Tour the hinterland with James

Tour the hinterland with James

From Kulnura to Ravensdale, Bumble Hill to Yarramalong, the Central Coast hinterland is bursting with fresh produce, wild walks, farm gate experiences and culinary adventures on the doorstep of Sydney.
James Lutwyche
Paradise Botanical Gardens, Kulnura

You don’t have to travel to the busy centre of Sydney to immerse yourself in the beauty of a botanic garden. Kulnura is home to the sprawling Paradise Botanical Gardens, an eclectic haven of rare plants, ponds, sculptures and scenic meadows, with many plants curated from Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. Property manager, James Lutwyche, shares his passion for this hidden flora sanctuary on the Central Coast with some valuable tips on how best to ‘go bush’ and explore the surrounding hinterland.

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Paradise Botanical Gardens, Kulnura

What do you love most about the Coast?

“I love the hinterland of the Central Coast and can't get enough of it. I live on a farm in Ravensdale and love what our area produces. What we can’t produce with our own hands, we barter, swap or purchase from local growers and artisans.”

What’s the inspiration behind the Paradise Botanical Gardens?

The original 220-acre property was purchased by the previous owner, Bob Cherry, in the early 1970s. Bob was what I call the ‘last of the great explorers’ and travelled Asia collecting rare and unknown varieties of trees and shrubs, predominantly camellias and magnolias. Legend has it, on his return from those wanderlust odysseys, Bob would give one specimen to the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, and one specimen would come back here to the Central Coast where it would be studied, identified, catalogued, planted and bred from. Our botanical gardens grew to the 50 acres that stand today, one rare plant at a time.

What’s the best way for people to enjoy the gardens?

The gardens are absolutely worth seeing. We are exclusively open to the public four weekends a year, one in each season. For the ultimate experience of country life and amazing local produce, our ‘Cherry Cottage’ accommodation is available through Airbnb, set in the original gardener’s residence. Paradise Botanical Gardens is also an approved event venue capable of hosting a range of groups for weddings, garden clubs or even photography tours.

Kulnura in the Central Coast hinterland is a true local secret – What else can visitors find locally?

Where do I start? I’m still finding hidden gems after 20 years of living and working in the hinterland… I’d recommend Yarramalong village, especially the new providore Regan’s Fine Foods and Butchery and Angel Sussurri Restaurant. There’s also the Mountain Growers Market at Peats Ridge – I can’t go past on the weekend without a quick stop. My most unique pick would have to be the Central Coast Soaring Club. The thought of gliding over the Central Coast hinterland in a non-engine plane is truly exhilarating!

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Angel Sussurri Restaurant, Photo by Jacs Powell
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Fresh Central Coast Produce, Photo by Isaac Tseng

What’s your favourite spot to take friends?

When my friends visit ‘the mountain’ [Mangrove Mountain] a tour around the gardens, woodlands and back to the wood-fired barbecue for a legendary local long lunch tops the cards. But a trip to the mountain is never complete without dropping in to see our neighbours, Sue and Murray at Bumble Hill, for a long yarn. It’s lovely exploring their collection of local produce.

As a nature lover, what’s it like living on the Central Coast?

You nailed it, I love nature. All of it; its diversities, complexities, history and culture. The Coast has some amazing Aboriginal cultural sites that, with permission from the original custodians, we can visit to see over 800 documented, stencilled artworks. We also have a huge range of waterfalls, swimming holes, short bushwalks and lookouts that I love to visit regularly, both with the kids and friends to unplug and recharge.

The Central Coast has some incredible lookouts – which one has the best view?

Definitely Warrah Lookout, located along the Tony Doyle Track in Brisbane Water National Park. It’s an excellent day walk over a sandstone escarpment, through littoral rainforest, and down to The Boathouse at Patonga, via the beach for a swim of course.

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The Boathouse Hotel Patonga
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Bulgandry Aboriginal Rock Engraving Site

What is one of your favourite walking tracks on the Coast?

Three different sections of The Great North Walk pass by our front gate and I love taking groups along them. From the top of the Bumble Hill track you can walk all the way to Angel Sussuri’s café in Yarramalong. This downhill section explores the historic dray timber trail with scenic views right out to the Avoca headland. It’s best walked early morning, with the mist slowly rising.

What three unique outdoor adventures can you recommend for adventurous types?

  1. Hike the Emerald Pool circuit, also known as the Hominy Creek walking track in Popran National Park, which you can reach at the end of Ironbark Road in Mangrove Mountain
  2. Swim beneath a waterfall at Somersby Falls and enjoy lunch at the picnic area
  3. Banksia Picnic Area in Strickland State Forest is a stunning spot for short bushwalks and picnics, with views of Gosford and Brisbane Waters.

You're involved in several Central Coast festivals - which one are you most looking forward to?

The annual June long weekend Harvest Festival highlights local producers from Yarramalong, Kulnura, Mangrove Mountain, Peats Ridge, Somersby, Calga and Dooralong. To see the visitors meeting and supporting humble and proud mountain and valley folk showcasing their farms, attractions, work and produce fills my heart with joy. I love being part of a community that cares and supports each other, it’s good for the soul. Oh, and the tummy too!


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Harvest Festival, Little White Church Cafe, Photo By Sarah-Kate McAleer
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Harvest Festival, Mountain Growers Produce, Photo By Sarah-Kate McAleer