Now I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with the Central Coast residents, because I can assure you I’ve always been a fan, but I have to be honest and say I never considered it as a particularly stylish place or a foodie destination. My recent weekend there with the family proved to me that things are starting to change and I’m happy to share more than a handful of places you must visit and eat at if you’re planning your next minibreak. Because let’s face it, it’s not exactly beach weather right now.
The Central Coast is a great option for our family. We live on the right side of Sydney for it to take no more than an hour to get there and it’s different enough to feel like you’ve really got away from it all and had a change of scene. Since Charlie came along, we haven’t been too keen on domestic breaks that involve flying. If you’re not going a long way or for a decent amount of time, it really doesn’t seem worth the hassle with a four year old and a baby. So the Central Coast is a no brainer and, after our most recent trip, I’m sure we will be back there again.
First off, where did we stay? We had two nights at Kyal and Kara Demmrich’s (of The Block fame) Airbnb (The Coastal Retreat at Toowoon Bay) which is effectively the most high spec, stylish, two-bed granny flat you’ve ever seen! It was gorgeous, well equipped and styled to perfection. Thoughtful touches like wine, cheese and chocolate went down a treat too!
Before we even got there however, we stopped in Gosford on the way up and had a delicious early lunch at The Bon Pavillion, a Sean Connolly restaurant which opened in the heart of town earlier this year. What a great start to the trip that was! I loved the dark and moody interior, the impressive staircase (come on, I’m an interiors person!) and the fact you could see into the kitchen where the action was.
Damian declared his steak to be the best he’d had all year and my chicken and prawn pie was mouthwatering. Sebastian polished off the fanciest fishfinger sandwich he’s ever had from the kid’s menu (nothing from a freezer box there, I assure you!) and we had a lovely relaxed meal with nice service. The less formal front of the venue was packed with locals enjoying brunch and coffee and you can even grab a takeout from another section. The Bon is a project of the John Singleton Group, run by Karina and Brian Barry, who also run Bells Of Killcare. Oh, how we used to love that place before we had kids (who aren’t allowed!).
En route to our Airbnb, Damian and the boys dropped me at Glow Beauty Space in Wamberal, which I already knew from Instagram! I mean, look at the place! The beautiful interior is by design duo Stewart + Highfield, who appear to be behind almost every cool space in the area! With a couple of hours of child-free pampering ahead of me, a glass of wine in hand, and lots of beautiful design details to look at, I was in heaven.
I had a pedicure and the Glow Facial (which included an eyebrow and lash tint) and left feeling like a new woman! The staff are all beautiful (inside and out) and make you feel so relaxed and looked after. I will be back, even if just as part of a day trip with a girlfriend. Best. Facial. Ever! Plenty of locals (clearly regulars) were enjoying getting their hair and makeup done for their nights out and the atmosphere was so relaxed and friendly. Owner Jade Pentony is all about incorporating beauty into the everyday, for busy women who want to enjoy these treatments but don’t have hours of time to spend. I hear you, Jade!
We spent a quiet night in at the Airbnb (yup, we have two young kids and the previous weekend had been spent in hospital with Charlie and a bad case of bronchiolitis so it was just what we needed!). We had a great sleep and the next day we were excited to explore some more. We took a drive though hip Long Jetty and can see why it’s being touted as the Newtown of the Central Coast.
We continued on to Avoca Beach where we had a beautiful lunch at Bombini. This is definitely somewhere we would have missed if we hadn’t been told about it, and I’m so glad we didn’t.
Situated on a leafy two acres in one of the Central Coast’s oldest homesteads, Bombini (Italian for bumblebee) by Cameron and Hayley Cansdell offers modern Italian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh produce selected from Australia and Italy. With a focus on sustainability, the property includes on-site vegetable gardens and we even saw chickens in the car park! We had traditional woodfired pizzas and, being in holiday mode (AKA greedy) couldn’t resist a side of wood roasted pumkin with gorgonzola, honey and walnuts. Well, you can imagine! Food coma! Seb enjoyed his pasta from the kid’s menu while Charlie happily made his way through the bread basket (although I’m sure bread that good is wasted on a baby!). We sat in a cosy, sunny corner of the covered veranda and could have sat there for hours, it just felt so relaxing and comfortable! The service was friendly and the kids were made to feel welcome too.
Clearly still hungry (ha!) we headed to The Fragrant Garden at Erina for ice cream (for Seb, of course). What a gorgeous little spot which has recently expanded to include the Bar Botanica garden café, a gelato kiosk by Mr Goaty and Distillery Botanica (they’re speaking my gin-loving language!) as well as the popular café and lovely gardens themselves. This place is worthy of a day trip all by itself too.
Oh, and the gelato was amazing but we couldn’t even finish half of it. Top marks for effort though.
We were so lucky with the weather and after all that food and sunshine another night on the couch was in order! The next day, after checking out of our little haven, we had a look at the stunning beach down the road (literally). Toowoon Bay itself is a cute little place too with a handful of cafes and shops. And then it was off to our last dining experience of the weekend, Saddles at Mount White. Run by the same couple as Bombini (and another John Singleton project), our expectations were high! What an amazing spot. It is literally half an hour from our house, just off the M1, but you could really be anywhere. Again, we’d never heard of it, but to be fair, we have been living in newborn land (how long can we use that excuse?) and it only opened a year ago.
There’s just something about being by water isn’t there, and eating by water is so relaxing, especially when it’s outside on a wraparound veranda. The inside area was super gorgeous too though, with a really luxe comfortable feel.
This trip really changed my ideas about the Central Coast and also made me realise it’s an awesome place to go in cold weather too. I might have to go back again without the boys to discover the shopping, which I didn’t really get a chance to touch on (too busy eating, frankly) but I’ve heard there are some real homewares gems!
Disclaimer: Our accommodation and meals were paid for by Visit Central Coast and some of the venues in exchange for an honest review of our experiences.