Terrigal. One of the most overrated spots on the Central Coast in my opinion. Now that’s not to say there isn’t a good reason that tourists and locals alike flock to the beachside town at the merest hint of sunshine. And it isn’t to say that I don’t venture out to see what all the fuss is about on the odd occasion.
My 17-year-old daughter was starting work early, so to save her an extra hour travelling on a bus, I offered to drive her to work. Figuring I may as well pick a picturesque track I haven’t set foot on for quite some time for my morning walk while I was out, I settled on going the long way home via Terrigal.
I parked well away from the beach near the Marine Discovery Centre on Terrigal Drive and set out towards Terrigal Beach. My aim for the day was not so much to walk as far as I could, but to enjoy the journey getting to The Skillion. In my memory, The Skillion was a considerable amount of huffing and puffing up a short but steep slope, followed by a view that made each huff and puff worth it.
I wandered through the beautifully maintained Terrigal Lagoon Reserve, to the banks of the Lagoon. Ripples abounded on the surface of the water as fish darted away on my approach. It struck me just how beautifully the local Lion’s Club keep this area, it would be a lovely spot for a picnic or barbeque on a sunny day. The barbeques were spotless and there are public toilets just across the road next to a well-fenced playground.
Continuing on along Terrigal Drive, my walk treated me to an unspoilt view of the beach over twisting floral vines winding their way through trees and fencing without regard to which side they belonged on. In the distance surfers and paddle boarders enjoyed the calm of the morning.
The barrier between road and footpath was decorated with ‘dot paintings’ by talented artists from the local schools. (And I don’t mean that in the indulgent manner of a parent proud talking to neighbours about their four-year-old’s finger painting, these are actually lovely works of art.)
As I neared the main swimming beach, I remembered why I tend to avoid the area. Even on a cloudy day like today, with rain forecast for the afternoon, I ended up sandwiched between people trying to walk dogs, jog and stroll along the walking path. As two dog walkers passed by me on either side going opposite directions, I was forced to turn sideways to fit between them as neither were mindful of other people sharing the footpath. I started to wonder if there was room in Terrigal for me and my anxiety disorder.
Playing a ‘lalalala I can’t hear you’ game in my head to distract myself from the crowded walkway, I zoned in on the sights and scents of the beach. Making use of one of the dozens of benches along the of walking tracks, I sat and forgot where I was for a moment. The smell of salt and seaweed deliciously permeated the gentle breeze, lending an air of ‘childhood holidays’ to my walk. Feeling buoyed and carefree again, I set off down the hill.
Terrigal itself is a town of slightly fewer than 11,000 people, with this number swelling exponentially during the summer holiday months as tourists descend upon it en mass. Bordered by the less popular, but every bit as beautiful, towns of Wamberal and Avoca, Terrigal’s beachside car parks were filled to capacity by 8:45 am the day I was there. Every cafe overflowing with people. I knew if I travelled five minutes down the coast in either direction, the parking would be plentiful and cafes just as good.
Sticking to the beachside walking track, I was shepherded past the Surf Life Saving Club. The sheer volume of people I had walked past sipping lattes in the alfresco seating of the eleventy million cafes that lined the streets was reminiscent of Sydney‘s Northern Beaches.
I had entered Northern Beaches Lite, if you will.
Once past the surf club, the crowds dispersed. There were still people here outside the gargantuan Crown Plaza, but with coffee less plentiful and steep hills looming, this end of the coastal track was not for the faint of heart or fully of belly. Here, personal trainers waited for willing victims and there was a sharp increase in lycra clad butts.
Rather than tackling the hill straight away, I veered off towards a beautiful tidal pool nestled in the morning shade of the craggy rock face. This semi-sheltered swimming pool looked to be the perfect place to sit and watch the world drift by across the bay. The path ended here, but there were rocks to explore.
The rocky protrusion did not go far, but it appeared to be the perfect place to stop and appreciate the beauty around me.
Perched on the edge of a rocky outcrop, dappled with waterworn patterns and swirling ochre coloured layers, I soaked in the rare moment of March sunshine. The waves crashed without disturbing the sand below, leaving the turquoise waters of the Pacific crystal clear. I could certainly understand what had prompted hundreds of other people to wake up and decide to head like Disney-style lemmings to Terrigal Beach this morning.
After soaking up the golden rays and leaving the stresses of a particularly crappy work week behind in the birdsong and thunderous wavescape, I left this moment of bliss behind to make my way to The Skillion. I was going to earn my brunch this morning.
Approaching The Haven, the number of people increased. But still, compared to the throngs at Terrigal Beach, this was pleasant. As I continued to smile at those I passed, it really stood out that only one other walker had initiated a ‘good morning’ thus far. On my, less affluent, side of the coast, at least 80 percent of people greet you as you share a moment’s lakeside peace before beginning your assault on the day. I put that down to a tourist issue rather than a locals issue, I could see community groups out in force working together happily.
The care with which the council and community groups maintain their town almost harkens back to the days before the Internet when we all cared about each other and trolls only lived under bridges. Water bottle refill stations, bins, bbqs and freshly mown lawns were everywhere I looked.
And there it was.
The Skillion has a checkered past, much like The Gap at Sydney’s South Head. Signs for Lifeline and heart rending memorials to loved ones speak of the sadness and loss this beautiful place has seen.
Oddly enough, people on this side of the hill seemed friendlier. Dogs bounded around and strangers chatted to each other amicably. As I commenced my ascent, I passed a few light hearted remarks with two young girls who overtook me as they encouraged each other to the top.
Since I staggered to the trig point last, which was admittedly several years ago, steps had been put in making the climb much easier than trekking up the grassy incline. The lines in the stone steps a mirror of the sedimentary layers in the cliff face.
A few minutes later, I happened upon the same girls. One on the ground, struggling to breathe. Long story short here, I kept her calm as she struggled to regain her breath. I wouldn’t say I’m a hero. But I save lives. It’s what I do.
Bring your puffer if you need one and a bottle of water. The Skillion is short but steep. This girl had jogged up it many times before and until now, never experienced a problem. Be prepared.
The climb to the top of the Skillion was not nearly as gruelling as I remember, but the views were definitely every bit as breathtaking as I recalled. Everywhere I looked was ocean decorated with cresting waves, jagged coastline and lagoons tucked in behind houses and trees.
Triumphant I turned to descend back down to The Haven. On hotter, summer days the grass is littered with young people hurling themselves down the slope on makeshift waterslides, beer in hand. Aussies are great (and a little dangerous) like that.
The Haven, a public area for sports, events, fishing, boating, barbecuing and dining, is ringed by a well-maintained walking track that hugs the breathtaking coastline. Dogs played happily in on the parklands set aside for them and I couldn’t help but smile watching one spaniel that couldn’t get enough of the mud puddle he had found.
As I completed my loop of The Haven, the clouds began to roll in in earnest. I wondered if I would be able to have my planned brunch given that I had opted to save myself the teeth-grinding process of finding a park near the cafés. Going back to the car and navigating the one-way nightmare that is Terrigal’s esplanade to secure a closer park did not sound ideal.
Meandering past boutique shops and cafes I decided to risk it. An omelette had my name on it and it was worth risking a short walk in the rain for. I found a restaurant with available seating and made myself comfortable. After eating my fill of a delicious, healthy omelette, I left The Hungry Wolf sated, happy and, quite surprisingly, not in a torrential downpour.
All in all, it was a beautiful morning and I would highly encourage anyone who hasn’t been to Terrigal to visit. It is crowded compared to most other places on the Coast, but there is a good reason for that. Be aware that parking near Terrigal Beach is at a premium, but a couple of blocks back there is a multi-storey car park. The beach is patrolled and pleasantly seaweed free in most places, and the sheltered nature of the lagoon makes it the ideal place to canoe, paddle board or hire a pedalo.