Lake Macquarie, NSW, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE COASTAL WALK

Lake Macquarie is a 90-minute drive north of Sydney. This low-key holiday destination is spread across a staggering 174 kilometres of shoreline and 90 towns. Visit the wild and secluded Pinny Beach, a much-loved swimming spot locals call "Little Fiji" along the Caves Beach Coastal Walk. Follow the Yondeo Trail down to Spoon Rocks, the remains of a breakwall constructed to load coal into ships. From Spoon Rocks follow the track up to Quarries Head for a terrific vantage spot overlooking the ocean (ideal for whale watching in winter months). The southern end of the walk travels through the cool climate bush of Wallarah National Park before arriving at Pinny Beach where you can swim in rock pools at high tide. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

THE ONE BRUNCH

Steps from the lapping shores, the Captain and Crew has injected a dose of coastal cool into the sleepy lakeside suburb of Marks Point. Contemporary coastal interiors include teal fish-tail tiles and cane and velvet chairs while the menu delivers locally sourced produce with a North African twist. Think Moroccan baked eggs, lamb and pine nut cigars with pomegranate molasses or cous cous with orange, almond, pomegranate, currants and labneh. Oh and stellar cocktails too. Relaxed indoor-outdoor spaces are ideal for long lazy brunches or whiling away the afternoon with a bottomless lunch menu. See thecaptainandcrew.com.au

THE ONE SEA CAVE

Explore the network of sea caves found on Awabakal land on Lake Macquarie's eastern shores. Caves Beach on the Wallarah Peninsula is known for its namesake sea caves at the southern end of the beach. Stretch your legs along the long sweep of beach before entering the caves and exploring the surrounding rock pools at low tide. Once known as The Plains, the Awabakal People used to collect resin used in spear-making from the area. Sunrise and sunset provide the best photo opportunities but check tide times ahead of your visit. See visitlakemac.com.au

THE ONE STAY

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Photos: supplied

Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalow, Lake Macquarie

If long beach strolls and rolling Pacific Ocean vistas are high on your list, Seadrift Caves Beach is the place. Tucked behind the dunes of Cave Beach on Lake Macquarie's eastern side, the privately owned two-bedroom, two-bathroom villa is set within Caves Coastal Bar and Bungalows and offers views over Caves and Hams Beaches. Cafes, a communal pool and beaches are a short walk from your north facing deck. Wander over to the popular Caves Coastal Bar at sunset and enjoy sundowners on the deck with views of crashing waves and fairy floss skies. Hearty wood-fired pizzas, poke bowls and duck spring rolls are served in a smart space with soaring ceilings and burnished orange banquettes. It's also a terrific spot for families with a cute outdoor playground set beneath marquee lights. See airbnb.com.au; cavescoastal.com.au

THE ONE CAFE

The welcome is warm and servings generous at family run Mawson at Caves Beach. Take a seat at this bustling corner café and order from a menu of locally sourced produce – perhaps corn fritters or nasi goreng washed down with a local Glee Coffee Roasters latte or super food smoothie. Mawson is named after the old Mawson Hotel Caves Beach which was the place to see live music in the 70s and 80s. The original idea for the now non-existent pub came about in the 1950s as part of a broader plan for a seaside township by Caves Beach founder Arthur "Art" Mawson. See mawson-cavesbeach.com

THE ONE SWIMMING SPOT

Located between Blacksmiths and Belmont, Naru Beach Reserve is one of Lake Macquarie's hidden gems. This secret swimming spot set behind Lake Macquarie Airport is reached via Marks Point and is found at the end of a bumpy dirt road. Ideal for stand up paddle boarding, a dip in the clear languid waters or just soaking up stunning lake vistas, this pristine patch of sand is loved by locals. Several small islands are just off the beach which can be explored by boat or kayak. Afterwards head to the fisherman's co-op at Swansea for fresh prawns. See lakemac.com.au

THE ONE PICNIC

Enjoy a Hamptons inspired picnic (or one of three other themes) with crystal glassware, linen napery and a grazing platter at one of the lake's prettiest foreshore locales. Samantha Watts and Natalie Murray from Luxe Lakeside Picnics create decadent styled picnics catered by local businesses including Pork Ewe Deli, Covered in Crumbs and SugarStyle. Picnics can be set up on grassy foreshores, secluded sandy beaches, private piers or on the pristine Sand Islands. Scenic flights or boat tours with Coast XP can be added. See luxelakeside.com.au

THE ONE YACHT CLUB

Sink a cold ale or two on the deck of the historic Lake Macquarie Yacht Club at Belmont, one of the area's best vantage spots to watch the sunset. Mingle with yachties, watch tiny swifts dart between moored boats as yachts return from a day on the water. The inhouse eatery Crusoe's by the Lake offers plenty of bistro classics including a generous seafood platter, grilled half-shell scallops and hearty bouillabaisse. See lmyc.com.au

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THE ONE BOAT TRIP

Join passionate ocean enthusiast Dominic May from CoastXP and explore Lake Macquarie's coastline from the water. The 2.5 hour Adventure Tour aboard CoastXP's custom-built boat "Atmos'' cruises 30 kilometres south of Newcastle Harbour. Marine life, rugged cliffs, sea cave exploration, Indigenous sites and Catherine Hill Bay's historic jetty are among the many highlights. Tours run November-May. See coastxp.com/adventure-tour

ONE MORE THING

The places listed are found on the lake's eastern shore. On the lake's western side you'll find Dobell House, once home to Archibald Prize winning artist Sir William Dobell, Lake Macquarie Art Gallery and Redbluff Boardwalk, an elevated path built out over the lake at Speers Point.

Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Visit Lake Macquarie (visitlakemac.com.au)

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