Just one hour’s drive north from Sydney, the Central
Coast – from Broken Bay at the mouth of the Hawkesbury to just south of
Newcastle – is famous for its surf beaches, lakes and national parks, some of
the best fishing and surfing spots on the NSW coast and a great kid-friendly atmosphere. The Entrance offers patrolled swimming,
ocean baths, coastal boardwalk, a children’s playground and daily pelican
feeding. Other surf and swim favourites for kids include Terrigal, Toowoon Bay,
Shelly Beach and Copacabana. And with all that coastline, wherever you roam,
you’re bound to find a bounty of cafes and
fish and chip shops the kids will love. The monthly Avoca Beachside Markets is
another family favourite, loved for its charming bohemian vibe, live
entertainment, healthy snacks and ‘enchanted craft circle’ for littlies. If your family prefers bush to beach, Wyrrabalomg National Park at
Bateau Bay is intertwined with easy walking trails that lead to stunning
lookouts where you may even be lucky enough to spot a passing whale or two during the migration
season. More native wildlife can be found at the Australian Reptile
Park and Australia Walkabout
Wildlife Park at Calga. Thrill-seekers
can get their
skates on at The Entrance skate park, hire a bike and hit the 12-kilometre cycle
way around Tuggerah Lakes or take to the trees at Ourimbah’s Treetops Adventure
Park. Here you’ll find 115 rope challenges including 20 flying foxes and four
children’s courses with junior flying foxes.
Little kids are spoilt for choice as safe beaches and playgrounds abound in the Central Coast.
Wamberal Park and Playground is a great outdoor play space with a fort, slide, swings and flying fox as well as path for the kids to scooter around. Saltwater Creek Reserve and Playground, at Long Jetty offers heaps of space and a great playground with climbing domes and a liberty swing. Or grab the kids and some fish and chips for lunch on the waterfront at The Entrance. Afterwards head to the play area before helping to feed the pelicans in the afternoon.
For the ultimate big day out for little kids, head to Wong for magical mazes and friendly farm animals at The Amazement Farm and Fun Park. Here you’ll also find pony and cart rides, a bird sanctuary, kids playground and giant board games as well as a café for when little tummies start to rumble.
Animal loving kids will love both of the Central Coast’s wonderful Wildlife Parks. The Australian Reptile Park is one of the Central Coast’s most popular spots. The iconic park is small enough to not leave younger kids tired but interactive enough to keep older kids entertained. There is an extensive range of Australian reptiles, keeper talks, demonstrations and hands-on opportunities to meet and greet the animals, from koalas and kangaroos to birds, snakes and lizards.
Set in natural bushland, the Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park offers visitors a truly special experience. The only wildlife sanctuary in New South Wales that offers free-roaming Australian animals and access to ancient Aboriginal rock art sites, the park has been named one the best family friendly animal attractions in the world. During the day visit to see and meet the native Australian animals or stay overnight for a totally wild night out.
The Central Coast is a beach lover’s paradise with a selection of patrolled beaches for every age and ability. Whether its building sandcastles, surfing or paddling in calmer waters you desire, Terrigal’s four kilometres of patrolled beach, and its pretty adjacent lagoon, will have you covered.
The Entrance too offers excellent patrolled beach swimming within walking distance of ocean baths, plus a coastal boardwalk and an excellent children's playground. And don’t miss the daily pelican feeding while you’re there. Toowoon Bay is ideal for swimming or paddling a board while MacMasters Beach has a sheltered rock pool area for kids and a Surf Club kiosk for when tummies start to rumble. Shelly Beach, Bateau Bay and Copacabana also offer stunning beaches renowned for surfing and swimming. And at Norah Head, when you’ve done with the sand and sea you can hike up to its 100-year-old lighthouse for amazing views.
The Central Coast is a watery wonderland for teens. Learn to surf with Central Coast Surf School at Umina on Ocean Beach. Head on an underwater adventure at the ex-HMAS Adelaide Dive site off the coast at Terrigal, or simply fish the channel at The Entrance for blackfish and prawns. At Mt Penang Gardens try the most exciting water experiences around, shooting out of the water into the sky on a Jet Pack or Jet Board with the trained crew at Jetpack Adventures.
Soak in the beauty and fresh air on an abseiling adventure in Glenworth valley, where you’ll find a choice of abseiling sites to match your skills. Or explore the valley on a quad bike tour. And unleash your inner Tarzan at Tree Tops Adventure Park in Ourimbah State Forest near Yarramalong where 115 challenges, including 20 epic flying foxes, will keep the adrenalin pumping.
The Central Coast lies in a temperate zone so while the climate is variable it is generally free from extreme temperatures. Summer and winter can occasionally bring some uncomfortably hot and cold spikes. The warmest weather falls between December to February and the coolest from June to August when you will need to rug up, especially in the evenings and early mornings.
The Central Coast’s gorgeous beaches along with its relative closeness to Sydney and Newcastle make it an extremely popular family destination, especially during NSW school holidays, so you’ll need to book ahead to secure the best accommodation for your crew. For great weather, better prices and fewer people, the September to October shoulder season is ideal, and if you are on a budget consider visiting during winter and outside of school holidays, as you will find much better deals.
There is plenty of fun to be found in the naturally beautiful Central Coast. Here are ten to add to your family’s musts see and do list.
1. Cuddle up with the critters at the Australian Reptile Park.
2. Roam amongst the free-range wildlife at Australian Walkabout Park.
3. Hire a SUP, kayak or pedal-boat ride at Avoca’s Aquafun.
4. Ride, raft, climb or quad bike your way through glorious Glenworth Valley.
5. Learn to Surf at Central Coast Surf School.
6. Hire a boat to cruise the waterways at leisure.
7. Take to the trees at Treetops Adventure Park.
8. Feed the pelicans at The Entrance.
9. Explore the rock pools at Copacabana and Macmaster’s beach.
10. Take the trail to a 100-year-old lighthouse at Norah Head.
The formerly sleepy Central Coast is now punching way above its weight in the food department with loads of great cafes, pubs, clubs and restaurants offering a variety of cuisines at every budget, many with play areas for the kids. You can’t visit the Central Coast without stopping for fish and chips on the beach and Terrigal Beach Fish Shop is the best, wining the public vote for Australia’s best Fish and Chip shop in 2017. For fresh produce, the weekly Gosford City Farmers Markets and Ettalong Beach Markets are two of the best, and for healthy treats visit the Entrance Organic Food Market and Avoca Beachside Markets.
And if your little mice have a hankering for a bite of something cheesy, Wyong’s Little Creek Cheese is a handmade gourmet cheese factory serving up slivers of fetta, cheddar, camembert and an assortment of other cheeses.
Active families can spend their days soaking up the sun, sand and sea at one of the area’s fantastic beaches and waterways, or take a stroll along the 5 Lands Coastal Walkway. This spectacular walking route along the Central Coast's breathtaking coastline links the villages of Macmasters Beach, Copacabana, Avoca Beach, North Avoca and Terrigal.
Artistic families might prefer to take a free tour of the Gosford Regional Gallery, a complex of three exhibition spaces including the Gosford-Edogawa Commemorative Garden. The tranquil traditional Japanese-style garden is home to meandering pathways, a roofed Japanese pavilion overlooking the Koi pond, raked stone gardens and a traditional teahouse.
The free daily Pelican Feeding in Memorial Park at The Entrance comes with an educational commentary about the pelicans as well as other local bird and marine life, and remains one of the Central Coast's most popular family tourist attractions.
MARCH Girrakool Blues Festival – Mt Penang Gardens is the place for blues and barbecues in March.
APRIL Central Coast Italian Festival – Enjoy all things Italian at this fun weekend.
APRIL The Central Coast Regional Show – The country comes to town for two days with farm animals, ring events, arts and crafts and rides for the kids.
AUGUST The Entrance Country Music Festival – A two-day line up of country music with free entertainment for the whole family to enjoy.
SEPTEMBER The Central Coast Ukelele festival – This quirky festival brings people from all ages and walks of life together to make and enjoy music.
OCTOBER ChromeFest – A three-day family friendly tribute to classic American autos, hot rods and rock n roll.
NOVEMBER The Lakes Festival – The ten-day Festival will feature a program of sporting, family, cultural, educational, art and live music events.
NOVEMBER Long Jetty Street Festival – Enjoy local arts and culture at this community event.