Join us as we travel through the Central Coast Hinterland, discovering the best spots for the perfect winter road trip.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live, work and play. We pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging and recognise their continued connection to these lands and waterways. We acknowledge our shared responsibility to care for and protect our place and people.

Quick Overview

What better way to celebrate the shortest day of the year than completing a Central Coast road trip. We tried to fit in as much as possible over three days travelling through some of the best spots in the Central Coast Hinterland. How did we do it? Early starts, a packed itinerary, and a thirst for adventure.

About Road Tripping the Central Coast Hinterland

The Central Coast Hinterland lies north of Sydney and is full of cute towns, incredible national parks and beautiful state forests.

While the Central Coast is typically famous for its beaches, there is so much more to explore on the journey inland to the often overlooked hinterland.

As we told people about our road trip plans, almost everyone asked something along the lines of ‘Why on earth would you go in winter?!’.


Hinterland views from Mount Olive

Hinterland views from Mount Olive

I know travelling in winter (especially camping)  is not everyone’s cup of tea, but let me try to convince you with some of the reasons I love it.

  • It’s whale watching season and it’s way more common to see these beautiful animals than you might think – we saw at least ten off the coast of Norah Head alone!
  • Less people means no crowds at those beautiful spots getting in the background of your pics, an easier time finding parking and more peaceful trails
  • Incredible sunsets – have you noticed how fire these winter sunsets have been?
  • Later sunrises, yes it’s still early, but I’ll take getting up at 6am for sunrise over 4am anyday
  • Cooler temps mean you can do all your activities like hiking and mountain biking without overheating or burning to a crisp
  • Less bugs
  • Incredible wildflowers in the later days of winter
  • Getting cosy around the campfire
  • Better weather and clear sunny days, no surprise summer storms (or in Sydney’s case weeks of constant heavy rain) ruining your travel plans
  • With the right gear you’ll stay nice and warm despite the cold

How To Get to the Central Coast Hinterland

The easiest way to get to the Central Coast Hinterland is to drive, it’s just over an hour north of Sydney (depending where you go).

A lot of these places are quite remote and can only be accessed by car along dirt or gravel roads, which is what makes them even more special.


Emerald Pool Hiking

Nature-filled hikes, perfect for winter adventures

Things To Do

1. Munmorah State Conservation Area

Munmorah is such a beautiful hidden gem on the Central Coast. My favourite was the Moonee Beach trail starting a short distance from Snapper Point lookout (check out the view of the Sea Cave and blowhole from here!) and leading 2km down to a lovely secluded spot for a swim, snorkel, or a peaceful sunset.

We arrived right on sunset in time to see the clear glassy waters reflecting the pink of the sky. From here you can venture all the way around to Ghosties Beach to explore some caves.

Whale watching is great from Elizabeth Bay Picnic Area or Tea Tree Picnic Area. You can camp nearby at Freemans Campground or Frazer Campground, which you will need to book ahead of time.


Moonee Beach

Sunset at Moonee Beach


2. Hiking Wyrrabalong National Park

The highlights of The Coast walking track in Wyrrabalong National Park are the scenic coastline and the surrounding wildflowers, making winter the ideal time to do it.

The walk is only 3km one way starting at Bateau Bay Beach picnic area and passing through Crackneck Point lookout.

The northern section was traditionally Awabakal Country where you can do the Lillypilly loop or the Red Gum trail (keep your eyes out for the Swift parrot), while the south is Darkinjung Country.

There are many significant cultural sites located within the park including a large midden (area of shells gathered over time from Aboriginal people preparing and eating shellfish) at Pelican Point.


The Coast walking track, Wyrrabalong National Park_credit John Spencer

The Coast walking track, Wyrrabalong | Photo by John Spencer

3. Ourimbah State Forest

Starting at Ourimbah Mountain Bike Park, a 35km loop winds its way around Ourimbah State Forest passing some beautiful forest scenery. The majority of the ride is easy fire trails for the uphill and a smooth road descent down Bumble Hill.

Stop at Yarramalong Store Cafe for a bite to eat before continuing down Yarramalong Road to finish. You can also explore the single trails at Ourimbah MTB Park if you’re looking for a challenging ride, or as a warm up before adrenaline junkies can tackle the full loop.

4. Cabbage Tree Harbour

Visit the lighthouse and rockpool at Norah Head before venturing down to the beach at Cabbage Tree Harbour. The lighthouse itself has been well maintained and stands out on top of the grassy cliff of Norah Head.

This is another great opportunity for whale watching, we saw so many whales and some even came close to the shoreline with dolphins swimming around them!

There’s a small wooden staircase behind the Norah Head Lighthouse which leads down onto the rocks to explore. You can do a tour of the lighthouse if you’re there at the right times, just be prepared for the 96 stairs to the top. If you really want to experience the life of a lighthouse keeper you can even stay the night here!


Norah Head Lighthouse

Norah Head Lighthouse | Photo thanks to Love Central Coast

5. Bouldering & Rock Climbing

Check out The Crag, an awesome website that details climbs in the area. Phegans Bay has something for everyone and looks out over Brisbane Water National Park, access via Olive Ave.

6. Cedar Brush Creek – Trailshare

Trailshare is 32km of single track heaven in Cedar Brush Creek for mountain bikers. With different graded trails there’s something for everyone from the beginner green and yellow trails to the absolutely insane black and red trails.

All the trails have been built by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers and the area is still fairly unknown. There was only one other car while we were visiting and we never saw them out on the track.



Trailshare starting point

Pop Trailshare into Google Maps and make sure you can access offline maps before heading off, you won’t get reception out here. The start of the trails leave from an offbeat camping area with a few small sheds, an old school bus and two super friendly doggos. Bring your own bike and just start riding following the well-signed trails.

Trailshare offer bike hire and servicing as well as a few bits and pieces of bike equipment if needed. The owner is currently only there on weekends so if you need to hire a bike or anything give them a heads up the day before that you’ll be coming.

Pro Tip: Check out Trailforks for detailed trail maps and information.



Photo thanks to Love Central Coast

7. Olney State Forest

From Cedar Brush Creek you can venture further out into Olney State Forest with another 32km mountain bike loop. It’s a perfect mix of gravel and dirt roads, not too technical or rocky with a gradual ascent for the first half before heading back down to the start of the trail.

8. Popran National Park – The Emerald Pool

In Popran National Park, drive along the rough dirt road to the Ironbark Picnic Area for the start of the trail.

From here you can make your way to Mount Olive Lookout for a nice view before descending down the Hominy Creek walking track towards Emerald Pool.

There are a few steep sections before an opening with parking for horses and the track changes to a narrow single track for the last segment.

We were stoked to see the Emerald Pool is very accurately named for its crystal clear water and beautiful green colour. This would be the perfect place for a little picnic and a swim in the cold water if you’re feeling brave.


Emerald Pools

The aptly named Emerald Pools

9. Seasonal Sunflower Picking – The Bloom Barn

The Bloom Barn is a super cute sunflower farm on the Central Coast (around 1 hour south of Newcastle). They often do ‘Pick your own sunflowers’ days and take bookings for weddings and other events. They’re not always open to the public so make sure you check ahead of time.

10. Mangrove – Old Great North Road Bike Ride

The World Hertitage-listed Old Great North Road is a very interesting Convict Site and forms an important part of Australia’s history.

There are many options and trails in the area. For hikers the best option is the Old Great North Walk and Finchs Line via Hangman’s Rock which is approximately 9km out and back. There’s a small gravel area on the opposite side of the road for parking at the trailhead. You can also walk the full length of the Old Great North Road over a few days.


Finchs Line lookout

Finchs Line lookout


If mountain biking is more your style, a popular track is from either Mogo Campground (43km) or Ten Mile Hollow Campground (16.3km), down to Wisemans Ferry.  You can also start from Wisemans Ferry but be prepared for a lot of uphill.


Hangmans Rock

Hangmans Rock | Photo thanks to Love Central Coast

11. Dharug National Park

The Devines Hill Loop (36.4km) is another great mountain bike track which starts and finishes at Mill Creek campground and picnic area, also travelling partly along the Old Great North Road.

It has some good hill climbs to get those legs burning and passes scenic views and significant historical sites to keep things interesting.

This area is rich in Aboriginal Places and sites for you to explore. You’ll have to book if you wish to camp at this sheltered area surrounded by native wildlife.


Mills Creek Campground

Mill Creek Campground | Photo thanks to Love Central Coast

Where To Eat

Wombat Cafe, Gunderman

We only drove past this adorable cafe on the way through. Great location on Wisemans Ferry Road with homestyle cooking from pizzas to pies, all the reviews say it is the best place ever. We will definitely be stopping here on our next trip!

Six String Brewing

As the Central Coast’s first home-grown craft brewery, this little brewery is not to be missed – with a tasting paddle and Jenga you’ll be entertained and satiated for hours.


Six String Brewery, Central Coast

Six String Brewery

Wyong Milk Factory

This area has something for everyone including a cheese factory, chocolate factory, donut shop, and tavern. A great stop along your road trip for some snacks, lunch, or a cold drink.


Matt’s Diner Takeaway, Lake Munmorah

An American-style diner which you can dine in their cool themed restaurant despite the name suggesting takeaway only. From burgers and hotdogs to the incredible milkshakes this place is a great pit stop after a big adventure. It is also the start of the 12.6km Wybung Head track.


Matt's Diner

Matt’s Diner

Kulnura One Stop

This place is super popular with the motorbikes stopping in for a B&E on their morning rides and you can see why. With amazing food and friendly staff who seem to know everyone’s name, this made a perfect brekkie stop on the way to start a day of adventuring. Say hello to the resident dogs who will patiently wait for a pat or a treat as you pass through.

Distance Covered

563km / 10.5 hours driving / 3-and-a-bit days

Essential Gear

  • Parks pass – either a day pass or an annual pass for all the national parks
  • Head torches
  • Tent and sleeping gear
  • Cooking equipment
  • Warm clothes for at night
  • Water
  • Day pack
  • Firewood (when fires are allowed)
  • Mountain bike
  • Swimmers, if you’re brave

Tips for Visiting

  • Download offline maps before you go
  • Bring a head torch for walking in the dark
  • Buy firewood rather than trying to find your own (if the campsites allow a fire of course)


Will I have reception?

For some parts you will, some parts you won’t depending on how remote you go. It’s best to be prepared and download a map before you go.

How do I mountain bike? (It’s my first time!)

It was my first time too and I absolutely loved it. If you’re new to mountain biking I have a few tips that will make your time so much more enjoyable.

  • Hire the bikes, mountain bikes are EXPENSIVE and you don’t want to be buying one until you know what you like. You can hire from Ride Ettalong, or Trailshare, for your Central Coast adventures.
  • Bring gloves – especially in winter this will help keep your hands warm and also protect them a little if you fall or are heavy on the breaks
  • Always take water even if you think it’s only a short distance.
  • Stick to the green and yellow trails like we did and if you’re not comfortable there is absolutely no shame in getting off to push down a steep rocky section or up a tough hill.

Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking