The NSW Central Coast has long been a nature lovers’ playground, with 42-plus beaches, several national parks, rolling green hinterlands and pockets of rainforest and bushland to enjoy. The area has just been named an official ECO Destination, recognising the region as a world-class location for sustainable and nature-based tourism by Ecotourism Australia and WWF-Australia.
Here are seven experiences you can enjoy on the Central Coast – just over an hour’s drive from Sydney – knowing you’ll leave a smaller footprint.
Spot marine life with an expert
Jump aboard a high-speed tour boat, skippered by a marine biologist, with ECO-certified company Terrigal Ocean Tours. See humpback whales and dolphin pods as you explore the bays and estuaries of Broken Bay, home to a thriving colony of endangered little penguins and seals. The team works with local environmental groups to protect marine life and monitor water quality.
Eat breakfast with alpacas
Start your day with a breakfast of bacon and eggs in the company of 70-plus alpacas at Iris Lodge, an ECO-certified nature tourism company in Jilliby. The farm was once grazing land but has been regenerated with more than 9000 trees and is home to alpacas, llamas, sheep and cows. The “breakfast with alpacas” experience takes place every day during the school holidays and every weekend.
Immerse yourself in the Australian wilderness
Thrillseekers will love Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures, which is set on 1200 hectares of wilderness comprising bushland, rivers and natural rainforest. Splash through creeks on a quad bike, abseil down cliff faces, paddle in a kayak or channel your inner jackaroo or jillaroo as you help muster cattle through the valley on horseback. The company is in the process of receiving its ECO Certification, meaning it is a leader in ecotourism.
Don waders at an oyster farm
Sydney Oyster Farm Tours, also an ECO Certification applicant, is a family-owned and sustainably run farm on the Hawkesbury River. It offers immersive culinary oyster farm tours, where you’ll meet the farmers, learn about cultivation and shuck and taste oysters plucked fresh from the water. Don waders and stand alongside the farmers in the river or complete your journey from farm to table with a seafood lunch on a secluded beach.
Explore NSW’s only pearl farm
Hidden in the waters of the Lower Hawkesbury River is the purest and rarest pearl in the world. The Akoya pearl is grown by Broken Bay Pearl Farm and is not only beautiful, it also has regenerative and restorative properties to naturally assist in maintaining water quality. Cruise to the oyster leases (waterways of oyster farming) and learn about the history of pearling from ancient indigenous practices to modern farming. Upgrade your experience and enjoy a grazing platter by the river, featuring Sydney Rock Oysters.
Stay in a tiny off-grid home
Disconnect from daily life and connect with nature in one of the Central Coast’s tiny off-the-grid homes by Unyoked. Yen and Fern – the miniature homes – are nestled in rugged bushland in the hinterland region, close to nature trails and national park. The rustic, wooden-clad cabins are located on the same property yet feel completely secluded from each other (and the rest of the world). Simply furnished but modern and cosy, these solar-powered cabins feature hot water, a bar fridge, and fire pit to chill out around under a blanket of stars.
Sleep in comfort
Noonaweena is an eco-conscious boutique lodge set on a sprawling 40-hectare bush property in Kulnura that overlooks the sweeping valleys. The tucked-away retreat features a pool, tennis court and a day spa, but while creature comforts are in surplus, your stay at this ECO-certified property will leave a lighter footprint. The lodge is mostly powered by solar, has recycling and waste-reduction programs in place, is self-sufficient for water, and its chickens and bees supply eggs and honey.