Local’s guide: Killcare

Bouddi National Park Killcare my nrma locals guide
Bouddi National Park Killcare my nrma locals guide

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It’s only an hour and a half drive from Sydney but the Killcare and Hardys Bay region in the Bouddi Peninsula on the Central Coast of NSW is a whole different vibe. It offers the best of both worlds; surf beaches at Killcare or tranquil waters at Hardys Bay. In fact, it’s a place where time travel is entirely possible and makes for the perfect day trip. 

  • Bells at Killcare
  • Bouddi Peninsula National Park
  • Central Coast Surf Academy
  • The Fat Goose Deli and Bakery

At Killcare, you can relive the memories of childhood holidays where the cicadas thrumming competed with the lazy rhythm of the surf while you ate fish and chips with the sand between your toes.

At Hardys Bay, the soundtrack is the gentle slap of waves against boats moored at charming wooden wharfs that reach out into the bay like weathered fingers, and the locals will always give you a wave as they sail by.

Where to eat

Hardys Bay has cemented itself as a bit of a foodie heaven with some excellent local cafes and restaurants serving up the usual mantra of “fresh seasonal produce”. But we love that. Famed for their award-winning pies, the Fat Goose deli and bakery serve excellent coffee and a full breakfast that you can enjoy on their sunny deck while relaxing with the weekend papers. Better yet, Members receive 20 percent off the total bill up to $25 at the Fat Goose

If you’re in the mood for heritage charm, the Hardys Bistro Cafe & Bar occupies what was the old Killcare Store. The waterfront location makes it the perfect spot for a quick Toby’s Estate takeaway to enjoy by the water. They do an excellent breakfast and lunch as well as evening dinners and have great vegetarian options.

For fine dining, you can’t go past the slick Hamptons style of Bells at Killcare where famed Italian chef Stefano Manfredi developed the concept and cuisine of Manfredi at Bells (now Bells Restaurant). Although he recently handed over the reins to executive chef Dean Jones, the tradition continues. This boutique hotel and spa is the jewel in the crown of high-end luxury in Killcare and the food and wine are world-class. Expect locally harvested seafood such as Hawkesbury River oysters and crayfish caught fresh from close by McMasters Beach. They offer a very civilised spuntini at the bar or a five-course degustation menu. Expect to see lots of honeymooners and well-heeled retirees enjoying their meals overlooking the stylishly manicured garden.

For a more relaxed meal, head straight to the excellent Killcare Beach Kiosk for a great range of foods, including the standard holiday fare of hamburgers, chips and kebabs, while the charming wooden Wagstaffe General Store is great for a quick snack.

Where to play

If bushwalking is your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are a huge number of trails that criss-cross the Peninsula, and with a bit of planning, the perfect day would be to pack a picnic lunch and your bathers and head off to immerse yourself in the sounds of the bush with a secluded beach destination as your reward. A great place to start is the Bouddi Coastal Walk, a level 8.5km that takes you from Putty Beach to McMasters Beach. Enjoy the views, wildlife and picnic spots along the way, or break it down into shorter walks to enjoy with the kids.

For more laid-back action, go sailing around the Brisbane Water with Hardys Bay Yacht Charters. They can take 6-10 guests on a day charter and up to six guests for their overnight package. You’ll get to experience blue-water sailing on Broken Bay and calm water sailing on the Hawkesbury and Pittwater with lots of chances to explore hidden bays and the breathtaking beauty of the area, all from the water. They can also tailor packages to suit your needs.

At the Killcare Marina at Hardys Bay you can hire boats, bikes, kayaks and paddleboats and head out to explore the water or surrounding bush on your own adventure. No boat license is required.

What to see

Killcare and Hardys Bay are both surrounded by the pristine bush of Bouddi Peninsula National Park and this affords a wonderful mix of popular and secluded bush and beaches to discover. Killcare Beach is a classic Australian surf beach. It’s patrolled in summer and you can book surfing lessons at the Central Coast Surf Academy.

After you’ve explored the water and the bush, the relaxed village of Hardys Bay also offers much to while away a lazy afternoon. Moochinside is the eclectic vision of owners Margie and Pete McFadyen and their gallery/shop is a delightful collection of art, unique gifts, clothing and design objects that are worth a proper browse. More art and fine objects are on show at the Bouddi Gallery, admired for its Aboriginal art and handcrafts and a finely edited collection of gifts.

There’s a rock pool at the southern end that’s great for infants and close to the kiosk to keep them fed and watered. The northern end of Killcare Beach is called Putty Beach and it’s a dog-friendly spot. The water here is much calmer and there are ample opportunities for snorkelling and rock and beach fishing. If it’s near total seclusion you are after, head to Lobster Beach, which is sheltered with a spectacular view over the ocean. You can snorkel here too. Head to High View Road and follow the signs to find the walking track. Another great spot is Tallow Beach where you can nab one of just six camping spots available.

The entrance is signposted on Hawke Head Drive and is a fairly strenuous 1.2km walk. Maitland Bay, between Killcare Beach and McMasters Beach, is another hidden gem and is a 20-minute walk from Maitland Bay Information Centre or a 3km walk from Putty Beach.

Where to stay

Decided to extend your day trip to an overnight stay or two? For those looking for a luxury experience, Bells at Killcare will tick all the boxes. With a mix of King Suites, one- and two-bedroom cottages, lake view villas, a pool, spa and that superb restaurant, Bells of Killcare is an oasis of luxury and sophistication in a quintessentially Australian bush setting. There’s something lovely about this juxtaposition of perfectly clipped lawns and gardens nestled within towering gums and angophoras. Even better, it’s situated midway between the calm waters of Hardys Bay and the bracing surf of Killcare Beach – if you can drag yourself away from the peace and views, there’s plenty to explore on your doorstep. You can even arrange to arrive by seaplane and the staff at Bells of Killcare will organise a transfer from Wagstaffe for you.

There are also many short-stay holiday listings for a large range of prices at Hardys Bay and Killcare.

Image credit: Nick Rains; Destination NSW