I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published November 13th 2012
Discover Toronto, the jewel of beautiful Lake Macquarie
Sometimes called 'the jewel of Lake Macquarie', Toronto is a picturesque small town located approximately 30km from Newcastle, and less than two hours from Sydney. Situated between the Wattagan Mountains, and Lake Macquarie, the largest coastal salt-water lake in Australia, the town is blessed with abundant natural beauty and a friendly, relaxed way of life which is irresistible to visitors.
Toronto's relatively close proximity to both Sydney and Newcastle make it a perfect destination for family day-trips and weekend escapes, as well as for longer sojourns. Long-term visitors are especially drawn to the area over the school holidays during the warmer months, due to the wide range of water-based activities which are readily available, such as wind-surfing, water-skiing and kayaking. Sailors of both small and large water-craft are also attracted, due to the numerous picturesque bays, islands and scenic vistas which abound, waiting to be explored.
There is plenty to see and do in Toronto and its surrounds for all kinds of visitors. Families and day-trippers will enjoy picnicking at Edward Gain Park on Victory Parade, near the lake at the end of the The Boulevard, the town's main street. As well as offering spectacular views of Lake Macquarie, the park provides picnic tables, barbecues, public toilets and an adventure playground for children. Every Sunday at 1pm, music is played in the rotunda which is situated amongst the gardens, further enhancing the laid-back vibe. In addition, many visitors enjoy a leisurely stroll along the promenade which follows the lake's shoreline and offers many lovely views.
Close by, Toronto's old railway station, a quaint wooden structure with beautiful views over the lake, has been renovated and now serves as a small museum and local heritage centre which is run by the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society. Through historical photographs and miscellaneous displays, the centre outlines Toronto's early history as a mission for the local Awabakal people and its background as a small coal-mining settlement. It's open on Wednesday and Sunday from 1pm until 4pm, and at other times by appointment. For more information, phone 02 4959 8063.
The old Toronto Railway Station, which now functions as a small museum.
Toronto's main street offers many interesting spots for enthusiastic shoppers. There are several attractive boutiques and gift-shops and even a small cafe strip situated close to the lake and park. As an avid reader, one of my favourite shops in town is Maclean's Booksellers, a small independent bookshop situated at 25 The Boulevard, which stocks a comprehensive selection of contemporary and classic literature, as well as many good-quality non-fiction titles.
For lovers of vintage and retro wares, there are several funky op shops in the area, all offering delightful and unusual goodies at extremely affordable prices. My personal favourite is the Salvation Army op shop on Victory Parade, just across the road from the lake and park. Situated in one of Toronto's original old weatherboard shopfronts, it is jam-packed with all sorts of bits and pieces—a veritable treasure trove of bric-a-brac. On the day that I visited, there was groovy old-fashioned music playing over the speakers, which along with a tasteful presentation of the items for sale, further enhanced the nostalgic atmosphere of the store.
Another cool place to go shopping during your visit is at the Toronto Lion's Club markets at Lion's Park on Anzac Parade, near the Fennel Bay Bridge. These markets are open from 7.30am until 12.30pm on the third Sunday of every month, and are a terrific place to pick up some locally-produced arts and crafts, fresh produce and bric-a-brac. There are picnic tables and a playground area at the park too, and the views over the lake are priceless. For more information, phone 0405 513 574.
For art lovers, the Toronto area offers a couple of must-see destinations. The pretty lakeside hamlet of Wangi Wangi, just ten minutes drive away, was the home of the late Australian artist and winner of two Archibald Prizes, Sir William Dobell, from 1945 until his death in 1970. Overlooking the lake, his former home is now maintained in much the same way that it was when Sir William, himself, was in residence and visitors can see his living-quarters, memorabilia connected with him, and his studio. It was here in Wangi that all of the works which he produced after 1945, except for one, were painted. The house is open every Saturday and Sunday, as well as on public holidays, from 1pm until 4pm.
Dobell House is also the venue for various community activities which might also be of interest to visitors. Every year, over the last weekend in October, the Dobell House Arts and Crafts Festival is held there. In addition, on alternate years, over the Queen's Birthday long weekend each June, a knitting festival organised by the Hunter Knitter's Guild and the Fibrefest Spinning and Weaving Festival organised by Morriset Spinners and Weavers are held in the grounds.
The address of Dobell House is 47 Dobell Drive, Wangi Wangi, 2267, the phone number is 02 4975 4115, and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, check out the Dobell House website.
Another spot which may be of interest to art lovers is the near-by Lake Macquarie Art Gallery, which is situated on First Street, Booragul, adjacent to Lake Macquarie High School. With new exhibitions featured regularly, the gallery displays a wide range of works by local, interstate and international artists. The beautiful mosaic walkway and sculpture park are also attractive focal points for visitors.
For aspiring artists, both old and young, the gallery also serves as a venue for a wide range of classes, including a pre-school art club, an after-school art club for older kids and a dizzying array of cool classes for the grown-ups, including oil painting, nuno felting, drawing and ceramics. Definitely a cool place to kill a few hours during the weekend or holidays! For more information about this amazing art space, check out the Lake Macquarie Art Gallery website.
For visitors wanting to spend a few nights, or even weeks, Toronto provides some attractive accommodation options for every budget. Lakeside Paradise Palms Caravan Park at 42 Ambrose Street is a little gem which has been a popular family destination for decades. Situated right next to the lake, amongst beautiful tall trees and gardens, it is secluded yet close to all the local attractions. Right in the heart of Toronto, The Brighton offers attractive and well-appointed accommodation, with a choice of motel-style studio units, and self-contained one and two bedroom apartments that are perfect for families.There are also various other accommodation options close by, including the delightful Bell Chapel Bed and Breakfast, in neighbouring Carey Bay, which is a beautifully-renovated former church.
Toronto's main street is the attractive, tree-lined Boulevard.
In conclusion, Toronto is a lovely little town, which is a perfect get-away destination, either for a solo retreat or an action-packed family holiday. Although there is so much to see and do nearby, it also makes a terrific base to explore further afield, around Newcastle and the beautiful Hunter Valley region. Water-sports, bushwalking, creative pursuits or lazing on an idyllic beach: whatever type of holiday you crave, it can be easily found in Toronto and the beautiful Lake Macquarie region.