With beautiful natural surroundings and a vast array of activities for all ages on offer, the New South Wales Central Coast, 90 minutes’ drive north of Sydney, is the perfect family escape. Here’s how you will eventually be able to enjoy it with your brood.
Choose your own adventure
At Amazement Farm & Fun Park in Wyong, in the heart of the Central Coast, getting lost is par for the course. Along with the three fun-filled hedge mazes, farm animals, a bird sanctuary, train rides to see the camels, giant board games and a brand-new Ferris wheel provide hours of excitement.
Swinging through the trees is an essential part of the fun at TreeTop Adventure Park in Ourimbah State Forest, just west of Wyong. Make like Tarzan on a high-ropes course with 100 obstacles, or tackle the world’s longest roller-coaster zip line, the one-kilometre-long Crazy Rider Xtreme — a knuckle-whitening line with dizzying loops thrown in. Kids of all ages will love NetWorld, a bouncy realm up in the trees complete with giant inflatable balls.
Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures, 15 minutes south of Gosford, the gateway to the Central Coast, has an excellent range of outdoor activities on 1,200 glorious hectares. Saddle up for a horse ride through spectacular countryside with guided rides, free-range rides for experts and pony rides for kids aged three to 12. You can also tackle quad biking, abseiling, kayaking and laser skirmish.
To really make a weekend of it, Glenworth Valley even offers camping — the tipis are spacious and comfortable. Don’t miss the afternoon Running of the Horses, when up to 200 horses are let loose in the paddock to graze for the evening.
Encounter wild animals
Home to more than 2,000 critters, Australian Reptile Park in Somersby is a must-stop for animal lovers. As well as meeting Elvis the crocodile, Elsa the koala and Hugo the giant Galapagos tortoise, visitors can hand-feed kangaroos and see Komodo dragons, alligators and Tasmanian devils up close. See funnel-web spiders being milked at Spider World, or book in for one-on-one interactions with animals and their keepers.
Then head to Calga, a 15-minute drive from Somersby, to visit the Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park, a wildlife sanctuary that’s also home to 4,000-year-old Aboriginal sites. Learning is made fun at Dream Wild Workshops, where kids can learn about bush tucker, bush medicine, animal tracking, Aboriginal art and how to throw a boomerang. There are also ranger-led spotlighting tours at night and a Junior Wildlife Ranger program for children aged seven to 12.
Go hiking or biking
One of the most beautiful walks in the region, the Bouddi Coastal Walk runs through Bouddi National Park from Putty Beach to Macmasters Beach and can be done in one go or broken up into sections. The 8.5km path takes you along beaches and boardwalks, delivering panoramic views, remarkable rainforest and even a shipwreck at Maitland Bay. At Gerrin Point Lookout, watch for migrating whales between May and November.
Mountain-biking families will savour the superb Ourimbah Mountain Bike Park. Located in the Ourimbah State Forest, west of Wyong, the park has more than 18km of trails, including the Family Loop, as well as cross-country and gravity trails for experts. Transition Extreme runs ‘uplift shuttles’ from the base of the bike park trail to the top from Friday to Sunday so you can pack more downhill runs into your day.
Head for the water
Take your kids under the sea without getting wet by visiting the Marine Discovery Centre in beachside Terrigal. Kids can look at shells under microscopes, become junior marine scientists and even take a virtual dive tour around the HMAS Adelaide, a sunken ship off Terrigal that serves as a living reef.
If you want to get into the water, there more than 40 Central Coast beaches — 15 patrolled — to enjoy. Particularly family-friendly options include Copacabana, Umina, Ettalong, Tuggerah, Wamberal, Terrigal, Pearl and Macmasters beaches.
For the ultimate in-water fun, make like Buzz Lightyear at Jetpack Adventures, located at Mt Penang Gardens in Kariong, near Gosford, where you can try jetpacks and flyboards on Jetpack Lake. Even kids over 10 years and over 35 kilograms can have a go. After all the excitement of zipping about, take time to stroll around the beautiful gardens, have lunch at Waterfall Cafe or picnic in the grounds.