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Rathmines park, playground & history as the largest RAAF flying boat base

It’s hard to imagine this quiet and peaceful town was once filled with the noise of plane engines roaring. Rathmines Park was once home to the largest flying boat base in the Southern Hemisphere. The Rathmines RAAF seaplane base played a pivotal role in defending Australia in World War II. 

Now, you’ll find wide-open green parkland, awesome playground, shared pathways, plus a War Memorial and Club – keepers of Rathmines historic past. The longer we stayed in Rathmines, learning, and walking its shoreline, we came to appreciate the merging of its heroic past with the present day. As we freely enjoyed our time in the area, we remembered those who fought for our freedom, who lost their lives, so we could enjoy ours. Lest we forget.

Getting to Rathmines Playground

Rathmines is located on the western side of Lake Macquarie. Once on Wangi Road, take the turn onto Dorrington Road at the roundabout signposted for Rathmines. Follow Dorrington Road right to the end then turn left onto Stilling Street. You’ll see the Rathmines Playground on your righthand side.

There’s plenty of parking available at the playground, and on Fishing Point Road there’s a cafe and a takeaway shop, although you’ll need to check opening hours.

Rathmines Playground

This playground is awesome. Set on a wide-open space, right at the water’s edge, the kids loved all the equipment. From the main multi-function climb and slide structure to the flying-fox, there wasn’t much it didn’t have. 

Scattered throughout the playground, you’ll find some interesting facts about the Catalina Flying Boats.

Playground features include:

  • Multi-function climb and slide structure (rock wall, 2 small slides, climbing nets, sliding pole + more)
  • Swings (nest swing, toddler seat & single)
  • Flying fox (long zip-wire & solid track)
  • Flying plane equipment (toddler & kids)
  • Single spinner

Rathmines Park

This park and recreational area stretches on for miles and miles. Go for a lovely walk along the shared path, while the kids ride beside you. Check out the map and head over to Catalina Park, visit the jetty, and enjoy the endless space. We found this amazing tree near the playground where the kids played for ages.

Definitely bring the scooters or bikes for the kids to burn some energy. There’s BBQ facilities, a small toilet block, and bench seats around the play area. However, I would highly recommend a picnic rug, because this lakeside destination is ideal for a lazy hour or two just enjoying life.


Catalina Seaplanes & the Catalina War Memorial

For 22 years, this major air-base was home to 3,000 personnel, and 40 aircraft at its peak. Many of these were Catalinas.

They were known for being a slow and vulnerable seaplane. However, they were also remembered for being very versatile. Known as ‘Black Cats’, Catalinas were widely used for escort duty, anti-submarine work, long-range reconnaissance, plus supplying and rescuing the Aussie coast watchers who were behind enemy lines. They had many important roles, including evacuating our prisoners-of-war. 

The Catalina War Memorial has been set up to pay your respect to the service personnel who fought in the war. To visit this site it’s only a short walk along the foreshore near Club Catalina. Notice the rosemary bushes planted along the path, and take a moment to read the names of our fallen.

Catalina Festival

Each year, the Catalina Festival is held at this location and is the largest festival in Lake Macquarie. The Rathmines Catalina Festival is held by the Rathmines Catalina Association (RCA).

It’s an awesome community event to celebrate the rich history of this WWII RAAF Base. The RCA raises funds at this event to go towards the restoration of a Catalina flying boat called ‘Our Girl’, which has been purchased. Their goal is to erect a hangar and develop an aviation museum centre with the focus on Rathmines, the history of the Catalina, as well as other seaplanes. 

The next one is scheduled for May 2021, so add this family fun day to your list.


Past the Catalina War Memorial, you can venture down to the foreshore and wander around the rocks. Look out over Lake Macquarie, feel the appreciation and respect for this historic site.

We’ll see you at the Rathmines Catalina Festival in May. 


Catalina Flying Memorial {Accessed 26/9/20}

Catalina Rathmines Association {Accessed 26/9/20}

Newcastle Herald: History: RAAF Black Cats uncovers the secret missions of Rathmines’ Catalina crews {Accessed 26/9/20}

Catalina Festival {Accessed 26/9/20}


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