Winter camping is flippin’ awesome; there’s nothing we don’t love about it. Quieter campsites, cosier tents and a legitimate reason to throw another log on that campfire. Lake Macquarie, or Lake Mac if you’re feeling local, is one East Coast destination that really stands tall as the perfect winter weekender.  


Winter is coming. It’s not just the final season of Game of Thrones (no spoilers!), Sydneysiders are also beginning to feel the first whispers of cooler weather approaching.

Just 90 minutes from Sydney, and hidden on the map between the big names of the Central Coast and Newcastle, Lake Macquarie holds some seriously prime adventure real estate.

The lake sits between mountainous national parks and the ocean, so there’s plenty going on to please landlubbers and water babies alike.

Unlike its noisier neighbours, Lake Macquarie still delivers authentic coastal quiet and a real back to nature experience. Not to mention it’s also one of the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere!

So whether you’re planning on staying dry, or getting wet, here’s our adventure hitlist for your next weekend on the Lake.

Get Aquatic

SUP Or Kayak To Your Own Sand Island

The water in Lake Mac is like something out of a Pacific Islands holiday brochure; seriously blue, seriously clean and seriously fun. But unlike the Pacific Islands, you can pile your mates in the car and be here in less time than it takes to check-in at the airport.

Lake Macquarie // Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura SUP lake, drone

Start your paddle early to make the most of the still conditions and strike out for Pelican Island or Naru Beach. If you’re confident on the water, you can plan your own adventure on the Lake. But if you need a bit of extra help, fancy a guided tour, or just want to let someone else organise your day, then hook up with the good folks at Jetbuzz.

Local tip: Happier underwater? Try scuba diving under Swansea Bridge.

Lake Macquarie :: Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura surf, surfers, ocean

Caves And Waves

If the still waters of the lake itself don’t tickle your fancy, then you can hit up the aptly named Caves Beach. Here you can paddle out to surf the beach breaks, or stick to the sand and explore the sea caves that give the beach its name.

Lake Macquarie -- Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura coastal walk

Mix it up and grab a bit more exercise from your beach trip by tackling the 2.5km coastal walk to Pinny Beach. Carry your surfy for some quieter breaks, or pack the fishing rod (much lighter and easier than the surfboard). Another bonus of visiting in winter is the chance of seeing whales along the coastal route.

Local tip: Head to the caves for a unique sunrise view, it also makes for a great photo. Just make sure to check the tides before you head into the cave, best access is at low tide.

Lake Macquarie -- Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura caves beach, sunrise

Spend The Night By The Lake

Being so close to Sydney, Lake Mac is an easy day trip option; but with plenty of camping options all around the lake, why wouldn’t you stay the night? With lakefront accommodation and community fire pits available for use in winter, Wangi Point Holiday Park is a great option for staying right in amongst the action.

The secluded Wangi Point boasts a stunning nature reserve for a morning walk, or you can just get right back on the water for a paddle and a play. Launch your tinny directly from the campsite’s banks, or use a nearby boat-ramp for larger vessels.

Lake Macquarie -- Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura campfire, marshmallows, camping

Terrestrial Adventures

Go Bush

West of Lake Macquarie, in amongst the Watagan Mountains, you can lose yourself (not really, please don’t get lost) in the many walking trails of Olney State Forest. Head to the Pines Picnic Area for your pick from three different walking trails. Each one offers something slightly different, so it’s up to you whether you’re chasing a dip in a rock pool or a view from a lookout, or both!

Lake Macquarie -- Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura campfire, marshmallows, camping, drone shot

Extend your trip and really make the most of the walking trails by staying overnight in our pick, The Pines Campground. Simple, self-sufficient and secluded, this spot is a great getaway for you to pitch your tent and warm up by the fire.

Local tip: Bring your bike and check out the purpose built trails at nearby Awaba Mountain Bike Park.

Chasing Waterfalls

If you like your bushwalks a little more dramatic, set off from Gap Creek Campground (there’s also free camping here) and check out the Gap Creek Falls. With a 40m drop, try visiting after heavy rain to really make the most of the waterfall.

Lake Macquarie -- Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura abseil, canyoning

Raise your bushwalk to level 10, by joining a tour with Out and About Adventures. These guys will take you to Gap Creek Falls the hard way, including a short section of canyon (two swims and a jump of 6m into a clear, cool waterhole). You might even finish up with a dramatic abseil right down the falls.

Lake Macquarie -- Coastal Quiet 90 Minutes From Sydney Mattie Gould, photo by Laura canyoning, abseiling

We Are Explorers is proud to have produced this article in partnership with Destination NSW.