One of the main reasons why Sydney rates so highly on the list of desirable cities in the world to live, is the fact that it is almost surrounded by bushland.
From the Royal National Park in the south, to the west where the vast Blue Mountains National Park extends along the Great Dividing Range and to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in the north, the city is ringed by a green belt. The Central Coast has been heavily developed, particularly over the past decade, but while it lacks a coastal park on the scale of the Royal there are nevertheless several places where you can get away from the city for a day’s bushwalking or a camping weekend.
One of the advantages of the Central Coast is that you don’t need a car to get there. Gosford station is less than an hour from Sydney, and buses run from here to some of the parks and reserves in the area. The park is a series of beautiful small beaches, backed by steep bush, shrouded hills and cliffs.
Bouddi National Park
Bouddi National Park covers 1200 ha on the northern side of Broken Bay, between Box Head and MacMasters Beach.
It is a protected stretch of coastline, which encompasses a marine park extension from Gerrin Point to Bombi Point, where no fishing is allowed. It’s 20km from Gosford to Bouddi. The park is a series of beautiful small beaches, backed by steep bush, shrouded hills and cliffs.
The Scenic Road provides access to the various beaches in the park.
Volunteers run the Maitland Information Centre, just behind Maitland Beach, on weekends and public holidays.
Maitland Bay is named after the paddlesteamer Maitland, which was wrecked during a storm on the bombora at the entrance to the bay. Twenty seven people were killed; take the one hour walk down to the beach, where there is a replica of the Maitland’s bell.
There are plenty of bushwalking tracks in Bouddi. If you have a full day, you can walk along the coast from Little Beach to Putty Beach, but there are several other shorter ones that lead from the Scenic Road out to various headlands on the coast itself.
Tall blackbutt forests are a feature of the park, while native fauna includes gliders, possums and bandicoots. Several species of owl inhabit Bouddi. There are three camping areas in the park. None has provision for campervans or caravans.
At Putty Beach, you can set up camp adjacent to the carpark. Gas barbecues, town water and toilets are provided. You have to carry your camping gear (and your own water) 700 metres from the carpark down to Little Beach, where facilities include gas barbecues and composting toilets.
The most remote campsite at Bouddi is Tallow Beach, which involves a one-kilometre walk from your car. Like many other areas on the Hawkesbury plateau, Brisbane Water has several important aboriginal art sites.
Brisbane Water National Park
Brisbane Water National Park is further inland, nine kilometres south of Gosford, between the F3 and the western side of Brisbane Water. It extends south to the Hawkesbury, and east to Pearl Beach on the coast.
This is Hawkesbury sandstone country, and includes the 30km Girrakool-Patonga section of the Sydney-Newcastle Great North Walk. Backpack camping is available for people doing this walk, but there are no car-based camping grounds in the park.
There are two picnic areas though, both with forest walks.
The Mooney Circuit walk, which takes three-four hours and includes some rainforest sections, starts at Girrakool, as does the full day return walk to Staples Lookout. Shorter walks include a picnic area circuit, which passes an aboriginal engraving site, and the Mooney Mooney Creek walk, another rainforest stroll which takes a couple of hours.
Somersby Falls is the other picnic area in Brisbane Water. It is reached via Somersby Falls Road, which runs off the Wiseman’s Ferry Road.
Like many other areas on the Hawkesbury plateau, Brisbane Water has several important aboriginal art sites. The most significant is at Bulgandry, on the Woy Woy Road, three kilometres south of Kariong.
Wyrrabalong National Park
Wyrrabalong National Park is split into two sections, on the northern and southern sides of The Entrance. The southern part, around Bateau Bay, is reached via The Entrance Road, while Wilfred Barrett Drive leads to the section north of The Entrance.
The southern part of Wyrrabalong features high headlands, sheer cliffs and extensive rock platforms. Several lookouts provide great views over this wild stretch of the Central Coast. Try Crackneck Point, at the end of Hilltop Street.
The northern part occupies a large section of the sandy spit above the Entrance, so it is quite different. Red Gum and rainforest are the main habitats here, and there are several walks of varying lengths. You can also reach Tuggerah Beach, behind which is an extensive dune system.
No camping is allowed at Wyrrabalong, however a few kilometres north, at the Munmorah State Recreation Area on Budgewoi Peninsula, camping is permitted. Frazer camping area has gas barbecues and toilets; Freeman’s camping area is also accessible to caravans and has similar facilities.
It’s important to note that all of the camping areas in these Central Coast National Parks are pretty popular, especially during school holidays and on weekends. It’s a good idea to book a site with the relevant National Parks office as early as possible.