Central Coast, NSW travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE SECRET BEACH

Far from the madding crowds this secret beach is hidden away in Bouddi National Park. Reached along the Flannel Flower Walking Track, Lobster Beach is fringed by towering bushland. If you happen to visit midweek, you may find yourself completely alone on the beguiling stretch of sand gently lapped by waves. Access is via a set of stairs or by boat and bring your snorkel gear. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

THE ONE BEACHFRONT HOTEL

Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pool.jpg
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Formerly known as Peppers by the Sea this once "pink palace" opened in the late 1980s on the site of the old Florida Hotel. While the coast's biggest hotel has lost some of its early lustre (thankfully the pink is gone) the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific's prized beachfront location means it remains a sought-after seaside stay. The 199 generous sized rooms and suites offer king or two queen sized beds and balconies; the majority with restful sea vistas through towering Norfolk pines. Take a dip in the inviting outdoor pool, fling open the balcony doors and be lulled to sleep by crashing waves. See terrigalpacific.crowneplaza.com

THE ONE OCEAN BATHS

Starting life as a simple rock pool, the Entrance Ocean Baths lie between the southern end of The Entrance Beach and the swoon-worthy Blue Bay. There are three ocean baths attended by lifeguards including a 50 metre sea pool (with lane markers) and two smaller pools. The baths were heritage listed in 2003 following a campaign to save them led by the late Grant McBride, then state member for The Entrance. They've since been renamed in his honour.

THE ONE WATERSIDE EATERY

You couldn't get closer to the beach if you tried at this hatted beachfront diner. Owner and head chef Scott Fox has manned the pans for almost two decades at the lauded Pearls on the Beach. Nab a table on the balcony with white tablecloths flapping in the sea breeze or inside the simple timber cottage if it's blustery. The menu is all about the coast's finest seasonal produce, executed with artistic flair. See pearlsonthebeach.com.au

THE ONE SURF BEACH

Home of surf legends Wade Carmichael and goofy footer Adrian Buchan, Avoca Beach is considered one of the coast's most consistent surf beaches (and consequently one of the most crowded). It offers a beach break with good peaks in various swell directions, a protected south end and The Point, a hollow crowded right for experienced surfers. If watching surfers is more your forte, the Point Café adjoining the surf club offers vistas across the rolling waves to the Skillion in Terrigal.

THE ONE WATERFRONT BAR

Leather banquettes, rattan seating, a 30 metre marble topped bar and cascading foliage await at this relaunched beach bar. Terrigal Beach House (formerly the Florida Beach Bar) at the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific now offers post beach cocktails and casual bites (sandy feet and dogs welcome). Group executive chef Jamie Gannon, responsible for the food at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, Woolwich Pier Hotel and the Terminus Pyrmont, has collaborated on the menu that takes its cue from its seaside locale. Expect elevated twists on pub classics along with the likes of fish tacos and prawn linguini. There's also a decent wine list, cocktail jugs, craft beer and Rose spritz on tap. Weekend queues can be daunting so arrive early. See terrigalbh.com.au

THE ONE COASTAL WALK

Towering red gums, views stretching to Palm Beach and the chance for a dip await on the Patonga to Pearl Beach walk. Starting at the eastern end of Patonga Beach, walkers ascend a calf aching climb through a swathe of Brisbane Water National Park - rewarded with epic views of the Hawkesbury River where the ferry moves between Palm Beach and Patonga from Warrah Lookout. Continue on to Pearl Beach for a swim or backtrack for a well-earned pint and fish and chips at the Boathouse Patonga. The three kilometre trek is part of the Great North Walk. Want more? Start at Mooney Mooney and continue on to the Wyong hinterland. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

THE ONE SEASIDE CAFÉ

BELLYFISH Cafe, Terrigal NSW
Credit  Isaac Tseng.jpg

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Photo: Isaac Tseng

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With a plum spot on Terrigal Esplanade this local favourite could easily rely on its beachfront vistas to pull the crowds. Bellyfish Café however doesn't rest on its seaside laurels, serving excellent Single-O coffee and all-day brunch dishes (try the lemon curd pancakes or the summer prawn roll). Park yourself at an alfresco table overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean and soak up the warm hospitality and exceptional service offered by the Bellyfish team. If you're lucky you may even spot dolphins swimming by. See bellyfishcafe.com

THE ONE LOOKOUT

Two walking trails converge at this spectacular lookout in Wyrrabalong National Park. Reached along the Coast Walking Track through soaring red gums, with Bateau Bay Beach to the north and Forresters Beach to the south, Crackneck Lookout offers an excellent vantage spot to see migrating whales and waves crashing spectacularly below. Pack a picnic and binoculars. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

ONE MORE THING

If you want to fully explore the Central Coast's 41 beaches, vibrant surf culture and raft of new coastal restaurant, bar and cafes, you're going to need a car. Ideally base yourself within easy reach of places you want to visit to avoid spending hours in the car (traffic is particularly busy on weekends). It's possible to catch a ferry to Patonga or Ettalong from Palm Beach or reach the coast by train, however access to surf beaches using public transport is tricky.

Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Destination New South Wales and Central Coast Council.

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