8 Top Dog-Friendly Walks on the Central Coast of NSW

No matter what type of walk that you’re looking to do with your dog, there’s a wide variety of dog-friendly walks to choose from on the Central Coast of NSW. From bush walks in the state forests and dog-friendly reserves to easy dog walks along the coastline and lakes, take your pick from these dog-friendly walks..

Dog-Friendly Walks Central Coast

#1 Arboretum Track, Strickland State Forest

Distance: 2.3km loop
Difficulty: Easy bush walk but often muddy
On-leash the entire length

The Central Coast is home to a number of national parks with great walks, that unfortunately are off limits to dogs. Instead, for dog-friendly bushwalks on the Central Coast, I recommend heading to the Strickland State Forest.

Dogs are welcome to visit this state forest with you, a 10 minute drive north of Gosford. Up until recently it was only required that dogs remained under your control in state forests, so they were often let off leash. However, recent guidelines state that dogs should stay on leash plus under your control.

Dog in Strickland State Forest
Hiking in the dog-friendly Strickland State Forest

One of the most popular walking tracks is the Arboretum Track. This 2.3km long dog-friendly hike passes through one of Australia’s oldest arboretums, a collection of native and exotic trees, including giant Australian Red Cedars, Bunya Pines and Hoop Pines. Along the way it also passes over a picturesque swinging bridge.

Dog-friendly Central Coast
The swinging bridge on the Arboretum Track

This walking track is relatively easy, though it can get very muddy after rain and leeches are a risk when damp. For a longer walk, you can also follow the 1.3km Bellbird Track that loops off this track, forming a total walk of around 3.6km. The track starts at the lower Stoney Creek car park.

#2 Strickland Falls Trail, Strickland State Forest

Distance: 1.6km return
Difficulty: Moderate bush walk
On-leash the entire length

The Strickland State Forest contains multiple walking tracks, most around 2km in length, although they can often be combined together to form longer walks. Another popular shorter walk in the forest is the Strickland Falls Trail.

This walk starts from carpark at the Banksia Picnic Area, in the upper part of the forest. It passes through a variety of landscapes, from heath on the clifftops to rainforest in the creek gully, as you descend to the falls. Note that this track is rated as moderate, as it’s not flat.

Strickland State Forest Walking Tracks Sign
The Strickland State Forest has multiple dog-friendly bush walks

The final road into the state forest is unsealed. Generally it’s fine for 2WD vehicles, but after heavy rain I’d advise skipping descending to the lower Stoney Creek Carpark, down the slope. However, the carpark at the Banksia Picnic Area, where this walk starts, is accessed along a relatively flat 1.5km road that is less likely to be impacted by rain.

#3 Norah Head Nature Trail, Norah Head

Distance: 1.6km return
Difficulty: Easy bush walk
On-leash the entire length

There’s no need to head inland to the state forest on the Central Coast to enjoy a dog-friendly hike through bushland with your dog. An excellent but easy short nature trail can be found at Norah Head, the Norah Head Nature Trail.

It’s possible to start this walk from two carparks – either the Norah Head Lighthouse carpark, which can be quite busy on sunny weekends, or the more extensive parking near Bush Street Reserve at the other end. Dogs are requested to be kept on leash.

Norah Head Nature Trail
The sign next to the Norah Head Lighthouse carpark

The well maintained 800m long walking track is an easy path to follow, with signs along the way pointing out the various plant species and the importance of various types of plants. There are also two whale watching platforms along the route – one in the middle of the trail, with a second at the Bush Street Reserve.

Whale Watching Platform at Norah Head Nature Trail
Looking for whales from the whale watching platform on the trail

Traditionally, a loop walk is completed by walking along the beach and rock platforms back up to Norah Head Lighthouse. However, dogs are prohibited from beaches on the Central Coast unless it’s designated as an off-leash beach, and I spotted at least one no dogs sign next to the main Norah Head Beach. Instead, I recommend retracing your footsteps.

However, no matter which end of the nature trail you start from, I recommend extending the walk by continuing down to Norah Head Lighthouse. This gleaming white structure is a beautiful sight, plus the headland offers great views of the surrounding coastline. It’s about an extra 300m walk in each direction down to the end of the reserve.

Norah Head Lighthouse
Don’t also miss the Norah Head Lighthouse

#4 Coast to Lake Walk, The Entrance

Distance: 7.6km return
Difficulty: Easy sealed path
On-leash the entire length

A popular longer walking track around The Entrance is the Coast to Lake Walk. This 7.6km long walking track is true to its name, looping past both the coastline and Tuggerah Lake, before cutting across the peninsula to join up.

Coast to Lake Walk Sign
The Coast to Lake Walk passing underneath the bridge at the Entrance

There are four main sections to the walk:

  • Section 1: A short easy section between Memorial Park and The Entrance Surf Club
  • Section 2: A difficult section over the beach and rocks between The Entrance Surf Club and Toowoon Bay Surf Club
  • Section 3: Following streets back across the peninsula, largely along Bay Road, Toowoon Bay Road and Archbold Road
  • Section 4: A longer easy section between The Long Jetty and Memorial Park

Considering dogs are not allowed along Section 2 and Section 3 isn’t that interesting, I recommend if walking the route with a dog that you just walk Sections 1 and 4, then return by the same route. This flat easy dog walk is about 3.8km in each direction, and will take about 2.5 hours return. There’s signage and maps along the way.

Coast to Lake Way at The Entrance
The flat easy path in Section 1 past The Entrance

Up until 2020, pelicans were fed each day at 3:30pm next to Memorial Park, along the route of the walk. A new more eco-friendly experience is currently being developed, but you can still see plenty of pelicans as they gather at the traditional feeding time each afternoon. Make sure you keep your dog away from the pelicans, and on-leash along the entire route.

Pelicans at the Entrance
Pelicans at The Entrance

#5 The Long Jetty, Long Jetty

Distance: 700m return
Difficulty: Easy boardwalk
On-leash the entire length

The suburb of Long Jetty is named after the long jetty that sticks out into Tuggerah Lake from the suburb. Initially built in 1914, but rebuilt after a storm in the 1927, the jetty actually predates the suburb.

Walking on Long Jetty
The long jetty after which Long Jetty was named

The long jetty is actually one of three jetties along this stretch of Tuggerah Lake, but it’s still the longest, at 1152 feet long, or 351m. It’s a fun spot to walk your dog, either as an addition to the Coast to Lake Walk, or just as a standalone walk. Although it would be nicer without the westerly wind on the day we visited!

Long Jetty with Dog
You can walk along the long jetty with your dog

There’s easy parking and facilities next to the long jetty, including picnic shelters and wooden sun loungers. Plus there’s a toilet block covered in an interesting mural about the history of the jetty and the surrounding area.

#6 Terrigal Haven Walk

Distance: 3.2km return
Difficulty: Moderate, boardwalk and sealed path, but easy if you skip the Skillion
On-leash except for one section

In 2021, a beautiful 200m long boardwalk was completed linking Terrigal Beach and Terrigal Haven, jutting out in front of the cliffs. Luckily, dogs are allowed to join you along the boardwalk, which links together the sections of this great dog-friendly coastal walk in Terrigal.

Terrigal Boardwalk with Dog
Taking in the view from the Terrigal Boardwalk

Start anywhere along Terrigal Beach – such as the promenade that starts at the northern end of the Esplanade, opposite Painters Lane. Then follow the promenade down to the Boardwalk, and loop out around the cliffs to the Haven.

Walking on Terrigal Boardwalk with Dog
The Terrigal Boardwalk links Terrigal Beach and the Haven

Follow the footpath past the boat ramp and the carpark up around Terrigal Haven. A wide section of the grassy lawn on the hill side has been designated as an off-leash dog park, so you can let your dog off leash. Just be mindful of the boundaries considering it’s not fenced and that there is a carpark nearby.

If you don’t walk to climb the Skillion, I recommend ending at the lookout opposite. Otherwise, continue on the footpath past to the parked cars (with your dog back on a leash) and then follow the stairs up the Skillion. It’s quite a climb, but the view from the top is excellent. Look out for whales during the migration season.

Terrigal Haven Lookout
The view of the Skillion from the lookout opposite

Then retrace your footsteps to Terrigal Beach. It’s also possible to complete this route starting at Terrigal Haven, either starting or ending with the Skillion, thanks to the large carparks making this an easier spot to park.

#7 Copacabana to Macmasters Beach Walk

Distance: 1.5km return
Difficulty: Easy beach walk
Off-leash once your reach the beach

One of the off-leash dog beaches on the Central Coast is located in between Copacabana Beach and Macmasters Beach. This long stretch of off-leash sand is a great spot for an off-leash walk with your dog.

Copacabana Beach Walking with Dog
Enjoy an off-leash walk along Copacabana and Macmasters Beaches

The off-leash section of beach starts midway along Copacabana Beach, south of the patrolled section, at the access point roughly opposite 230 Del Monte Place. It then continues south to about midway along Macmasters Beach, again stopping well before the patrolled section.

The off-leash stretch of beach is about 750m long, making for a decent length walk, which is best of all off-leash. In between the two beaches is the mouth of Cockrone Lagoon. Dogs commonly enjoy a paddle in the lagoon, but be wary of pollution after rain. Dogs are also not allowed in the area surrounding the lagoon away from the beach.

Lagoon next to Macmaster Beach
Cockrone Lagoon next to Macmasters Beach

#8 The Pines Walking Track, Olney State Forest, near Morisset

Distance: 1.7km loop
Difficulty: Easy bush walk
On-leash the entire length

Another state forest with walking tracks that’s close to the Central Coast is the Olney State Forest. It’s about a 40 minute drive northwest from Tuggerah, turning off the freeway at Morriset.

This state forest also has an unsealed access road, which is generally kept in fairly good condition and is fine for 2WD vehicles. However, if you have a 2WD vehicle, skip it after heavy rain or if you don’t like driving on unsealed roads.

A great dog-friendly bush walk is the Pines Walking Track. The track starts from the Pines Picnic Area (not the nearby Pines Campground). The 1.7km long track follows Dora Creek, meandering through pockets of moist eucalypt forests and rainforest, along the way passing a lovely rock pool. Allow about 45 minutes for the walk.

Note that the longer Abbotts Falls Walking Track nearby is not fully dog-friendly, as a section of the track along German Point Road crosses into the adjacent Watagans National Park, where pet dogs are not allowed.

You May Also Like

About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

Leave a Comment