[fold] The last five years have seen the Central Coast slowly transform itself from a bashful stepping-stone to a more self-confident destination in its own right. There’s no doubt that Bells at Killcare made people think twice about driving straight through when it opened in December 2007, with chef Stefano Manfredi leading it to hatted glory. The region’s mix of stunning coastline, lush hinterland and beautifully diverse National Parks (including one World Heritage-listed site) have also played a huge part in putting the Central Coast on the map. Great places to eat and drink coffee, artisanal products, thriving markets and a slower pace are all reasons why this area, one hour north of Sydney, has become the latest destination for the gourmet traveller.

STAY AND DINE

Bells at Killcare
Much thought has gone into this tranquil Hamptons-inspired hideaway, from the lavender-lined gardens and weatherboard cottages to the carefully sourced ingredients and exemplary wine list. Expect remarkable flavours in that smart but effortless Italian way. Free-range Dutton Park duck, rosemary Dutch cream potatoes straight from the garden and tender green beans from Terrigal all feature on the menu. The nearby Maitland Bay walking trail is also worth exploring.
107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights
(02) 4349 7000
bellsatkillcare.com.au

LUNCH

Yum Yum
This delightful eatery, with perfect views over Hardy’s Bay, serves affordable dishes that reference cuisines the world over. Lunchtime specials under $20 are a treat, especially the fillet steak sandwich with caramelised onion.
60 Araluen Drive, Hardy’s Bay
(02) 4360 2999
yumyumeatery.com.au

The Fat Goose
A firm favourite on the Bouddi Peninsula. Locals come for The Fat Goose’s famously delicious Pugliese sourdough loaves and homemade pastries. Sip coffee alongside one of the butter-puff gourmet pies, then drive up the hill to the Marie Byles lookout.
Shop 3, Killcare Road, Hardy’s Bay
(02) 4360 1888
thefatgoose.com.au

Garden 2 Plate
Pull up a hay bale and tuck into wraps with organic greens and toasted sandwiches brought to life with fresh herbs. Kale grows at your feet and big monthly glossies are on display.
58 Araluen Drive, Hardy’s Bay
(02) 4360 2364
g2p.com.au

DRINK

Glee Coffee Roasters
Double ristrettos don’t get much better than this. Indeed, you’d be pushed to find anyone more coffee-obsessed than the Gleesons. Order the house blend ‘Akiko’ and take away a bag of their five single-origin beans to make at home.
Shop 4, 490 Central Coast Highway, Erina
(02) 4365 0770
gleecoffee.com.au

Distillery Botanica
The award-winning Moore's Vintage Dry Gin – made with seven botanicals – is incredibly aromatic, but if you only buy one thing here, make it the new Glee Coffee-based Short Black liqueur. There’s real passion at work here.
25 Portsmouth Road, Erina
(02) 4365 3968
st-fiacredistillery.com

MARKETS

Avoca Beachside Markets
Plan your visit for the fourth Sunday of the month to see one of the coast’s best highlights by the water’s edge. Don’t miss Cocopure’s coconut butters and Margin’s chemical-free mushrooms.
Heazlett Park Foreshore, Avoca Beach
avocabeachsidemarkets.vpweb.com.au

Mangrove Mountain Country Markets
If you fancy a drive inland, this is a proper food market with La Tartine sourdough, grass-fed beef and goat meat, Champion’s organic produce, local honey and glorious cakes. Last Sunday of the month.
Corner Wisemans Ferry Road and Waratah Road, Mangrove Mountain

GARDEN

The Homegrown Plant Stall
Almost a drive-through nursery but with better service. Pull up outside and browse the dwarf citrus trees and heirloom tomato seedlings. Stock up on great-value organic compost before you drive home. Weekends and public holidays only.
38 Ocean View Drive, Terrigal

Delightfully Fresh Organics
An amazing array of herb and vegetable seedlings on offer including horseradish and purple globe artichoke.
Catch Darren at the Avoca Beachside Markets and the Avoca Beach Growers Market (first Sunday of the month).
(02) 4374 1355