Lake Macquarie offers a peaceful getaway from the bright lights of the city, a place to unwind and relax, go boating or even watch the passing parade of pelicans. Felicity Glover recommends Swansea, Australia
A sleepy fishing village on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Swansea is known locally as the place where “the ocean meets the lake” – specifically, the Pacific Ocean and Lake Macquarie, the biggest salt-water lake in the Southern Hemisphere.
Not to be confused with Swansea in Wales, where Hollywood star Catherine Zeta-Jones was born, Australia’s Swansea is a low key, but classic best-kept beach holiday secret, where lazy days at the beach are the norm.
But it’s not just all about surfing, swimming or working on your suntan – Swansea and its surrounding areas offer a wealth of activities for visitors, from arts and culture to adventure sports, whale watching or even exploring historic nearby towns, such as Catherine Hill Bay. Just 130km from Sydney and 40km down the Pacific Highway from Newcastle, this was the go-to holiday destination for my family when I was growing up thanks to my great aunt’s house perched on the sandy shore of the bay overlooking the breakwater. We could literally jump off the front verandah and land on the soft, golden yellow sand of the beach, while high tide would see gentle waves lapping against the house. It was the perfect place for children, where we’d spend long summer days out on the water, either swimming, fishing, knocking about in our little boat, exploring inlets or hanging out with our holiday friends.
It would have to be the small beach in front of my great aunt’s house, where I once witnessed a very lost fairy penguin waddle across the sand. But that’s all about fond memories. That said, another family favourite was spending a day at Caves Beach, where, at low tide, you will find a network of caves and tidal pools ripe for exploring. You can also take a guided walk around the beach, which is a popular spot for surfers and campers, and the surrounding nature park.
There’s a range of watersports you can take part in on Lake Macquarie, while you can also arrange deep-sea fishing trips or whale and dolphin watching tours. You could check out the heritage-listed lighthouse at nearby Nelson Bay, which was operated by an ancestor of mine – William Glover, the original light keeper – back in 1875. There’s also the historical mining town of Catherine Hill Bay, where the original miners’ cottages still stand. Just a short walk from the beach, these have been renovated and are available to rent for weekend breaks or longer holidays.
It’s no fun when it rains, but there’s still plenty to do and places to explore, such as Newcastle, where you will find some great cafes, museums and other fun activities to keep you amused while you wait for the wet weather to stop.
It’s a true-blue beach culture up this way, so anything related to the sun, sand and surf would be easy to find. Check local listings for weekend markets, where you will find unique keepsakes to remind you of your holiday, while Newcastle offers the usual high street malls and boutiques.
From camping to caravan parks, motels, B&Bs and boutique hotels, there’s a wealth of choice for all budgets. What’s essential, though, is that you are staying as close to the water as possible.