Just an hour north of Sydney, the Central Coast of New South Wales sometimes flies under the radar compared to Australia’s blockbuster beach-holiday destinations. Which is a shame, because this patchwork of seaside towns, lakes and curling coastline is an achingly pretty part of the country.

From pristine beaches and protected bays to exceptional local produce served in excellent restaurants and bars, there’s plenty to explore. And there are some beautiful coastal digs to bed down in while you discover it all.

Here’s how to tackle a few laid-back days on the Central Coast – what to eat, drink and do, and where to stay.

EAT

Glee Coffee Roasters, Chapman
When brothers Ben and Chris Gleeson began roasting coffee in 2009, it was with a single five-kilogram roaster. Just over a decade later, Glee Coffee Roasters pumps out a tonne of coffee beans each week, while managing a burgeoning wholesale and retail arm, as well as three cafes.

The Wyong cafe is the one to check out. It’s located on the ground floor of the Chapman Building, a charming early 20th-century edifice that once housed the largest retail business between Sydney and Newcastle. Inside the heritage digs you’ll find polished concrete floors, white-timber beams with hanging greenery, and an enormous tiled counter.

The cafe serves espresso, batch brew and pour-over coffee, as well as tap kombucha, Hrvst St juices and iced maple lattes. The all-day breakfast menu includes brekkie rolls, a breakfast bowl, Nutella waffles and chilli scrambled eggs. A burger, summer salad and burrito bowl are available for lunch.

There’s another cafe in Erina Heights if that suits your itinerary a little better, and the warehouse operation (also in Wyong) has a “cellar-door coffee experience” – plus a retail operation selling beans and equipment.

gleecoffee.com.au
The Chapman Building, 9/14 Alison Road, Wyong

The Box on the Water
The Box on the Water is what it says on the cover – a beautiful timber and glass dining room on Ettalong Beach, with snap-worthy views across Broken Bay to Lion Island and beyond.

The mod-Oz menu focuses on share plates, with a strong seafood bent. You might eat chilli-garlic prawns with lemon and sourdough; mussels with vermouth cream, parsley and garlic; or lemon-zest-dusted salt and pepper squid. There’s also a generously sized wine menu, a long list of cocktails and spritzes, and rosé on tap.

There’s also a winsome beach kiosk and garden bar serving coffee, breakfast rolls, burgers and tacos, if you’re keeping it casual.

theboxonthewater.com
Ettalong Beach Waterfront Reserve, The Esplanade, Ettalong Beach

DRINK

Rhonda’s
This lively Italian restaurant in Terrigal is well-known for its snazzy menu of antipasti, woodfired pizzas and pasta, but Rhonda’s real virtue is its cute rooftop terrace. This is a terrific place for post-swim drinks, with views of the Norfolk pines and Terrigal Beach across the road. There’s a long list of signature cocktails (the back bar has 170 bottles); an extensive wine list; and a clutch of Italian and local craft beers.

The venue is just as handsome inside, with hanging ferns, parquet floors and Mediterranean bistro furniture – in case you want to stick around for dinner. There’s also a deli that runs during the morning Thursday to Sunday, selling sourdough, cheese, pasta packs and coffee.

rhondas.bar
3/5 Kurrawyba Avenue, Terrigal

Pocket Bar
Pocket Bar was one of the first small bars to emerge in Sydney after NSW’s liquor licensing laws were relaxed in 2008 – a Darlinghurst bolthole for those in the know. Its sister venues Stitch and Button Bar continue to ply their trade in the big smoke, but these days Pocket can be found adjacent to Terrigal Beach, mixing drinks for a more relaxed coastal crowd (and holiday-makers).

But what made the Sydney original great is still present here: plush sofas, giddy wall art, an imaginative cocktail list and a sizeable back bar that leans towards local spirits. To eat, there’s a menu of refined dude food such as cheeseburger spring rolls; truffled polenta fries; sirloin with chimichurri; and jerk-marinated chicken wings.

houseofpocket.com.au
74 Terrigal Esplanade, Terrigal

DO

Electric surf session on a hydrofoil
Sure, you could learn to surf or stand-up paddleboard. But would that be as fun as carving it up on an electric hydrofoil board, suspended above Booker Bay?

This hour-long hydrofoil lesson includes 15 minutes on the beach running through how the board works and its safety procedures. After that you’re in the water, at first lying on the board and getting used to the controls, before graduating to your knees. Once you’re confident enough to pick up speed, you’ll make your first short flight and from there you can work your way up to proper foiling.

All the required equipment is provided, including a helmet and life jacket. Easy-peasy.

Electric Surf Session on a Hydrofoil

Hands-on beekeeping beginners course
Maybe you’ve glimpsed an urban beekeeper on an inner-city rooftop or seen some hives in a suburban backyard. Now you can learn how it’s done yourself with this half-day course in Blackalls Park.

The program involves an introduction and safety briefing, and then a lesson on the ins and outs of beekeeping, bee life cycles, queen rearing and the tools and equipment required. You’ll also learn how to move a hive, split or merge a hive, and how to catch a swarm.

After that you suit up, light the smokers and get into the nitty-gritty of beekeeping: opening hives, pulling frames, and checking the queen and her helpers are happy and healthy.

Yes, you’ll get to try some honey, and yes, a suit is provided.

Hands On Beekeeping Beginners Course

STAY

Luxury studio villa at Long Jetty
This sun-kissed gem is just a few minutes’ walk from Toowoon Bay Beach. It’s small but luxe, with white stucco rendering; concrete floors; an airy, high ceiling; elegant floor-to-ceiling sheer curtains; a snazzy bathroom with a skylight; a kitchenette; a private outdoor area; and a barbeque that’s available upon request.

And that’s just for when you’re relaxing at home. Nearby there’s the town of Toowoon Bay, with its curved beach (leading to Toowoon Point), seaside parks, cafes and fish’n’chip shops.

Stay in or step out – this retreat lets you take your holiday at your own pace.

Airbnb - Luxury Studio Villa

Nest at Blue Bay
This exquisitely designed retreat is all white weatherboard walls and timber floors, with dashes of Spanish Mission influence – it’s bright, airy and perfect for summer (although there’s a fireplace if things get nippy). There’s also a large freestanding tub; a private deck; and a kitchenette (the hosts provide a welcome platter of seasonal fruit and stock the pantry with basic items).

Blue Bay and Toowoon Bay are both a short stroll away, as is the local village just along Bay Road, which has cafes, restaurants and a general store.

Airbnb - Nest at Blue Bay

Sound good? You could take this trip and more, thanks to Airbnb’s Once Upon a Summer competition. There are seven $15,000 Airbnb travel coupons up for grabs, for use anywhere in Australia. All you have to do is write an up to 50 word story on what memories you want to make this summer. The competition closes December 11. Enter now for your chance to win.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Airbnb.