From Broken Bay at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River to just south of Newcastle, NSW’s Central Coast has long been a classic seaside weekender – numbers 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet‘. But while most set their sights on well-known spots such as Terrigal and The Entrance, there are some other special places worthy of a second look. Nominated by: Megan Arkinstall, AT chief sub editor; Georgia Rickard, AT editor; Hayley Baillie, owner of Baillie Lodges; Meghan Loneragan, co-founder of Citizens of the World; Camilla Franks, fashion designer
43. Fabulous accommodation
To the dismay of many, Pretty Beach House closed its doors in 2012 due to a fire, but happily – after a huge refurbishment – it has just reopened. “It’s my favourite escape from Sydney,” declares Hayley Baillie. Set in a tranquil spot, among angophoras and gums and high up on an escarpment overlooking the pristine beaches of the Bouddi National Park, Pretty Beach House is private and sophisticated with plunge pools, log fires, a wine cellar and local chef superstar Stefano Manfredi at the helm of the fully-inclusive menu. From $2000 per night.
44. Hardy’s Bay
Killcare might be famous for ultra-luscious Bells at Killcare, but just next door is the gorgeous town of Hardy’s Bay. “This cute bayside town has just a handful of stores, but they’re all gorgeous and contemporary,” says Megan Arkinstall. “Hardy’s Bistro Café and Bar is great for lunch – it does simple, light meals in the old heritage-listed general store. And hipsters and Instagrammers will love the vegetarian menu at cutesy-slick café Pachamama.”
While you’re there Bouddi Gallery has a surprisingly extensive collection of indigenous art and everyone loves homewares store Mooch Inside, which stocks a range of luxe Australian brands you’ve never heard of. If you want to spend more than a day in the area, rest your head nearby at The Writers Retreat (from $300 a night), a two-level converted fishing cottage – it’s very sweet.
45. New beaches to try
Little Beach: Rainforest on one side, pristine ocean on the other, this beach offers glamping in its truest sense,” says Meghan Loneragan. But don’t expect a king-sized bed and five-star kitchen; it’s the spot that’s glamorous (in a peaceful, back-to-nature kind of way). The campsite is tucked into a pretty cove with the beach just metres away – and it’s cheap (from $28 per night). Not surprisingly it books out well in advance – so plan ahead.
Spoon Bay: This beach between Wamberal and Forresters Beach is almost guaranteed to be empty – “and it’s beautiful!” says Georgia Rickard. “It’s at the end of Spoon Bay Road.”
Pearl Beach: Fashionistas always have their eye on the Next Big Thing and Camilla Franks is no exception. The kaftan queen reckons Pearl Beach is set to explode in popularity. “I’m always blown away by the seclusion and serenity. During Sydney’s peak season there’s no better place to escape.”
46. Secret Gardens
Impact Nursery, Empire Bay: Tucked away at the back of a nursery in the discreet suburb of Empire Bay is “a peaceful little café nestled in tropical plants, with a trickling pond,” says Megan Arkinstall. “Order the Avocado Stack.” Book ahead; it’s popular with locals.
Bamboo Buddha, Holgate: Proving Central Coasters are ardent fans of the nursery–café combo is Bamboo Buddha: a little piece of Bali in the suburb of Holgate. “This vegetarian café/art gallery is surrounded by the most gorgeous little tea gardens and koi ponds,” says Georgia Rickard. “Very zen.”
Octopus’ Garden, Long Jetty: Alright, it’s not quite a garden, but this florist in Long Jetty is easily one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a while. They sell everything from bouquets and terrariums to moss balls and ‘growing books’. Plus they run regular workshops so you can learn how to make your own flower crown or scrub up on flower-arranging skills.
47. The 10th most beautiful theatre in the world
In 2013, BBC bestowed this honour on Avoca Beach Picture Theatre, a heritage- listed, single-screen cinema that sits just 100 metres from the beach. “It’s no surprise,” says Megan Arkinstall, “it’s very atmospheric. The exterior is adorned in vines and fairy lights; you enter by original French doors to a foyer with a black and white checkerboard floor, cinema memorabilia and antiques; and the theatre itself is flanked in red velvet curtains and seats.” Avoca has plenty of other great secrets, too, says Arkinstall. “Bombini is a favourite (bombini.com.au). It’s a bright and cheery modern Italian restaurant with a delicious menu made from fresh, organic produce, some of it grown on-site. The service is spot on and the Bombini Mules are amazing! Be sure to stop by.”
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