There’s a good reason why so many people would prefer not to live in Sydney (or Newcastle for that matter) and it’s called the Central Coast. Holiday-makers, retirees and commuters flock to the region for both weekends and longer breaks to enjoy a slice of the glorious real estate nestled against spectacular beaches, stately old-growth forests, inland lakes, craggy cliffs and sleepy townships.
When planning a day trip from Newcastle, the Central Coast belongs on your shortlist. Young families, older travellers, backpackers or couples seeking a romantic escape — there’s a Central Coast destination to take your breath away!
From Newcastle take the Pacific Highway to the Sydney Newcastle Freeway, then continue south towards The Entrance. Just a few minutes outside of Newcastle City, consider a stop at the Glenrock State Conservation Area for a walk through the last remaining section of temperate forest in the Newcastle region and take in some spectacular beaches and views.
The conservation area is peppered with historical attractions (both Indigenous and more recent) and rare and wonderful native flora and fauna. Visit the Parks and Wildlife Centre to pick up some maps and guides to get you started.
There are so many places to view spectacular Lake Macquarie and so much to do in the surrounds that you may be tempted to spend the whole day — or even your entire holiday — exploring its lovely shores.
On its west bank (take the Warner’s Bay Road exit and follow the lake past Spears Point and on to Booragul) you’ll find the Museum of Art and Culture, yapang (MAC) (formerly known as Lake Macquarie Gallery). The multi award-winning attraction isn’t so much a gallery as a wonderful art precinct, complete with sculpture park, mosaic paths, historical buildings and picturesque grounds. This is a wonderful destination for families as it has an excellent reputation for engaging even the youngest critic.
For nature lovers, head a little further west to the many National Parks or consider Olney State Forest for waterfalls, flora and fauna, walking tracks, camping facilities, dirt biking and other outdoor sports.
Further south from the gallery (take Wangi Road), you’ll find dozens of breathtaking spots perfect for unpacking a picnic and taking in the views. In fact, there’s no shortage of great spots dotted all around the lake. Photo opportunities — and relaxing lakeside strolls — are not in short supply, but the long wisp of Lake Macquarie Conservation Area to the south; the various peninsulas on the east side and the inlet at Swansea are some of the highlights.
The Lakes, the wineries, the museum, the national parks — there’s lots of wonderful stuff between Sydney and Newcastle but let’s not beat around the bush — the reason Sydney spends its weekends heading north is definitely the Central Coast beaches. Luckily, the sheer number of beautiful spots to swim, surf and play, means there’s plenty of options to choose from.
For surfers, there are a dozen or more patrolled surf beaches in this area, catering for all from the novice surfer through to the pro. Experienced surfers recommend North Avoca, Shelley Beach, the Lakes and Wamberal. For the beginner, try Umina, the Entrance, Ocean Beach or Killcare. For the absolute beginner, why not sign up for surf lessons at Umina, Terrigal or Avoca and take a fun and exciting skill away as a souvenir!
Divers have plenty of options with a number of beautiful and interesting spots to boat dive, shore dive and even night dive dotted along the Central Coast. Divers can visit seven different wrecks along the coastline, each providing a diverse and rich habitat for fish, turtles, coral, rays and other marine life. The addition of the HMAS Adelaide at Avoca was a controversial move but it now makes for one of the most interesting dives in the region.
Families seeking a good beach for kids to swim can find calm beaches and creeks, abundant wildlife, picturesque views and walking tracks at Patonga. Patonga is a sleepy little fishing town with a warm, friendly feel, complete with a great little pub for a fresh seafood lunch. While there, head over to Pearl Beach to see how the other half spends their weekends. Explore the natural beauty that money can’t buy, and the architectural beauty that keeps Sydney’s elite reaching for their wallet.
There’s nothing like a bored kid stuck in a car to drive you mad, so if you want to entertain them, the Australian Reptile Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is a good place to start.
Just west of Gosford at Somersby, treat the kids to an up-close encounter with some of the slimiest, wiggliest, and deadliest creatures on earth — and a few cuddly ones too. Giant turtles, alligators, pythons, spiders and other icky creatures as well as fuzzy natives like wombats, koalas and platypus all make for a family-friendly day out.
Whether you’re making your way south or just heading out for a day trip or lazy weekend, the New South Wales Central Coast is the perfect place to explore, kick back or dive in — and however you choose to spend your time, you’re in for some real fun.