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Our Guide To The Perfect Road-Trip On The NSW Central Coast

Travel

The Central Coast region of New South Wales is quintessential Australia. Dotted with surfy towns and glorious beaches along a pristine stretch of protected national park coastline, it’s the kind of Australia you see on postcards.

Don’t plan a trip there as a stop-off, there’s a holidays-worth of places to really sink your teeth into – including (but not limited to) the following recommendations, for TDF-approved places to eat, drink, sleep, shop and see!

16th April, 2021

The glorious Bouddi Peninsula contains secluded beaches and plenty of nature walks! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 16th April 2021

Forget the sprawling Sydney metropolis, all anyone needs for the ultimate getaway in New South Wales is located 1.5 hour’s drive from the state’s capital city.

The Central Coast region spans 566km2, catching a sprinkle of charming beach towns in its zone. The most well known of these are Terrigal and Avoca – renowned surfing haunts – while the largest is Gosford – the main economic hub of the region.

The world-class natural surrounds are the most obvious reason to travel here, with an abundance of bush walks through Bouddi National Park, and more beaches than you can count (the locals tell us Putty Beach and Spoon Bay are some of the best for a dip)!

But the most enduring reputation of the Central Coast is how overwhelmingly nice the people are. There is a thriving sense of community among the residents and small businesses here (a selection of which we’ve curated for you below) which makes this destination even more special.

So whether you’re staying for a good time or a long time, there’s plenty to keep you occupied on this heavenly stretch of coastline. It’s always sunny on the Central Coast!

Shady Palms is a restaurant and bar in Avoca Beach, inspired by 80s Hawaii and California! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Tropicana vibes at Shady Palms. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The sprawling in-land venue brings the best of glam beach colour to its fit-out – perfect for live music events! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The bungalow at Shady Palms has been transformed into an undercover dining room. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

A tropical indoor-outdoor ambience in the dining room at Shady Palms. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The Wildflower restaurant at Bells at Killcare had a revamp in 2019, bringing on chef, Sean Connolly. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

A little bit of local luxe at The Wildflower. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Fifteen percent of the produce on The Wildflower’s menu has been sourced from the restaurant’s own 500m2 kitchen garden, which includes an orchard, olive trees, beehives and free range hens. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

A spread of pastries at Burnt Honey Bakery in Copacabana, an 18-month-old bakery that’s quickly established itself as a local food pilgrimage destination. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The quaint insides of Burnt Honey Bakery. There’s only enough room for a few customers inside, the rest is filled with baking equipment and pastries! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The olive and oregano focaccia at Burnt Honey Bakery. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Get to Burnt Honey Bakery quickly, they sell out fast! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

EAT

Burnt Honey Bakery

Copacabana is located on a crescent-shaped beach just south of Avoca, meaning it is slightly cut-off from the rest of the Central Coast. But the lack of thoroughfare traffic makes this quaint surfy town all the more delightful!

Burnt Honey Bakery is an 18-month-old bakery that’s quickly established itself as a local pilgrimage destination. Expect glistening chocolate eclairs, neenish tarts, handmade pastries and olive sourdough focaccia on the menu, all made on site. Get in quick, they’re only open until sold out!

Shop 1/224 Del Monte Pl, Copacabana

The Wildflower

Located at the stunning accommodation lodge, Bells at Killcare, The Wildflower is where to go if you’re after something a little bit bougie and a lot local. Headed up by renowned chef, Sean Connolly, fifteen per cent of the produce on the menu is sourced from the restaurant’s own 500m2 kitchen garden, which includes an orchard, olive trees, beehives and free range hens.

With as many regionally sourced producers, growers, winemakers and suppliers as possible, a menu highlight is the locally harvested seafood – such as the crayfish caught off nearby Macmasters Beach!

107 The Scenic Rd, Killcare Heights

Shady Palms

The newly minted sister of Terrigal’s Caribbean rum shack, Mumbo Jumbos, Shady Palms is a local favourite in-the-making. Owners Heather, Isaac and Steve drew on the local surf culture when fitting out the space in in-land Avoca Beach, creating a breezy, tropical vibe with references to mid-century Hawaii and 80s California.

The dining, drinking and live music venue comprises a beer garden with lime washed stone booths, an island-style cocktail bar and a bungalow with a more traditional dining room with a vast selection of tap beer, wines and speciality cocktails. Serious vibes!

366 Avoca Drive, Kincumber

Crystal blue waters at Copacabana. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

A view of Killcare Beach at the beginning of the Bouddi Coastal Walk. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Beautiful natives are abundant across the whole Central Coast region. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The Bouddi Coastal Walk is an 8km trek the length of the national park’s coastline, beginning at Killcare and ending at Macmasters Beach! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

There are many nature walks and lookout spots in Bouddi National Park. This majestic tree is en route to Bullimah lookout. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The natural escarpment en route to Bullimah lookout. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The epic views from the Marie Byles lookout. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The Savoy was originally built in 1956 as the Central Coast’s biggest movie theatre until it fell out of use in the mid-70s. Now, it’s back to its former glory! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Revived two years ago by locals Ben Pearce and Guy Sullivan, The Savoy is now a pumping main attraction in the town of Long Jetty. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The Savoy cinema complex has a modern bar and restaurant inside, with a program of live music events and family days changing weekly. And of course – Thursday night movie screenings! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Long Jetty is a peaceful waterfront town on the other side of peninsula from Toowoon Bay. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

SEE + DO

The Savoy

Originally, The Savoy was built in 1956 as the Central Coast’s biggest movie theatre, until it fell out of use in the mid-70s. Now, it’s back to its former glory!

Revived two years ago by locals Ben Pearce and Guy Sullivan, The Savoy is now a pumping main attraction in the town of Long Jetty. The cinema complex has a modern bar and restaurant inside, with a program of live music events and family days changing weekly. And of course, classic films lighting up the silver screen every Thursday night!

2/391 The Entrance Rd, Long Jetty

Bouddi National Park

Bouddi National Park is one of the most significant and well-trodden sites in the Central Coast, spanning 1,532 hectares from Killcare to Macmasters Beach. Due to its ocean-front situ, it contains some of the best secluded beaches on the coast, and epic tracks and trails to get to them!

The Killcare Beach Boardwalk marks the beginning of the Bouddi Coastal Walk, halfway through the 8km walk lies Maitland Bay, a secluded sandy cove surrounded by bushland that can only be accessed by foot. Make sure to bring your swimmers!

If you’re not up for the lengthy 8km hike but still want some great views and a dip at Maitland Bay,   you can drive to the corner of The Scenic Road and Maitland Bay Information Centre, where the beach can be accessed via a 15-minute walk along the Maitland Bay Track.

Close to this intersection is the Marie Byles Lookout, which offers panoramic views along the coastline back towards Killcare Beach. The Bullimah Spur Track, a 2.4km scenic loop with epic views across the national park, also starts and ends at this lookout spot.

Note that Putty Beach, Tallow Beach and Little Beach all have campground facilities for those who prefer a tent to an Airbnb!

For those wanting to truly embrace the Central Coast life and dress like a local, La Boheme in Terrigal is where to go! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The shop is a hub of bohemian fashion and homewares. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Local and international makers are on offer at La Boheme, including Sage + Clare and Bonnie and Neil. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

SHOP

La Boheme Lifestyle

If there’s a case to be made for making the trip to the Central Coast permanent, it’s Stephanie Davies, owner of La Boheme, who made the move from Scotland in 2014, and never looked back.

Now settled in Terrigal, Steph started La Boheme four years ago as a hub for bohemian-style homewares and fashion. The store stocks pieces from Australian designers like Sage and Clare textiles, ceramics by Rhiannon Gill, and Bonnie and Neil table linens.

For those wanting to truly embrace the Central Coast life and dress like a local, La Boheme is where to go!

1/271 Scenic Highway, Terrigal

Toowoon Bay is a tiny town with an idyllic surf beach! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The Toowoon Bay outlook. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Toowoon Bay has the best of the bigger Central Coast beaches, but with less foot traffic! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Toowoon Beach House sleeps sixteen people (!) making it the perfect multi-family accommodation situation. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Toowoon Beach House has classic beachy vibes on the outside, and warm contemporary interiors. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The inside of Toowoon Beach House is light and bright, as all good beach ‘shacks’ should be! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Toowoon Beach House has ample kitchen space. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The laid-back interiors reflect ultimate holiday mode. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

A tranquil sunset at Toowoon Bay. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

STAY

Toowoon Beach House

Located just 100m from picturesque Toowoon Bay, Toowoon Beach House is a classic stilted holiday house fit for the whole family (plus some extras!). The accommodation sleeps 16 guests across its 7 bedrooms and has a deck for outdoor eating as well as a pool table for indoor entertainment – should the need ever arise. It’s also fully equipped for kids with a cubby house and sand-pit at the rear.

To top it all off for a holiday of family fun, surfboards and kayaks are supplied to maximise the short walk to the open ocean.

Keen to pack the car and head straight to the seaside? Us too! Find out more about the Central Coast and the surrounding areas at lovecentralcoast.com. And for more NSW travel inspiration head to VisitNSW.com.

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net