Seven Things You Didn't Realise You Could Do on the Central Coast
Race quad bikes, cruise around a pearl farm and sleep over at a lighthouse.
SEVEN THINGS YOU DIDN'T REALISE YOU COULD DO ON THE CENTRAL COAST
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Race quad bikes, cruise around a pearl farm and sleep over at a lighthouse.
When you have the golden beaches of Avoca, the famed pelicans of Woy Woy, lakes, waterfalls and historic landmarks all in one easy drive from Sydney, it's easy to see the appeal of spending the weekend in the Central Coast. Only an hour's drive, or a 90-minute train ride away, the Central Coast is renowned for its natural beauty — and with an ever developing food and drink scene, too, the area has all the escapism you could ask for in a brief getaway without having to forgo the comforts of a city lifestyle.
Though you shouldn't pass up the opportunity to dive into the surf at Tallow Beach, picnic at Lobster Beach, or trek through Bouddi National Park, we think there are some unexpected gems you should add to your weekend hit list next time you cruise up the Pacific Highway. Take a look at these seven lesser known things to do on the Central Coast, from cruising for pearls to devouring epic s'mores.
While regional holidays within NSW are now allowed, some of the places mentioned below may be operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.
One of the oldest buildings in the Central Coast — and its surrounding 3000-acre property — is home to an adventurer’s playground of outdoor activities that’s become something of a tourist hotspot over the years. Glenworth Valley is operated by the Lawler family, who own the sandstone house and expansive eucalypt forest and open pastures around it.
The Valley has dramatic rocky cliffs that you can abseil down, creeks you can quad bike across, and lakes you can kayak over. You can even book in a laser skirmish session, right before you bed down for the night in one of the site’s glamping tents. But we think the real attraction here is the daily Running of the Horses. At 4.30pm every day, 200 horses run free through the paddocks and you can watch on (from a distance) as they gallop over creeks and live their best lives.
Image: Judith Bennett
The Central Coast isn’t short of beachside accommodation options, but when you want to feel totally secluded (and, let’s face it, a little bit special) there is a more unusual choice than a cottage by the ocean. Norah Head Lighthouse is a 1903-built lighthouse that’s as popular for its twilight tours as it is for weddings with a view. And for proximity to hard-to-reach beaches and uninterrupted whale watching vistas, its two former lighthouse keeper quarters are hard to beat.
Each early 20th century living quarters has three bedrooms and ample shared spaces for dining and relaxing, both available from $355 per night. From the quarters you’ll be within walking distance to rock pools and bush walking trails, and when you return you’ll have use of a barbecue and time to explore the grounds. Don’t feel like cooking? Don’t worry, your food ordering apps work here too. And once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, make sure you time your trip to climb the 96 stairs of the lighthouse for those 360-degree views.
When you think of pearl farms it’s likely you’re picturing the crystal clear waters of Cygnet Bay, north of Broome, which is where you’ll find the longest operating pearl farm in Australia. And while a visit to WA mightn’t be on the cards in 2020, perhaps you should consider a quick trip to one of the best kept secrets in New South Wales — the truly underrated Broken Bay Pearl Farm, home to the akoya pearl.
Found on the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales’ only pearl farm is considered one of the Central Coast’s best kept secrets. Not only can you drop in for a visit to the Shellar Door in Mooney Mooney, but you can also join a tour with a pearl farmer to learn all about the precious glistening beauties. Each tour includes a cruise on the river and a better understanding of the akoya pearl’s unique properties — including its rare natural colourings. Tours start from $95 per adult and last two hours.
Image: Jacs Powell
The joy of squidging a melting marshmallow between chocolatey biscuit needn’t be confined to campfire dining (though that’s an excellent place to do it). As The Marshmallow Co has taken the sugary dessert to new realms with handmade marshmallows in flavours like lemon meringue, cookie dough, snickers and banoffee.
For six bucks, you can order a classic s’more at the company’s new dessert bar at Wyong’s historic Chapman Building precinct. It’s where owners Breah Mayer and Joel Twyman sell 25 flavours of their squishy creations, as well as thick shakes, ice cream sandwiches and donut fries. But for the highest of sugar highs, order the chocolate sundae served with graham cracker crumble, marshmallow cream and whipped cream. You can even do it right before bedtime, as the dessert bar stays open till 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
When you want to multiply your thrills on the Central Coast, there’s a former cinema complex that ticks all the boxes for a nostalgic night on the town. It has a weekly rotation of cult classics on the big screen, vodka shots and Napoli-style margherita pizzas coming thick and fast from the kitchen, and a reliably fun roster of DJs spinning throwback floorfillers every Saturday night.
The 1950s Long Jetty movie theatre operated for 20 years before closing for four decades — and its revival as a hub for good-old-fashioned fun times has been welcomed by locals and visitors alike. Plan your trip for a Thursday or Sunday night to catch one of the more chilled film screenings — think Pulp Fiction and School of Rock — or head in on a busier night for jugs of Beetle Juice and platters of ‘retro dips’ brought to your theatre-style seat. Movie tickets start from $12.64 and are available via Eventbrite.
Sue and Russell Parsons opened the Central Coast’s gourmet cheese factory eight years ago and in that time it’s amassed awards for 12 varieties of cheddar, haloumi, curd cheese and a blue that, we’re told, even the most mouldy cheese averse will love. Little Creek Cheese is found in the same spot as the Old Wyong Milk Factory, which was the first dairy in the country to commercially produce yogurt, so, in its honour, Little Creek also makes a creamy yogurt.
You can drop into the factory in Wyong to taste its lemon myrtle and mountain pepper fetta, garlicky labne, or gin-flavoured cheddar (yep) — or any of the other flavours on offer. A 30-minute private tasting with the cheesemaker is $20 per person in which you’ll get to sample ten of its cheeses. For a more hands-on tour, book into the Cheese Experience for $110 and you’ll get to make your own ricotta and paneer as you learn about the humble beginnings of the artisan cheese factory.
Image: Kitti Gould
Sure, you’ve flown in a seaplane. And there was that time you jumped out of a plane for a dare. But have you ever skimmed past the clouds in a two-person aircraft with an open cockpit and minimal controls? Microlighting is not as terrifying as it probably sounds, and during an intimate 15-minute flight ($100) you could be spotting whales from an impressive height, while also catching glimpses of national parks and surfers in the distance.
Taking off from Somersby Airfield, Microlight Adventures operates flights over Central Coast’s 42 beaches every week. To really make the most of the thrills of flying light, opt for the $250 flight and you’ll join a qualified instructor for a full hour of soaring above the sights.
Top image: Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures.