The Vibrant North with Mel, Justin & Ryan

The Vibrant North with Mel, Justin & Ryan

Unearth gems of the north, from coffee-serving barbers, patisseries, pizzerias and tapas bars, to beautiful rockpools and beaches pinned to the headland by that iconic lighthouse.

After years of dreaming about creating a vibrant cultural hotspot at the northern end of the Coast, local trio Melissa Roberts, Justin Black and Ryan Barron opened up Johnny Tapas – a woodfired pizza and tapas restaurant in Norah Head. Despite opening on the cusp of COVID, with restrictions coming into play just a few weeks after their launch, local support hasn’t waivered. They reopened this hip and happening restaurant to quickly become the place to go for good food and good times. We asked to speak to the managers to share a taste of their favourite things to see and do around the region.

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Cocktails with Ryan Barron, Johnny Tapas, Norah Head

What do you love most about the Coast?

“It's a great mix of nature and lifestyle. The Central Coast is close enough to the city but far enough for relaxed living, with amazing people, beaches and bushwalks.”

Describe a typical day on the Central Coast for you…
Mel: I start my day with an F45 class at Charmhaven, head to Fade Nation for a coffee, then to the beach with my beautiful son, Carter.

Justin: A round of golf, a catch up with friends at the local club for a celebratory beer, then some quality beach time with the family. 

Ryan: Early swim at Terrigal Beach, a light jog around The Haven, then a mocha from The Laneway.

What is the first place you would take a visitor to the Coast? 

All: Johnny Tapas! Then we’d make our way along the coast for a beach tour, stopping at all the best lookouts to get some perspective on how beautiful this area of New South Wales really is. 

What is your favourite local spot for good vibes and coffee? 

Mel and Justin: It might be a boutique barber service but Fade Nation in Toukley makes a really great latte. And other notable mentions include The Island Café and The General Store, both located at Norah Head.

Ryan: After my daily morning dip in the ocean, I grab a mocha from The Laneway in Terrigal.

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The General Store, Photo by Kendall Tyne
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The Island Cafe, @theisland_cafe

What’s a favourite local restaurant that you guys love to visit? 

All: It’s a unanimous vote for Shorethyme at Norah Head. Owner Stuey is an absolute legend and his dishes are incredible. If you have a hankering for a juicy steak, it’s hard to go past the filet mignon.

Mel and Justin: Hernandos Hideaway at East Gosford – the space is amazing and it’s so great to have fantastic Mexican food available on the Coast.

Ryan: The food at Four Hands Pizza in Terrigal is delicious. Moz and her staff will take good care of you.

What is your top go-to outdoor experience? 

All: The walk from Norah Head Lighthouse to Cabbage Tree Harbour is short but beautiful. It’s great to walk around the shoreline and then loop back through the bush track. Bouddi National Park has some amazing tracks too – we love a good stroll along the Coastal Walk to Maitland Bay. 

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Shorethyme Restaurant, Photo by Jacs Powell
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Norah Head Lighthouse, Photo by Sarah-Kate Mcaleer

Do you have a secret gem of the Coast you’d be willing to share? 

Mel and Justin: We love taking our son to Soldiers Beach. It’s one of the few beaches on the coast where you can sit in your car, check the waves and enjoy the sunset. You can even see Centrepoint Tower on a clear day.

Ryan: Munmorah State Conservation Area has some really amazing cave systems for the adventurous. It can be dangerous, though, so check the conditions and tide before exploring.
 

What do you love most about living on the Central Coast?

Justin: It’s close enough to the city but far enough for a relaxed lifestyle. 
Mel: The people and the beaches.
Ryan: Bushwalks and beaches. It's a great mix of nature and lifestyle. 

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Surfing at Soldiers Beach
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Bushwalk in Wyrrabalong National Park