Top NSW Central Coast beaches guide

couple striding on sand with surfboards
couple striding on sand with surfboards
From Patonga to Lake Munmorah each Central Coast beach is unique, uncrowded and undeveloped, many lined by wild national parks, panoramic lookouts or chic beachfront dining. So, where will you set your towel down next...

One of our favourite facts about the Central Coast of New South Wales, is that we proudly have four times the coastline of Sydney Harbour. Now that’s a lot of beaches, in fact we've got 40 of them.

If you’re seeking to explore more of our stunning coastal region of New South Wales, we thought you might appreciate a little guidance on where is the best sand to plant your feet in. This is the ultimate tour through some of the best beaches to visit on the Central Coast.

This article will continuously grow to feature profiles on the 40+ beaches across the entire Central Coast (so definitely one to bookmark for reference), but for now we’ve highlighted the best, most popular surf and sand for locals and tourists alike.

Avoca Beach

Avoca Beach is a major Central Coast holiday and surfing area. It's situated among a residential coastline of wooded hills, beaches and lakes. Avoca Beach on the Central Coast features rocky headlands at each end of a long, golden beach. Popular as a holiday destination, especially for families, it has a vibrant surf culture and a relaxed and friendly ambience. There are lots of things to do, including fishing, beach walking, exploring the nearby parks and headlands, and simply relaxing in a quiet place.

Budgewoi Beach

Budgewoi Beach is situated at the northern end of the Central Coast and is the perfect location for those long morning or afternoon walks. Looking south will provide stunning views of Norah Head Lighthouse and northeast views of Bird Island. Dogs will love Budgewoi Beach too, the dog off-leash area runs from Budgewoi Beach Southern Car Park to Ocean Street.

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach provides a quiet and tranquil setting for the family. Copacabana features a whale viewing platform. During the winter months between late May and early August, the Humpback Whale can sometimes be seen migrating to the warmer waters of the Central Coast region. The whales often come quite close to the coastline due to the northerly currents at this time of year.

Maitland Bay

Not accessible by car, but only on foot, this is a true undiscovered gem of the Central Coast beaches portfolio. Maitland Bay is of course a beach, which captures the attention of many photographers due to its Whitsunday-esque appeal. Unspoilt by development, protected by surrounding national park, Maitland Bay is a one of the best beaches the region has to offer. If you visit, take water, food and covered clothing, and leave only footprints.

Norah Head and the Rockpool

Norah Head rockpool is a safe, scenic spot for a calm swim – from here, walk to the base of Norah Head Lighthouse and discover the rock platforms and private beaches along the way, such as Nimbin Beach, which if the name is anything to go by is super-chilled.

Pearl Beach

A hidden gem of the Central Coast, frequented by Sydneysiders and loved dearly by locals. The beach is divided into a calm, southern section with a lap swimming ocean pool, café, restaurant and kid’s play area. The northern end is the exposed stretch, with fantastic rock shelves and views, but is not recommended for swimming, especially with families.

Putty Beach

A favourite starting spot for the Bouddi Coastal Walk, were there is also a campground, parking, free barbecues, and public amenities. The beach itself is beautiful and paradisiacal, with views across to the Northern Beaches, plus signage directing enthusiastic hikers on their way north to complete their portion of the 8km Bouddi Coastal trail to Macmasters Beach. If it’s a hot day, best to just explore a few kilometres of the hike and then sett up picnic on the beach and cool off with a paddle instead.

Terrigal Beach and Terrigal Haven

One of the best-known beaches on the Central Coast, Terrigal Beach is a cosmopolitan seaside town, as popular with locals as it is with visitors. The beach offers safe swimming and has a small ocean rock pool tucked into the cliff at the southern end. Also, at the southern end of Terrigal Beach is Terrigal Haven, a protected boat harbour with boat ramp, fishing charters, scuba diving and snorkelling, picnic and barbecue facilities.

Umina & Ocean Beach

Umina Beach and Ocean Beach on the Central Coast share their shores and easily connect to Ettalong Beach via an Esplanade, located in The Peninsula area of the Central Coast. With the protection of Broken Bay, you will enjoy theses flat few kilometres of golden sand - the perfect combination of an ocean beach with views across the water, plus the safety of an inland waterway, which is great for family-friendly swimming. This is also a dog-friendly beach so you can bring your furry buddy with you to enjoy the waves.


Take your pick of the Central Coast’s 15 patrolled beaches

All up, there are 15 beaches across the region that will be patrolled every day from the October school holidays each year through to Anzac Day on 25 April. During the busy Christmas and New Year period, that rises to 16, with Budgewoi Beach also patrolled. 

Check out our essential guide to swimming safely at Central Coast beaches for more info.


Best spots to surf on the Central Coast

Ideal patrolled beaches on the Central Coast to catch a great set include Avoca Beach, Soldiers Beach and Shelly Beach. These are all popular haunts for beginner to skilled surfers, with excellent vantage points for visitors to watch. Other popular seaside villages with a great surfie culture, vantage points and optimum spots to grab a bite include Toowoon Bay, Umina Beach, Copacabana Beach and Macmasters Beach.

Watch this space...

We're currently creating the ultimate digital guide to help you explore all of the Central Coast's best beaches - this resource will be constantly evolving to feature the cafe's, shops, restaurants and hidden gems each beachside burb offers. For now, jump over to our Neighbourhood Guides for some great local beachside locations and their surrounding areas to explore.


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Stay beach safe in National Parks

Planning to take a dip in a national park beach? It’s important to remember that many popular Central Coast beaches are remote and unpatrolled, such as Maitland Bay, Frazer Beach and Pearl Beach, with limited mobile reception. Before you get into the water, remember these tips:

Draw a line in the sand – 

  • Stop, don’t rush in, check for rips;
  • Look for other hazards like waves, changing water depth and rocks; 
  • Plan - have a plan in place in case something goes wrong.

Remember the safest place to swim is always at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags.

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