Just over an hour from Sydney, the Central Coast has long lured families to its classic coastal beaches of Killcare, Terrigal or Avoca. Now however, the COVID swell of city-siders migrating to the idyllic destination has also brought an influx of new blood and creative talent to the dining and retail offerings. Damien and I decided to pack up the family and drive North to visit friends, family and see what gems we could unearth.

Day One: Check in and check out

Our home for the weekend is a house in Killcare: the breathtaking Treetops at Wagstaffe. It’s an feat of ecological design. With cantilevered steel wrapped in floor to ceiling windows, it literally makes you feel like at one with the surrounding gums and rock formations. 

Inside is an open-plan living and three cosy bedrooms (just one bathroom – so best for a one family that’s happy to share). The kitchen has all you need (coffee machine tick!), a cosy fireplace, a timber balcony and an Eames chair perfectly positioned to observe the lush foliage and glimpses of Brisbane Waters.

The kids are famished after the long drive so we check out The Fat Goose in nearby Killcare. Damo and I split a Pork Belly Sandwich and Burger while the kids smash some cheese burgers. There’s a cute corner store with wines and next door to that a stylish little pop up, containing fab homewares. It’s a collaboration between Central Coast Life & Style and The Beholder Styling that the owner tells me she hasn’t yet named. We head back to the house to settle in and admire a sunset that turns the sky pink, then purple.  

For dinner, we are lucky enough to be heading to Bells at Killcare, a stylish boutique hotel that marries Hampton’s elegance with an Australian sensibility. The Wild Flower Bar & Dining is led by Paul Farraway and offers stylish Italian and Mediterranean inspired cuisine with a side of luxe. We note some theatre at the table next to us when the waitress hand mixes a steak tartare on a trolley and serves it with a flourish of sourdough, cos and hot sauce.

We’re sorely tempted to try that but agree we don’t have the stomach space, so instead opt for a deliciously oozy local burrata with heirloom tomatoes and fresh muscatels. Mains are a satisfying squid ink pasta and seafood ravioli. The kids are thrilled with their unicorn-inspired dessert complete with fairy floss. Damien notes that the wine list is impressively extensive and spends an impressive amount of time choosing a bottle for us. 

Day Two: From coastal walks to quirky markets

Waking to a beautiful bright winter morning, we embark on the famous Bouddi Coastal Walk, starting at Putty Beach and winding our way along twisted tracks under gnarled trees and spectacular a timber walking path hugging the coastline. The water is stunningly clear and turquoise and if I’d remembered my towel I most certainly would have plunged in. No whales today but the epic views have more than filled our cup. 

We decide to check out Terrigal and take a detour by nearby fab concept store La Boheme Lifestyle. In addition to brands like Anine Bing, Alemais, Blanca and Shona Joy, the owner Stephanie Davies also has her own brand La Boheme Girls. I try on the new season collection and fall in love with a purple blazer dress

In addition to all the colourful fashion there’s a host of beautifully curated gifts, beauty and interiors products. I linger over the Sage x Clare cushions, Black Blaze candles and Fazeek Wave plates then sniff my way through the Gentle Habits This is Incense, Ena skincare and Bordan room spray. Lulu tries to get me to buy her all the Amber Sceats Jewellery and I have to remove her before we get coerced by her puppy dog eyes. 

We decide to check out the Terrigal Skillion for lunch and land at Cove Café as there’s a perfect table overlooking the beach, where the kids quickly head to create designs in the sand. My salmon poke bowl is more than adequate and Damien and the kids enjoy their burgers. We tell the kids they are definitely eating some vegetables for dinner. 

We do a quick drive by of the retail offerings in Terrigal before heading to Ettalong to meet my brother and niece. We take a detour through the totally quirky Ettalong Beach Markets in the Galleria Ettalong precinct with it’s unique offering of handmade trinkets and ecclectica. There’s even an old school movie theatre called Cinema Paradiso.

I’m told the coffee at Lord of Pour is the excellent as is the freshly-piped cannoli from artisan bakery RISE, but sadly both are closed by the time we get there. We placate the kids by taking them for a play at the park down on the Esplanade near trendy eater The Box (again no time but I hear it’s good!).

We swing by a friends boutique bottle shop Upstairs Wines to try a few wines before dinner. There’s an incredible selection of really interesting drops and so many brands we’ve never seen before. 

Dinner tonight at The Lucky Bee comes highly recommended by several friends, ex Sydney-siders who have made the move. And I’m so glad we trusted them. The Southeast Asian Street-Food restaurant is headed up by ex Longrain Chef Matty Bennett. The food is super tasty: think Chicken and Cashew San Choy Bow, Pork Hock Bao and delicious Fried Eggplant (See kids!? Vegetables! But they’re yum!). The cocktails are delicious and the kids are kept blissfully occupied with paper and coloured pencils. 

We head back to our treetops house at a reasonable hour and catch a movie as it’s an early rise to get back to Sydney in the morning. Dinner was the ultimate way to cap off our Central Coast as it showcased the level of creativity and cuisine that has settled in the region – a far cry from the stodgy pizza and westernized Chinese offerings we were limited to as kids. We’ll definitely be back as there are still so many places we have yet to discover.

Sigourney and her family were guests of Central Coast Tourism.

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