Discover Lake Macquarie, located on the east coast of Australia and boasting the largest coastal saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere – twice the size of Sydney Harbour. With beach caves you can roll into, kilometers of accessible pathways, and outstanding accommodation options, Lake Macquarie is an easy destination to fall in love with for travellers with additional needs.
Made up of 90 diverse towns and villages, 30km of pristine coastline and some of the most beautiful forests in NSW, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Lake Macquarie. Located just 90 minutes north of Sydney and a short drive to Newcastle and the Hunter Valley Wine Region, Lake Macquarie is a popular destination for holidaymakers, with many visitors choosing to visit year after year. It’s close enough to Sydney to make it a short and relaxing trip, and the region excels in access and inclusion.
Whether you are visiting for a weekend or an extended holiday, be sure to immerse yourself in the array of activities available at your fingertips. Relax, unwind and take in the views, reach out and touch the sand at one of the golden beaches, escape to a natural playground for an adventure of discovery, or visit one of the local cafes and restaurants.
Lake Macquarie Holiday Parks
For those who prefer self-catering accommodation, holiday parks with accessible villas are an excellent choice. Lake Mac Holiday Parks provide a range of waterfront accommodation from caravanning and camping, to the newly-installed state-of-the-art Lake Mac Villas/Duplex. The Lake Mac Villas/Duplex includes accessible parking, ramp access, automatic doors and blinds, motorised adjustable shelves and accessible bathrooms. Lake Mac Holiday Parks new accessible features include a wheelchair pool ramp at Blacksmiths Beachside, a wheelchair pool hoist at Belmont Lakeside, an aquatic wheelchair and accessible playground carousel at Swansea Lakeside, as well as communal facilities across all three sites.
The Lake Mac Villas include a two-bedroom accessible villa at Blacksmiths Beachside, a three-bedroom and two-bedroom accessible villa at Swansea Lakeside, and two adjoining one-bedroom cabins at Belmont Lakeside that can open into a single villa for large families.
The Parks’ central locations ensure you are in close proximity to the many clubs, pubs and restaurants of the local area, making Swansea, Blacksmiths, or Belmont the ideal place to sit back and relax. Nothing says “getting away from it all” like waking up to the peaceful scene of a pelican gliding across the lake at sunrise.
Across the parks there are plenty of activities to keep the kids busy including swimming pools, mini golf, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, as well as nearby boat launching facilities for water lovers. With the lake on the doorstep, you won’t have to travel far to find something to do. Paddle in the shallow waters, take the boat out for some fishing, or enjoy the vista along the stunning foreshore. Blacksmiths Beach and Caves Beach are only a 5-minute drive away, or you can pack a picnic lunch and pick a spot on the foreshore to watch the boats go by at Swansea Channel.
Belmont Lakeside offers breathtaking scenery with its panoramic views of the lake and island-like atmosphere. Blacksmiths Beachside has the relaxing beachside family holiday vibe you’ve dreamed about. Swansea Lakeside takes adventure seekers right to the lake’s edge for some family fun. Lake Mac Holiday Parks has accommodation to cater for the whole family – including your beloved furry friend! (Pet-friendly accommodation available at Belmont Lakeside and Blacksmiths Beachside.)
During the warmer months, take advantage of Belmont Baths and its recently-upgraded accessible facilities. These include a Mobi-chair stored onsite (available to anyone with an MLAK key), ramp access, external showers, a family change room, ambulant change room, and accessible parking.
Few cave experiences provide access for a wheelchair user, so make the most of the chance to explore the caves at the aptly-named Caves Beach. Head down at low tide with the help of a beach wheelchair if needed (available for loan from the Caves Beach Surf Lifesaving Club), and check out the caves and exposed rock pools.
During the colder months, visit the newly-renovated Toronto Swim Centre, which caters for all abilities with accessible changerooms, showers, toilets, parking, and an on-site cafe.
Museum of Art and Culture
Formerly known as the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, the Museum of Art and Culture (MAC) is an exceptional cultural experience and the region’s premier art destination. Located on the waterfront at the northern end of Lake Macquarie, MAC is inclusive and accessible. It offers a range of creative and diverse cultural programs to engage the local community and visitors alike. View exhibitions, grab a bite to eat at the onsite Sculpture Cafe, or try your hand at painting, sculpting, and crafts classes (with options suitable for both kids and adults).
Starting from the Eleebana Lions Park carpark, the Warners Bay shared pathway hugs the lake foreshore all the way around, ending at MAC in Booragul. Paved and flat, it’s a great pathway for families to enjoy together. One of the highlights is a 380 metre-long elevated boardwalk built out over the lake around a headland known locally as Red Bluff. Enjoy accessible parking, picnic and rest areas, as well as toilet facilities along the 8.9km stretch, perfect for all levels of fitness. While you’re at it, treat yourself to a coffee or snack (or both!) at one of the many cafes located opposite the lake on The Esplanade, right in the heart of Warners Bay. Don’t forget to check out the gorgeous lake views, and the sculptures dotting the pathway as you go!
You should also try the Fernleigh Track, the Hunter region’s most popular shared pathway. The 15km route along a disused coal haul rail line passes through multiple suburbs and takes in the Glenrock State Conservation Area, Awabakal Nature Reserve, and Belmont Wetlands State Park. It’s a particularly social track, so don’t be surprised to hear the ring of bike bells or slightly-breathless greetings from passing exercisers. The tunnel along the track is a stunning feature, overgrown with greenery, and a cool place to try out an echo when no one’s nearby.
Catalina Lakefront Retreat
Catalina Lakefront Retreat is a multi-purpose centre on the waterfront at Rathmines, owned by the charity Disability Life Enrichment. The facility was originally the hospital for the RAAF base, and it has undergone extensive renovations to meet the needs of people who live with disability in the community, and visitors to the area.
With a history as a hospital and a nursing home, the venue is ideal to support people who have accessibility needs on family holidays. There are no stairs, and there are wide hallways and doors throughout the building, providing easy access for people who use a wheelchair. The surrounding parkland is also accessible with wide, flat pathways.
Catalina Lakefront Retreat is unique in that the majority of its rooms are accessible. There are a variety of bedrooms available, from single to family to even larger bunk rooms. There are many bathrooms and accessible ensuites, meaning that larger groups are catered for, including guests with high accessibility needs.
There are plenty of areas for groups to meet, including a large function room, smaller meeting rooms, a games room, and a lounge. A large commercial kitchen and multiple dining areas, including an outdoor BBQ, offer the opportunity to gather for meals. A large fenced outdoor entertainment area provides plenty of room to run around or even feed the local birds.
This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.