When I tell people I live on the Central Coast, I’m often met with blank looks. It doesn’t seem like a real name, more of a direction – the central coast of where, some ask. The fact is, the Central Coast is often overlooked by travellers despite its proximity to Sydney and its myriad natural attractions.
Situated 90 minutes’ drive north of Sydney, the Central Coast is a sprawling suburban area dotted with town centres. The best known is Gosford, a name many recognise due to its station on the Sydney to Newcastle regional train line. Most Sydneysiders have also heard of Terrigal, a beachside suburb that attracts visitors with water sports like diving and surfing, a variety of restaurants and accommodation ranging from cafe to French cuisine and backpackers hostel to hotel.
But when I mention other interesting locations, people are lost. There are many areas of the Central Coast that are just as picturesque and relaxing and are devoid of the crowds you’ll soon wish to escape at Terrigal. Even if you choose to stay in Terrigal, where there is nightlife and accommodation, don’t be afraid to venture further afield for a few hours and see the other attractions of the region.
Copacabana Beach is only a ten minute drive from Terrigal, but is much less developed and is therefore naturally beautiful. The waves are usually large, making it popular with surfers and bodyboarders who head to the northern point or make their way to the middle of the beach. The water can be rough at times, and be aware of rips. But ‘Copa’, as it is known to locals, is also great for families, with a pretty rockpool that’s perfect for kids. The beach is also protected by lifeguards. When your stomach calls your name you’ll find cafes, burgers and a bakery. Here’s my hot tip for the bakery: arrive early and snap up a spinach and fetta loaf before they sell out!
Avoca is a short five minute drive over the headland from Copacabana. While Copa faces a south-easterly direction, Avoca faces north-east, so often if there’s a wind blowing at one beach, the other will be protected by the headland. Like Copa, Avoca is quieter than Terrigal and is a nicer beach. The main street has cute cafes and shops, as well as apartments for holiday rental. Don’t miss the vintage, sixty year old Avoca Beach Picture Theatre, voted best independent regional theatre in Australia in the years 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. It screens a curated selection of international and Australian films, and unlike the big chains it’s licensed, so you can enjoy a beer or wine with the movie.
Davistown is where I was born and raised, and I don’t think I’ve told that to anyone outside of the Central Coast who had heard of it. What a shame! It might not be the hippest, most happening place in the world, but if you want somewhere pretty and quiet you’ve found your haven. Located on a peninsula a fifteen minute drive from Gosford, Erina or Terrigal, most of the suburb is bordered by Brisbane Water. If you’re arriving by public transport from Sydney, catch the regional train to Woy Woy (this takes 70 minutes from Sydney’s Central Station) and then the ferry 10 minutes to Central Wharf.
Bring a picnic blanket and your dog, and settle under a shady tree for a day by the water. Find high quality food at Stillwaters Restaurant on the waterfront, or more casual options like the RSL Club, Thai food and fish and chips five minutes walk away. Pack your fishing rod or walk along the wide grass reserve, which stretches for two kilometres.
If you’re a Sydneysider looking for a weekend getaway or a traveller looking for a beach where there’s actually room to lay your towel, I highly recommend a few days on the Central Coast. Oh, and the name? Well, it’s above the South Coast and below the Mid-North Coast. It’s the central stretch of the New South Wales coast, of course!
Need to know:
Getting to and around the Central Coast is easiest by car, but if that’s not an option you’ll find timetables for public transport at the websites for Cityrail, Busways and Central Coast Ferries. Trains on the Newcastle and Central Coast line depart Sydney Central Station every 30 minutes, hop off at Woy Woy or Gosford.
To drive from Sydney, take the F3 Freeway north from Wahroonga for 25 minutes, and exit at the Kariong Interchange. From here you can reach Terrigal, Copacabana, Avoca or Davistown in 20 minutes.
Session times and events at Avoca Beach Picture Theatre can be found at www.avocabeachpicturetheatre.com.au.
More information about the Central Coast can be found at VisitNSW.com.au.