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A small, relaxed waterside suburb on the New South Wales Central Coast, Pretty Beach doesn’t actually have much of a beach at all. Hugging the shores of the Brisbane Water barrier estuary, Pretty Beach’s attractive, protected bay makes it a more popular place to moor (and launch) boats. However, there is a tidal ocean bath at the eastern side of the bay, opposite the local public school, for swimming. And the calm and secluded Lobster Beach, part of Bouddi National Park, is just a short walk southwest of the bay via a walking track accessed via High View Road. This trail links up with the 2.9-kilometre-return Flannel Flower Walking Track, named for the beautiful white flowers that bloom alongside the trail in spring. While there are no dining options in Pretty Beach, there are several cafes and restaurants in the neighbouring suburbs of Hardy’s Bay and Killcare.
Pretty Beach lies 105 kilometres (or about 90 minutes’ drive) north of Sydney. The closest train station is Woy Woy, on the Central Coast and Newcastle Line. From here you can take the number 59 bus to Pretty Beach, which takes around an hour. You can also opt to take the 53 bus to Ocean View Road, near Ettalong Wharf, and catch the ferry to Wagstaffe, which neighbours Pretty Bay, but ferries run less frequently than buses. The same ferry also runs to Sydney’s Palm Beach. While it is possible to get around this corner of the Central Coast easily enough by bus, you’ll be able to cover more ground, and access more areas of Bouddi National Park, with a car.
The Central Coast buzzes during the summer months, but if you don’t mind the chilly winter water, it’s possible to swim at its beaches year-round. The cooler months are ideal for exploring the walking trails of Bouddi National Park, particularly the 8.5-kilometre Bouddi Coastal Walk from Putty Beach to MacMasters Beach, which has a beautiful wildflower display in spring. A 40-minute drive northwest of Pretty Beach, Kariong’s Mount Penang Parklands plays host to the South Coast Food & Wine Festival every August, showcasing more than 100 food and wine vendors. Another hit with foodies, Ettalong sets the stage for the Brisbane Water Oyster Festival in November. Also in November is The Lakes Festival, a celebration of the Central Coast’s waterways, hosted at several hubs around the region.
Home to one of Australia’s first marine protected areas, significant Aboriginal sites, wildlife and wildflowers, and even an old paddle steamer wreck, Bouddi National Park is one of the most superb national parks in New South Wales, and it’s right on the doorstep of Pretty Beach. Leave your car at the Wards Hill car park, less than 10 minutes’ drive from Pretty Beach, and follow the Daleys Point Walking Track along a ridgeline to admire the sandstone engravings at the Daleys Point Aboriginal Site.
Get a taste of Sydney without hitting the road by taking a 30-minute ferry ride from Wagstaffe to Palm Beach, the city’s northernmost suburb. The ferry runs roughly every hour from early morning to early evening, with more services on weekdays. Palm Beach’s iconic surf beach lies within walking distance from the ferry wharf, with several lunch options close by.
Just five minutes’ drive from Pretty Beach, Killcare is one of the Central Coast’s favourite surf beaches. Popular with families, there’s a small rockpool at the southern end of the beach perfect for small children to splash around in. Lifeguards patrol the beach from September until April.