Spread the love

Take the coastal route from Sydney to Newcastle on the New South Wales North Coast for a classic drive through laid-back towns buzzing with artisan foodie delights for the après-beach crowd. From fish and chips on a picnic bench to bright and breezy waterfront dining, from surfing the waves to fun on the lake, there are so many attractions to divert you. And when you find somewhere you love, book a room and stay a while.
Eat fish and chips by the water at Woy Woy
Sit in the pretty-as-a-picture garden of an Erina gin distillery
Explore sea caves near Lake Macquarie
Amble up to Erina
Drive an hour north of Sydney and you cross the picturesque Hawkesbury River. Stop by the ‘shellar door’ at Broken Bay Pearl Farm in Mooney Mooney, just off the Pacific Motorway. Join a tour, cruise to the farm, watch pearl grading and browse the saltwater Akoya pearl jewellery.
When you’re all pearled out, drive half an hour on to Woy Woy, the gateway to the Central Coast of NSW. It’s a sleepy seaside town that’s become a foodie favourite. Stop for a takeaway lunch of fresh seafood at the Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf and enjoy eating by the water.
After a lazy lunch, you can head to Young Barons Italian café and store to stock up on goodies from regional NSW artisan suppliers and small wineries, as well as housemade pasta and tiramisu, to add to the road-trip esky (ice box). If you’d like to stay around, book a room at The Bayview, right in the middle of town, and spend the evening sipping cocktails at Frankies Rooftop Bar.
Otherwise, its onwards to Erina where Distillery Botanica should not be missed. Enjoy the peaceful garden with a Mr Goaty Gelato in hand, available from the onsite Botanica Bar, and grab a bottle of Moore’s Dry Gin from the distillery to take away. Also in Erina, you’ll find Salt Pig Deli, where baker Kev Severn has been perfecting his sourdough and pastries for several years. There’s also a great selection of cured meats and cheeses — more treats to pop in the picnic hamper.
Stop off at Avoca Beach
Detour 10 minutes down to Avoca Beach for a swim in the ocean. If you’re hungry, stop at eclectic surf shack Shady Palms, which opened in late 2020. There are four themed areas, including a beer garden and a beach bar diner, plus a stage for live music and a homewares store. That should keep you fairly busy before you need to push on 20 minutes north to Long Jetty, a once sleepy town that is fast gathering boho cred.
Pop into Shadow Bang to browse the selection of essential oils, natural skincare products and apothecary teas, and snap up some one-of-a-kind pre-loved clothes at Long Jetty Vintage. The Glass Onion Society gallery-café-music spot is a beacon of eclectic cool. The menu boasts smoothies, juices, burger, wraps and seriously good coffee; stay and soak up the laid-back Long Jetty vibe. Nearby, The Green Tangerine is an artisan bakery and café dishing up delicious wholesome breakfast and brunch.
Look around Lake Macquarie
From Long Jetty continue up the coast, where the beaches will beckon on the right and lakeside fun on the left. It’s only about an hour’s drive from Long Jetty to the top of Lake Macquarie, the largest saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere, but it may take you a while to get there.
The lake’s attractions include kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, boating and fishing. On the coast, the sea caves at Caves Beach are great fun at low tide, while the broad expanse of Redhead Beach is popular for swimming and fishing. You can snorkel at Catherine Hill Bay, and Blacksmiths Beach is protected by a breakwall offering a safe swimming inlet. From the north end of Lake Macquarie, it’s only 25 minutes’ drive to Newcastle.
Explore Newcastle…
Newcastle is the second-largest city in NSW and has some outstanding heritage architecture and a buzzing scene around its fast-rejuvenating wharf areas.
Stroll down to the Art Deco Newcastle Ocean Baths to cool off with a dip. Nearby, Estabar does a great trade with the brunch crowd, thanks to a menu based on fresh local produce, or you can just grab a housemade gelato to go. For dinner, Scotties, less than five minutes’ walk from the baths, serves innovative seafood dishes and takeaway fish and chips.
And stay the night
Just down the street from Scotties, settle in under the high ceilings and Art Deco tiling of the former Tooheys brewery keg and grain warehouse and choose from some 21 taps pouring Australian independent craft brews at The Grain Store.
Grab some pastries from Uprising Bakery in Maryville, a 10-minute drive from the city centre. If you’re here on Sunday morning, be sure to head to the Newcastle City Farmers Market at the showground, where you can pick up some excellent fresh produce and locally made wines.
Splash out on a night in Newcastle’s first five-star hotel, Kingsley (opening April 2021). Or for a classic Aussie beachside holiday, NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park ticks all the boxes and is set right on the beach.
Before you leave Newcastle, restock the esky (ice box) with local cured meats and antipasto from King Street Deli and Bar in the city centre. From here, it’s just a two-hour drive back to Sydney (unless, of course, you opt for the longer coastal route).