Don’t let the pristine beaches and warm sunshine distract you from finding out why the Central Coast has emerged as one of the state’s culinary stars.
There are many reasons to visit the Central Coast, from the 41 golden-sand beaches that stretch along the coastline from Patonga to Lake Munmorah and the rewarding hiking trails found within its five national parks to the numerous Indigenous cultural experiences on offer. But it’s the up-and-coming collection of cafés, restaurants and bars tucked away within each of the laidback seaside villages that are really creating a buzz in the region. Here, find our curated list of top spots for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between.
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Find Bellyfish situated in a sun-drenched position on the esplanade right across the road from Terrigal Beach. The father and son team behind the café, Steve and Mitch, have been welcoming the hungry to Bellyfish since 2008. Over the years it has evolved into a bustling meeting place for locals and holidaymakers alike.
The coffee is likely to taste familiar to Sydneysiders, as the Surry Hills roaster Single O provides the beans. Goods from other local and Sydney producers fill the cabinets and fridge of the café – from the eggs and halloumi to the fresh produce. The all-day brunch menu is constantly changing, but the Ultimate Vego Breaky Burger with halloumi, beetroot hummus, fried egg, hash brown, spinach and avocado on a Brasserie bun hits the spot every time.
Bellyfish have also added a small but enticing beer and a wine list that features local craft brews from Six String Brewing and Murray’s Brewing as well as a variety of Australian boutique wines from the nearby Hunter Valley.
Glee Coffee Roasters, Wyong and Erina Heights
The team at Glee Coffee are passionate about delivering a good caffeinated brew. So much so that after almost 10 years they’ve excelled at creating a carefully curated in-house blend. Affectionately dubbed ‘The Goods’, the range of single-origin offerings come in both espresso and filter roasts to suit your preferred brewing method.
Sip yours at one of their two Central Coast locations. The Wyong iteration can be found in the beautifully preserved historic Chapman building with extra outdoor seating to enjoy the sunshine. The menu features café classics like smashed avo and poached eggs, alongside pastries, sandwiches, batch brews and kombucha on hand.
The staff at Erina Heights take equal care of both coffee and customers. Relax into the large brown leather couches or pull up a seat at the tables outside on the pavement. Find a cabinet full of baked goods at the counter and the shelves are well-stocked with bags of ‘The Goods’ – grab some while you’re there.
Oomph Café, East Gosford
Hidden down a side street in East Gosford under the roof of a Newtown-warehouse-style venue is Oomph Café.
The space itself wears many hats. It serves as a café, bakery, food store, pizza restaurant and vegetable market – all of which aim to serve only organic and locally sourced ingredients in support of the local community of makers and growers. There’s fresh sourdough made daily, light and buttery croissant tarts, eggs sourced from nearby Full Circle Farm and Five Senses Coffee, and a rotating menu of sweet and savoury breakfast classics to enjoy.
Young Barons, Woy Woy
Young Barons’ owners Dannielle Mills and Bryce Gleeson, both in their early twenties, exude a maturity well beyond their years that shines through in their seriously on-point, Italian-leaning menu and chic pasta bar setting. Another chef-and-front-of-house combo and Bells at Killcare alumni, the pair make almost everything from scratch, from the superb daily pasta (try the signature spaghetti with king prawns and pangrattato) to the house-churned gelato.
On a warm evening, opt for a table in the courtyard out back complete with a blooming kitchen garden, start with a few melted cheese, ham hock and potato fritters and settle in with the concise but well-selected craft beer and wine list. The young entrepreneurs, who popularised #makewoywoygreatagain, are breathing real life into the cheeky hashtag – and inspired others to follow suit.
Avoca Surf House, Avoca
When Emily Caska heard the news that the run down Mojito Joe’s – with its picture-perfect views of Avoca Beach – was up for lease she signed for the space on the spot. With no hospitality experience to her name, it took Caska an impressive four months to transform the space into Avoca Surf House – a chic open-plan venue inspired by Montauk’s famed Surf Lodge.
Since then, Avoca Surf House has served as a stylish community space. It’s a restaurant, bar, entertainment and yoga studio in one. Stop here for a sundowner and make the most of the quintessential Aussie pub vibes. The menu features beachside classics such as the crispy fish tacos and burgers alongside international fusions like the miso eggplant with buckwheat, sesame and pumpkin lentils. Select from the list of refreshing cocktails to at the bar and enjoy it out on the oceanfront deck.
Mumbo Jumbo’s, Terrigal
A Central Coast lunch is best served al fresco and the new kids on the block at Mumbo Jumbo’s definitely agree. The team have transformed a plum space above the shops on the esplanade into a rooftop bar and restaurant that serves a menu bursting with Caribbean flavours alongside enviable views of Terrigal Beach.
The Jamaican-inspired beach shack provides much by way of vibes and ambience. The four local friends and founders wanted a space that oozes chilled island vibes. Sustainability has also been a focus, with recycled materials used wherever possible in its production. Tables are made from old timber fencing and the bar is made from upcycled wood, all of which works to elevate the beach shack atmosphere.
Rum, reggae and jerk chicken rule supreme here – from the bar menu to the drool-worthy scents wafting from the outdoor barbecue and the lively playlist that fills the space. Stop by for a guaranteed good time.
Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf, Woy Woy
Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf has had a few iterations over the course of its four decades. It first opened up shop for boat hires, then as a fishmonger and has more recently been reimagined as a hip dining space decked out with distressed wood tables, hanging ferns, mismatched tableware and slick signage.
Stop by for lunch and dinner throughout the high season and make sure you order a creamy Sydney oyster to be savoured under the four-metre-long Aboriginal fish trap as you soak up the serenity looking out over Brisbane Water.
Bon Pavilion, Gosford
Celebrated chef and restauranteur Sean Connolly is the mastermind behind the Bon Pavilion (the Bon to locals), an uber-chic café, steakhouse and bar in one.
There are 250 seats and seven distinct drinking and dining areas that allow punters to grab a delicious meal at most hours of the day.
Bonfire, the signature dining venue on-site, provides a contemporary take on the evergreen steakhouse. Steaks, chops, fish and prawns receive the Connolly touch from inside an open kitchen which encourages interaction from guests. It’s all pretty relaxed in ambience – well, as relaxed as crushed velvet, leather-lined banquettes, sweeping staircases and a massive Lisa King mural can get.
Hunter Valley drops feature heavily on the comprehensive wine list. Alternatively, the takeaway wine shop has an on-site sommelier who can recommend the perfect drop.
The Boathouse Hotel, Patonga
When the local Patonga pub was acquired by renowned The Boathouse Group in 2017 many residents protested a refurbishment. Three years later, the dust has settled, and the results are astute.
Guests fill the waterfront space which has downstairs and accommodation upstairs at the Boathouse Hotel and neighbouring cottage. The offering includes three apartments above the hotel, idyllic for couples, families and groups. Next door, the similarly decorated Patonga Cottage accommodates up to 10 guests.
Like any self-respecting coastal jaunt, seafood reigns supreme throughout the menu. Kingfish ceviche, beer-battered flathead, baked scallops, Queensland tiger prawns and towering platters can be spotted on almost every table. A kids menu of spaghetti and burgers is also available.
After the kitchen closes at 9pm, the venue transforms into a late-night drinking den filled with events and live music.
Tropicana Pizza Pizza, Woy Woy
Once sleepy Woy Woy is fast becoming a dining destination with Tropicana Pizza Pizza, a pumping Tiki-inspired pizzeria-meets-bar turning out top-notch deep-pan pies, margarita slushies and hella good times. You can also choose from a rotating selection of craft tinnies and wine (BYO is also welcome). Menu standouts include the Tony Pepperoni which is topped with a generous serving of pepperoni and drizzled with chilli infused honey, the Pesto Pizza Fingers and Big Ball Meatballs are also guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
Mr Black Distillery Experience
Find Mr Black distillery in the Fragrant Gardens at Erina (aka Distillery Botanica) – the birthplace of Mr Black’s world-renowned coffee liqueur. It’s the first stop on ‘The Coffee Cocktail Trail’ presented by Mr Black; the experience, which runs annually throughout spring and summer, takes you on an exclusive tour of the roastery and distillery, a sensory walk through the grounds and gardens, a cocktail-making lesson, and a stop at the Caffeine Caravan for a full tasting of Mr Black Spirits. Stay for lunch at Bar Botanica before heading to Bon Pavilion in Gosford to select from the eight-strong espresso martini menu, followed by wood-fired pizzas and a coffee negroni at Rhonda’s in Terrigal, and stop by South End Social the next morning for your caffeine fix.
Before or after dinner tipple’s are done best at Pocket Bar, the Central Coast’s sister venue to Sydney’s Stitch Bar and Button Bar. Find it on the esplanade across from Terrigal Beach. Inside, the funky loft space is lined with generous-sized couches and tables. Classic cocktails are made with modern mixology techniques; order one alongside a drop from the growing wine list.
Get above it all at Frankie’s, the Central Coast’s first rooftop bar. Whisky is the star here, with over 40 varieties to choose from – including an extremely rare Chartreuse range. It was originally created as the ‘elixir of life’ by French monks back in the 1600s and only a couple of people know the secret 130-botanical recipe to this day. Try it with one of the 15 gins and 12 rum varieties on offer.
Six String Brewing Co
Six String Brewery is a popular community watering hole, showcasing the award-winning brews that are produced on-site. Take a tour and learn about the process – touching, smelling and tasting the ingredients along the way. Twelve taps pour in rotation, all preservative-free, unpasteurised and unfiltered.