Whether you’re into strenuous treks or serene strolls, Lake Macquarie is home to a range of spectacular hiking trails taking in the best of the region’s magnificent rainforests, beaches, bushland…and the iconic lake itself.
Seasoned walkers will rise to the challenge of a number of adventurous tracks, while young families and elderly walkers can enjoy the natural beauty and stunning scenery from a range of easy walking paths, many incorporating picturesque picnic spots such as Marmong, Alexanders and Morriset.
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.
The best way to experience the region’s plentiful native flora and fauna – including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and abundant birdlife – is on foot, with the area’s walking trails offering up some of the most incredible lookouts to marvel at frolicking whales including humpbacks, minke whales, southern right and sei species, as well as pods of delightful dolphins between May and November.
With such a broad offering Lake Macquarie has the perfect trail for any walker – here are some of the region’s top picks:
Best for beach: Ken and Audrey Owens Walk
A gorgeous four 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.
Distance: 4 km
Time: 1 hour return – with options to finish early at alternate exits
Best for waterfalls: Gap Creek Falls
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. 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.
Distance: 1.4km return
Time: 1 hour
Grade: Moderate to Hard
Best for views: Mount Sugarloaf
This track is currently closed due to storm damage, and is anticipated to reopen after October 2015.
Offering 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.
Distance: 275 meters – 1.6km
Time: 30 minutes
Track: Linear and loop options
Best for history: Green Point Heritage Trail
Situated 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.
Time: 2 hours
Best for wildlife: Belmont Lagoon
Ideally positioned between the ocean and the lake, Belmont Lagoon Reserve is a sanctuary for local wildlife, which is best enjoyed during an early morning or late afternoon stroll when the birdlife is at its most active. Keep an eye out for black swans, spoon bills and – if you’re lucky – the migratory Bar Tailed Godwit, as well as a range of swamp and open water marine life.
Time: 50 minutes return
Best for avid hikers: The Watagan Trail
Spanning the mountains, this challenging hike takes in some of the best forest scenery and vantage points the Watagans have to offer. Highlights along the trail include Wallis Creek Canyon with its dramatic moss-covered walls and overhangs, and spectacular views across the Hunter Valley from the Hunter Lookout.
Time: 4-5 hours
Best for variety: Wallarah Peninsular Track
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.
Time: 2 hours
Time to pack those hiking boots!