All images © Jennifer Ennion
Mum and son roadtrip to
Craving quality mum and son time, Jennifer Ennion roadtrips to Lake Macquarie for a stay-cation thatís all about creative play, inside and out.
His little legs race up the dune, hands dragging a bag of essential beach tools. At the peak, Wild One pauses, smiles at the big blue sea and then bolts to the shore. Soon enough weíre splashing about in the stretching shallows of a receding tide. Iíve been wanting to visit Caves Beach, in the Lake Macquarie region of NSW, for yonks. Itís only 40 minutes up the road from home, yet has always evaded me. However, when I was searching for a long-weekend stay-cation perfect for quality time, it ticked all the right boxes: practical, family friendly and coastal.
Our first day is a cracker. The sun is shining and Wild One is ready for adventure. With swimmers, towels and toys packed, weíre off to Caves, a quiet suburb at the southern end of Lake Macquarie, 10 minutesí drive from our suite at Raffertys Resort in Cams Wharf. There are a smattering of shops, a pub and plenty of tracks leading to a long stretch of sand that makes up Hams and Caves beaches.
We follow the signs and nab an easy park behind the dunes, a stoneís throw from the surf club. The aforementioned bolt to the waves takes place and soon weíre giggling, splashing and lapping up the warm morning sunshine. Locals walk past, smiling and saying hello. One offers to snap a photo of a simple moment thatís worth cherishing. I then entice Wild One down the southern end of the beach to the sea caves that are a big attraction for photographers and explorers alike.
We stop at the entrance, my two-year-old fascinated with the rock platforms, the pools left by the low tide and the luminescent green moss swathing wet boulders. The morning is spent climbing, searching for tiny crabs and digging holes. When itís time to take a break from the sun, the departure is difficult; we could spend all day here. Eventually, we make it to the popular and stylish Boffee Cafe, in Cavesí small strip of shops. People sip coffee atop recycled milk crate stools that spill onto the pavement in the sunshine; the baristas are rushed off their feet. A cherry and chocolate slice proves too tempting, while a caramel milkshake puts a smile on Wild Oneís face Ė rare treats reserved for holidays.
Art and about
Our beach visit is a highlight of our stay, but itís matched by our quiet time at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, across the lake in Booragul. The gallery does a fantastic job at introducing children to the world of art and making families feel welcome. There are art classes and school holiday workshops for kids and adults, while holidaymakers can drop in on Sundays for creative play in a large space set aside for messy fun.
The program isnít on when we call in on a Saturday so we enjoy the kidsí corner where Wild One is not so wild, quietly building towers with wooden blocks. Heís too young to appreciate that the childrenís activities are linked with each exhibition, but I love the concept as a wonderful way to make art accessible to little ones. I make a mental note to return for the free art activities every Sunday.
Tucked away off the Pacific Highway, down in the quiet suburb of Cams Wharf, is the sprawling Raffertys Resort. More of a gated community of individually designed houses than a typical resort, a stay here makes you feel like a resident.
The fact there are four pools, tennis courts, a playground, two cafes and a restaurant is even better. There is also Jet Buzz, an on-site water sports operator, and you can hire paddleboats, kayaks, paddleboards, fishing boats or go for a jet boat thrill ride on the lake.
Our paddleboat plans are dashed by morning drizzle, so we head to the heated pool for swimming lessons. Wild One is thrilled to crash a tweenís birthday pool party, excited by all the noise and other children.
Our two-bedroom terrace suite is a sanctuary of silence in comparison. Iím impressed by the large rooms, big bathrooms, and the spacious and comfortable living area, which makes for a great play area for Wild One and his toy dinosaurs. Thereís a lovely balcony that would be great for lazy breakfasts, but instead we enjoy the ŗ la carte offerings at the resortís new Crave Cafe.
That night we dine at Al Lago Italian Restaurant, an on-site eatery by the lake. The fact we donít have to leave Raffertys and can have a reservation at 5.30pm is ideal. As we wait for dinner, we wander the main pool area and say hello to resident ducks. Wild One is too fascinated with his new environment to sit still for pizza, but I enjoy chargrilled king prawns, a huge serving of wagyu rump and even a sneaky pomegranate mojito. We both retire to bed happy and exhausted, having shared some quality one-on-one time in a family destination so close to home.
This article appeared in volume 54 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
Lake Macquarie is 35 minutesí drive south of Newcastle CBD and one hour and 45 minutes north of Sydney. The closest passenger airport is Newcastle but the region is large and makes a great drive destination.