Yes, I do like city life with all its perks, but from time to time it’s nice to get out and breathe some fresh air and listen to the birds again. The area around Lake Macquarie in Sydney’s north is just about 2 hours north from the city, and in my view probably one of the most beautiful places you can visit on a weekend getaway.
It’s also the perfect place to see some spectacular landscapes – from rainforests, and beaches to bushland, Lake Macquarie has it all. Add to that the wildlife such as our colourful native birds, the migrating whales, koalas, dolphins and a roo to two. And I need to mention the iconic lake itself, of course. Discovering the treasures of the region in your hiking boots is as intimate as it gets, and healthy too, of course.
So now that winter is bidding farewell it’s time to dust off your hiking boots and get back into nature. In Lake Macquarie you can tackle a couple of really interesting tracks, no matter what fitness level or age. Imagine yourself next weekend in one of the area’s picturesque picnic spots such as Marmong, Alexanders and Morriset!
The Lake Macquarie region is such a beautiful part of this country, from a vast pristine coastline to rugged cliff tops, significant indigenous sites, towering trees and the renowned Watagan Mountain range, you’ll feel a million miles away from daily life in Lake Macquarie’s numerous National Parks and State Conservation areas.
You feel challenged now? I have here a couple of great hiking tracks in Lake Macquarie that you may want to explore:
Beach Walk: Ken and Audrey Owens Walk
This is a gorgeous 4 kilometre network of pathways, boardwalks, wetland bridges and whale observation platforms suitable for prams and wheelchairs. Stretching through restored bushland, the path takes in vistas of Redhead Lagoon, with strategic rest stops to take in the wetlands wildlife, and travels over sand dunes to picturesque vantage points looking out to Redhead beach and Webb Park.
No need to finish the whole track at once, as there are several exits along the way. However, the track is overall just 1 hour return and really easy to do too, so even families with small children should be able to enjoy the Ken and Audrey Owens Walk.
Waterfalls Walk: Gap Creek Falls
It can hardly get more scenic than this: This hidden gem in the Watagan Mountains leads to one of the Hunter region’s best waterfalls via dense rainforest featuring red cedars and a large Illawarra flame tree, before descending to an inspiring amphitheatre of rock with the dramatic Gap Creek Falls. You can explore the base of the falls, including the narrow unfenced ledge behind the water (if you dare) and make the most of the cooling spray on a hot day.
This linear walk takes around one hour return and is classified as moderate to hard.
Views Walk: Mount Sugarloaf
This track is currently closed due to storm damage, and is anticipated to reopen after October 2015.
The Mount Sugarloaf track is perfect for photographers as it offers breathtaking panoramic views over the country’s largest coastal salt-water lake. Mount Sugarloaf’s several walking trails lead to a number of pretty picnic spots, lookouts and the mountain summit itself where you’ll take in stunning views of Lake Macquarie and the surrounding Hunter Valley. The walk is just 1.6km long and you can expect to take about 30mins – plenty of time left to have a tasty picnic in one of the designated spots.
History Walk: Green Point Heritage Trail
I love walks that allow you to learn more about the geography or the history of an area, and the Green Point Heritage Trail is one of these walks where you can do exactly that. Located on the lake foreshore between Belmont and Valentine, Green Point Foreshore Reserve is one of Lake Macquarie’s most scenic natural attractions. Signage en route shares the area’s history and explains local geological formations, natural vegetation, fauna and early industries such as fishing, timber, coal mining and boat building.
The foreshore here is rich in archaeology, with evidence of the Koori people’s daily lives, while old wharf timbers visible just below the cycleway running from Black Jack’s Point to Cardiff Point highlight the region’s early history.
A great experience, in particular when you are walking with school-aged children! This linear walk takes around 2 hours and is very easy to do.
Wildlife Walk: Belmont Lagoon
If you have overseas visitors they will probably ask you for some real Australian wildlife experiences, and this walk here is great to deliver exactly that. The Belmont Lagoon Reserve is thanks to its favourable position between the ocean and the lake a sanctuary for local wildlife, in particular birds. It’s best if you visit very early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the wildlife is most active. This is a 50mins return walk, easy to tackle.
Expert Walk: The Watagan Trail
Are you an experienced walker? The Lake Macquarie region caters for that too! The Watagan Trail is perfect for more experienced hikers who like their challenges, including Wallis Creek Canyon with its dramatic moss-covered walls and overhangs, and spectacular views across the Hunter Valley from the Hunter Lookout. This 8km trail takes around 4-5 hours to complete.
Variety Walk: Wallarah Peninsular Track
If you have only limited time but want to take in as much scenery as possible, then the Wallarah Peninsula Track will be your best choice. It only takes around 2 hours and is of moderate difficulty but it will reward you with some highlights of the region. Stretching from the lake to the ocean this scenic tracks takes in bushland and the surprising Palm Gully rainforest, as well as a highway footbridge with a number of side trips leading to iconic local hideaways such as Spoon rocks Spit and Pinny’s Headland.
So what are you waiting for? Time to pack those hiking boots!