MYKAYLA CASTLE | REGULARS
For those of us fortunate or unfortunate enough to hail from the Central Coast, it’s an hour and a half car ride on the M1 or a one to two hour train ride into MQ that we have to look forward to. It has been known to be as long as three hours in bad weather – shout out to Sydney Rail for that. We’re easy enough to spot – friendly, but with a foot out the door of any compulsory class the instant it hits the hour, an eye on the clock and the Opal App, delighted to complain about the travel time to you privileged Sydney folk who don’t know how good you have it. For those of you curious about how the commuter crew lives outside of the multicultural melting pot of Sydney, here’s the rundown.
Where do people live? Though you could easily divide our suburbs into beach and not-beach, there’s as clear a hierarchy up here as there is between St Ives and Parramatta down there. Our equivalent of St Ives is the lovely and leafy fields of Matcham, where established families settle into large houses on beautiful properties and enjoy ‘the good life’ only five minutes from the Coast’s major shopping centre, Erina Fair. On the other end of the spectrum are our ‘up and coming’ suburbs – Wyoming, Woy Woy, Springfield, and Wyong, are the remnants of the Coast’s lower economic profile in action. As someone who’s lived in Springfield myself, I feel comfortable in saying that these suburbs are a little less ‘up’ and a little more ‘coming,’ with a respectful nod to whatever arsonist decided that my Council Clean Up was an excellent bonfire opportunity. However, most of our neighbourhoods are tucked away into the bush, with sprawling backyards and a generally peaceful atmosphere. Kids run about, dogs bark, and the general ruckus of life goes on.
Our crowning jewels are absolutely our beaches, our top three most popular being Wamberal, Avoca, and Terrigal. If you’re wondering why Wamberal sounds familiar to you, it may be due to it making the news last year when “freak storms” hit the shores and almost took out a whole row of beachfront homes – the ocean really took ‘eat the rich’ literally. The beach itself is the other side of Terrigal Beach, and has waves where Terrigal has none, making it the place to be for surfers. If you’re looking for peak beach-bum territory, this is it. You’ve made it. Avoca Beach is the quietest of the three, tucked away behind a headland and boasting a great fish and chip shop and a classic ‘beach-side town’ experience, albeit with fancier houses than most. The heart of the sun and sand life, Terrigal plays host not only to a collection of contemporary restaurants and a fantastic ice creamery, but also to the Crown Plaza, the most prominent luxury hotel on the Coast. Because I know you’re all alcoholics at heart, I’ll go right ahead and tell you that this is also where the majority of the Coast’s party population goes for a Sunday night out at a place locally known only as the Beery.
The truth of the Central Coast, though, is that it’s a very different place to Sydney. Most of us in the younger generation who’ve grown up on these beautiful shores and bushy hills are incredibly aware of the old world values of the place that we live in – a euphemism for both racism and charm, if you could believe the two coexist. It’s difficult to be proud of a place where one minute you’ve overheard someone comment about “those Asian people” moving up from Sydney, and the next you’re invited to Sunday lunch at their house. In the manner of small towns everywhere, the Central Coast manages to be incredibly welcoming and insular at the same time. Coasties move slower than city folk – it’s as true of our lifestyle as it is of our politics. But we do move.
A new park has just been opened on the prominent Gosford Waterfront, transforming a run down oval into a playspace that celebrates Indigenous culture in a way that has been altogether absent from the coast. Local councils and regional development corporations worked with the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council in the design process, actively creating a space that is inclusive, enjoyable, and community based. The Waterfront, and what takes up space along it, has long been a subject of local discussion, from high school persuasive writing to Facebook posts arguing for diverting the highway around the back of Gosford entirely, to bring back the natural beauty of the area. The blandly named Leagues Club Park is a small cog in the larger wheel of cultural change that people have been calling for, and loudly.
Another avenue of change is something you might already be peripherally aware of: the slow but steady move of Sydneysiders deciding to commute to their city job from a nicer (and cheaper) house up here. Let there be no mistake, there’s been grumbling about that. I find the majority of the nervousness surrounding the exodus of long term Sydney residents lies in the divide in values – the ways in which, in many ways, being more country than city actually appeals to a lot of people who live on the Coast.
The Coast is a comforting mix of endearingly derelict and increasingly modern. The roof of our single biggest shopping centre may still leak in the rain, but under it you’ll see more diversity than you did even only three years ago. Delicious new cuisine has begun to settle next to the old options, and Friday nights are suddenly full of possibility. This is a wheel that’s still turning, still settling and deciding, but it’s been in motion for as long as we’ve been alive. I, for one, intend to enjoy the ride.