Nothing says summer to the Eats World quite like a Lake Macquarie family break. But when it comes to the lovely Lake, surrounded as it is by cosy holiday towns and pretty beaches, my affection for the lovely lake runs deep.
The salt water lake itself, at four times the size of Sydney Harbour, is huge!
Linking the lake, beaches and mountains are more than 90 villages and heritage-listed towns. And there’s just so many things to do in Lake Macquarie with kids, from fishing, beaches and boating to trekking, hiking and eating.
Plus loads of water sports and gorgeous soft-sand beaches, mountain adventures and wilderness walks. And so many playgrounds. Of the epic variety.
This time around we’re staying at Mercure Lake Macquarie Rafferty’s Resort in a fab two-level three-bedroom cottage.
The beautiful resort has a day spa, restaurants and playgrounds plus four swimming pools and lakeside beach games to keep the kids amused but – though the resort’s watery temptations are alluring – we elect to keep our feet dry and head west of Lake Macquarie to the Watagan Mountains – a stunning natural wilderness area that combines national park and state forest.
Given Raffles penchant for all things indigenous, The Watagans extensive Aboriginal history is definitely part of its appeal but we are here for a history lesson of a different kind. And this time it’s personal. The Watagans are a place of immense significance to my family and on the scenic forest drive that loops through the mountains there are plenty of reminders of my pioneering ancestors, who were among the area’s first settlers. For us a stop at Heaton Lookout is a must, named as it is for my great great, great, great etc grandparents. For those not interested in looking for signs of my relatives, Heaton Lookout is still well worth checking out for the amazing views over the lower Hunter and Pacific Ocean.
Family history lesson complete we head back to Rafferty’s Resort via Speers Point Playground, an enormous tangle of climbing ropes, climbing towers, slides and flying foxes.
Only the promise of sand, sea and food can lure them away.
We stop for a Seafood platter at Lake Macqaurie yacht club. Raffles even considers sharing it with us.
Then on to Caves Beach, a 300 metre stretch of glorious soft sand and patrolled swimming that is most loved by my two little explorers for the network of sea caves clustered at its southern end.
As usual we lose hours as the kids scamper among the rocks and through the tunnels and openings that connect them.
Raffles searches for crabs and Sugarpuff collects bucket loads of “jewels” (and by jewels she means ugly grey rocks) and wriggles her little body in and out of perfect Sugarpuff-sized pools of water until, with sand stuck in orifices I didn’t know they had, we head back to Rafferty’s to clean up for dinner.
We continue the seafood fest over dinner with a view at Sesames Restaurant, a Thai/Cambodian fusion restaurant in Toronto that, according to Raffles, is so good his head could explode. Luckily his noggin’ remains intact and dinner ends explosion free, but from the salt and pepper soft shell crab to the chef’s signature whole deep-fried salt and pepper snapper the meal really does prove mind-blowing.
Over breakfast at Rafferty’s we meet a clingy cockatoo with a gruesomely pointed beak who has the kids at “hello”, squawked though the salutation is. Repeatedly.
Seems the feathered freak has a thing for Sugrapuff and is his devotion is such that he follows her by foot all the way back to our cottage. The smitten stalker is still waiting outside for her when we come back out half an hour later for a swim. Can you get an AVO out on a bird?
The kids are more than a little keen to hit the water so we head to the resort’s private beach area where Sugarpuff and I paddle in the shallow water… and terrorize pelicans. Raffles and his dad commandeer a kayak to paddle around the lake… and terrorize pelicans. What can I say? Every family needs a hobby…
Caves Beach and Catherine Hill Bay are just two of the many family-friendly beaches along the coastline, but gentle waters are more to our kids taste.
And where better to paddle than at Sandy Beach in nearby Summerland Point, conveniently located about a block from the home of my parents who love visits from their doting grandpups.
Especially when one of them is prepared to whip up some chilli crab for their dinner.