This fast-growing suburb is on a peninsula jutting out from the west side of Lake Macquarie.
All along Lake Macquarie’s indented shoreline are parks and trails where you can observe the abundant wildlife, go fishing, watch the sunrise or just rest in the greenery and be cooled by the fresh breezes.
On the ocean side of the lake are alluring beaches with rolling surf.
There’s interesting history closer to Morisset at Cooranbong, where the Seventh-day Adventists bought up land in the late-19th century and continue to run a university, the Sanitarium Health Food and Wellbeing Company and a museum full of artefacts from their missions to the south seas.
High in the hinterland are the Watagan Mountains, conserved by a national park where you can hike in rainforest to perched lookouts and waterfalls.
1. Lake Macquarie
Morisset is on the largest coastal saltwater lake in the country, spreading out over 110 square kilometres and replenished by the Tasman Sea through a little channel on the east side.
To give you an idea of the size of Lake Macquarie, it’s twice as big as Sydney Harbour, but the true scale is disguised by a shoreline wrinkled with peninsulas, bays and creeks.
We’ll talk about all the water activities available at Lake Macquarie below, but the shoreline is a joy too.
The State Conservation Area is essentially a chain of well-equipped parks offering access to the lake, and as well as a busy summer of festivals there will always be a farmers’ market trading somewhere on the weekend.
The stands of eucalypt forest on the south shore are designated an Important Bird Area (IBA), with nesting ospreys and masked owls, as well as regent honeyeaters and swift parrots that visit when the various trees like swamp mahoganies are in bloom.
2. Water Activities
With lots of sheltered water and a shoreline indented with bays and creeks, it’s no shock that Lake Macquarie is a major water sports destination.
For decades sailing has been the main pastime, and there’s no fewer than ten yacht clubs posted around the shore.
Water-skiing and casual boating are also big, while recently more flexible activities like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding have come to the fore.
You can do these with a guide, pointing out the lake’s dolphins and green sea turtles, or under your own steam.
A few kayak and paddleboard companies operating in the Lake Macquarie area are Kite and SUP at Warners Bay, JetBuzz at Lorikeet Loop and Lake MAC Kayak & SU Hire, a mobile business.
Lake Macquarie is rated by those who know as one of the best places for recreational fishing in Australia.
This activity has gone into overdrive with recent increases in water quality and the decline of the commercial fishing industry in the area.
To name just a handful of the species biting in these waters, you’ve got squid, sand whiting, bream, mulloway, tailor, dusky flathead and yellowtail kingfish.
Australian salmon migrate to the lake during the winter months, and luderick, whiting, bream and dusky flathead are caught in great numbers along the Swansea Channel at the lake’s eastern entrance.
If you need to stock up on gear and bat, Fishermans Warehouse Tackle World should be your first port of call over by the airport at Marks Point.
4. Watagans National Park
Turn inland from Morisset and you’ll soon be in the Watagan Mountains, under a mantle of rainforest and protected by a national park.
Since way before European settlement the range has been key to the Awabakal and Darkinjung People, who have left behind an extraordinary amount of abstract carvings in rocks around the park.
One of the must-dos is the hike to the marvellous Gap Creek Falls, a long a humid gully with stands of Illawarra flame trees and red cedar, and rock walls and boulders coated with moss.
In the early 19th century the timber industry had set up in the Watagans, and log chutes and the sites of old saw mills are reminders from the period.
There are fabulous lookouts all over the range, and one not mentioned below is the Narrow Place lookout where you can take in an amazing, 180° panorama of Hunter Valley, Cessnock and past the Barrington Ranges.
5. Dobell House
The place where three-time Archibald Prize winner Sir William Dobell (1899-1970) composed some of his most important paintings is a few short minutes away in Wangi.
The Dobell House started out as a lakeside bungalow, built by Dobell’s father Robert in 1925. This eclectic building was later adapted by William as a house and studio, and he eventually settled here full-time in 1950. Generally, he would make sketches outside and then return to his studio to paint.
You can go inside on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays for a fascinating snapshot of Dobell’s artistic and domestic life.
The house is adorned with scores of prints and photographs, as well as pieces of family furniture, easels, brushes, paint, and all kinds of other memorabilia.
6. Monkey Face Lookout
You can’t leave Watagans National Park without taking in the exceptional view from Monkey Face Lookout.
This high vantage point faces east across the immensity of the Martinsville Valley.
Something dazzling about the panorama is the way the light and colours change from season to season.
There’s also ample birdlife in the surrounding trees, so bring some kind of magnification if you can.
Pack a lunch or a snack, and you’ll get some repose amid the mature iron barks and grass trees at the peaceful picnic area.
7. South Sea Islands Museum
Across the way from the shops in nearby Cooranbong is a whole estate set up by the Seventh-day Adventists in the 1890s.
Their founder, Ellen G.
White (1827-1915) moved to a house on the property around this time during her mission to Australia.
The Seventh-day Adventists meanwhile had been conducting missions to the Pacific Islands since the 1880s, and the South Sea Islands Museum is an engaging miscellany of objects accrued over the decades.
In a house from 1896 are weapons, headhunting equipment, tools and religious objects from the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti and Kiribati, to name a few.
The displays are refreshed at regular intervals, but one constant is the remarkable war canoe from the Solomon Islands, 15.8 metres long and used for headhunting raids.
8. Sunnyside Historic Home
Another highlight of the Avondale Estate is the place that Ellen G. White called home during her mission to Australia.
Sunnyside was built specifically for White in 1895 and was restored in the 1860s.
It’s a building with understated beauty, particularly in the iron detailing on the verandah.
Touring the house you’ll be given some riveting insights about a highly influential but often overlooked 19th-century figure.
There’s a brief film about her career, and your guide will share details about White’s public speaking prowess, her many volumes of writings and her ideas about nutrition that broke the mould in 19th-century society.
9. Catherine Hill Bay Beach
Arguably the best of the beaches east of Lake Macquarie is Catherine Hill Bay Beach, an easy 20 minutes from Morisset.
This spot has made it onto “Australia’s 101 Best Beaches” and suits surfers as much as bathers.
The calmer south end is patrolled, and just past the rocks there’s a pier that harks back to Catherine Hill Bay’s past as a mining village.
Early-birds can come to watch the sun coming up over the Pacific, which looks even better framed by the old pier.
There are also rusting ruins from the village’s coalmining days in among the vegetation in the hills behind the bay.
10. Caves Beach
Head a little further up the peninsula and there’s another sublime beach waiting for you.
At its south end, Caves Beach has rocky outcrops walled by sandstone cliffs that have been hollowed out by the surf.
The caves are inaccessible when the water is up, but at low tide you can go on a little adventure, see what you can find in the rock pools and take some eye-popping photographs.
The sandy portion of the beach is relatively safe for swimmers if you stay between the flags, and is patrolled by professional lifeguards.
And when you get peckish the surf club has a classic canteen for satisfying take away bites like burgers and fried squid.
11. Treetops Central Coast
The Central Coast branch of this national high ropes chain is a convenient drive down the Pacific Motorway.
Hoisted high among the gum trees in Ourimbah State Forest, the main attraction is the Treetop Adventure Park, where you’ll shimmy from tree to tree across dozens of tricky transitions, from cargo nets to suspension bridges, tunnels and rope ladders.
There are 115 challenges in all, including a 20 flying foxes, the longest of which is 200 metres.
The one-kilometre Xtreme Crazy Rider meanwhile is the world’s longest rollercoaster zip line, complete with drops and loops, while Networld is a safe, suspended playground with all manner of inflatable games.
Finally, for budding climbers there’s Treetops Vertical Challenges, where you can test your strength and skill on climbing walls and a crazy zigzag ladder while clipped into automatic belay devices.
12. Awaba Bay Foreshore Walk
One of the loveliest but less heralded places on the Lake Macquarie shoreline is this 1.6-kilometre waterside track with sections of boardwalk that take you over a swamp.
Awaba Bay is near the lake’s northernmost point, and grants you some of its best nature-spotting opportunities.
You stand a good chance of seeing the lake’s dolphins and green sea turtles, while the bush around you echoes with the calls of lorikeets, kookaburras and frogs.
There are grassy picnic areas amid the bush when you need a break, and all the while you’ll be cooled by the breeze drifting in off the lake.
13. Lake Macquarie Airport
The airfield between the Swansea Channel and Tasman Sea can be your launchpad for all kinds of adrenaline activities in the air.
Whether you’re looping across the sky on a stunt plane or skydiving, you’ll get phenomenal bird’s eye views of the Hunter Region, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and the Tasman Sea coastline.
This is the base for Red Bull Air Race pilot Matt Hall, whose company organises a choice of high-thrills aerobatic flights with expert pilots.
Skyline Aviation offers scenic helicopter flights and charters, while there’s tandem skydiving with Skydive Newcastle, to freefall over Lake Macquarie from 15,000 feet above.
14. Rathmines Park
Yet another place to soak up the peace and the beautiful views over Lake Macquarie is Rathmines Park, a short drive up the west shore from Morisset.
This space is actually on the site of a WWII-era airbase for flying boats, and every May the Catalina Festival celebrates this chapter in history, raising money to preserve a Consolidated PBY Catalina seaplane.
As for facilities, Rathmines Park has picnic areas with shelters and barbecues, as well as a playground, skate park, a dog park and trails so you can admire the vistas across the water.