An unexpected adventure: Dog lovers on the Central Coast
It’s got great beaches and an enviable lifestyle, but the NSW Central Coast also loves its dogs – and offers endless opportunities for you-and-your-pooch escapades.
It’s heaven for humans but the laidback NSW Central Coast, about a 90min drive north of Sydney, is also a fur-tastic getaway for dogs. Scattered with beaches big and small, where the waves range from minimal to heavy, the coast offers kilometres of golden sands where no one will blink an eye at you taking your hound for an unleashed walk, a swim or even a stand-up paddle.
Take your pick of the region’s glorious beaches, each with its own distinct character, and refuel with a meal that can be old-fashioned in its simplicity or contemporary and sophisticated. There are places where you can both catch live music, and plenty of accommodation options. It’s sheer unbridled (or unleashed) joy.
Where to go walkies
The Central Coast is one of the most welcoming places you and your beach-loving hound could visit. Central Coast Council allows dogs to frolic on a long list of parks, reserves and beaches. Starting at the most southerly end of the Central Coast, drive through Brisbane Water National Park to reach secluded Patonga. Cruise along the Norfolk pine-framed foreshore, checking out the action at the wharf and the beach. Fronting Brisk Bay, Patonga features generally calm waters that are the perfect place to dip the toes or paws on a warm day.
The next totally pawsome stop is Pearl Beach. Leave pawprints in the sand fronting this charming, laidback village. To access busier , park near the Umina Surf Life Saving Club and head to the stretch of sand in front of the NRMA Ocean Beach Holiday Resort to find the off-leash area. Pooches are also welcome to trot along the Esplanade fronting Ettalong Beach, which offers an idyllic outlook across to Wagstaffe Point.
Head over the bridge towards Hardys Bay and you’ll find an epic piece of dog-friendly sand between Putty and Killcare beaches, where the waves can be a little more full-on. Remember, though, that Putty Beach adjoins Bouddi National Park – and national parks are off-limits to dogs. Those who have their sights set further north should head to North Avoca Beach near Terrigal.
If conditions are unfavourable for the beach or you want to swap sand for bush, head inland to Strickland State Forest. This pet-friendly haven is just off the Pacific Motorway near Somersby. These 5sq km of forest – once a 19th-century government nursery that became a forestry training school – are today lush with wildflowers, eucalypts and rainforest, and a popular eco-tourism attraction. Take the hound along the Arboretum Track, framed by soaring red cedars, bunyas and hoop pines, and you’ll also cross a photogenic suspension bridge. Dogs that prefer freshwater to salt can also swim in the creeks.
Where to stay
At Wamberal north of Terrigal is the Pacific Garden Hotel, which accepts pets in designated rooms that come with two queen beds, a tiled floor and a fully fenced and grassed courtyard. The verdant view from the courtyard takes in the hotel’s basketball and tennis courts. The hotel is a five-minute drive from the dog-friendly Forresters Beach. Wamberal Beach also boasts an off-leash area.
Further north, Toowoon Bay Holiday Park offers a selection of cabins, but only allows dogs to stay with owners at its powered, unpowered and en suite sites (with access to a shower, toilet and basin). The park allows only one ‘mild-mannered’ dog per site. Luckily for these solo fur kids, the holiday park neighbours a huge expanse of dog-friendly sand at North Shelly Beach.
Just up the road at The Entrance, home to a famous squadron of hungry pelicans, is Two Shores Holiday Village – the entire property, which includes villas, eco-huts, cabins and powered and unpowered sites, is pet-friendly.
The Central Coast also offers many private holiday houses that welcome dogs. The stunning bush retreat Treetops at Wagstaffe is just one example.
Where to eat & drink
With coloured-glass fishing floats dangling from its Norfolk pines like Christmas tree baubles, The Boathouse Patonga is one of the prettiest places to eat, drink and relax on the Central Coast. The venue underwent a $5 million revamp in 2018. Its breezy coastal chic look includes a deck with dazzling white furniture and shade umbrellas where you’re welcome to bring the pooch.
Indulge in a seafood platter, fancy confit duck pizza or crumbed dory burger. If you want to eat on the run, there’s a kiosk where you can pick up everything from a sausage sanga to fish and chips.
There’s also a kiosk at The Box on the Water, part of the redeveloped foreshore of Ettalong Beach. Unusually, it offers takeaway boxes of cold and hot seafood, as well as more usual fare such as burgers, tacos, salads and sandwiches.
One of the nicest things to do on a sunny day is buy fish and chips from the takeaway section and head to a nearby park bench. Enjoy the seafood while watching tinnies cruise past on Brisbane Water and pelicans lining up on the wharf’s rooftop.
If your dog’s a music lover, head into Woy Woy’s Link and Pin Cafe. Dogs are permitted in the rear courtyard where there is often live music. The licensed cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, adult drinks such as bourbon vanilla milkshakes, and an ever-changing range of indie beer tinnies.
Further north, the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific has revamped its indoor/outdoor beach bar, now called Terrigal Beach House. Dogs are welcome to accompany owners on the outdoor terrace where Adirondack chairs are placed so you can look through the glass-walled balcony to the beach across the street. The chic seaside bar offers live music, classic beachy eats such as buckets of prawns, an intriguing wine list and sophisticated cocktails with a twist.
Away from the beaches, if your pooch qualifies as “socially well adjusted”, you can both trot into Impact Plants and Cafe at Empire Bay. Besides the nursery, which specialises in sub-tropical plants such as palms, cycads and yuccas, there’s a cafe where you can order tequila lime fish tacos, pulled pork sliders and barbecue lamb backstrap. Elevate the joy levels by sneaking a scrap to your four-legged friend.