More: boomerangbikes.com.au.
NATUREN CALLS: If you really feel like getting away from civilisation, point the car toward Watagans National Park. It’s a great weekend destination for horse riders, rock climbers, off-road drivers and campers. Avid bushwalkers are also drawn here, with a large choice of trails, including a challenging 10km (one-way) section of the state’s Great North Walk. In Olney State Forest (bordered by Watagans National Park) is one of the region’s most beautiful locations, The Pines Picnic Area. Not only will photographers love capturing the soaring needle-like trees but it’s a great spot to enjoy a packed lunch with family. More: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au; forestrycorporation.com.au. PRIME POSITION: Bedraggled surfers parade across the timber walkways, as brides-to-be plot out impending ceremonies at Caves Beachside Hotel, in the suburb of Caves Beach. A short stroll from the sand, this hotel is one of the finest in Lake Macquarie. There is a mix of accommodation, with adults-only studio rooms perched on the edge of a duck-happy pond (they may wake you up), as well as two-storey, freestanding family villas not far behind. The staff is very relaxed here, so expect to fend for yourself a bit, and Wi-Fi is virtually non-existent (as is phone reception), but guestrooms are comfortable and you really can’t beat the location. Watch the sun set over the sea from your villa balcony or enjoy the day’s last rays from the pool. More: cavesbeachsidehotel.com.au.
Jennifer Ennion was a guest of Lake Macquarie Tourism. • visitlakemac.com.au