Tracey: Things to do on the Central Coast

“We live where you holiday!” chant Central Coast Mariners fans, especially against rivals like Newcastle, and it’s undeniable that the Central Coast is a beautiful part of the world. Whether it is a searing summer’s day or a wet wintery week, there is always plenty to do with my family or friends, or blissfully on my own.

Just imagine it’s a clear Sunday, perfect beach weather … the hardest decision is which beach! Terrigal is touristy but flanked by boutiques and cafes; Copacabana can be rough but has a picturesque rock pool; and you can snorkel in Toowoon Bay if the tide is right. On a fair midweek day when I’m by myself, nothing beats a takeaway coffee from Avoca Surf Club then climbing a nook in the cliffs with a book or sketchpad. I am not one for the gym, so I enjoy swimming laps at Gosford Olympic Pool. It might not be as new or chic as the Sydney pools, but even on a dull day the water is warm and the cafe makes a passable coffee. Sitting up in the grandstand reading the news while my cossies dry is a guaranteed stress dissolver.

When it’s neither a cold winter’s morning nor a great day for the beach, there is plenty to keep me busy. In the 18 years since I moved to the Coast, I have seen an impressive improvement in the number of cafés and the quality of coffee. There are places that specialise in single origin and cold drip and I could spend a month or two visiting them all (and not sleeping). Favourites are Three Trees, Ooomph and Glee Coffee Roasters. For old-school European, Caesar’s Coffee and Fine Food is the Little Italy of the Central Coast, selling roasted beans, fresh pasta and kitchen gear, long before MasterChef hit our TVs. Did I mention microbreweries and distilleries? There is Six String Brewing Company and the newer Block’n’Tackle Brewery, as well as Distillery Botanica and Firescreek Fruit Winery (which I drive past on the way to university).

But it’s not all froth and hops! The Coast is loaded with quality second hand and vintage shops, from books and clothes, jewellery and furniture. Long Jetty is my pick of the suburbs. I can enjoy quirky healthy food and crazy good coffee at Glass Onion Society café, before strolling around Dapper Darlings Vintage or The Sound Exchange, possibly the best actual record shop north of Sydney. Try the Green Tangerine for bread and Octopus’ Garden for creative bouquets.

And books! Ruby’s Cafe & Books is a feast and Book Bazaar, one of the few remaining independent booksellers is always worth a visit. When it’s movie time I avoid big cinema chains and pop into Cinema Paradiso, Majestic Cinema or gorgeous Avoca Beach Picture Theatre, which often shows independent releases.

I wouldn’t be a fledgling artist if I didn’t mention the galleries, starting with Gosford Regional Gallery, which combines regional exhibitions with local art shows and a beautiful Japanese garden and koi pond. Two Birds Gallery Café is lovely for lunch and creative gifts. The recently-formed Art Studios Cooperative is a gallery, studio and school that is creating an enormous buzz in the region and beyond.

It’s a little ironic I’m writing this all whilst on holidays in Adelaide with my family, but hey … even those of us who “live where you holiday” need our own holiday from time to time!