Walks, wildlife and adventure: come find your cool this winter

By Liz Ginis 1 January 2023
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Local knowledge is the key to unlocking the most superb secrets. We asked long-time resident and outdoor enthusiast Liz Ginis why she loves the Central Coast and where to find the very best walks, wildlife experiences and nature-based adventures.

This article is brought to you by Destination Central Coast.

Walks in Nature

As a Coastie, I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to stretching my legs in the great outdoors. I could wax lyrical for weeks about our national parks – beautiful swathes of Aussie bush that run to meet the water’s edge – and the walking tracks that wend through forests of stately angophora, scribbly gum, grass trees, old man banksia and much more besides.

In truth, you can almost walk the entire length of the Central Coast – combining bush tracks and beach walking with little interludes in coastal hamlets and buzzing suburbs en route.

Whether you’re escaping for a mini break or a week-long sojourn, here are my picks of the best nature-based walks.

1. Bouddi National Park

There’s no end to the bushwalking you can do in this sublime slice of the Central Coast. Located on the peninsula (on the southern end of the Coast), Bouddi National Park stretches from Killcare to Macmasters Beach (Macs) and spans coastal cliffs, wildflower-infused heathland and specky views of the shimmering Brisbane Water.

At the southernmost tip is Box Head Lookout, which is a 30-minute bush stroll south from the carpark that provides you with knockout panoramas across Broken Bay to West Head Lookout, Palm Beach Lighthouse and Sydney beyond. Heading back towards the carpark you can turn left and venture through a forest of dramatic gums and down to Lobster Beach. Only accessible on foot, it’s a private oasis where you can enjoy a dip, a picnic or throw in a line. Across the water is the yellow-sand arc of Umina Beach.

My very favourite walk on the entire Coast starts at Putty Beach and finishes at Macs. Known as the Bouddi Coastal Walk, it meanders for 8.5km along slivers of sand, up and down ocean cliffs, through banksia forests and stops at dramatic lookouts where you can catch your breath. Highlights are Maitland Bay, the perfect spot for a swim in all seasons – try the protected northern end where you’ll also find a riot of rockpools for sea-creature spotting; Gerrin Point Lookout and the passing parade of migrating whales (in season); the Bombi Moor, where waratahs bloom, banksia men play and there are three lookouts to explore; and Little Beach, the perfect spot to stop, bury your feet in the sand and watch the waves (and keen surfers) frolic. Your end point, Macmasters Beach, has a spectacular headland covered in flannel flowers and home to a pair of majestic sea eagles that drift on the wind, a gorgeous ocean pool for cooling off and a great café for refuelling – try the BLT or fish tacos (both are mouth-watering).

Maitland Bay off the coast of Bouddi National Park, NSW. Image credit: Destination Central Coast

You can, of course, turn around at any point on the walk, doubling back the way you came and finishing at Putty Beach. While you’re there, look for the dolphins. I’m hesitant to say they’re residents there, but I can only recall and handful of times I’ve not seen the pod ranging up and down the coastline (and I’m a frequent flyer along this stretch of sand). The beach is also dog-friendly (although both the southern, Killcare, and northern, national park, reaches are no-go zones).

If you don’t feel like doing it alone, why not join the 4-day Signature Bouddi Trek.

2. Wyrrabalong National Park

I adore this slice of coastal bushland for its easy walking and stunning scenery. Starting at Wyrrabalong Lookout (the end of Cromarty Hill Road, Foresters Beach), the Coast Track follows the cliffs north to Crackneck Point – the perfect spot for whale-watching and water-spout spotting. You can turn around here (making it a 6km round trip), but I’d suggest continuing on (it’s all downhill) to Bateau Bay, Blue Bay and then Shelly Beach. Swimming at all is lovely, but for calm-water lovers, try Toowoon Bay (it has Mediterranean vibes), a little further north. For the keen, you can continue along the coastline (no longer in the national park, and mostly along beaches and over rock platforms) all the way to The Entrance.

Bateau Bay, Central Coast; Blue Bay, Central Coast NSW. Image credits: Destination Central Coast

3. Munmorah State Conservation Area

At the northern reach of the Central Coast sit the dramatic ocean caves of Snapper Point. You can drive to them, but that’s the cheat’s way, so instead, park your car at the end of Wybung Head Road, and tackle the short walk to a headland with stunning views across the Pacific and up and down the coast. Then head back up the road a few hundred metres and take the right turn onto a sandy bush track that will take you north through coastal heath before dropping downhill towards Frazer Beach, over rock platforms and uphill to the caves. Worn down by wave action and wind over millennia, they’re a potent reminder of the power of Mother Nature.

Wildlife Encounters

While you’re out walking be sure to stop and watch the native wildlife as it goes about its daily routine.

Birds abound in each of these parks, including the ever-entertaining and chatty sulphur-crested cockatoo, lorikeets, king parrots and kookaburras. Birds of prey, including osprey, sea-eagles, kites and goshawks are also ones to watch for on ocean headlands as they soar on thermals and hunt for their next meal (watch out little ground-dwelling marsupials!).

Here, too, is the spot for whale watching (the Coast has around 60km of coastline). Try your luck in June –July and again in September– November – it’s a veritable humpback highway out there! We also get southern right whales and minkes, but you’d have to be very lucky to spot either. You can book a whale-watching tour from Terrigal or head to one of these headlands with your binoculars:

  • The Skillion, Terrigal
  • Gerrin Point Lookout, Bouddi National Park
  • Marie Byles Lookout, Bouddi National Park
  • Captain Cook Lookout, Copacabana
  • Crackneck Point, Wyrrabalong National Park
  • Norah Head Lighthouse, Norah Head.

Copacabana, Central Coast; Norah Head Lighthouse, Norah Head, Central Coast NSW. Image credits: Destination Central Coast.

For a more structured animal encounter, you can’t go past the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby (take the Gosford turnoff on the M1 and follow the signs). From meeting Elvis, a 5m-long saltwater croc (and arguably the zoo’s most famous resident), to zookeeper and behind-the-scenes experiences, kids and gown-ups alike will revel in the animals and the natural surroundings. You can even tour the koala yard and give them a pat – all in the name of conservation (you’ll learn about the challenges they’re facing in the wild and what the zoo is doing to ensure we don’t lose this Aussie icon). For the not so faint of heart, you can also enter the venom room, where snakes and spiders are milked! And lastly, you can meet septuagenarian Hugo, a Galapagos tortoise weighing in at 183kg. According to zoo staff he’s in the prime of his life – members of his species live, on average, to 150 years.

Clockwise from left: A koala at the Australian Reptile Park; A keeper with a crocodile at a live show at the Australian Reptile Park; the entrance to the Australian Wildlife Park. Image credits: Destination Central Coast.

Action Jacksons

For the adventure seekers, time spent on the Coast is a true treat. Along with kilometres of bushwalking tracks, there are single track and fire trails for mountain bikers to explore.

The Strom Loop in Bouddi National Park combines both (5km of fire and single) and you can add on the option of a spin out to a granite lookout along the North-West Ridge Trail. While you’re here, check out Rocky Point trail, a one-way trail that has panoramic views from Allen Strom lookout over Hardys Bay. The trail is part of a 10km loop called the Bouddi Ridge explorer, which links several trails throughout the park. Make sure you stop pedalling long enough to enjoy the ocean lookouts and beautiful forested tracks.

Hardy Bay, Central Coast NSW. Image credit: Destination Central Coast.

While you’re in Munmorah State Conservation Area, jump on your bike for a 12.6 km return track that takes you on a beautiful ride through open roads. An intermediate-level track, with hills to tackle, it starts and finishes at Matt’s Diner in Lake Munmorah, so you can tuck into a burger and chips after you’re done. The pinnacle of the ride is Wybung Head, where you can stop for a while and revel in the vast Pacific Ocean.

And for the dedicated mountain bikers, steer yourself straight over to Central Coast Mountain Bike Park at Ourimbah. Funded entirely by the community and free to use, the park has more than 18km of trails to explore, from a family loop for those just getting started to the XC and gravity trails that are used in competition events. It’s open seven days a week.

Last but not least, if you feel more comfortable in the trees than scooting around them, make a bee-line to Treetops Adventure Park. Eco-certified and nestled among the giant eucalypts of Ourimbah State Forest, the park invites you to hang around all day long. It includes obstacle courses in the tree canopy that will have all the family on a natural high – swinging, leaping, climbing and flying through the forest. There’s also tree ropes courses (from 1–20m off the ground) and a 500m long zipcoaster, or you can take it easy with Networld, bouncing around on a maze of net-like trampolines.

Exploring exciting and challenging obstacle courses high up in the tree canopy at Treetops Adventure Park, Central Coast NSW. Image credits: Destination Central Coast

Clearly, there are thousands of reasons to love the NSW Central Coast. Come find yours this winter.

Visit www.lovecentralcoast.com to plan your next trip.

This article is brought to you by Destination Central Coast.