In the first of an occasional series about waterways that are close to home, and close to the heart, new Powerboat-world.com editor Mark Rothfield looks at Lake Macquarie near Newcastle in NSW.
The shoreline of Belmont Bay
They say the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and, accordingly, few Novocastrians consider Lake Macquarie as a prime cruising ground … Port Stephens, a little to the north, seems greener, or at least bluer.
You have to leave for a while in order to see the lake in a new light.
The lake is four times as large as Sydney Harbour
With 174 kilometres of shoreline, there is much to regard. In fact, it's Australia's largest coastal saltwater lake, about four times the size of Sydney Harbour.
Brochures describe the bays as being wooded or sandy, but bricked and mortared may be more apt these days. Modern houses hug both the eastern and western shorelines, only thinning out in the southern reaches.
Sandy beaches are also a rare commodity, rocks or pebbles being more prominent. Still, if you know where to look, there are enough undeveloped bays to allow both a scenic escape and a refreshing swim.
Where Lake Macquarie excels is in its boating-friendly waters. Being land-locked and reasonably deep it remains relatively calm in all but the most severe southerly buster. There are numerous safe anchorages and marinas where you can hole up.
There was a time when the shallowness of the lake's entrance, particularly the 'drop-over' off Marks Point, made navigation difficult even for yachts and larger sportscruisers. An on-going dredging program has improved this.
Swansea Channel and the Pelican "drop-over" are notoriously shallow
The only remaining barrier is Swansea Bridge, or rather bridges. You have to call the local rescue base to arrange a bridge opening (phone 4971 3723 or radio them on 27mHz or VHF) - weekends there are openings on the hour from 6-8am and 4-7pm.
The channel is particularly picturesque and offers some of the best fishing on the lake - anything from flathead and leather jackets to whiting.
Speaking of which, fish stocks are seemingly on the rise since professional net fishing was stopped several years ago. Fishos generally flock to the drop-over, Pulbah Island, off the Belmont skiff club, and the various creek mouths.
Pulbah is also home to a wide range of fauna, being heavily forested. The unspoilt isle is a popular day destination as you can find a serene anchorage regardless of wind direction.
The water here is a British racing green, and exceptionally deep.
For overnight anchoring you can't go past a secluded bay just south of Nords Wharf called Crangan Bay. At sunset you could be mistaken for thinking you're in Nara Inlet in the Whitsundays.
Also good when the breeze is blowing from an easterly quadrant are the bays on the western side of Point Wolstoncroft. When it's fanning from the nor-west you can try Styles Point, near Rathmines, which has a nice nature reserve.
If you don't want to rough it, tying up at Wangi Workers Club wharf and settling in for a meal is to be recommended. Next morning you can cruise down the western shore past Fishing Point, Coal Point and Carey Bay to Toronto, admiring how the 'other half' live along the way.
The views may be fine but the best way to see all the lake has to offer is from a boat - even a humble tinnie.
Sandy islands around Swansea are a haven for small runabouts
For launching there are numerous boat ramps, though very few would rate as brilliant. On the eastern shore there's Eleebana, Cane Point (Belmont), Pelican, Swansea Channel and Cams Wharf. On the west there is Marmong Point, Bolton Point, Fennell Bay, Toronto, Skye Point, Styles Point, Rathmines, Wangi, Bonnells Bay, Sunshine, Brightwaters, Wyee and more.