Lake Macquarie is the perfect mix of escaping the hustle and bustle of city life, without having to give up on any creature comforts. It has a laid back suburban charm, yet there are still plentiful adventuruous options. Lake Macquarie has a unique quality that’s been a firm favourite with Sydneysiders for years.
At a quick 90 minute drive north of Sydney, the sublimely picturesque Lake Macquarie not only makes for the perfect pit-stop destination but also a wonderful stay in its own right. Closer still is the city of Newcastle, a mere 30 minute drive away.
Housing the largest saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere – more than twice the size of Sydney Harbour, there are watersports galore and a true sense of adventure. However, Dan and I are very much creatures of the land, and so, it won’t surprise you, that we were in search of some decent tracks to speed hike. Did Lake Macquarie and its walking trails deliver? You bet it did!
Lake Macquarie Walking Trails | One Day Speed Hiking Guide
This guide will detail 4 fantastic Lake Macquarie trails to walk in a day. From mountain lookouts to coastal footpaths, Lake Macquarie walking tracks are sure to satisfy all of your hiking needs.
It should be noted, Dan and I spent a few days hiking around Lake Mac, Hunter Valley and Newcastle, and so we didn’t complete these hikes in this order on the same day. However, after compiling all four of the hikes together, we know that you could easily form an epic day of hiking in Lake Macquarie.
So pack some food, get the hiking gear on, and get yourselves ready for a full day of exploring a fantastic range of walking trails in Lake Macquarie.
1. Warners Bay to Speers Point
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 12-16km
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: N/A
- Difficulty: Very Easy
- Trailhead: Eleebana or Speers Point
Warners Bay to Speers Point is the perfect place to begin your day of hiking in Lake Macquarie. Part of the slightly longer Warners Bay Foreshore Walk, this easy and relaxed trail is especially worth dragging yourself up for, considering the gorgeous sunrise on offer!
As this is a very popular walk around Lake Macquarie, I would also recommend starting this one early to avoid the crowds. Don’t be surprised to see walkers, joggers, cyclists and even rollerblade enthusiasts all enjoying this level, smooth and most picturesque track.
Red Bluff Boardwalk
Commencing from either Eleebana or Speers Point, the foreshore esplanade is a simple walk enjoying the beauty of the lake. Its highlight has to be the Red Bluff Boardwalk. Consisting of a wide and elevated wooden walkway, conducive to all manner or user, the boardwalk platform sweeps over the lake and around the edges of Red Bluff. Sympathetically built in a way that elevates the enjoyment of the natural surroundings, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, this is a popular section of the walk.
If you have time and are keen to complete the full Warners Foreshore Walk, then begin from Eleebana, where you’ll hug the lake’s edge all the way around to Booragul, ending at the art gallery. This makes a 9km one-way trail or 18km return. As the walk is predominantly flat, you’ll find that you’ll able to cover 5-6km/hour speed hiking.
If you have the time, or you’re super quick, go for it. Otherwise, with three more Lake Macquarie walking trails to fit into the day, we recommend the shorter version. It still offers exceptional views and complete enjoyment.
SIDE NOTE: As you can see, Dan and I weren’t really dressed for a full day of hiking. We completed this short walk first thing in the morning before heading to the Hunter Valley for a day of wine tasting. It was our honeymoon after all.
2. Mount Sugarloaf Circuit
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 5.6km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 200m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Mount Sugarloaf Pass car park
Mount Sugarloaf rises majestically to the north-west of Lake Macquarie and is topped by two broadcasting transmitters – their silhouettes easily made out on the horizon line. The car park, and toilet block, is situated just below the summit, and so access to the peak is straightforward, if just a little steep. However, we believe the best of Mount Sugarloaf is in the extended walk, and not just in the summit views.
To extend this walk, we combined the Cliffs Walk with the Sugarloaf Pass Peak Trail. This is a great idea as the Cliff Walk adds some additional views to the hike, over the Hunter region, which are truly exceptional. In some ways, they’re even better than the summit views from Mount Sugarloaf.
Beginning from the Sugarloaf Pass car park, you’ll first need to head back down the road a little from which you’ve just driven. Don’t worry, there isn’t much of this mundane road walking involved. Eventually, after around 1km of walking, you’ll come to the turn off for the Cliff Walk, to your left.
The Cliff Walk
The Cliff Walk follows a well worn and excellently maintained forest path. As the name suggests, the trail hugs the cliff edge and so to your right are glimpses of fantastic views of surrounding landscape, through the dense woodland growth.
The first lookout you’ll come to is the Northern Lookout. It’s views are extensive and on a clear day, are far reaching over the Heaton State Forest. Leaving the main trail, follow the stone steps down onto an area of rock platform for the best views. As always, take care as you explore.
After soaking up the views, retrace your steps to join back up with the main trail and continue right, until you come to the second lookout.
This next vista is Mount Sugarloaf Western Lookout. The views are similar to those at the Northern Lookout, however, you’ll find less obstruction from trees and other vegetation, and so, it offers a much broader view of the surrounding area. The Western Lookout is perhaps the best along the whole trail.
Mount Sugarloaf Summit
Next, it’s on to Mount Sugarloaf itself. From the Western Lookout, the trail sort of spirals up the hillside as you climb closer to the summit. This part of the walk feels peaceful and is very beautiful. However, the beauty comes to an abrupt halt just shy of the summit. As you follow the path and emerge from the tranquil forest escape, you’ll find yourself back at the car park, just before the final summit run.
Engage your tunnel vision, block out the concrete carpet, and get your speed hike on to the summit – a short, final push.
The peak of Mount Sugarloaf is a platform of huge boulders. Safety fences have been erected surrounding the top and you’ll need to position yourself well to block out the transmission towers. But, the views are wonderful. On a clear day, they extensively reach across to Lake Macquarie and the surrounding Hunter Region.
Now you can add this hike to your Sugarloaf tally. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re anything like us, this won’t be the first Sugarloaf Peak you’ve climbed in Australia. One of our favourites was the awesome Wells Cave Track to reach Sugarloaf Peak in the Cathedral Ranges State Park, Victoria.
3. Yuelarbah Walking Trail
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 6.8km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 200m
- Difficulty: Grade 3
- Trailhead: Yuelarbah car park (on Burwood Road)
Located in the Glenrock State Conservation Area, the penultimate hike of the day is the popular Yuelarbah Walking Trail. It’s the perfect mix of beach, bush and boardwalk! It’s also one of our favourite walking trails around Lake Macquarie.
Commencing through beautiful forest and well-maintained pathway, the trail follows Flaggy Creek. At around the 600m mark of this track, you’ll come to a bridge crossing the creek. You should do so. Here, the track becomes part of the Great North Walk (GNW). Continuing along the GNW, you’ll pass over the top of Flaggy Creek Waterfall, via another bridge. Once crossed, you should be able to find some small, unofficial off trails to gain better views of the falls.
SIDE NOTE: The Great North Walk is a 250km coastal hike from Newcastle to Sydney, or vice versa. Traditionally taking 12-18 days to hike, the trail can also be broken up into 30 separate day hikes. See here for more information.
Flaggy Creek waterfall is small but elegant, and drops sweetly over the side of the smooth rock face, into a little pool below. From here, the water continues its journey towards the coast, where we’ll be heading to! The waterfall is by no means exceptional, but we do love to come across them on any trail.
Next up is Leichardts Lookout. This ample-sized, square viewing platform offers the first glimpse of Glenrock Lagoon and out onto the coast. Sat perfectly between the split in the hillside is the winding estuary of Flaggy Creek. The sight of the golden sand, signaling yet another beautiful NSW beach to come, is too enticing to linger at the lookout for long, and so without further ado, it’s time to continue.
Yuelarbah or GNW?
From Leichardt Lookout, you have the option to reconnect with the Yuelarbah Track or continue along the GNW. Both will lead you to the coast and Burwood Beach. We decided to join back with Yuelarbah and return via the GNW, but it’s entirely up to you. We just like to make a trail a loop if we can, but it really makes little difference so don’t worry too much about which trail you take.
The wide gravel terrain of the Yuelarbah Track feels a little like an upmarket management trail – you know, kinda uninspiring yet interesting enough to reassure that you made the right decision in not taking the GNW trail. It makes the perfect track for cycling, for sure. In fairness, we really enjoyed this section of the trail. The birdlife is fantastic and the slightly downhill elevation takes little effort. Speed hiking was in full force.
Speed hiking you say? Yes! That’s right, Dan and I love speed hiking. More high octane than regular hiking, but a step down from actual trail running, speed hiking enables us to cover more ground and extra hikes in a day than otherwise possible. It also provides an excellent workout and we find it to be most enjoyable. Sound interested? Check out our How to Join the Wonderful World of Speed Hiking guide.
Burwood Beach Viewpoint
Around 1.5km after leaving Leichardt Lookout, you’ll arrive at the Burwood Beach Viewpoint. The views are, quite frankly, gorgeous. From here you have the option to follow the trail left, along what is officially the Yuelarbah Management Trail, and access the beach below, should you wish.
However, the Yuelarbah trail actually ends here at the Burwood Beach Viewpoint, and so we recommend taking the short scrub path to the right and accessing the part of Burwood Beach that meets Glenrock Lagoon.
The beach is quiet and the perfect place to refuel and take a rest. Glenrock Lagoon sits like a mirage between the forest hillsides enclosing its edges. It’s an almost paradise.
The rock platforms that sweep around the beach edges are wonderful. Resembling toasted marshmallows, they’re the perfect set up to simply sit and enjoy the beauty around you.
Now time to head back. Retrace your steps to the path you took down to the beach from the Yuelarbah Track. Instead of heading back up this track, you’ll see a trail heading to the left and hugging the edge of the lagoon. This is the GNW and the route we’ll take back to the trailhead.
This section of the track can feel overgrown in parts and definitely more adventurous. As you near the end of the lagoon, the track begins to ascend, quite sharply in parts, and so this section of the hike requires the most effort. Again, the tracks reconnect at Leichhardt Lookout, and from there it’s an easy case of retracing your steps back to the car park.
Caves Beach to Pinney Beach
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 5km
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 100m
- Difficulty: Grade 4
- Trailhead: Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club
The fourth and final hike of the day is the ruggedly wild Caves Beach to Pinney Beach return. Caves Beach is a real natural gem along this portion of coastline. Timed just right with the tide and you’ve got yourself access to huge cave openings, narrow passageways and rock platform exploration. The rugged trail is enjoyable from start to finish, and just so happens to touch into the Wallarah National Park, if you like to keep count of how many national parks you’ve been to. We definitely do not do that. Nope, not us.
STORYTIME: Dan and I actually married on Caves Beach just 2 days earlier to hiking this trail. Luckily, we had low tide to be able to explore the caves on the day. Unlucky for you is that they’re the only pictures we have of the caves, so you’ll sadly have to enjoy some of our wedding snaps. Sorry not sorry.
The trail begins from the southern end of Caves Beach, next to the Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club. You’ll find ample parking here, or further up adjacent to Caves Beach Bungalows. You’ll also find toilets at the surf club.
After a little cave exploration, tides permitting, head immediately up the wooden staircase that leads over and onto the headland. The trail from here is fairly level. Enjoy the sea breeze and views across the bay as you walk to Stinky Point.
Stinky Point is the first headland you’ll reach after leaving Caves Beach. Spoon Rocks Break Wall can be seen to the far side and the resultant Spoon Rocks Beach is secluded and more than inviting on a warm day. The trail briefly covers a short section of the beach, and so a quick dip would be more than doable.
From Stinky Point, take the wooden staircase up the cliffside to Spoon Rock Lookout. From the top you’ll have wonderful views back over to Stinky Point and further up the central coastline.
Continue the path over the wild cliff tops. The terrain from Spoon Rock Lookout towards Quarries Head and Pinney Beach is uneven under foot and can feel a little arduous at times. Having said that, the surrounding heathland is full of alpine-like beauty. Vegetation is low and so the views are unimpeded.
Just before your arrival, and subsequent descent onto Pinney Beach is Quarries Head. This sharp headland juts out into the ocean to a fine point. The views are spectacular down onto Pinney and back over to Spoon Rocks and Stinky Point.
By now the trail is beginning to encroach into Wallarah National Park. Suddenly you’ll feel completely removed from civilisation and immersed into the isolated craggy plains that surround you. Enjoy the serenity.
As you make your way along this coastal trail, be sure to look out for the wonderful rock formations. The years of weathering that has carved out such beautiful caves is still very much at work. We saw this very unusual rock stack, like layers of pastry, leaning precariously towards the mouth of a hungry ocean.
The dark sand at Pinney Beach is of stark contrast to that found at Caves Beach. The landscape surrounding Pinney feels more rugged and exposed, with a sense of wild adventure. The beach is well loved for its rock fishing and surfing capabilities. Pinney Beach can only be accessed via the coastal walk and is unpatrolled. It goes without saying to always take care if going out in the water.
The trail descends, quite sharply, down onto the beach from where you can explore this quiet and relatively sheltered cove. For the return, re-join the trail from the same entrance to the beach, either by joining back up with the same trail you came in on, or, by taking the West Pinney Trail. This path leads a little deeper into Wallarah National Park and makes more of a loop back.
Always keen to make a loop out of a hike, if possible, we took the path furthest from the cliff edge, deeper into Wallarah National Park. We then joined back up with the original trail close to Stinky Point, just before descending the wooden staircase. The choice, of course, is yours. There are many little trail routes to return by, so opting for a slightly different route is totally fine.
If you’re keen, you can add Shark Hole onto the walk. This involves continuing along West Pinney Trail adjacent to the beach and joining Shark Hole Trail. The extra will add around 3km return onto the walk.
Lake Macquarie Trails Recap
For a day of hiking that’s full of variety, Lake Macquarie ticks a lot of boxes. Each walk has its own unique appeal – whether scaling mountain summits, exploring secret caves, treading exposed cliff trails or leisurely meandering lakeside boardwalks. These 4 amazing Lake Macquarie walking trails are the perfect way to explore the area and enjoy some truly local walks. Plus, this itinerary makes for a brilliant day of speed hiking!
If you’re interested in more hikes in the area, check out Bathers Way, Newcastle: Boardwalk, How to Find the Pink Caves on the Central Coast and The Best of the Munmorah State Conservation Area guides.
Getting to & from Lake Macquarie
Getting to Lake Macquarie from Sydney is very straightforward. At just 150km north of Sydney, and with average fuel costs around $14-$22AUD ($10-17USD), driving also happens to be the cheapest option. If you or your hiking buddies don’t have access to your own set of wheels, we recommend and typically use RentalCars.com.
There are numerous public transport options for getting from Sydney to Lake Macquarie. However, in order to achieve the hikes in this itinerary in the day, you’ll need a car.
If you’re travelling to Australia from overseas, we recommend using Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money with international travel.
Accommodation in Lake Macquarie
As Lake Macquarie isn’t too far from Sydney, or Newcastle for that matter, you could easily make this day itinerary a trip without needing accommodation. However, we stayed in Lake Macquarie as part of a wider trip, which you may well be doing too.
Dan and I stayed for one night at the Squids Ink Motel on the edge of Lake Macquarie. For more detailed information on where to stay around Lake Macquarie, see our The Best of Munmorah State Conservation Area guide.
Local Supplies for Lake Macquarie
It’s a full on day of hiking and so we’d always recommend taking snacks and a packed lunch, rather than trying to squeeze in a quick café or restaurant stop. We tend to find all our food needs at Coles and Woolworths supermarket. You’ll find both scattered around Lake Mac in areas like Swansea and Belmont.
- Food: $6AUD/person ($4.50USD)
- Fuel: $15AUD/person ($11.50USD)
Total= $21AUD/person ($16USD)
Five Hiking Gear Essentials for Lake Macquarie
These are our five hiking gear essentials for exploring Lake Macquarie and these 4 great walks. For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. We go in-depth into what hiking and camping gear we use. There, you’ll find specific recommendations for all the products we love.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – 4 trails in a day calls for some pretty sturdy yet comfortable shoes. Dan has been wearing the Merrell’s for years and they’re his absolute go-to. Lightweight and weatherproof, they’re ideal for the less hardcore hiking options on offer in Lake Macquarie.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – you’ll be needing a good rucksack to carry around a day’s supply for walking in Lake Macquarie.
- Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 50+) – sunscreen is an absolute must when hiking all day, make sure you’re covered.
- The North Face Men’s Venture 2 Jacket – if starting early for sunrise, or on top of Mount Sugarloaf, you might find the temperature a bit chilly. A good wind jacket is a must for us, and this one scrunches down perfectly in a rucksack.
- Nikon DSLR Camera – be sure to photograph your travels!
Although the trails of Lake Macquarie are not difficult to follow, you may still want to have access to maps. To be fully prepared, especially given the wealth of alternative and side trails on some of the Lake Macquarie walks, consider downloading a GPS guided map before you set out. We recommend Wikiloc or AllTrails.
For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during the hikes and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Start early: Sunrise is a magical time to experience the lake. Not only is it bound to be quieter, but the morning sunlight hitting the lake is quite beautiful. Plus, it means you’ll have plenty of time to fit all of the hikes in a day.
- Be prepared for a dip: If completing this itinerary in warmer months, you’ll struggle not to be tempted for a quick swim on those beach visits. We recommend packing those bathers, just in case.
- Stay longer: There’s so much to see and do in and around Lake Macquarie, although this itinerary makes for the perfect day trip, do stay longer to see even more of this beautiful area.
- Get married!: Can highly recommend Caves Beach as the perfect micro wedding destination 😉
We hope you enjoyed this itinerary and the 4 really great walking trails you can easily do in a day at Lake Macquarie. Bookmark for future use, or share it with your hiking buddies.
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