With a creative food and drinks scene, it’s no surprise this seaside getaway is making waves beyond its golden beaches. Here are five reasons why you need to make the Central Coast your next getaway.
Taste fresh flavours
An easy 90-minute drive north of Sydney, the Central Coast enclave of Terrigal has long been a place where sunworshippers come for the sand. But now they also come to eat. Yellowtail is a refined but relaxed dining experience, where chef Scott Price’s evolving menu focuses on “eclectic but balanced flavours centred around amazing produce”. Dishes like just-caught fish with an umami boost of house-made dashi, local seaweed and shiitake mushroom have a cult following. Just around the corner is newly opened Swells where you can enjoy crispy szechuan tofu and grilled lamb cutlets with dukkah and harissa kumera.
Perched in the hills above town, The Cowrie serves up panoramic beach views and elegant set menus, including a new plant-based line-up, courtesy of chefs that are alumni from Quay and Aria in Sydney. Over in Ettalong, chef Nicola Coccia’s “raw and real”, fire-licked take on Italian at Osteria il Coccia features a unique smokiness.
Sip spritzes by the seaside
The heritage- listed Hotel Gosford pays homage to its Art Deco roots with ambient lighting and classic cocktails with a modern twist. Try a Smoked Negroni (mixing local Moore’s Dry Gin with hickory wood smoke) or one of the 32 beers on tap.
Nearby on the Gosford waterfront, Drifter’s Wharf is more of a relaxed spot where lazy afternoons spent sipping their signature cocktail ‘Seaduction’ turn into revelrous evenings. Its events calendar is packed with performances by Aussie acts like Client Liaison and San Cisco.
Brooding Bar Toto at Galleria Ettalong Beach is an Italian affair. Sip on a glass of Fattoria Del Cerro from Tuscany, a fruity chianti with hints of black cherry while you enjoy their trattoria menu of antipasti and cicchetti. Plan a visit on a Sunday afternoon when live jazz music fills the intimate bar.
Find the coast’s secret natural wonders
Strap on some walking shoes to traverse the eight-kilometre Bouddi National Park coastal track. As well as its rugged landscape of tessellated pavement, pristine beaches and crashing ocean, it’s home to more than 100 important Aboriginal sites. Join a walking tour with Girri Girra Aboriginal Experiences, an Aboriginal-owned company, to be guided to these sites, where you’ll see rock carvings and hear ancient stories.
For a change of scenery, local’s secret Strickland State Forest has walks like the two-kilometre Arboretum Track, that weave through lush rainforest, dotted with cabbage tree palms, over suspended bridges and along creeks.
Got kids itching for some action? Walkabout Park in Calga is a wildlife sanctuary that houses rescued and disabled animals and gives you wild ways to interact with them. On a ‘speed dating’ experience, you can get up-close-and-personal with native animals like wombats and koalas. If you prefer more of a polite distance, you can try being a ranger for a day, preparing food for animals and cleaning their sleeping areas, or take a torchlit after-dark guided tour to see the Tasmanian devils and bilbies who come out after sundown
Follow the food trails
To combine eating (more eating!) with scenic adventure, cruise the Hawkesbury River with family-owned Sydney Oyster Farm Tours. These authentic farmer-led tours will immerse you, quite literally, in the waters where oysters are cultivated. You’ll don waders as you learn how to harvest and shuck before sampling Broken Bay’s finest.
When it feels like time for a drink, the Scenic Sips self-drive trail connects Firescreek Botanical Winery – where organic wines are made with pineapple, pomegranate and kiwi fruit from the garden – to the “amplified ales” at Six String Brewing. Finish at Distillery Botanica, sampling award-winning gin and gelato in a leafy courtyard.
Discover the creative design scene
Shopping should be a bullet point on your coast agenda. Add coastal bohemian pieces to your wardrobe with a visit to La Bohème at Terrigal and Shadow Bang in Long Jetty. Surfers should swing by Lucky Surf Supply, also in Long Jetty, which has a small coffee bar and local artist Grant Molony's gallery out the back. For art enthusiasts, a visit to Bouddi Gallery at Killcare is a must. It trades exclusively in unique arts and crafts produced by remote Aboriginal Art Centres from across the country.
Stays for a short time and a (longer) good time
Looking for a couples retreat but with a vibe? Following a revamp, The Beachcomber Hotel in Toukley has a Hamptons vibe, lovely lake views, a pool club and live music. For something a bit quieter, The Quarters is tucked behind Forresters Beach and has a chic restaurant and bar, rooms with spas and a waterfall pool. It’s a few minutes’ drive from Wyrrabalong National Park, where you can whale-watch from clifftop tracks.
The Central Coast has enough to keep you around for an easy paced extra-long weekend – or longer. Nestled between Blue Bay and Toowoon Bay, Nest at Blue Bay holiday home is a chic, bright stay for two where you can settle in with a kitchenette, fireplace and a deep stone bath. Spend an afternoon cruising to The Entrance on the complimentary bikes before unwinding on your own private deck at night.