With mountains to the west, beaches to the east and pretty Tuggerah Lake on its doorstep, the little Central Coast town of Wyong has adventures for everyone and every season. Set up home base at the Mercure Koonidah Waters Central Coast and follow our guide to the area. Start your day whale watching from a windswept headland, spend your afternoon horse riding through rolling paddocks and drift into the evening with a dreamy sunset over the Great Dividing Range.
Along the way, there's a milk factory-turned-cafe (and pub), an old-school Italian restaurant and a bunch of other eateries to explore. Wyong lies just 80 minutes' north of Sydney, which means you don't have to spend too much of your precious weekend stuck behind the wheel.
EAT AND DRINK
You'll eat well in Wyong, with restaurants here drawing on fresh produce sourced from the Central Coast and the farms just beyond. But first thing upon arrival, how about starting with coffee? Head to the Milk Factory, on the idyllic banks of Wyong River, a couple of kilometres west of Wyong. Built in 1906, this rather epic property still produces food of the best kind: chocolate and cheese. It's also home to a cafe — where hearty eats include brioche French toast with berries, pecans and maple syrup — as well as a friendly pub. Come back at lunchtime for classics like Wagyu rump or a pulled pork burger with slaw and smoked barbecue sauce, accompanied by a craft brew — be it a Mountain Goat from Melbourne or a Murray's from Port Stephens.
Another option is to jump in your car and drive southeast for 20 minutes to Wamberal, where you'll find Lotus Cafe. This airy, sun-filled spot does Toby's Estate coffee and decadent dishes like breakfast coconut panna cotta with mango puree, seasonal fruit and granola. Say yes to a Nutella hot chocolate afterwards — that's the whole point of a winter weekender. By the way, the beach is just a stumble away over the dunes.
Back in Wyong, book a table at Osteria A'Mano for dinner. This top-notch Italian restaurant occupies a beautifully restored 1914 building, with original timber floorboards and tiles. Head chef Alessandro Cigola oversees the creation of traditional dishes featuring fresh, premium-quality produce sourced from nearby. Start on duck liver pâté with red wine jelly, sour cherries and pickles, followed by homemade fettuccine with lamb ragu, mint and pecorino. All pastas, breads and desserts are made from scratch, while the featured Italian and Australian wines area all made "the old way".
Another option is Karinyas, within the Mercure Kooindah Waters. Here, the emphasis is on simple yet creative combinations, driven by local produce. Think scallops with burnt butter and local macadamia nut sauce and duck breast with cauliflower puree, asparagus and sour cranberry jus. There's also a long, long wine list, big on local drops. The Hunter Valley is just an hour's drive away, after all.
If there's one surefire, environmentally friendly way to warm up on a cold day, it's got to be a bike ride. The Tuggerah Lakes Cycleway begins just six kilometres from Wyong in Chittaway Bay then follows the foreshore for a peaceful 12 kilometres before reaching The Entrance. Don't have your own bike? Hire from a self-service station — there's one at The Entrance visitor's centre on Marine Parade.
Once you've conquered that, your next stop is Crackneck Lookout on the coast, around 20 minutes' drive southeast of Wyong. Anytime between May and August is ideal for whale watching. Moreover, this spot doubles as a stop along the three-kilometre Coast Walking Track, which stretches to Bateau Bay in the north and Forresters Beach in the south.
Meanwhile, on Wyong's inland side lie vast expanses of state forest, conservation area and national park. Among them is the TreeTops adventure park in Ourimbah State Forest, where you can ride the world's longest roller coaster zip line, a one-kilometre adrenaline rush at canopy level. There are also three high ropes courses, covering more than 100 obstacles, from ladders and bridges to tunnels and cargo nets.
For scenery, the Watagan Mountains — around an hour's drive north — are particularly spectacular; immerse yourself in rainforest on the Circuit Walk or valley views at Monkey Face Lookout. Alternatively, if you're keen to get in the saddle, then give Peppercorn Park a call. The good folks there will happily take you on a trail ride around the stunning property, just ten minutes' north of Wyong, in Jilliby. Adventures begin at $70 for a 90-minute beginner's journey, and lessons and overnight treks are available, too.
To surround yourself with nature without resorting to a tent — book a sleepover at Mercure Kooindah Waters Central Coast, a golf resort and spa encircled by wetlands and bush. If you're travelling in solo or duo mode, sleep over in a King Room; if you're with buddies, there are one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, all of which come with golf-course views.
The resort also knows how to settle in for the winter — they provide giant Jenga (and other board games), which you can enjoy on the terrace while toasting equally oversized marshmallows made by the chef in-house. Mulled wine or Baileys-infused hot chocolate complete the winter idyll.
Don't forget to make the most of the facilities. Among them, you'll find two pools, tennis courts, a gym, barbecues and a day spa.