Travel writer Jennifer Ennion has lived on the NSW Central Coast for decades. We asked her to share some insider secrets on the best things to do on the Central Coast with kids.
25 things to do on the NSW Central Coast with kids
The first thing you notice about the Central Coast is that it is a region of great natural beauty. The second is how chilled out the locals are.
Just a short drive up the M1 Pacific Motorway north of Sydney, this is a region known for weekend escapes, uncrowded, dog-friendly beaches, National Parks and pelicans. It’s close enough to Sydney to feel connected, but far enough away to feel like an escape.
No matter where you stay on the Central Coast, you can expect the kids to come home with sand in their hair, happy smiles and ice-cream stains on their shirts.
These are the best family-friendly things to do on the Central Coast organised by destination.
Bouddi National Park
The eight-kilometre coastal walk at Bouddi National Park offers astonishing ocean views as it passes several secluded beaches. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Aboriginal artwork along the way.
You can make a weekend of it by camping at one of the three campgrounds: Tallow Beach campground in the south, Putty Beach campground in the middle or Little Beach campground at the north end of the track.
Mountain biking enthusiasts should try the Bouddi Ridge Explorer mountain biking trail. This 10km track loops in several smaller trails. The sections near Strom loop and Rocky Point trail are easy going. If you want something more undulating head to the Daleys Point trail. The MacMasters Ridge trail is quite steep in parts, requiring greater fitness.
Families can also visit Maitland Bay at low tide to see the PS Maitland – a paddle steamer that was wrecked in the bay in 1889.
Brisbane Water National Park
Home to an array of native wildlife, colourful wildflowers and significant Aboriginal sites, Brisbane Water National Park is on the north side of the Hawkesbury River. The area is made up of protected sandstone rock faces and dense rainforest.
The cooler months are ideal for bushwalking, while summer is perfect for a paddle down Patonga Creek or Mooney Mooney Creek.
Bring the bikes for older kids and head to Tommos loop and Rocky Ponds cycling loop. This 20km bushland ride takes about three hours to complete and the views are spectacular.
Glenworth Valley in the Central Coast hinterland is one of Australia’s largest horse-riding and outdoor adventure centres.
Kids and adults can learn to ride for the first time, or further their skills on horseback, before heading out to explore over 1,200 hectares of unspoilt wilderness in guided or free-range expeditions.
Don’t miss the daily Running of the Horses event each afternoon, as the horses are left to run back to their paddock reminiscent of a scene from The Man From Snowy River.
Other activities on offer include quad biking, kayaking, abseiling and laser skirmish.
‘Copa’, as the locals say, has boomed over the past five years, largely because it has managed to retain its sleepy seaside charm – despite being over the hill from popular Avoca.
Families will love it for the rockpool at the northern end of the beach – be sure to pack a snorkel and mask. If the surf is wild, walk south until you reach a child-friendly lagoon.
Are little bellies grumbling after all the outdoors explorations? Grab a treat from Burnt Honey Bakery or head to Cabana Bar for a relaxed brekkie or lunch across from the beach with a cooling seabreeze.
Patrolled Avoca Beach stretches nearly two kilometres with a long line of Norfolk Island Pines along the shore and a scattering of grassy areas. It’s perfect for a picnic. Kids will love exploring rock pools at the southern end.
If they’re ready to hit the waves, they can learn to surf with the Central Coast Surf Academy. The Academy is owned and operated by former professional World Tour surfer, Amee Donohoe. Mums and dads can get among the action as well, with lessons catering to all ages and ability levels.
A celebrated holiday hotspot, popular with families seeking sun, calm waters and surf all year round. The Entrance’s patrolled beach is a stone’s throw from other popular family attractions.
The town has ocean baths, an awesome playground and a coastal boardwalk lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.
The waterfront park hosts weekend markets and free family entertainment.
Don’t miss the historic Carousel, which has proudly sat on the water’s edge of The Entrance since the 1930s. Originating from Germany in the 1800s, the carousel is now recognised by the National Trust as one of the oldest carousels in Australia. Each school holidays, The Entrance takes on a carnival atmosphere with the foreshore hosting rides and entertainment including the giant Ferris Wheel, for a birds’ eye view over the heart of town and surrounding waterways
With a stunning row of Norfolk pines along its upmarket Esplanade, streets of ritzy shops and restaurants and luxe accommodation options, Terrigal is one of the most popular places on the Central Coast. If you’re still not completely beached out, Terrigal Beach and the lagoon behind it are worth a visit too. Check out the Terrigal Beach Markets, held on the first Saturday of every month.
Terrigal Coastal Walk
With a thriving cafe scene, boutique shopping and a family beach, Terrigal has long been the first stop for holidaymakers on the Central Coast. The latest attraction to turn heads is the new cliffside walkway that connects the main beach with Terrigal Haven, a gentle bay with great picnic spots and Skillion landmark for incredible views. Hit the Coastal Walk early with avid joggers, or head there for a sunset gelato. The trail is wide enough for prams and wheelchairs.
Terrigal Beach House
Terrigal Beach House is the new-look terrace on the ground floor of Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific. The all-day sunny spot boasts sweeping views of Terrigal Beach, as well as a relaxed vibe and family-friendly dining booths.
The added bonus? All kid’s meals come with an ice-cream and a soft drink!
Pick up a sweet treat from Bouffant
Expect more than your average lamington at new Central Coast pastry house, Bouffant. Row upon row of pastries greet you and prove hard to resist. Bouffant is the perfect pastry wonderland to pick up sweet treats like classic croissants and tarts.
Plus, they have a wide selection of house-made bread and pies to take home. Find Bouffant at Gosford, Terrigal and now Umina Beach. Open every day from 6 am to 6 pm.
Central Coast Marine Discovery Centre
Touch starfish, sea sponges and coral at the Central Coast Marine Discovery Centre. Located right on Terrigal Lagoon, the centre aims to educate kids up to 12 years old. The centre runs fun activities such as puzzles, colouring, painting, competitions, microscopes and quizzes.
Kids will love becoming a Junior Marine Scientist with a certificate to show their friends. Expand their knowledge even further at an evening talk from a marine expert.
Don’t miss stopping by Parklife park and café right next door, as a large outdoor park by Terrigal Lagoon, and a café serving great coffee healthy lunch meals and snacks for both little kids and adults.’
Iris Lodge Alpacas
If you’re an avid traveller, you’ve likely heard of breakfast with orangutans and giraffes. But what about with alpacas? This fun start to the day is offered at Iris Lodge Alpacas, a working farm in Jilliby in the Central Coast hinterland. Expect to be greeted by a friendly (and woolly!) alpaca, and meet and feed other animals before enjoying a generous spread.
Amazement Farm and Fun Park
There is a new safari adventure in town at Wyong Creek, as Amazement Farm and Fun Park launches its new ‘Central Coast Zoo’ experience. Taking centre stage is the pride of lions, a family of six that have recently retired to their new Central Coast home. Other new zoofari friends include marmosets, a capybara, an African serval wild cat and a red-tailed boa constrictor, with live talks and educational programs throughout the year.
TreeTop Adventure Park
At TreeTop Adventure Park in Ourimbah you’ll be strapping in safely to climb, weave and fly through the towering gum trees. Get your adrenaline pumping on a series of epic self-guided rope courses featuring ladders, bridges, tunnels and ziplines. Courses are designed for all different age groups and graded in difficulty, so everyone in the family can have a go.
Australia WalkAbout Wildlife Park
Australia WalkAbout Wildlife Park is a working wildlife sanctuary. The park was established to protect animals and rejuvenate endangered species. And WalkAbout provides an experiential learning space for visitors. Kids can catch rare glimpses of native wildlife and take part in Aboriginal cultural experiences. Try bush tucker for the first time and hear a traditional didgeridoo performance.
Australian Reptile Park
The Australian Reptile Park is located at Somersby on the Central Coast. The park has exciting daily hands-on wildlife shows, uniquely themed exhibits, and loads of native and exotic animals.
Set in the magic of the Australian bush, families can get up-close all things slithery and scaly. Also, there’s kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, wombats and even a huge Galapagos tortoise.
Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at the complimentary barbecue facilities in the picnic grounds.
Somersby Falls is one of the most spectacular and popular spots on the Central Coast. It’s perfect if you’re looking to escape the summer heat. Take a picnic and enjoy the sights and sounds of the lush rainforest.
The 500-metre return walking track delivers spectacular views from the top and bottom of the falls. Be on the lookout for native birds, water dragons, frogs, goannas and brush turkeys by Flood creek.
Before you leave, be sure to check out the Aboriginal rock engraving site on the Girrakool Loop track.
You’ll find Killcare Marina in Broken Bay on the flat waters of Hardys Bay Brisbane Waters. Killcare village has a number of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Hire a BBQ boat or explore the waterways by kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
You can buy a fishing rod from the local general store for the kids to throw in a line in from the floating wharf.
At the northern end of the Coast, you’ll find one of the region’s up-and-coming destinations – Toukley. Once overlooked, this suburb is getting serious attention thanks to the revamped Beachcomber Hotel and Resort – aka ‘the Beachie’. No longer just a pub, this place is stunning and is the perfect spot for a Hamptons-style lunch.
While parents enjoy the gin- and saffron-cured kingfish and Baja fish tacos, children will happily be distracted by the petting farm, playground or school holiday farm tours. Also, you can stay the night with interconnecting rooms available for families.
The relaxed neighbour of The Entrance, Toowoon Bay is sensational for beginner surfing and swimming at a patrolled beach. And Swadling Park is right behind the beach. You’ll find play equipment, BBQ and bathroom facilities. Because North Shelley surf beach is unpatrolled, it’s better for more advanced surfers.
Try fruit picking
Pick Your Own Oranges Dooralong is a farmgate experience in the Central Coast hinterland. Bring the kids and pick the oranges in season from this 164-acre farm with their citrus history dating back to 1907.
The farm’s Valencia oranges will be ready to pluck straight from the orchard trees by late-October and into the summer season. Because absolutely no chemicals are sprayed on the oranges, they are ready to eat straight from the tree.
Enjoy a country experience at Karinya Farmstay
Wake up to the mist rising through the valley and up over the mountains from Karinya Farmstay. It’s a four-bedroom holiday property in Dooralong in the Central Coast hinterland. Spend the days lazing by the pool. Or try your hand at farming and enjoy grooming the horses or feeding the sheep and cows. So, when you stay here, you can do as little or as much as you’d like.
This award-winning Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf has a reputation for some of the finest seafood on the Central Coast. Book a table in the freshly renovated restaurant that sits over the water. Or grab takeaway and relax on the grass outside. You can go fancy (snapper ceviche), try something different (Goolwa pipis), or stick to an Aussie classic (calamari and chips).
Grab a feed from Margarita Daze on the Umina Beach waterfront. Views straight across to Palm Beach lighthouse are at a premium. And new to their venue is their beachside kiosk. Which means seven days a week from 6 am to 2 pm you can order a brekky box, chicken burger, kids nuggets and even a cheeky take-away cocktail jug for mum and dad.
You’ll definitely find yourself going back for more. Margarita Daze takes dine-in bookings from Wednesday to Sunday, lunch from 11.30 am to 3 pm and dinner from 5 pm.
West Gosford’s Chocolate Factory is an immersive confectionary wonderland, home to Nougat Limar, Bon Bon Fine Chocolate and The Sydney Marshmallow Co.
Book a factory tour and tasting; indulge in one of many sweet desserts or ice-cream flavours at the on-site café; and attend one of the Junior Chocolatier Workshops with the littlies.
Plan Your Trip
Getting there: The Central Coast is around an hour’s drive north of Sydney, and the same distance south of Newcastle.
Best time to visit: Spring and summer. Or explore the lesser-known hinterland and its farm and animal experiences in the cooler months.
Accommodation: Check our NSW hotel listings map.
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