A Central Coast weekend getaway is a perfect break from Sydney for nature lovers. In 1.5 hrs, you can escape the busy city and enjoy national parks and beautiful waters. A visit to the Central Coast can also be a nice stop on a Brisbane to Sydney road trip, before arriving in the big city. With three national parks and many more beaches in the region, there are so many things to do on the Central Coast that it can be overwhelming when you are there for just a short time.
I’ve shortlisted a few activities that will allow you to experience the best things to do on the Central Coast in a couple of days. You’ll find in this article:
- A selection of the best activities for nature lovers visiting the Central Coast for a short time;
- Ideas on where to stay on the Central Coast for a weekend getaway;
- Map of the activities and accommodation ideas.
Things to do on the Central Coast
1. Walk along the coast
Bouddi National Park coastal walk (half day)
Bouddi National Park coastal walk is stunning. The dramatic cliffs reminded me of the Royal National Park (south of Sydney), but with fewer people.
The walk is from Putty Beach to MacMasters Beach is 8.5 km one way (about 4 hrs). It’s not a hard walk, but don’t get fooled by the photos of the flat boardwalk. There are many parts in the forest going up and down in an uneven path. Nothing too hard, but it will slow you down a bit if you had in mind to run (like we planned).
With limited time, you may not have more than half a day for hiking. We chose not to go all the way to MacMasters Beach. To reduce it to a 10-kilometre walk, you can stop at Bouddi Point (after Maitland Bay) to go up to Mount Bouddi and then back to where you came from. Putty Beach to Maitland Bay is around 3 km one way.
Terrigal lookouts (one hour)
There are a couple of lookouts at Terrigal that are worth stopping at, especially if you’re there to enjoy the beach and the diving or snorkelling (see below). The path is easy and very well maintained.
2. Learn more about Australia’s first people in Bouddi and Brisbane Water National Parks
You can use your visit to the Central Coast region to learn more about Australia’s indigenous culture.
The best way is to join an Aboriginal tour (half day)
Tim from Girri Girra organises educational walks to share a few stories, cultural ceremonies and local nature knowledge – which somehow are all linked. I won’t go into details as it is something better experienced than described, but I highly recommend spending time with him if you are interested in learning more about the Aboriginal culture. We chose the Bouddi National Park tour and Tim took us to a few secret lookouts and in the forest.
Bouddi Art Gallery is perfect for souvenir shopping (0.5 hour)
From beautiful artworks to interesting books, the Bouddi Art Gallery was a fantastic spot to do some shopping. If you’re after ethical souvenirs from Australia, you’ll love the many choices there.
Aboriginal rock engravings (one hour)
We had already seen a few Aboriginal rock engravings during our tour with Tim. We still had time for more so we decided to drive to the Brisbane Water National Park to see the Bulgandry Art Site Aboriginal Place. Luckily, we were there for sunset, which they say is the perfect time to see and photograph the engravings.
3. Go for a forest and waterfall walk (one hour)
The Girrakool loop track is a perfect pause from the coastal activities. The short walk in the forest will take you to a lovely waterfall and along a creek. Even when the waterfall isn’t flowing (we travelled during the drought), it’s peaceful and lovely. And it’s also a fantastic option if you want to avoid the heat.
When you reach the crossing between Girrakool Loop and Piles Creek Loop, you can walk for a short time on Piles Creek Loop to cross the river (if the level isn’t too high) and reach another fun viewpoint.
You’ll want to do go there before you go to the Bulgandry Art Site Aboriginal Place as it closes at 5 pm.
4. Snorkel or scuba dive in Terrigal
Shore dives (half day)
Australia’s East Coast has fantastic diving spots, but shore dives are rare. Except in Terrigal, apparently. There are no less than three shore dive sites there. You’ll need great conditions for most of them. But the Haven is well protected and can be dived – or snorkelled – easily.
The carpark is next to the water and there are stairs to go down to the beach in front of the Marine Rescue. From there, head towards the rocks and follow them. We saw schools of colourful fish, a couple of moray eels, beautiful shrimps and a friendly blue grouper, among many other things.
Your underwater pics don’t look that good? Check out my tips for beginners to take underwater photos that aren’t blue!
Dive the HMAS Adelaide wreck (half or full day)
Our boat trip to dive the HMAS Adelaide wreck was unfortunately cancelled. But if you’re a certified diver at least at the advanced level, you may want to check out if they’re going out there when you’re visiting the Central Coast.
5. Go on a boat (half or full day)
If you don’t want to get wet but still want to enjoy the beautiful water on the Central Coast, you’ll find many opportunities to explore the Central Coast region on a boat or a kayak.
When in Bouddi National Park, you can hire a kayak or a boat to explore Brisbane Water. Sailing is also an option and you could even stay overnight and make a full weekend out of it. There are two operators for sailing: Hardy’s Bay Yacht Charters and Central Coast Yacht Charters.
Xterra Adventures will take you on a half-day or full-day kayak tours to explore the best of the Central Coast waterways.
You can also explore the ocean on a dolphin tour from Terrigal*.
6. Visit Norah Head Lighthouse (half day)
Lighthouses always get the best views! Norah Head as a dramatic rocky coastline that is worth the detour. If you’re a lighthouse addict, you’ll love the opportunity to stay in the Light Keepers Quarters for the night*!
Where to stay when you visit the Central Coast for a getaway
There are many accommodation options on the Central Coast. We opted for an Airbnb villa* in Empire Bay with views over Brisbane Water. It was ideally located to explore Bouddi National Park and the south of the Central Coast.
If you like camping and/or have a limited budget, Putty Beach campground in Bouddi National Park is perfectly located. However, you will need to book in advance and spots are limited. When we were travelling on a budget and camping, we had to stay at the Gosford Showgrounds as other cheap accommodations were fully booked. It had nothing special but at least it was ideally located to explore the entire region.
You may want to look for accommodation in the centre of the region to reduce your driving time between the different places to explore on the Central Coast. It takes one hour to drive from the north of the Central Coast (Norah Head) to the south (Bouddi National Park). However, I recommend sticking to the coast rather than staying in Gosford*, as it’s not as lovely.
The Entrance* is surrounded by water, so it’s your best bet to get a waterfront accommodation. You can even treat yourself with a room with a private spa on the balcony with sea views*.
Terrigal* and Avoca Beach* are great central options. If you have the budget, check out The Beach House*, the King Suite at the Crowne Plaza* and the Avoca Heights House*. And if the coast is too busy for you, you’ll love the tranquillity of this studio in the bush* in Avoca Beach.
Map of these activities and places to stay on the Central Coast
What are your favourite things to do on the Central Coast? Share your experience in the comments below!
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Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.