Things to do on the Central Coast: Ultimate Guide
There are so many fun things to do on the Central Coast, we think it’s a fabulous place for a short getaway. As regular visitors, we wanted to share some of our favourite experiences from attractions and foodie hotspots to hikes and lookouts. We have everything you need to plan a perfect day trip, weekend getaway or even a week long break. So why not start planning your trip today?
The Central Coast of NSW boasts beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and plenty of things to do to keep you busy for days. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or explore the natural beauty of the area, you’ll find everything you need in this picturesque region. Today we cover the area from the Woy Woy peninsula to Norah Head, we think there’s something for everyone to enjoy, so let’s start planning your next visit!
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Why visit the Central Coast of NSW
Only an hour from Sydney and surrounded by three national parks and several state forests, the Central Coast is a perfect place for a short escape from Sydney
Recently we explored the southern end of the coast, which begins once you cross the Hawkesbury River. For this trip we chose a base on the Woy Woy Peninsula and spent three days checking out the best things to see, eat and do between the Woy Woy and Norah Head.
The coastal areas around Gosford are on the land of the Guringai peoples, and the hinterland is Darkinjung country.
The Central Coast might only be a quick trip from Sydney, but the drive along the freeway past the greenery of Berowra National Park makes it feel like a real getaway. There is also a lot to do here, in fact, so much that this is our fourth stay in the last couple of years and we have already planned another.
Central Coast Beaches
This coastline is literally riddled with gorgeous beaches and plenty of calm bays that are perfect for kayaking and fishing. Even if you don’t fancy getting in the water you will want to spend some time looking at it 😉
There are 15 patrolled beaches on the Central Coast. They range from calm bays to the popular surf breaks at Avoca and Copacabana Beaches.
The family-friendly Ettalong waterfront is perfect for kids, with calm waters and modern a playground. Adjacent is the Box Cafe sure to keep parents happy.
Nearby Umina is the beach of my childhood, with perfect body surfing waves. There are two surf clubs and the beach is patrolled throughout the spring and summer.
If you are looking for some great surf breaks to test your skills, you are spoilt for choice, with Avoca Beach topping the list for anyone wanting to book a surfing lesson. Foresters, Copacabana Beach and Terrigal Beaches also good options.
Other beaches to check out include:
- Pearl Beach
- Copacabana Beach
- Terrigal Beach
- Putty Beach
- Killcare Beach
Get out on the water
Brisbane Water, one of the most beautiful waterways in New South Wales, is fringed by bushland and will have you feeling a sense of calm almost immediately on arrival. An hour out here can make you feel you as if you have escaped far, far from the city.
The calmness, and nooks and crannies of Brisbane water make it perfect for exploring by kayak or paddleboard, but you can also rent a tinny. If being on the water rather than in it is more your style, join one of the ferry services that departs from Woy Woy to the Empire Bay or head to Ettalong and make their way over to Palm Beach.
Lace up your hiking shoes
Prefer firmer ground? The Central Coast offers hours of hiking and walking trails suitable for the whole family. Here are just a few of the top spots, but check out our list of Central Coast walks for more.
Bouddi National Park
The beautiful Bouddi National Park, while not as well known as some parks in NSW, is a paradise for waterside camping and hiking close to Sydney. The 8.5km Bouddi Coastal Walk is the star of the show.
The track, that stretches from Putty Beach to MacMasters Beach, offers stunning views at every turn. Along the way, you pass Maitland Bay and Bullimah Beach. If you don’t fancy doing the whole walk, try the section that runs from Putty Beach to the tessellated pavement at the southern end of the track. Great views and only
Brisbane Water National Park
One highlight of the park is the Somersby Falls. It’s easily reached from the car park, just a short 500m return walk through the rainforest and you will find yourself at the pretty waterfall. There are some stairs and the walks get incredibly busy on weekends, but worth the effort.
Another key site in the park is the Bulgandry Art Site Aboriginal Place. The site holds several well-preserved engravings.
Wyrrabalong National Park
Sometimes confused with the “Coast Track” in the Royal National Park, this walk is a little less challenging 😉 it’s only 3km instead of the 22km down south. If you visit between May and August, you might even spot some whales when walking along the clifftops.
The Strickland Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission has the honor of being the oldest arboretum in Australia. and home to over 350 plant species and 98 different birds! With walking tracks, creeks, waterfalls and excellent picnic facilities it makes a great day out.
Being a state forest and not a national park means dogs are welcome too.
A nice short walk for beginners or families is the Arboretum Track, which includes a picturesque bridge crossing over Narara Creek. This 2.3km loop track can be extended by adding the Bellbird Track loop (1.3km).
Other parks and reserves you may like to check out on a longer visit include:
- Marramarra National Park
- Ourimbah State Forest
- Munmorah State Conservation Area
- Wamberal Lagoon Nature Reserve
- Popran National Park
- Ourimbah State Forest
- Dharug National Park
Take in the views
There are some outstanding lookouts along this part of the Central Coast, choose a few from the list below and take in the view.
- Kangaroo Point Lookout – views over Cowan and the Hawkesbury River
- Staples Lookout – right by the side of the Woy Woy Road, making it perfect for those who cannot walk far. It’s not as impressive as some others, but worth a stop.
- Warrah Lookout – a 15-minute walk from the car park will give you stunning views of Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury. Visit in winter to be treated to stunning waratah displays.
- Mount Ettalong Lookout – A quick walk from the car park with a fantastic view of Pearl Beach.
- Allen Strom Lookout – Another Bouddi lookout but this time looking over Brisbane Water
- Marie Byles Lookout aka Killcare Heights Lookout – This wheelchair accessible look out honors Marie Byles who was instrumental in the establishment of Bouddi National Park.
- Gerrin Point Lookout – about 20 minutes walk from Putty Beach car park in Bouddi National Park
- Terrigal Haven and the Skillion – the best know view in the area. Wander the new coastal boardwalk and soak it all in.
- Crackneck Lookout – One of the best whale viewing spots on the central coast you. The view takes in Shelly Beach and continuing along the Central Coast past Norah Head.
- Norah Head Lighthouse is at the northern limit for our central coast adventure. The lighthouse offers tours, and you can climb the 96 stairs for one of the best views along the coastline.
Do some tastings
Foodies heading to the Central Coast will want to spend some time in and around Erina. The suburb is home to several breweries, a winery and even a distillery. Not a drinker, don’t worry, there is plenty here for you to enjoy too from cheese tasting to oyster farms.
Philip Moore’s award winning gins and Mr Black cold brew coffee liqueur are the draw cards for a visit to Distillery Botanica. Learn more about distilling and taste their range on a tasting tour.
Onsite you will find Bar Botanica with lovely light lunches, coffee and ice-cream from Mr Goaty Gelato.
Take some time to wander around the site. We signed up for a tasting that we both informative and fun! We left with a bottle of Mr Black which I highly recommend.
Botanica Distillery was previously known as the Fragrant Gardens and there are 3 acres to enjoy.
When: 11am-4pm Wednesday to Sunday
Where: 25 Portsmouth Rd, Erina
Cost: $15 per person for a tasting of 3 gins and 3 liqueurs
Design your own brewery crawl
Craft beer lovers will quickly find they have plenty of options on the Central Coast. You can easily plan your own tasting tour with no less than 5 excellent breweries within an hour’s drive from start to finish.
- Block ‘n Tackle at Kincumber
- Bay Road Brewing in Gosford
- Hawkesbury Brewing Co. in Lisarow
- Six Strings Brewing company at Erina
- Central Coast Brewery at Tuggerah
All you need to do is get yourself a designated driver and your right to go!
Visit Fires Creek Fruit Wines
If you prefer wine to beer or spirits, no problem. Firescreek Winery is a must. This unique property makes award winning fruit wines, some which have not been created anywhere else.
The wines which include combinations like Elderberry & Vanilla or Guava & Feijoa wine and what’s on offer changes through the seasons. The wines are organic and vegan friendly.
This is a lovely spot to spend a few hours and Fires Creek has some fun experiences to allow you to learn more about their wine making processes and how to drink their wines. You can do a tour and tasting, enjoy a chocolate and wine pairing or pick up some new skills in a foraging and mixology class.
When: 192 Wattle Tree Rd, Holgate NSW 2250
Where: Wednesday to Saturday 10am-4.30pm
Eat all the Little Creek Cheeses
Little Creek Cheese at Wyong Milk Factory is a must for cheese lovers. Along with tastings and direct sales, they offer some really fun, well priced experiences.
The first offers a half-hour tour with access behind the factory doors and tastings of 10 different cheeses. In the second, which runs 2.5 hours you spend time with the cheese maker and owner, learn how to make ricotta and paneer cheeses and take them home to enjoy later.
When: 141-155 Alison Rd, Wyong
Where: Wednesday to Saturday 10am-4.30pm
Explore a garden or two
Mount Penang Gardens
Celebrating its 20th birthday in 2023, Mount Penang Gardens, designed by Anton James, is a popular space for enjoying the coast’s natural beauty. Arranged across 12 different spaces, at least 70% of the plants in the garden are native to Australia. My favourites are the water lilies and lotus flowers you will find in the Aquatic Garden.
Within the Gardens, you will find a fascinating outdoor sculpture exhibition. These giant sandstone sculptures resulted from Australia’s first international sculpture symposium, which was held in nearby Wondabyne in 1987 and gifted by the artists to Australia.
When: Parklands Road, Mt Penang Parklands, Kariong
Gosford Edogawa Commemorative Garden
This peaceful garden in suburban Gosford is based on a traditional ‘shuyu’ or strolling garden. A timber bridge crosses over a pond filled with Koi and a stunning assortment of plants including Cherries, azaleas and water lilies fill the 4,000m2 site.
The gardens, a gift from Gosford’s sister city Edogawa near Tokyo in Japan were officially opened in 1994. It’s a popular spot for weddings but also great for photography. You can buy food to feed the Koi from the adjoining gallery.
When: 9:30 am-4:00 pm daily
Where: 36 Webb St, East Gosford
Explore the Hinterland
Have Breakfast with Alpacas at Iris Lodge Alpacas
Who doesn’t love an alpaca? This fun, family-friendly experience takes place every weekend or – every day during school holidays at Iris Lodge Alpacas, a working farm in Jilliby. Hungry alpaca are a common site in the morning at Iris Lodge, so before you tuck into your own breakfast you can help feed the animals then let them sit back and watch you enjoy yours – don’t let them bully you into sharing.
Alternatively, there is an afternoon meet and greet or afternoon feeding. Extra sessions are offered in school holidays.
When: 8.30am for breakfast, 12.30 and 3pm for a meet and greet or 3pm weekends for afternoon feeding.
Where: 33 Dunks Lane, Jilliby
Cost: from $35
Horse riding in Glenworth
Glenworth Valley outdoor adventures offers plenty to get the heart rate up with quad bikes, horse riding, abseiling, and kayaking, this is one of the best destinations on the central coast for adrenalin junkies.
Glenworth Valley offers camping and glamping or luxury eco villas if you want to stay for a few days and try all the activities or just relax and enjoy the beautiful bushland.
When: 9am-5.30pm every day
Where: 69 Cooks Rd, Glenworth Valley
Cost: Day pass entry $10 pp – all activities are individually priced.
Treetops Adventure Central Coast
Challenge yourself on the obstacle course in the air. If you are after something a little more adventurous or want to get out of your comfort zone, this attraction will certainly do that! The Treetops Adventure Park features courses that cater for everyone aged three years and older, and it is also home to the Treetop NewWorld and Treetop Crazy Rider.
The Treetop NewWorld is an exciting new world where you bounce, play and discover. It is located high in the treetops and features a vast network of interconnected spaces, various games with gigantic inflatable balls, and more.
When: 10am-5pm term times, 9am-5pm school holidays
Where: 1 Red Hill Rd, Wyong Creek
Spend some time with the local wildlife
While a stroll in the national park or state forest will probably result in some wildlife meetings if you want to guarantee a sighting, one of these animal parks is just the place.
Walkabout Wildlife Park
This park flies under the radar, but they offer so much. This 80-acre sanctuary is a haven for native animals and home to many aboriginal sites, including ochre painting and hand-stencils, axe-grinding grooves, and cave shelters.
Join Boomerang Throwing or Bush Tucker & Bush Medicine Workshops and learn more about the way of life of the Guringai people and the Darkinjung people.
The park is home to Aussie animals of all shapes and sizes. They also offer a chance to help round up the kangaroos and emus, which is loads of fun.
You can also stay overnight in their campsites or eco-cabins and do a private ranger walk.
Where: 1 Darkinjung Road, Calga – check the notes on the website as your GPS may give you incorrect results.
When: Open every day with slightly reduced hours on Christmas Day
Australian Reptile Park
A giant frill-neck lizard greets you on arrival at the Australian Reptile Park. The park is home to 2,000 animals, including snakes, lizards, crocs and alligators, however, the entire range of Aussie favourites.
All the things that scare most of us, like snakes and spiders, are in good supply
When: Daily: 9am-5pm (Closed Christmas Day)
Where: 69 Pacific Hwy, Somersby
More details :www.reptilepark.com.au
Where to stay for your Central Coast getaway
There are a couple of resorts in Ettalong, we have stayed at the Mantra Ettalong Beach twice. It’s got one of the largest swimming pools I have seen in a long time and is right opposite the beach.
There are studios, one and two-bedroom apartments. The property sits above the local Ettalong Diggers Club, which has two dining options: Street Food Kitchen and Bistro 51.
There are some great cafes nearby too. Check out our view of a weekend in Ettalong for tips.
Pearl Beach holiday houses
A popular spot for summer escapes from Sydney Pearl Beach is a lovely spot for a family getaway. This 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom beach house is close to the beach and has a lovely pool for late night summer swims.
Ocean Beach Holiday Park
Ocean Beach Holiday Park has special memories for me. This was where we spent our summers back in primary school. Mind you; there was no fancy water slide and playground equipment back then. Just the fabulous ocean beach and endless games of scrabble with Aunty Rita! These days you can choose from safari tents, cabins and villas.
The park is a short walk to the Umina shopping strip and a few minutes’ drive from Pearl Beach and Patonga
We hope we have given you enough reasons to head to the NSW Central Coast, we think its a really special part of the NSW coast and being right on Sydney’s doorstep a great place for a weekend getaway. We love it so much we bought a house there to retire to one day!
About the author: Paula Morgan, a born-and-bred Sydney resident, has been sharing this city and its secret spots for over 15 years. She’s not just about the iconic landmarks; she’s all about the hidden alleys adorned with street art, and the joy of discovering a new café or a fabulous restaurant tucked away in a corner you never knew existed and weekends away exploring regional NSW.