There's a good reason why so many people don't want 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 a piece of glorious real estate nestled amongst spectacular beaches, stately old-growth forests, inland lakes, craggy cliffs and sleepy townships. When planning a day trip from Newcastle, the Central Coast is a definite must-see. Young families, older travelers, backpackers or couples seeking a romantic escape – there's a Central Coast destination to take your breath away!
On the way - Glenrock State Conservation Area
From Newcastle take the Pacific Highway to the Sydney Newcastle Freeway 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 pretty spectacular beaches and views. The conservation area is peppered with historical sites (both Indigenous and more recent) and rare and wonderful native flora and fauna. Visit the Parks and Wildlife Centre for access to maps and guides.
On the way - Lake Macquarie
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 holiday) on 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 Lake Macquarie Gallery. The multi-award winning attraction isn't so much as 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 littlest critic.
For nature lovers, head a little further west to the many National Parks and the 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 will find dozens of breathtaking spots to unpack the picnic and take in the views. In fact, there is no shortage of great spots around the lake. Photo opportunities (and relaxing lakeside strolls) lie all around but the long wisp of Lake Macquarie Conservation Area in the south; the various peninsulas on the east side and the inlet at Swansea are possibly the best.
Central Coast Beaches
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 going north is definitely the Central Coast beaches. Luckily the sheer number of beautiful spots to swim, surf and play means there's plenty of room for everyone!
For surfers, there are a dozen or more excellent patrolled surf beaches, for 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, 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 all 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 sea life. The planned addition of the HMAS Adelaide at Avoca is proving a very controversial move but if it goes ahead, should make for one of the most interesting dives in the region.
Families seeking a good beach for littlies 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 village feel, complete with a great little pub (Patonga Beach Hotel) for a fresh seafood lunch. While there, head over to Pearl Beach to see how the other half “weekends”. Explore the natural beauty that money can't buy and the architectural beauty that keeps Sydney's elite buying here.
Keeping the Kids Happy
There's nothing like a bored kid stuck in a car to drive you mad, so whether you want to entertain him or frighten him into submission (just jokes), the Australian Reptile Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the place to do it.
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 kick back or dive in – either way; you are in for some real fun.