If you’re looking for a short getaway from Sydney, let us tell you about our home region just an hours drive north up the Pacific Highway. The Central Coast is a region of beautiful beaches, tranquil towns, bush walks and nature.

It boasts some of the best fishing and surfing spots on the NSW coast, outdoor activities for all ages, lush hinterland, popular markets, waterfront picnic spots, and a wealth of cafes and fish and chip shops that line the bays.

After growing up here, it’s easy to see why the coast’s relaxed lifestyle has become a holiday haven for families and couples looking to escape the congestion and hustle and bustle of Sydney.

Below are our local tips on what to do on the Central Coast as a family. These are the things we always introduce to first time visitors.

Bouddi National Park Coastal Walk

Bouddi National Park

Bouddi National Park

Bouddhi National Park is by far our favourite Central Coast nature walk. This is our own local version of the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk in Sydney, and you will have almost the entire track to yourself. We’ve done this stunning walk several times with our kids and they love it. We are blown away by the ocean and bush views every time.

Start from Putty Beach, bring water and pack a picnic lunch to have on secluded Maitland Bay before returning to Putty. A round trip will take approximately 4 hours (includes lunch break and photo opps).

Cycle the Brisbane Water track

Brisbane Water Cycle track

Brisbane Water Cycle track

Brisbane Water Cycle track completely surprised us. We’d driven up and down the Gosford to Woy Woy road countless times without ever realising what a great riding experience this nearby track offered and how enjoyable it was.

Jumping on a bike provided a whole new perspective as we discovered wetlands and waterway views. If you’re fit enough you can cycle around the entire Brisbane water – a 41km journey. Otherwise, take your bikes on the train, jump off at Gosford station and cycle back to Woy Woy (approx 8kms). Stop in for some classic fish n chips at Fisherman’s Wharf, or a coffee at the Gnostic Mana Cafe.

Meet Aussie Wildlife

Young boy and girl handling a snake at the Australian Reptile Park, Central Coast. Image credit: The Legendary Pacific Coast

Young boy and girl handling a snake at the Australian Reptile Park, Central Coast. Image credit: The Legendary Pacific Coast

The Central Coast has two Wildlife Parks which our kids love. The Reptile Park is an Australian icon, founded by Australia’s first naturalist – the great Eric Worrell. They have an extensive range of Australian reptiles with plenty of wildlife shows and chances to interact with the animals. This park is also committed to saving lives, with a venom-milking program in place for the past 50 years to assist in anti-venom research.

Then there’s the Australian Wildlife Park which we love for its warm and welcoming environment. It was during one visit here that we got to pat a dingo for the very first time – a relatively safe experience in a zoo, but something you should never try unless you’ve got professional supervision! They also have Aboriginal walks through the surrounding bush, and night safari sleep overs, which are pretty cool.

Enjoy the Beaches

Children looking out to sea near The Entrance, Central Coast. Image credit: Neville Prosser

Children looking out to sea near The Entrance, Central Coast. Image credit: Neville Prosser

The Central Coast has some beautiful beaches, many of them great for surfing, or with lovely rock pools for the kids to swim in. Here are some of our favourites:

MacMasters Beach – Beautiful natural looking beach with a sheltered rock pool area for kids and the Surf Club kiosk serves up classic lunches with million dollar views.

Avoca Beach – popular with the surfers and a scenic rocky headland at each end of a long golden beach. There’s also a safe rock pool area here for the kids to swim in and a great beachside café.

Terrigal Beach – the most popular beach town on the coast. Swim at the main beach or take the kids around to the Haven or the lagoon for a paddle. By day or night Terrigal is buzzing with cafes, restaurants and the beer garden at Crowne Plaza.

Toowoon Bay – Picturesque sheltered bay for swimming or paddling a board, and a nice cafe at the Surf Club.

Norah Head – another picturesque beach. Walk up to the 100 year old lighthouse for a great view and witness the spectacular sunrise of a new day dawning on the grounds of the lighthouse. For the surfers, head south to Soldiers Beach.

Killcare Beach – Many of Australia’s best-known personalities like Alan Jones and John Singleton have homes here. It’s a quieter beach and has great waves when conditions are right. Head north around the bend and you have Putty Beach and the Bouddi coastal walk.

Pearl Beach – where a lot of celebrities and wealthy Sydney Siders come to play. There’s a peaceful and spiritual energy at Pearlie, and it has the most beautiful outlook across to Lion’s Island and Palm Beach. Head to the rock pool on the southern end of the beach for a quieter, more bushlike setting. There’s a takeaway store and a popular cafe and restaurant.

Go horse riding, abseiling, kayaking and quad biking at Glenworth Valley

Glenworth Valley

Glenworth Valley

We LOVED discovering Glenworth Valley and could not believe it was even on the Central Coast. It’s such a local secret, easily accessible from Sydney and an adventurous place to hang out.

We recommend staying overnight and camping, we stayed in a big teepee tent, sat around a campfire and got up early for the horse mustering. It’s a really special experience to see herds of horses come galloping up through the fields from the mist. Then spend your day horse riding through the valley, quad bike riding, kayaking and abseiling.

Swing through the trees at Treetop Adventure Park

Tree Top Adventure Park

Tree Top Adventure Park

Want to play Tarzan and do a bit of Jungle surfing? Then head to Tree Tops Adventure Park in Ourimbah State Forest and zip line through the trees. There’s 115 challenges including 20 flying foxes with courses to suit all ages (and bravery) including one giant zipline that hurtles you over the car park to the finish – the longest rollercoaster zipline in the world. Our eldest loved Tree Tops, and despite being a little wary at first, jumped off the kiddies flying fox to do her course again and again.

Go local at the Markets

Avoca Beach markets

Avoca Beach markets

The Avoca Beach Markets run every 4th Sunday of the month and are a locals favourite. They have the usual craft and food stalls, live music and a friendly vibe. There’s a couple of lovely spots under trees to retreat to for a bite to eat, or to listen to some local acoustic artists play in Lizottes corner.

Alternatively there’s the Ettalong Beach Markets, the largest undercover markets on the Central Coast. Established in 1977, thousands of people return to Ettalong each year, and it also plays host to the popular annual Italian Festival. You can even arrive on the coast in style by ferry from Palm Beach to Ettalong.

Get your quirky on at Amazement Farm & Fun Park

This doesn’t sound like much of an epic adventure, but trust us, Amazement is a lot of fun. It’s quirky and has enough to entertain you and the kids for hours. There’s mazes to get lost in, farm animals to hold, peacocks to chase, games like bocce to play, trails to bike around, and an entertaining sheep race. For a relaxing break, sit down and unwind with a meal or drink overlooking the picturesque grounds on the the Big Barn Cafe Verandah.

Pelican feeding

Pelican feeding at The Entrance, Central Coast

Pelican feeding at The Entrance, Central Coast

There are two places on the Central Coast to experience the pelican feeding. Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf – rain, hail or shine every day at 3pm watch the famous Woy Woy pelicans get fed fresh fish. As they cut all their own fish, they have a lot of scraps leftover, which are a feast for the local pelicans. Remember Fisho’s is a great place to eat, besides the fish and chips it has the best calamari. Lunch or dinner on the wharf with views over the quiet channel is a relaxing way to enjoy time with family.

The Entrance Foreshore – popular with locals and visitors and happens every day at 3:30pm on the Entrance foreshore. It’s actually quite cool to watch how the pelicans fly in from nearby waterways to fill their bellies and jostle for a tasty morsel of fish.

Five Lands Walk – MacMasters Beach to Terrigal Beach

The Five Lands Walk

The Five Lands Walk

Probably our favourtie festival on the Central Coast. The Five Lands Walk is held annually every June to coincide with the whale migration up Australia’s east coast as the whale is an important totem of the local Aboriginal tribe. The Five Lands Walk moves through the five beaches of MacMasters, Copacabana, Avoca, North Avoca, and Terrigal.

At each land there are shows, dances, and food to celebrate the traditional elders, as well as the various migrant communities that live in the area. If you’re visiting in June this is a great way to take in the coastal landscape and learn more about the region.

Dive the Ex-HMAS Adelaide

Ex-HMAS Adelaide Reserve

ing in the ex-HMAS Adelaide Reserve, Central Coast. Image credit: Justin Gilligan Photography

If you’re into your diving then consider the Ex-HMAS Adelaide dive site, a man-made dive from a de-commissioned Australian naval warship. Located 1.4 kilometres from the Skillion at Terrigal and 1.8 kilometres from Avoca Beach, it rests in approximately 32 metres of water and it’s been said that in time this artificial reef will earn its reputation as a world class dive attraction.

After traveling around NSW, we can confidently say the Central Coast is one of the best and most undiscovered places in the state. We happily tell people to turn off the Pacific Highway, drive down the mountain, and explore more of what the NSW Central Coast region has to offer.