The national parks of NSW’s Central Coast have countless trails, tracks and exercise delights tucked away, under two hours drive from Sydney. They challenge your strength, test your stamina and command your sweat. Nature’s gym offers you a mind and body workout like no other. But there is often debate, among locals and visitors alike, as to which trail demands the greatest toll, or offers the richest rewards. Here are some favourites…

  • Wyrrabalong National Park

     

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    It is home to two stretches of national park that offer an opportunity to stretch your legs and strengthen your endurance, with trails that will appeal to every runner. There are two testing tracks to get your workout on:

    The northern arm of Wyrrabalong National Park, starting at Burrawang Picnic area (heading north from The Entrance) is home to the 3.4km Red Gum trail (but note this loops includes the Burrawang track). Your thighs and glutes yelling ‘burn baby burn’ as each footstep sinks slightly in the undulating soft sandy path, carpeted in gum leaves until you reach the vantage point that looks out over Tuggerah Lakes. For an extra challenge you can always add in a ‘littoral’ rainforest experience by joining the 3.5km Lillypilly Loop trail, which is signposted just before you complete the Red gum trail.

    If you’re running along the trails, remember there are others who maybe sharing the tracks with you. So take care.

     

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    The southern counterpart of Wyrrabalong National Park  starts at Bateau Bay beach with the 3km Coast walking track. (aka as The Coast Track). The Coast walking track winds continuously upwards to the precariously named Crackneck lookout (1.8km), one of the Central Coast’s premier whale watching sites, and then beyond to what locals colloquially call the ‘Forrie’s Tower’. This stretch of paradise could make you think you’re on a tropical isle when peaking over the cliffs at the turquoise water.

    Wild about whales: between May and August and you may just be rewarded with views of whales swimming past on their northern migration.

  • Bouddi National Park

     

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    The ever popular Bouddi coastal walk, Bouddi National Park, is a thorough strength and endurance run session, starting at Putty Beach and looping to the mysterious Maitland Bay (6km round trip) or completing the full track to MacMasters Beach (8.2km one way). The variety of surfaces, from natural steps to boardwalk will have you testing your focus and agility as you remind yourself to look where you’re going as you listen to crash and roar of the expansive Pacific Ocean.

     

     

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    Your curiosity may add some spice to your hike or run as you come across hidden bays that make the perfect high-intensity workout of racing down and climbing back up to continue the trail. This is one of the Central Coast’s most popular trails, so get up with the sun for the ‘ah, the serenity’ feels, and to avoid crowds in your Instagram posts, unless of course they are crowds of the cheeky fairy wren birds, migrating humpbacks or elusive echidnas!

    Ranger Tip: The best time to visit is in the cooler months – Autumn and Spring when there’s a high chance you’ll have the tracks to yourself. 

  • Brisbane Water National Park

     

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    The challenging 4km Piles Creek LoopBrisbane Water National Park  will have your heart rate soaring and your muscles burning as you’re guaranteed a workout no gym could offer. Whether you hike or run this trail, you are sure to get some intense exercise. The pure joy of wobbling across the suspension bridge mid-run encapsulates the essence of adventure, and envy-worth insta-posts.

     

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    Piles Creek Loop also features the ever-trickling Piles Creek waterfall, which you can snap from some perfect spots. Once looking from above to the sheer 30m drop and again looking back towards it when you reach Bundilla lookout, further along the track. Steep steps carved into rocks assure you a sweaty ascent. Remember, all strenuous exercise requires adequate refuelling and recovery, so make sure you pack lots of food and drink to enjoy the free gas BBQs at the Girrakool picnic area.

    Ranger note: You will have to deviate slightly from Piles Creek Loop track to get to Piles Creek waterfall (0.27km) and Bundilla Look Out (0.3km).

Whether you’re chasing the whale migration, traversing caves, rock hopping or running along sandy paths the normal ‘runners high’ you get will be magnified tenfold when running in one of NSW Central Coast’s national parks. Everytime you set foot on one of these tracks a new adventure begins. No additional motivation required, nature provides the ultimate running spring-in-your-step. The unique and diverse challenges (and amazing sights) each park serves up will test your limits and offer rewards beyond pounding the pavement or the loathed treadmill.