A culinary & nature roadtrip
The recognisable scape of the Australian bushland and bright yellow sands from the Sydney sandstone and turquoise to seagreen waters, the Central Coast encompasses a wide area from coast to hinterland. Yet at just an hour outside of Sydney, all manageable on a weekend.
Words by Sibella Court | Photography by Chris Court | In partnership with Destination NSW and Destination Central Coast
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Saddles, Mt White
Our first stop and introduction to the Central Coast of NSW was brunch at Saddles, a short hour from Sydney’s CBD. A luxe homestead style eatery with a wide wraparound verandah. The rustic building is made of silvered timbers and sunny sandstone where you can lounge or dine overlooking the private dam and Australian native bushland leaving the pace of the city far behind. Be sure to skip breakfast at home to try their onsite baked goods especially the waffles and field mushroom eggs.
A 15 minute drive from Mt White lead us to Somersby Waterfall which we had to ourselves. A very manageable walk for all ages with boardwalks weaving between the forest trees. With the promise of a freshwater swim, you can choose to admire or swim in its many cascading pools, falls and swimming holes
We head off into the Yarramalong valley, a picturesque rural scene of horse studs and tree lined quiet country roads. As we head to our Airbnb accommodation, Lost Ranches we pick up some supplies for our self-catered stay. First stop is the one-shop town, with Regan’s Fine Food & Butchery. Run with passion by Regan who ages his own meat and stocks his shelves with local fare, this stop is full of nostalgia & tradition.
Lost Ranches, is a big family-style converted machinery shed with every game imaginable including a paddock basher and makes me wish we had invited our extended families up here for a shindig! A more intimate sleeping dorm is upstairs with cast iron beds and Ponyrider bedding.
Along the scenic winding roads, we noticed Alpacas in paddocks. And after some asking around, we found Iris Lodge where you can breakfast with the Alpacas. Although we feed them at dusk, with their big long-lashed eyes and soft coats all jostled for position for some feed.
Early next morning we head North and to the coast! First stop is Flour & co Bakery for some take-away breakfast of a chia bowl, the best sticky soy chai and gluten free diary free sweet treats.
And head down to Long Jetty to enjoy a windless morning of mirror reflections and spoonbills wading along the shores. This jetty is one of 3 in Tuggerah Lake, that is 351m long (the longest in NSW) and over 100 years old once used for ferry passengers. I’m sure it’s just as beautiful for sunset!
To keep the beachside theme, we head for Toowoon Bay Beach for a snorkel. An idyllic setting of a horseshoe shaped bay with one side protected cove with a perfect wave for paddle boarding, swimming and longboards and other side for snorkeling along the rock shelf.
For the afternoon and sunset we head off to explore Norah Head. Starting at the petite carpark at The General Store Norah Head. Stop for a coffee & snacks to take the path down to the most magical ring of stones referred to simply as The Rockpool. It is ideal at hightide and a great spot for wading, swimming or exploring the rock shelf or just dreaming of living in one of the beachside houses. You can walk around the headland or like us drive up to check out the original sandstone lighthouse keepers quarters which are available for stays, nestled on the headland under the protective beam of the light. The Norah Head Lighthouse dates back to 1901 and tours are available for the interior of the lighthouse and its 96 stairs and panoramic views. Wander past the cottages to the nostalgic wooden steps that lead down to beach (dog friendly) and rocky ledge.
We went at low tide and to catch the magical light of sunset as I beachcombed in the shadow of the lighthouse and picked up pieces of plastic for #take3forthesea.
The next day takes us to an area of the coast I frequented in my teens. We stop for breakfast and some wave watching at Burnt Honey Bakery for a peppery chai & pastry claws spiced with honey seeds, mustard and cheddar at Copacabana Beach. I bought a bag of them to freeze at home they are so very good!
The next beach around is Macmasters Beach, a sweeping continuation of the vibrant yellow sanded beaches of this area. My best friend had a holiday house here and I have many fond memories of this part of the coast as a teen. It hasn’t changed too much and continues to have all the charm of a local surfside town. The wild surf tempted the short boarding locals out, to jump off the rocky headland on the southern end to the catch break.
Continuing down south through beautiful coastal roads to Maitland Bay in the Bouddi National Park. This walk starts with a picturesque and rocky decline weaving between angophoras and rock crops to a pristine horseshoe shape protected bay. It is a good work out but head there for day and be guaranteed of a quiet unpopulated stay
A short drive inland to the Distillery Botanica for lunch. Set in pleasure & experimental gardens established in the 1970’s. The restaurant is housed in a somewhat eccentric mud brick dwelling and run by husband&wife team Dan & Julia who also own the delicious Mr Goaty Gelato. Lunch is a delicious Ploughman’s Lunch of local cheeses, homemade chutney, smoked ham and seasonal delicacies paired with Raspberry Ramble gin cocktail sitting amongst the trumpet flowers and rosemary topped off with some blood plum & pistachio gelato.
The garden is shared with Moore’s Distillery, one of the early gin distilleries in Australia with the explosion of the boutique gin. We spend the afternoon tasting and learning about the different gins and the use of botanicals from their experimental garden. I went home with the Roots & Leaves Dry Gin but you can purchase a picnic pack to enjoy during your holiday. Moore’s will be opening a new offering of distilling workshops later in the year.
As we head back to our ‘home’ for the night, we swing by Firescreek Winery. A boutique winery set in beautiful old-fashioned garden setting specialises in organic botanical wines with the sweet scents of guava, rose & peaches. I bought some lime wine that owner Nadia suggested I add a dash to my G&T.
Our home for the night is a very modern house perched exclusively on the sands on Forresters Beach and aptly named Waters Edge. We made the most of our short stay in this exclusive property and ordered woodfired pizza from Lagune Artisan Pizza
We meander our way down South exploring Hardy’s Bay to visit this beautiful tight community and experience The Lucky Bee that has created a buzz in the Central Coast food community & beyond. A bay front eatery opened by partners Rupert & Matty of South East Asian cuisine after their success in NYC and Longrain prior to that. Stay at The Writers Retreat further around the bay so you can try it for breakfast, lunch or dinner or yum cha!
If you have time, Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf is suspended over the inlet/waterway of Brisbane Water and a popular spot to pick up freshest seafood or fish and chips shack or the restaurant.
En route to Patonga, we stop at Pearl Beach. This has to be one of the prettiest beaches in the whole of Australia. The kind of place that you start looking in the real estate window soon after arrival. A small town with a café & hatted restaurant accessed by a wattle & she-oak windy road with glimpses to what will be revealed. With classic Pittwater colours of yellow sand and deep green waters, and on our early morning visit it was calm, flat and very sparkly! Don your swimmers and cap and head to the sea lap pool in the southern corner and grab coffee after at the cafe or save yourself for lunch at Pearls on the Beach, a hatted restaurant housed in a wooden house right on the beach with vistas through the Norfolk pines
For a more bustling vibe, we arrive at The Boathouse Patonga & check into The Cottage that sits right next door to the dockside eatery. It has a great old-school beachside hotel nostalgia, with shiplap cladding, dinghies leaning against walls and towering Norfolk pines. The Cottage is generous and sleeps 10 including indoor & outdoor kitchens as well as a dip pool. It is located opposite the ferry wharf that brings guests from Palm Beach
We popped onto the Great Northern Walk track for the 2.5 hour hike from Patonga to Pearl Beach. The track starts behind the charming shacks in the Northern Corner
Our roadtrip finale is punctuated with our final stop at Mooney Mooney. After an education in Australian Pearl farming & short boat trip with Broken Bay Pearl Farm we settle into the Hawkesbury River Oyster Shed seamlessly operated by oyster farmers, Deb & Pete. Perched on the edge of the mudflats looking at stunning Hawkesbury views with not a house in sight, it is housed in an open-air dining shed, with crushed oyster shells underfoot. They serve their own Sydney Rock and Pacific oysters farmed in their 5 leases spotted around the Hawkesbury, as well as house smoked fish, locally caught prawns and other local produce. It gets busy here, so to avoid disappointment be sure to book Thurs- Sun 10am-5pm (dog friendly)
#LoveNSW #NewSouthWales #LoveCentralCoast