The Central Coast blends pristine beaches, broad waterways and forested valleys with delicious local produce, stylish cafes and some surprising nods to the past.
- 5 Lands Walk
- Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf
- Mt Penang Gardens
- Pocket Bar
An hours’ drive north of Sydney, the Central Coast offers something for everyone among its mountaintop national parks, 41 beaches and quilt of estuaries and lakes. On any given day, you can find a watery paradise for surfers, fishers and boaters, a secluded getaway filled with birdsong and towering rainforests, a destination for fine dining and cocktails by the sea, or child friendly lagoons where you can feed pelicans and savour freshly caught fish and chips.
Where to eat
Head to Holgate to find pet friendly vegetarian cafe Bamboo Buddha, set in a Balinese style garden complete with koi and goldfish ponds. Try a house specialty Buddha Burger. Or sample the food at Viet Taste Vietnamese Restaurant, where the clean, fresh and complex flavours have quickly made this restaurant a favourite with the locals. Try the pho or Vietnamese-style fish salad, and better yet, Members receive 20 percent off the total bill up to $25.
If it’s hatted dining you’re after, it’s hard to go past Bells at Killcare at Killcare Heights; an elegant restaurant showcasing local produce, including harvest from the estate’s own garden and crayfish caught off nearby Macmasters Beach. Tuesday night is “Local’s Night”, when you can enjoy a two course meal and glass of wine for $45.
Looking for something more casual? Hotel Gosford's relaxed brasserie-style includes a sports bar wit TAB, beer garden and lounge bar, and better yet, Members receive 20 percent off the total bill up to $25. Head to the lively Kincumber Hotel for a selection of hamburgers, such as smoked pork belly with sriracha aioli. Sunday afternoons are a great time to visit the hotel’s Hairy Goat craft beer and cider bar and tap your feet to live music.
A short drive south you’ll find another legend: Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf. This family business has been serving fish‘n’chips at its prime waterfront site for nearly four decades (so you know it’s good). If your schedule allows, stay for the unforgettable pelican feeding frenzy at 3pm.
Back on the beach at Terrigal, locals head to the Pocket Bar for a dash of the Sydney small bar scene, mixing comfort food and bespoke cocktails. Treat yourself to some pork tacos before nursing a “tiki style” Cottonmouth gin cocktail.
What to see
Whale watching season runs between the months of May to November, giving you the opportunity to get up close to these magnificent mammals as they make their annual migration to warmer waters. Fantasea Cruises offer an educative and unforgettable guided adventure hosted by a Marine Naturalist and plenty of seating and spacious observation areas. Cruises depart regularly from Ettalong, and the best part? Members receive 20 percent off all whale watching cruises when using the promo code: 'NRMA20' on booking.
Another treat lies in wait at Kariong’s Mt Penang Gardens, more than 8ha of unique gardens adorned with pergolas, fountains and a cantilevered steel footbridge. Large dams and waterfalls also make the gardens a home for various waterbirds. Don’t miss the Wondabyne sculptures, massive artworks carved from Gosford sandstone.
Inspired by Italy’s Cinque Terre, the 5 Lands Walk links the coastal villages of Macmasters Beach, Copacabana, Avoca Beach, North Avoca and Terrigal. The 10km walk is especially rewarding in June, when you can join thousands of locals taking part in an annual event celebrating local Aboriginal culture.
Travel back in time at the historic Avoca Beach Picture Theatre, home to an international program of award winning releases curated by four generations of the same family for more than 65 years.
Where to play
Head for the hills - or in this case, the mountains - where you’ll find the Mountain Growers Market at The Barn at Peats Ridge Village every weekend between 8am and 2pm. The welcoming, intimate market is the place to purchase antique furniture and homewares, while filling your bags with just picked fruit and vegetables and freshly baked bread.
If you’re looking for adventure, you’ll find it all in one place at Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures, a 1200ha wilderness property in the Central Coast hinterland. Apart from their signature horse rides, you can choose from a thrillseeker menu that includes quad biking, kayaking, abseiling and laser skirmish.
Switch to two wheels for the rewarding Tuggerah Lake ride between Tuggerah train station and The Entrance. An easy, 14km cycle path winds alongside scenic Tuggerah Lake before you get to The Entrance with its buzzing collection of shops, restaurants, cafes and daily pelican feeding.
Get a taste of the high life at the TreeTops Adventure Park in the Ourimbah State Forest at Wyong Creek. Surrounded by bush, you can strap yourself in for a soaring flying fox ride or test your nerve on the Vertical Challenge, where ages five and up can choose one of three levels to climb a towering eucalypt using a zigzag ladder.
Where to stay
Located at the Central Coast’s southern end, NRMA Ocean Beach Holiday Resort at Umina is the perfect base from which to explore the region. Near the stylish enclave of Pearl Beach and within easy distance of the town centre, Ettalong and Woy Woy, the resort is just 100m back from the beach and has uninterrupted views across Broken Bay. Like a small town, the resort’s accommodation options range from tent and caravan sites to safari tents, villas, cabins and cottages. There’s even a luxury treehouse! Elsewhere, the resort boasts a heated pool with spa, a water park and adventure playground, a games room and entertainment barn, bike hire and cooked to order pizzas at Bluebottles Cafe. A kids’ holiday activities program completes the picture.
Image credit: Daniela Constantinescu