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A Stylist's Guide To The NSW Central Coast

Travel

Today we catch up with fellow Aussie film industry alumnus, designer and stylist Xanthe Highfield.

Xanthe is the co-founder of interiors studio Stewart + Highfield, and has won an AFI award for her amazing work, which spans art direction and production design for a host of top local film productions and TV shows.

Here we call on her expertise of another (though related) kind; the Woy Woy-based creative gives us a tour of hot spots along the NSW Central Coast.

30th August, 2018

Photo – Jacs Powell, and Sarah-Kate from Chasing Brightness.

Xanthe Highfield
Thursday 30th August 2018

The Central Coast is a huge area that stretches between Sydney and Newcastle, the most well-known towns in the area include Killcare, Avoca and Terrigal.

My husband Sam Clayton and I moved to Woy Woy around five years ago. My background is as a production designer/art director for film and TV, and we met studying our Masters in Production Design at Australian Film Radio and Television School. Sam got over working in the industry and was inspired to move into his family’s business: Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf, which has been in the family for 40 years!

We had been living in Bondi and I had been working in Melbourne, so moving to Woy Woy was a total change of pace. Although, we moved into our apartment above the busy restaurant, so there was still a buzz to our life. After hours, when the restaurant closes, we are sitting on a really quiet stretch of water that seems to wash away the stresses. It’s pretty idyllic.

After a few years, we bought a home in Avoca, and I really connected with a wonderful community while we lived there. Although, we have now moved back to Woy Woy for a few years and are renting out our house before we renovate it. This area is a bit more of a hub now, but we’ve got a beautiful spot right on the water in the middle of town.

After I first moved up to the Central Coast, my friend Cate Stewart and I could see a need for some creativity to be injected into local hospitality businesses, so we started doing fit-outs for the new wave of local restaurants A few years on and our company Stewart + Highfield are working on some really exciting projects. We love being a part of the new energy in the area.

What I love most about living on The Central Coast is the really supportive creative community. It’s a more laid-back way of life, but it’s also commuting distance from Sydney, so I can continue to do art directing for TV commercials as well as run our interiors business.

I also love that you have spectacular beaches and national parks right on your doorstep, yet it still feels a little undiscovered. For example, the thrift stores are still genuinely cheap, and you can really find a bargain. I’m still finding hidden gems in towns after five years of living here!

Bouddi Coastal Walk. Photo – Jacs Powell.

The Mars-like landscape! Photo – Jacs Powell.

The walk starts at Putty Beach Road, Killcare Heights. Photo – Jacs Powell.

Adventure – Bouddi Coastal Walk

We regularly go on hikes as a big bunch of parents and toddlers.

There are so many spectacular walks around the area. A favourite is the Bouddi Coastal Walk, which is great for whale spotting, cliff-top stone foraging, birdwatching and admiring wildflowers. The Mars-like rock formations go down pretty well in terms of four-year-old boys’ imaginations too!

The full hike is eight-and-a-half kilometres one way, from Putty Beach to MacMasters Beach and this takes thee-and-a-half to four hours. The walk can also be split into three smaller sections if you are short on time.

Putty Beach Road, Killcare Heights NSW 2257

Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf has been in my husband’s family for 40 years! Photo – Jacs Powell.

Seafood is the specialty at Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf. Photo – Jacs Powell.

The traditional Aboriginal fish trap that we commissioned. Photo – Jacs Powell.

Looking out to the water. Photo – Jacs Powell.

We live above the restaurant and the views of the water are amazing. Photo – Jacs Powell.

Restaurant – Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf

We were living in Bondi and I was working on a TV show in Melbourne when Sam called me and asked if I wanted to move to Woy Woy… I think I’d visited once or twice and barely knew the place, but was totally up for the adventure. How could I not be with a name so cute?

The Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf had been in his family for generations and after visiting some great restaurants and cafes around Mornington Peninsula, Sam started to get ideas about what he could do to the place. He was dying to get out of the film industry and I was hanging to get out of Sydney, so we made the move.

We have been there for two stages of evolution now, the last renovation had to happen as the pier’s pylons needed replacing, which meant a total rebuild of the end of the pier supporting the restaurant. The goal was to retain the integrity of the old building but bring in the surrounding mangroves and capture that view even more. The décor is more pared-back than last time, which had a strong crab-shack vibe! We have focused on key pieces, such as commissioning a four-metre-long traditional Aboriginal fish trap to honour the focus of sustainable fishing that the wharf maintains.

It’s open for lunch and dinner in the warmer months. With the fresh fish market attached to the restaurant you know that you will always get fresh, great quality seafood. My personal fav is the Pippies In XO sauce. Even just the oysters with a glass of one of the amazing wines always makes me happy!

The Blvd, Woy Woy NSW 2256

Like Minds Avoca. Photo – Jacs Powell.

The ceiling sculpture of floating clouds is by local artist Jane Gillings.Photo – Jacs Powell.

The Surfer’s Breakfast. Photo – Jacs Powell.

Amazing coffee too! Photo – Jacs Powell.

This cafe has changed people’s lives! Photo – Jacs Powell.

Cafe – Like Minds Avoca

My experience of the Central Coast as a strong supportive community really began when we moved around the corner from Like Minds Avoca. It might sound dramatic, but this place has changed people’s lives. Mel and Jimmy are curators of community in the most generous way possible, so many life-long friendships have been born in this inviting space.

It’s open for breakfast and lunch, and the food is largely garden-to-plate, so always fresh and the coffee is the best around. Produce swaps happen once a month, plus there is zero food waste because all food and coffee waste is composted.

Sam will, without fail, always order The Surfer Breakfast (vegemite and avo with a poached egg). Mel makes all the relishes and pickles so everything is extra tasty. I’m just all about the smashed avo and egg with pickles!

Inside, the ceiling features a sculpture of floating clouds by local artist Jane Gillings, made using all of the cafe’s old milk bottles.

352 The Round Dr, Avoca Beach NSW 2251

Inside Natalie Walton’s Imprint House. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Imprint House is open Fridays or by appointment. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Shop – Imprint House & Dapper Darlings

Stylist and writer Natalie Walton’s Imprint House is one of my favourite retail spots in the region (TDF featured it alongside her home tour here). Her careful edit of homewares celebrate beauty and elevate function. Most of them were discovered during her time writing and researching for interior magazines, and producing her art and design blog. The concept store is open to the public on Friday, 10am to 2pm, or by appointment.

Address: 1282 Yarramalong Road, Wyong Creek, NSW, 2259

Another retail highlight is Long Jetty. This place is a great social study on a few creatives moving to an area with dirt cheap rent and turning it around! Dapper Darlings Vintage was really the first of a bunch of active shop owners who painted vibrant murals on the front of their stores that bring the street to life. This store is a vintage collector’s dream and also stocks wares by independent designers like Georgia Perry and Lenni the Label.

If heading to Long Jetty you must take a look at all the great stores such as Plain Janes, Loose Leaf, Tiny Folk Co and Shadow bang to name but a few.

298 The Entrance Rd, Long Jetty NSW 2261

Copacabana Beach House. Photo – Jacs Powell.

Inside the dreamy Airbnb accommodation. Photo – Jacs Powell.

This restored 1970s home is an impeccably-designed place to stay. Photo – Jacs Powell.

There are breath-taking views from every room! Photo – Jacs Powell.

Stay – Copacabana Beach House

Copacabana Beach House is a dreamy Airbnb accommodation perched on the cifftop at Copacabana. A bird’s eye view of the house shows that it is in the shape of a ‘T’, meaning there are amazing views all the way around.

Owner Danielle Eurell worked closely with a team of local builders to bring her vision to life and restore this 1970s home into an impeccably-designed place to stay.

With an open fireplace and ocean views, you could probably just ignore all my exploring tips and happily not leave here all weekend!!

Copacabana NSW 2251

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.