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A crown in city’s tourism push

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As we jumped in the car and drove into the Watagans National Park, it seemed strange that I had not visited this place before.

“Not many people realise that we have this on our doorstep, I mean, it’s only around 50 minutes from Newcastle,” Out and About Adventures owner-operator, Peter Vaughan, tells me.

He drops us at a picnic site and gives us the rundown over the next few hours.

I’m full of nerves and excitement ahead of my first abseil (down a waterfall, no less).

After a short 10-minute walk through the bush, we arrive at Gap Creek Falls.

Usually, in peak periods, this breathtaking spot can be packed with 20 or more people, Peter says, but, on this occasion, we have it all to ourselves.

I put on a brave face as we go through safety checks, before it’s finally time to start.

As I set off, I can’t help but look down, constantly transfixed on my target – the rocks, about 40 metres below.

Words of encouragement rain down from Peter as I let the rope slowly slip through my hands.

“You’re doing well, especially for your first time,” he says.

Getting a bit too confident, I picked up the pace momentarily, only for a large puddle on one of the ledges to stop me in my tracks.

Ignoring my now-drenched socks, I turned to admire the view from my vantage point, perched just to the left of the waterfall, before I dropped over the side and into the valley.

Looking back at me was what could only be described as stunning, natural beauty.

While I slowly took it in, I recalled Peter’s earlier story of an American traveller who visited the Watagans while in the region.

“She’d been to the rainforest in Guatemala, and she thought it was better here than there in terms of the bushland,” he says.

High praise indeed.

It is precisely why Lake Macquarie City Council opted to use the Watagans as one of its star attractions in a $200,000 Love the Lake campaign.

The largest tourism push in Lake Macquarie’s history has targeted the lucrative overnight Sydney market, with research showing visitors under the age of 45 are the best fit for the city’s natural assets and outdoor attractions.

“We have one of the most diverse cities in NSW in terms of our geography and natural beauty,” Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser says.

“Postcard perfect beaches, wild mountain ranges and the lake itself all sit side-by-side.”
However, Cr Fraser says the campaign is not just focused on the city’s natural attractions.
“The jetboating on Lake Macquarie, skydiving over the coast, bushwalking and abseiling in the Watagan Mountains and taking to the sky for aerobatic joyflights are among the pulse-pounding highlights we want visitors to discover.”

This reporter might have been too scared to try some of the alternatives to abseiling.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking to a embark on a day trip, the Watagans certainly ticks all the boxes.

A fairly-short drive, backed up by incredible scenery, and, from my experience, the chance to well and truly satisfy that adrenaline rush.

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