SUMMER 23/24

We may have some of the best surf breaks in New South Wales, but the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie also have plenty of swim spots for when the swell’s not working, and for those who prefer a gentler dip. We take you on a tour of some of the region’s beaches and bays where kids can learn to snorkel, fishers can seek solitude, and boaties can cast their anchors for a peaceful day on the water.


Lobster Beach 

One of the Central Coast’s hidden gems is Lobster Beach, near the suburb of Pretty Beach. Parking can be tricky but once you nab a street spot, follow Flannel Flower Walking Track in Bouddi National Park to this quiet cove. Backed by bush, this is the kind of place where you spend a morning, meandering down to the sand, swimming in the calm water and enjoying a picnic on the beach. 

STOP BY… The Fat Goose at nearby Killcare to pick up chocolate croissants, muffins and sourdough for your picnic. 

Hardys Bay 

With tinnies stacked along the foreshore and laidback fishing village vibes, Hardys Bay is another top spot on the Bouddi Peninsula. Fish off one of the old timber wharves, putt around pelicans as you explore the neighbourhood, or hire a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Killcare Marina. There are even barbecue pontoons if you want to make a day of it with friends. 

STOP BY… Old Killcare Store (Hardy’s Bistro) to cool down with an iced tea. 

Patonga Beach 

At the mouth of Broken Bay is Patonga, a village at the southern end of the Central Coast. Here, you will find a sleepy suburb where days are marked by the ferries that deliver tourists from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Many come for lunch at The Boathouse Hotel Patonga, but it’s worth bringing your togs and towel for a lazy swim in the bay. There is also a hidden campground, perfectly positioned for a kayak or SUP down Patonga Creek. 

STOP BY… The Boathouse Hotel for barramundi and mussels, or grab some fish and chips from the kiosk and eat it across the road on the beach. 

Ettalong Beach 

Photo: Merrillie Redden

This is a great pick for a day out with the kids, with its shallow, calm waters and long stretch of sand. Splash out to the sandbanks, watch the ferries and windsurfers or just laze the day away. 

STOP BY… The Box on the Water Kiosk for coffee, green juices and yummy wraps. 

The Haven

Photo: Jennifer Ennion

There’s a reason tourists and locals have a soft spot for The Haven; this corner of Terrigal offers an often sheltered beach experience away from the hubbub of the town centre. Scuba dive operators introduce their students to the underwater world here as it’s accessible and safe, fishers cast their lines off the rocks, and kayakers and paddleboarders cruise around the moored boats for morning exercise.

STOP BY… The Haven Beach Kiosk for a post-swim coffee, smoothie or the best prawns and chips. 

Blue Lagoon

This small cove is a firm favourite of locals because it’s generally quieter than some of the region’s main tourist beaches and yet it’s easy to reach and caters to a range of watermen and women. Occasionally, you’ll find a small surfable wave, but mostly you want to come here for a swim and snorkel. Kids will love beachcombing in the corner and wandering onto the rock platform at low tide. Because of the crescent shape of this bay, you may find marine debris washed ashore after a big swell, so be sure to take a cloth bag with you and #Take3fortheSea. 

STOP BY… Bateau Beach Cafe for a poke bowl or halloumi wrap for lunch.

Norah Head Beach

The highlight of this stretch of coastline is undoubtedly Cabbage Tree Harbour, where a toddler-friendly rock pool attracts a huddle of young families every summer thanks to its shallow aqua water and 

snorkelling appeal. But that’s not the only reason you should visit. There is a boat ramp around the corner, and the northern end of the beach offers a great spot for swimming. It’s worth going for a wander south, where you’ll spy Norah Head Lighthouse on the clifftop.

STOP BY… Norah Head Beach Haus for burgers and tacos.

Naru Beach

Photo: courtesy Lake Macquarie City Council

Farther north, you’ll find peaceful Naru Beach, somewhat of a secret spot on the shores of Lake Mac. The beach is perfect for families and cooling down after a day at work, but if you really want to make the most of a visit, take a paddleboard or kayak so you can explore the small, uninhabited islands nearby. The beach is easy to reach off Pacific Highway, over Swansea Bridge and past Blacksmiths.

STOP BY… The Yoga Place Cafe in Blacksmiths for a green smoothie.

Grannies Pool

Photo: courtesy Lake Macquarie City Council

With a name like this, you can rest assured you’re in for a gentle splash (unless your granny is a little wild). According to the helpful Newy with Kids website, this tidal pool was created when water from Swansea Channel rushed through a gap in Blacksmiths Breakwall. It’s an ideal place for toddlers to dash in and out of the water in between building sandcastles.

STOP BY… Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows. With plenty of seafood on the menu, you can expect sophisticated pub grub. 


Main photo: courtesy Lake Macquarie City Council


More articles


‘Just a word of warning: this is highly addictive. Once you start weaving, you won’t want to stop,’ warns Lee Cavender while handing out tangly Bangalow Palm inflorescence to get us hooked at a workshop at Bells at Killcare. 

Read More »