Winter on the Coast

As a coastal destination, the Central Coast is better known as a summer hot spot but that’s not to say that the region can’t also be a winter wonderland.

From June to August, the Coast’s casual and fine dining establishments churn out comfort food galore, there are plenty of places to get cosy in front of a fireplace, and it could even be argued that the great outdoors is more pleasant in the cooler months with the winter sun far more forgiving than the stifling heat of summer.

Instead of hibernating in winter woolies, there are plenty of reasons to get up off the couch for a meal or an outing that will not only fill your belly but warm your soul and ensure winter sizzles despite the chill.

Here’s our guide to winter on the Coast…

Cowra is coming to the Coast. Photo: Supplied

Frosty festivals

From comedy to country music, there is a festival for just about everything on the Coast during the cooler months.

The country will come to the Coast on July 6 when Cowra’s best winemakers and food producers set up by the beach as part of the first ‘Cowra on the Coast’ at Crowne Plaza Terrigal. The event includes wine tasting, a Cowra lamb spit roast and the chance to meet organic winemakers and attend masterclasses, as well as live music and market stalls.

On August 4, the Food and Wine Festival turns Mt Penang Gardens into a foodie’s paradise with more than 80 food and wine stalls, each offering something scrumptious sourced from the local region. 

The Sydney Comedy Festival Showcase at the Art House Wyong on August 16 will be a chance to laugh off the winter blues. Taking the crème de la crème of the 2019 Festival on the road, it’s guaranteed to be a roaring night of belly laughs.

The hotly anticipated annual Winter Blues and Jazz Festival rolls into the Entrance over the July 13 -14 weekend. The free event will see the Waterfront Plaza and Memorial Park swing into action with some soulful tunes from a dozen talented musos including headliners Emma Pask and Russell Morris.

The Coast’s annual Country Music Festival is a boot-scooting and toe-tapping bonanza by the beautiful Entrance lagoon. It’s on August 9 at the Waterfront Plaza and Memorial Park.

Tasmanian truffle. Photo: Supplied

Truffle time

One of the most decadent winter flavours is truffle and the flavourful fungi is going to be celebrated in all its pungent glory at the Central Coast Truffle Festival.

Held from June 12 to July 28 at three local restaurants – Ocean Restaurant at Blue Bay, The Entrance Lake House and Cecilia’s at Toowoon Bay – diners are invited to indulge their love of truffle with each venue plating up three dishes inspired by Tasmanian truffles.

A three-course set menu is available for the truffle obsessed or there will be entrees, mains and desserts available to be purchased individually.

The restaurants are essentially competing for the honour of the Coast’s ‘Best Truffle Dish’ so diners are encouraged to vote.

For a fungi fix post-festival, Rhonda’s at Terrigal serves up a hearty bowl of pork belly gnocchi in a consommé of truffle oil; at South End Social at Gosford, their fries are served with a truffle aioli; and at Sounds on West at Umina Beach, the mac and cheese is infused with a hint of truffle oil.

Bouddi National Park coastal walk. Photo: Brett O’Maley

Winter walks

Winter is a wonderful time to get out into nature and make tracks along some of the Coast’s stunning coastal walks.

The Bouddi Coastal Walk is one of the Coast’s best outdoor adventures. It’s a scenic eight-kilometre journey from Putty Beach to Macmasters Beach that weaves and winds through Bouddi National Park with picturesque sea views all along the way.

With panoramic water views at its peak and an easy breezy 3.8km hike through shady gum canopies and corridors of pretty wildflowers, the Patonga to Pearl Beach stretch of the Great North Walk (or Pearl Beach to Patonga depending where you start) is a great way to be reminded of all that is magnificent about the Coast.

The Coast Walking Track is a pleasant three kilometre clifftop jaunt through Wyrrabalong National Park linking Forresters Beach with Crackneck lookout at Bateau Bay beach. It offers captivating coastal views and during winter, the chance to spot a whale migrating past.

Whale watching
Whale watching from Copacabana

Whale watching

According to the local Darkinjung people, the Central Coast is ‘whale dreaming country’ and during June and July, when thousands of Humpback and Southern Right whales are migrating along the coastal highway, there is a good chance of seeing them from just about anywhere along the Coast.

The Skillion at Terrigal, Norah Head, Copacabana’s Captain Cook Lookout, and Crackneck Lookout are a few great vantage points on land.

To get up close and personal with the gentle giants of the sea, Terrigal Ocean Tours run whale watching tours off the Coast. The hour-long boat tours offer a great chance to see whales breaching and tail slapping from the comfort of a purpose built Ecotour RIB. For added insight, a marine biologist is always along for the ride.

In an ode to the whales who migrate past the Coast, there is an annual Whale Dreamer’s Festival at Norah Head Lighthouse. It’s on July 7 this year.

Risotto. Photo: Remy & Co

Comfort cuisine

The best part about winter is indulging in good food and wine without having to worry about squeezing into a cozzie anytime soon. 

For the ultimate winter binge, it’s hard to beat a big bowl of hearty pasta and there are oodles of delicious handmade noodles available across the Coast. Pop into Pinocchio’s at Gosford and Ettalong’s Gusto for an authentic plate of pasta that will transport you to Italy with the first bite.

Mid-week winter specials offer the perfect excuse to get off the couch and into one of the Coast’s fine establishments.

Woy Woy pasta bar Young Barons become gnocchi gurus every Wednesday night; Thursday night is pasta night at Avoca’s Bombini; Monday is pizza night at Rhonda’s with two for the price of three; and Remy and Co Pasta Bar at Erina have risotto and wine nights on Wednesdays plus all-you-can-eat pizza on Thursdays.

At The Lucky Bee, the quickest way to shake off the winter chills is with one of chef Matty Bennett’s piping hot house-made curries, which also happened to be named one of “The 21 Tastiest Dishes of 2016” by The New York Post (back when the Bee was spicing up NYC). Wednesday is curry night at the Hardys Bay eatery.

Sizzling soups such as Vietnamese duck pho with a spike of chilli, spiced Carrot with minted yoghurt plus parsnip and apple with chilli oil, all feature on the winter menu at The Springs at Peats Ridge.

For a meaty man-size winter feast, Sounds on West’s burgers and brisket always hit the spot while Long Jetty’s Common Ground canteen is home to mouth-watering smoked and slow-roasted meat.

Winter at Saddles is an enjoyable escapade when tucking into a beef, red wine and mushroom pie or pork and fennel sausage roll by the fire or overlooking the billabong.

The Bon Pavilion Public Bar. Photo: Jacs Powell

Cosy Cuppa

The fastest way to warmth in winter is savouring a decadent drink in front of a fire.

At The Springs, winter warmers come in the form of indulgent Irish coffees. This winter, it’s the Minted Coffee Nudged – coffee with Kahlua, a splash of peppermint schnapps and a dollop of cream. It’s best enjoyed nestled into a cowhide couch overlooking the rolling green hills or getting cosy in a chesterfield by the fire.

Like a hug from your best friend, turmeric lattes are another way to warm up with a delicious brew that’s good for you. At Like Minds, golden lattes are made from turmeric grown fresh in the Avoca cafe’s vegetable garden. While at Jasmine Greens’ park kiosk, turmeric lattes are served with lashings of cinnamon and coconut milk.

The hot drinks at Long Jetty oasis Modern Organic are next level. Try a Lunar Latte for a pretty hit of purple carrot and Chinese adaptogens mixed with coconut milk or a Charcoal Latte packed with activated charcoal for a delicious detox drink.

While at Gosford’s newest eatery, The Bon Pavilion, the fire and the drinks are alight at the Public Bar. Order a Zombie for a fiery hit of rum or sip an ‘I Want Smores’ complete with toasted marshmallow for a luxe campfire experience in Gosford’s CBD.