A Bookish lit-inerary for the Central Coast

piles of colourful books
piles of colourful books
As the Central Coast hosts its annual seaside writers' festival, be inspired to bookend your weekends with lit locations all year round
Whether you're a book lover attending Words on the Waves in June, or an aspiring writer seeking out a secret cafe nook, here's how to explore our destination in the spirit of storytelling...

The Central Coast's own annual writers' festival, Words on the Waves, is once again coming to the Peninsula for its second year. Taking place across the first weekend of June, from Friday 3 to Monday 6, the major literary event will attract some of today's brightest creative minds in the region, collectively inspiring through the power of the written word.

"We are really proud of the calibre of authors we are bringing to the Coast, such as cinema icon Bryan Brown, trailblazing businesswoman Wendy McCarthy, Uluru Statement from the Heart campaigner Thomas Mayor, food critic and TV chef Matthew Evans, and many more. They hail from all corners of Australia, including Tasmania, Far North Queensland, Adelaide and Victoria; it's a big coup for our region." - Angela Bennetts

We shared some words with Festival Director, Angela Bennetts, who is surely the font of all local literary knowledge, and who kindly divulged her best recommendations on bookish locations across the Central Coast. Enjoy exploring at your own pace the Central Coast's network of book shops, public libraries, cosy cafes, local personalities and book groups.

But first, prologue to the festival that is firmly on the Coast's cultural calendar, and how you can get involved. As bestselling author Nikki Gemmell commented at Words on the Waves 2021: “This is the most beautiful literary festival in the world!”

words on the waves - ronnie kahn book signing
Image: Syl Marie Photography
Words on the Waves writers' festival
3-6 June 2022, Umina Beach

As a destination brimming with some amazing local stories, incredible creative talent, and captivating natural scenery - the Central Coast is the ideal location to host an emerging writers' festival.

And in 2021, two local publishing professionals, Jacqui Barton and Benny Aguis, spotted this potential from the moment they moved here, leading to the launch of the first Words on the Waves festival in Umina. Today, the annual lit fest by the sea is not to be missed by aspiring and established writers and artists who are keen to connect with fellow storytellers.

With limited tickets now available for Words on the Waves 2022, this is a chance for writers, readers, poets and lifelong bookworms from across New South Wales to bookend their coastal weekend escape. You can book onto with author talks, book signings, literary workshops, film screenings and childrens' programs. You can even experience 'words on the waves' literally - with a cruise experience available!

Each day features eight author talks and conversations, festival-goers can select which sessions they'd most like to attend as part of their Saturday 4 June Day Pass, Sunday 5 June Day Pass, or Weekend Pass. 

Writing Workshops are a great option for aspiring creatives or professionals, such as Bring Characters to Life with Kate Forsyth or Self-Publishing 101 with Darcy Coates, and The Novel Project with Graeme Simsion.

Check out the festival program here.

words on the waves nardi simpson speaking
Author & Yuwaalaraay Musician Nardi Simpson
Image: Syl Marie Photography
words on the waves guest ronnie kahn speaking
Ronni Kahn AO, Founder of OzHarvest
Image: Syl Marie Photography
words on the waves male speaker
Image: Syl Marie Photography
Bookend your coastal weekend
Book your tickets now

Margaret Pomeranz presents: Candy with Luke Davies @ Cinema Paradiso, Ettalong

Cinema screening of an Aussie classic, Candy, with conversation hosted by Festival Patron and Central Coast local Margaret Pomeranz AM, plus book signings with screenwriter and novelist Luke Davies.

An Evening with Hannah Kent @ Naughty Noodle Fun Haus

On Friday June 3, Umina welcomes a rare opportunity to meet one of Australia's bestselling fiction authors, Hannah Kent, at the Naughty Noodle Fun Haus stage. Hannah's much-loved book Burial Rites blitzed international charts and is now being made into a film starring Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence, and you can hear more about her latest book release, Devotion

Late Night Lit @ Bar Toto

Steep yourself in an evening of poetry, literary readings and other surprises with a delicious Bar Toto cocktail in hand. Settle into the old-world charm of Bar Toto, Ettalong’s neighbourhood trattoria for an evening of spoken word including poetry, literary readings and other surprises!

Local Book Launches @ Woy Woy Library and Bar Toto

A free community event designed to support local Central Coast authors. Emerging and established authors will introduce their publication to a larger audience, while you get the opportunity to discover new authors you may not have heard or read before. RSVPs are essential.

Words on the Water: A Literary Cruise @ Patonga Wharf

Witness words and ideas afloat in this memorable literary cruise up the Hawkesbury River with a coffee in hand, and alighting at The Sorrento pizzeria restaurant in Empire Bay. 

Family Fun Day! @ Umina Beach Public School

A jam-packed family-friendly day of circus, roaming magicians, face painting and storytelling featuring authors of the much-loved Bin Chicken books, Kate and Jol Temple, Roundabout Circus and Face Fiction.

bookface store front at erina fair
Image: Bookface, Erina Fair
Central Coast bookshops

The Book Shop - Umina - the original indie bookshop on Umina’s high street.

BOOKFACE - Erina Fair shopping centre's dedicated book shop, near Kmart and Rebel Sport.

Ruby’s Café and Books - Umina - grab a coffee or all-day brunch and browse inspiring books at the same time in this cute hub for lit-fans minutes from the beach.

Fairhaven Shopping Village - Point Clare - cute, old local community schoolhouse that hosts a good range of preloved books (it also has a plant nursery, toy shop, vintage and antiques room, homewares and fashion hubs!).

The Book Forest - Niagara Park - indie bookshop with a focus on the environment and wilderness writing.

JASMINE GREENS outdoor cafe
Image: Jasmine Greens Cafe, Umina
umina beach looking wintery
Image: Umina Beach, courtesy of Jasmine Greens
leafy cafe
Image: Bamboo Buddha, Holgate
Cosy spots to read on the Coast

The tea house at the Edogawa Japanese Gardens in Gosford Regional Gallery.

Hidden in nature at Bamboo Buddha in Holgate.  

Wander down the beach walk from Crackneck Lookout, with benches at the end to sit at.

Plop down a rug on the Woy Woy foreshore.

Bar Toto Ettalong cosied up with a cocktail.

Read a salty tale of the high seas on a Central Coast Ferries round trip.

Woy Woy Library Reading Room – a cute leafy courtyard.

Read a spot of Spike Milligan on the Spike Milligan bridge just outside Woy Woy on Brisbane Water. Spike  was a comedian who famously had a connection with the area dubbing it ‘God’s waiting room’.

Amid the Sculpture Trail at Mt Penang Gardens, near Kariong just off the M1 exit.

bar toto cocktail being created
Image: Bar Toto, Ettalong
Free little street libraries

Central Coast Council library services manage free libraries including Kibble Park, Gosford and Mingaletta Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Corp, Umina Beach Community Hall. But when exploring the region you may also spot a colourful and quirky network of 'Free Little Libraries' within Central Coast neighbourhoods, each run by passionate locals to simply share the love of reading.

A standout for Words on the Waves festival director, Angela Bennets, include this cutie in Horsfield Bay, with many more to explore including: 

  • Buff Point Book Exchange, 217 Buff Point Avenue
  • Chittaway Point - 261 Jeffrey Rd
  • Copacabana - Branga Book Swap, 54 Branga Avenue
  • Empire Bay - The Megadeath Library of Doom, built into a tree, Greenfield Rd
  • Ettalong Beach - Street Library literally in the sand!
  • Gorokan - Gorokan Preschool Community Library, Balmoral Drive
  • Gosford - Gosford Smart Work Hub, William Street
  • Gosford - Burns Place, Burns Crescent
  • Killcare Heights - Maitland Bay Street Library, 142 The Scenic Road
  • Kincumber - Kincumber Youth Centre, Kincumber Street
  • Long Jetty - Tree House Books, Cnr Neale and Bonnieview Streets
  • Narara - Callistemon Close Street Library
  • Ourimbah - Burns Rd Cafe, Burns Rd (Burns Road Cafe on site)
  • Pearl Beach - Jill’s Library, 6 Pearl Parade
  • Somersby - Peruch Avocado Farm, Wisemans Ferry Road (a very cute Hinterland road trip stop!)
  • Terrigal - Rotary Park, Terrigal Drive, near ParkLife Cafe
  • Toowoon Bay - Binburra book box, 4 Binburra Ave
  • Tuggerawong - YesterYear Hair Salon, Tuggerawong Road
  • Umina Beach - Books on the Green, Sydney Avenue, Peninsula Recreation Precinct, near Jasmine Greens Kiosk
  • Umina Beach - 'Timbertop Street Library' designed and built by biologists with a natural history theme
  • Wagstaffe - Book Nook Bus Stop
  • Watanobbi - Tilly’s street library, 62 Watanobbi Rd
Timbertop Street Library in horsfield bay
Image: Timbertop Street Library, Horsfield Bay
book library horsfield bay
Image: Street Library, Horsfield Bay
The Central Coast in books

The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Period drama set on the "hidden" Hawkesbury River during European settlement.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

Unnamed fictional coastal village, yet with Charlotte’s connections to the Central Coast it is very likely this is set in Killcare or the Hardys Bay area on the Bouddi Peninsula.


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