Explore the Central Coast

There are plenty of new attractions on the Central Coast for an easy summer escape, travel editor Winsor Dobbin reports. 

From hip new eateries, an experiential ‘meet the maker’ trail that takes visitors behind the scenes at gourmet producers, and intimate nature and food curated tours that celebrate the region – there is much to love on the Central Coast. An easy 1.5 hours’ drive north of Sydney (except on Friday afternoons), there are a variety of ‘eat, play and stay’ reasons for a rediscovery, with many new offerings popping up across the region.

Covid-19 may have slowed down business during what was a rollercoaster 2020 but there has also been an influx of casually cool new bars and eateries opening their doors, plus bespoke tours and revitalised accommodation. So, whether you are ready to slow down and indulge, drive and explore the region’s little-known hinterland, or keen to stretch the legs outdoors, here is what’s new on the Central Coast.

For more on the Central Coast, go to: www.lovecentralcoast.com.au

Go exploring

Meet the Makers Trail – from coast to hinterland
A collective of Central Coast makers and creators have teamed up to offer a ‘Meet the Makers’ experience that trails the Central Coast from coast to hinterland, opening their doors for tastings, tipples and a variety of tours, intimate workshops and events. Experiences include:

  • Broken Bay Pearl Farm, Pearls of Australia: Start the journey at Mooney Mooney – the gateway to the Central Coast – stopping in on the Hawkesbury River. Take to the water on a hosted tour to experience NSW’s only pearl farm and spend time with third-generation pearl farmers who harvest the precious, local Akoya pearls. You can even buy some beautiful pearl jewellery direct on-site from their grading room.
  • Little Creek Cheese: Multi award-winning, hand-crafted cheeses. Meet the family of cheesemakers at their factory headquarters and tasting room housed at the historic Wyong Milk Factory, or get your hands-on at a cheesemaking workshop.
  • The Chocolate Factory: An immersive confectionary wonderland in West Gosford, the factory is the home of Nougat Limar, Bon Bon Fine Chocolate and The Sydney Marshmallow Co., relocated from Sydney’s Strand Arcade. Book a factory tour and tasting, or the little kids will love the Junior Chocolatier Workshops.
  • Firescreek Winery: In the rural gem of Holgate, you can sample Firescreek Winery’s botanical fruit and flower wines at the cellar door, or for a more in-depth experience book in for a meet the winemaker tour. Alternatively, if you have more time, try the luxurious chocolate and wine experience for two, a rewarding bush tucker and wine experience with a local Darkinjung elder, or a foraging and mixology experience is also available.
  • For moremeetthemakerscentralcoast.com.au

Learn to shuck an oyster, and sample river-fresh
Mooney Mooney Oyster Farm Tours guide people through operating Broken Bay oyster farms for an authentic aquatic farm experience. Visitors get to meet second- and third-generation oyster farmers, learn to shuck and taste the famous Broken Bay Oysters straight from the river.

Breakfast with alpacas

This fun, family-friendly experience takes place every weekend (and every day during school holidays) at Iris Lodge Alpacas, a working farm in Jilliby in the Central Coast hinterland. Expect to be greeted by a hungry alpaca and meet and feed other animals before enjoying your own breakfast while watching the alpacas. irislodgealpacas.com

Walkabout art workshops

Walkabout Wildlife Park in Calga has announced a collaboration with Indigenous artist Garry Purchase, introducing art workshops at this Australian native wildlife estate. Garry is best known for his modern take on Aboriginal art portraying his personal stories, and he will teach you the tricks to perfecting your own artworks. walkaboutpark.com.au

Paddle and Pearls – just one of the new curated tours hosted by Elixir Journeys

Luxury travellers will love the recently launched Elixir Journeys for their curated selection of tailor-made and small-group tours crafted to show you the best of nature, food and wine on the Central Coast. Highlights include a ‘Paddle and Pearls’ kayak tour to a pearling shed, a ‘Sailing Safari with Seafood Lunch’, a ‘Sundowner Stroll Nature Tour’ with sunset picnic in the Bouddi National Park, and more. elixirjourneys.com

A Jurassic experience comes to life

The mighty roar of Tyrannosaurus Rex and the snapping jaws of the Raptor will be on show at the Australian Reptile Park daily throughout the summer school holidays. reptilepark.com.au

Food and drink

Cali-cool at the new Shady Palms
Tropical and eclectic sum up new restaurant Shady Palms, which launched in November (taking over the former Bombini restaurant and pizzeria). Pick a spot in their lush garden by the oyster and champagne “shack”, by the outdoor undercover wood-fire pizza oven, or in the cottage for a more classic dining experience. Soak up the surf culture vibe and regular live music. As for the menu, expect seafood, poke bowls and yakitori. shadypalms.com.au

A new local waterhole, with the Lyons Den opening in Gosford
The African-inspired bar and eatery is opening in the heart of Gosford this summer. Expect a range of southern African meats, punchy cocktails, and with a wild interior styled by well-known interior stylist, Xanthe Highfield and safari-style mural by Leigh Caplin who returned to the Central Coast from New York during Covid. The bar and restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and is a great spot for a night cap. lyonsdengosford.com.au

Life in the slow lane, at Slowwell in Ettalong Beach
Part coffee shop, part lifestyle store, the new Slowwell brings city style to the beaches. This beautiful space is somewhere you can go to peruse wellbeing books while you wait for a slow-drip brew and chinwag with like-minded folk. slowwell.co

Terrigal – new foodie experiences keep this surf-side village buzzing this summer

  • Bouffant, Expect more than your average lamington at this new Central Coast pastry house. Row upon row of pastries greet you and prove hard to resist, making Bouffant the perfect spot to pick up sweet treats like the classic croissant, plus house-made breads and pies. bouffant.com.au
  • Bowlarama, home of pumped-up, treat-laden smoothie bowls. Terrigal is the newest location, following openings in Kincumber and Long Jetty earlier this year. bowlaramabowls.com
  • Milky Lane – the instagrammable burger is coming to Terrigal, opening January 4. https://milkylane.co/
  • Acai Bros. iswhere you can enjoy smoothie bowls and shakes, and vegan soups, tacos and burgers. acaibrothers.com
  • Loaded Dough, for mouth-watering New York-style cookies, brownies, scones and sundaes. They also create an incredible cookie layer cake, for birthdays and special events. facebook.com/loadeddough1/
  • Daily Dough Co., where bacon-covered and crème brulee-filled donuts are the go. dailydoughco.com

Awarded best in the state – The Bon Pavilion

Sean Connolly’s restaurant in the heart of Gosford, The Bon Pavilion, recently won the gold for ‘NSW Regional & ACT, Contemporary Australian Restaurant – Informal’ at the Restaurant & Catering Awards 2020. Book in from breakfast to dinner, Wednesday to Sunday. New weekly events include the ‘Girls Days Out’ lunches at $59 per person. thebonpavilion.com.au

Book a stay – new local lodgings

Pic; Alex Baker

The Nest at Blue Bay
Nest at Blue Bay is a luxury couples accommodation situated in the middle of the two spectacular bays, Blue Bay and Toowoon Bay. With retro-cool interiors, think breeze blocks and Australian coastal style, this holiday property is a beautiful new retreat. nestatbluebay.com.au

Converted shipping container accommodation at NRMA Ocean Beach
A new ‘Glamtainer’ experience is at the beachfront holiday resort in Umina Beach. Sleeping up to four people in cool shipping container accommodation, with a fit-out including brands like Pony Rider to complete the look. Perfect for couples and young families. nrmaparksandresorts.com.au/ocean-beach/accommodation-and-sites/glamping/

Beachfront bliss at Water’s Edge at Forresters
This new luxury beachfront property has ceiling-to-floor windows offering stunning views of one of the Coast’s lesser-known beaches. The four-bedroom house has everything, including private beach access. watersedgeatforresters.com.au

A fresh new look at Norah Head Lighthouse cottages
If you dreamt of living in a lighthouse as a child, then a stay at the freshly refurbished Norah Head Lighthouse keepers’ quarters is the next best thing. There are two homes, both with three bedrooms, kitchens and lounge rooms. Spend your days beachcombing, swimming and surfing at the surrounding beaches. norahheadlighthouse.com.au

Boathouse Patonga’s new cottage
The Boathouse Hotel Patonga is a waterside hotel at Patonga. Newly opened is their ‘Patonga Cottage’ located right next door and perfect for groups and families, accommodating up to 10 guests. theboathousehotelpatonga.com.au/stay

Hinterland stay at Fernbank Farm
A popular group accommodation for weddings and larger groups, this four-bedroom heritage house is on a large, landscaped estate, with swimming pool and private sun deck for those country evening meals. fernbankfarmweddings.com.au/main-house

See Winsor’s work at www.gourmetontheroad.com