Lake Mac: A guide for the casual hiker
From sweeping arcs of golden coast to the rolling green of mountain forests, Lake Macquarie is home to an incredible range of natural environments.
This diversity makes Lake Mac the perfect place to explore on foot, whatever your age or ability. Below are seven of our City’s best walks, from 15-minute strolls to day-long hikes.
1. Discover an enchanting forest
Boarding House Dam
Watagans National Park, on the doorstep of Lake Macquarie, boasts some of the best rainforest scenery in NSW. One of the prettiest spots is Boarding House Dam, a picturesque former logging camp that provides a jump-off point for a stunning 700m circuit walk through storybook forest of impossibly green trees, shrubs and moss-covered rocks and logs. A long rock wall shrouded top to bottom in moss, towards the end of the walk, provides a unique photo opportunity, and the circuit’s short duration makes it perfect for the whole family. For those seeking greater challenges, The Watagans, as the mountainous expanse is known to locals, present dozens of other hiking trails ranging from easy to expert.
Access: Moderate (map recommended to navigate National Park)
Time: 30 minutes
2. Discover the home of Weetbix
Cooranbong swing bridge
It’s a little-known fact outside Lake Macquarie that the City is home to Australia’s original Weetbix factory. The Cooranbong site adjoining Avondale College no longer makes the venerable breakfast staple, but its grand 1930s main building beside tranquil Dora Creek remains. A barely-there public driveway at the end of Victory St in Cooranbong leads to a swaying timber foot-bridge over the creek – a great spot for selfies. Wander onwards past the former factory’s imposing red-brick façade.
Required fitness: Low
Time: 15-30 minutes
3. Escape to the blue lagoon
This is one of Lake Macquarie’s classic walking trails, kicking off from a car park at Kahibah with a boardwalk above Glenrock State Conservation Area’s forest floor, and ending in the sand of Glenrock Lagoon and a wonderfully secluded beach. Steeped in Aboriginal and mining history, the walk includes an elevated crossing of Flaggy Creek, the spectacular Leichhardt’s Lookout and a steep descent into coastal rainforest via a narrow path hewn out of the rock escarpment. Echidnas and goannas are among the native species commonly spotted at ground level, with bellbirds providing beautiful background music above.
Access : Easy
Time: 2-3 hours
4. Hike seven miles, conquer nine
Nine Mile Beach
The bight of sand stretching south from Redhead to Blacksmiths is known as Nine Mile Beach, but in fact covers only seven (10.4km). Kick off with an energising brekkie at Redhead’s beachfront Cargo Espresso café before heading off past the iconic shark tower, on to the coastal lagoon of Second Creek and beyond to a rarely frequented stretch of dunes, wetlands and ocean teeming with fish and other marine life. Watch parachutists float lazily earthward from the nearby airfield as you near the end of the walk at Blacksmiths before recharging at the Beach Breeze Café.
Required fitness: High
Time: 3-4 hours
5. Walk on water without getting wet
The shores of Lake Macquarie make for picture-postcard stuff, and the 8.6km of continuous shared pathway from Eleebana to Booragul present a great way to take it in. If time or energy is limited, set sights on the stunning 2km section between Eleebana and Warners Bay. This takes in the 360m over-water Red Bluff Walkway – particularly striking at sunset – and Warners Bay’s newly revamped foreshore strip, eclectic public art installations dotted along the water’s edge and a trail of outdoor fitness equipment.
Required fitness: Moderate (full distance); Low (Eleebana-Warners Bay)
Time: 2-3 hours (full distance); 30 mins-1 hour (Eleebana-Warners Bay)
6. Explore where Cats did fly
What is now a gorgeous lakeside reserve was once a RAAF seaplane base, home to the Catalina long-range patrol bomber during WWII. Relics of the base remain, and a walk around the site provides a fascinating insight into its history. Seaplane launch ramps, buildings and a Catalina war memorial all remain along the water’s edge, but the best bit is hidden among the tract of bush at the park’s north-western end. Here, remnants of military homes, barracks and even paved streets have been swallowed up over the years by Mother Nature, providing a fun spot for kids to explore.
Time: 1-2 hours
7. Visit our (occasional) snowfield
Some might call it more glorified hill than mountain, but Lake Mac’s Mount Sugarloaf has on rare occasion been dusted with snow during the depths of winter. At other times of year it’s the perfect place to stretch your legs. The drive to trail heads at the summit is sealed and easy, and from there, several tracks snake off into the bush, meandering past quiet lookouts with spectacular views to the west and north. Keep an eye out for native flora and fauna – the surrounding Sugarloaf State Conservation Area is home to more than 200 native animal species.
Required fitness: Moderate
Time: 1-3 hours
Discover Lake Mac, one story at a time