Serious surf culture and long summer nights have been drawing visitors to the NSW Central Coast for generations. But there’s much more to the region than just sand and sea. Take the scenic route off the M1 and follow winding mountain and valley roads along Tourist Drive 33 to discover a secret drive through a warm and welcoming Central Coast hinterland.
Saddles, Mt White
If you’re travelling north from Sydney, your first stop should be Saddles. Take the Mount White exit off the M1 (Pacific Motorway) and five minutes’ later you’ll be pulling up at Saddles, a sophisticated restaurant – equal parts bakehouse and gourmet eatery – which oozes a classic homestead charm thanks to its stone, timber and leather finishes and furnishings.
Relax in a large chair in front of the fireplace if the weather is cool, otherwise grab a table overlooking the mirror-like dam framed by native flora. Enjoy an elegant breakfast of cured ocean trout or buckwheat pancakes, and be sure to buy a couple of souvenirs from the bakehouse for your onward journey.
Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures, Glenworth Valley
Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures is one of the best outdoor adventure destinations on the Central Coast and a great place to get the heart racing. Head north via the scenic Pacific Highway route, connecting to Peats Ridge Rd. You may lose phone reception as you descend Cooks Road to the valley floor so a smart move is to save your Google Maps offline before setting off.
Once there, you’ll be surrounded by green fields and wild national park, and the best way to explore it all is on horseback. Join a guide on a two-hour ride along private trails (adapted for all levels of experience).
Mountain Growers Market, Peats Ridge
Produce doesn’t get any fresher than places like Mountain Growers’ Market, where you can pick up fire-engine red local tomatoes, plump cucumbers and figs, blue duck eggs and honey with honeycomb that’s deliciously rich. Leave Somersby via Wiseman’s Ferry Rd and connect back to Peats Ridge Rd, where you will find this charming hinterland market open Thursday to Sunday.
It forms a collective of small businesses that also includes vintage wares, local growers, and The Harvest Kitchen café. The café sells easy bites such as frittatas, grass-fed beef sausage rolls, and sourdough toasties, while a fridge is also stocked with local cheeses, kombucha and pre-packaged butcher cuts.
Fanelli Organics, Mangrove Mountain
You’ll find certified organic farm Fanelli Organics over the other side of the valley, just off Wisemans Ferry Rd.
There are two reasons Fanelli should be on your road-trip itinerary: it’s a working fruit and vegetable farm with a strong focus on regenerative practices, and you can join hands-on tours and workshops on selective dates.
Throughout winter there are ‘Pick your own Orange’ experiences, such as “Navel’s” from June – August. The orchard is about an acre in size and the events will be ticketed, but they will also be offering private bookable sessions that include a farm tour experience (collecting fresh eggs, feeding resident farm animals).
In late spring and summer months there is also a great field of sunflowers to explore and make the perfect photo opportunity (bookings required).
Angel Sussurri, Yarramalong
Come lunchtime, you’ll want to make your way to Angel Sussurri in the beautifully rural Yarramalong Valley. The drive down Bumble Hill Rd is narrow and winding, but at the bottom you’ll reach a small local farmland community and find the stunning manor house, Angel Sussurri, just around the bend.
The scones are a popular choice among diners, while other options include quiches, pies and homemade cakes. The restaurant has a lovely selection of gourmet products, such as Persian fairy floss, chutney and wine, and there is also a small garden store. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet to stay overnight, the old manor has been lovingly restored, offering six small rooms for travellers.
Regan’s Fine Foods & Butchery, Yarramalong
After lunch, retrace Yarramalong Rd to Regan’s Fine Foods & Butchery, in an old-fashioned store just a few doors down from Angel Sussurri. Regan’s specialises in dry-aged beef, nitrate-free bacon, handcrafted confectionary, and easy pasta takeaways. You’ll also be able to pick up a bottle of fancy Bickford’s cordial. Don’t be shy to chat to Regan, too. He’s super friendly and more than happy to talk about his range of goods and where they’re from.
Wyong Milk Factory, Wyong
Enough eating, it’s time to get moving again – follow Yarramalong Rd to reach Wyong Milk Factory, where you can gently paddle a rowboat up Wyong River, home to an elusive community of platypus.
There are row boats, kayaks and paddleboards for hire from All Sorts Fitness, one of the many businesses in this revitalised old dairy precinct. The riverfront is also a lovely spot to go fishing and have a picnic. If you’re peckish after paddling or want to grab treats for later, the precinct is also home to award-winning Little Creek Cheese, handmade Luka Chocolates, gourmet donuts by Daily Dough Co, and The Milk Factory Tavern.
Iris Lodge Alpacas, Jilliby
Wrap up your hinterland road trip by visiting one of the region’s more unusual experiences – Iris Lodge.
If you’re spending a weekend exploring the Central Coast’s country roots, make this working farm your first stop on day two so you can enjoy the ’Breakfast with Alpacas’ package (8.30am, Saturdays and Sundays). If you’re only visiting for a day, head here for afternoon tea with the friendly alpacas, offering plenty of fun for families and all-round animal lovers. You will also get the opportunity to meet resident sheep, horses and cows, and you can even book a farm stay in the converted shipping container accommodation in order to embrace the fresh, country air a little longer.
Other Central Coast Hinterland stops
- La Tartine, Somersby, a sourdough bakery open every Friday from noon to 7pm.
- Coachwood Nursery, Somersby, specialises in succulents, rare plants and dried flower workshops.
- The Pecan Lady, Somersby, where you can pick your own pecans in season.
- Nannies Fruit Box, Peats Ridge, is an honesty box fruit stall found along Peats Ridge Rd.
- The Springs, Peats Ridge, one of the hinterland’s top dining options and home to a championship 18-hole golf course.
- Moo to Ewe, Palmdale, a sanctuary for orphaned farm animals with tours available.
- Grace Springs Farm, Kulnura, is a small, sustainable farm that focuses on grass-fed and pasture-raised animals with interactive morning chores tours.
- TreeTops Central Coast, Ourimbah State Forest, is a high-ropes obstacle course set in a eucalyptus canopy, and a tonne of fun for families.
- Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park cares for hundreds of rescued, orphaned, unreleasable, disabled and retired animals every year.
- Australian Reptile Park has a wide variety of Australian native animals and is renowned for being a hands-on zoo.
- Lost Ranches, Yarramalong Valley, offers two beautifully restored and renovated self contained accommodation options. Choose between the Barn and the Cottage for a some digs with county charm.