• Sam Wilson

Top 8 Locations to Capture Sunrise On the Central Coast

Find Your Perfect Sunrise Spot On The Central Coast

It’s no secret that the best time for photography is either sunrise or sunset, especially when we’re talking seascapes which we are spoiled with here on the Central Coast, NSW.

Avoca Beach NSW, Rockshelf overlooking the ocean with the clouds reflected in the rock pools. 2 fishermen also enjoying the view
Avoca Beach Rock Shelf - One Of The Many Compositions To Be Had In This Amazing Location

The Central Coast is located just over an hour north of Sydney and is quite a big area, so you'll need more than a weekend to capture all these beauties at sunrise. Once is never enough!

Map showing the size and locations of Central Coast, NSW
Map image courtesy of https://www.centralcoastaustralia.com.au//

Being on the east coast of the country, sunrise really does give the best opportunity for capturing those beautiful colours as the sun pops its head over the horizon.

For me the best time of year for this (apart from the cooler weather) is autumn and winter - the light can be softer, and the sun also rises a bit later at this time - bonus is there’s no daylight savings. It’s much better arriving at a location at 6am instead of 5am!

Now to the best spots to capture all this gorgeousness. You really can’t go wrong, but here are my top 8 - they are listed in alphabetical order just to be fair as they are all stunning!

1 - Avoca Beach

2 - Forresters Beach

3 - Koolewong - ok, so this isn’t a beach but it is a beautiful body of water

4 - Macmasters Beach

5 - Norah Head

6 - Spoon Bay

7 - Terrigal

8 - Umina Point

Avoca Beach

Equally popular with surfers, fishers and photographers, Avoca Beach always has something going on - even before dawn. This can be accessed at most tides, however to be avoided in big swells and rock shoes I would say are essential.

Simply park in the surf club carpark, head right along the pathway in front of the surf club and before long you’ll be surrounded by compositions to photograph.

This is a relatively short walk from the car and best of all coffee is available right there. There's also a few nice cafes for post sunrise breakfast right there - just put your gear back in the car and it’s coffee time!

Avoca may be first alphabetically but I also have to say if you only have time to get to one on your (first) visit - this has to be number one!

Avoca Beach Location Information

Parking and access - Avoca Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. Easy to find a space for sunrise but gets very busy during the day. Short walk in front of the surf club to the right.

Features - beach rock pool, rock ledges, headland and waves

Best conditions - accessible most times but show caution at high tide and rough seas

Nearest coffee and breakfast - at the surf club itself and Sands Cafe at the end of the carpark.

Forresters Beach

This is a fairly quiet location, and it can be a bit of a trek walking on the sand (my least favourite walking surface), but well worth it. You will usually only come across locals, especially at sunrise - and plenty of 4-legged doggos as well enjoying their morning outing.

Located in between The Entrance and Terrigal it is a fairly central location, and also popular with local surfers because of the reef breaks.

Forresters Beach Location Information

Parking and access - end of Crystal street, Forresters beach. Stairs down to the beach, then can go right or left - most favour heading right to the interesting rock platforms.

Features - beach, rock platform and green rocks depending on the time of year.

Best conditions - low tide

Nearest coffee and breakfast - di Matteos, Forresters Beach


Koolewong is the only location on this list that isn’t a beach so that alone makes it special. Located at the south end of the Central Coast it is home to a beautiful marina and restaurant (not for breakfast unfortunately), it is also nearby to an oyster shack that is popular with local photographers.

Koolewong Location Information

Parking and access - Koolewong Marina. Oyster shack is about 100m right from here. Limited parking in car park (around 6 cars). Not an issue early morning but can get busy once the restaurant is open.

Features - Boats, Marina and oyster shack

Best Conditions - higher tide, and to capture beautiful reflections, a calm morning

Nearest coffee and breakfast - Hardwicks on Blackwall, Woy Woy

MacMasters Beach

This is a lovely quiet location tucked away from the hustle and bustle of some of the busier suburbs on the Central Coast. and another very short walk from the car and best/safest at lower tides. There is however, no coffee close by so it's BYO.

The pool is quite popular with local swimmers but it can be nice to have a strategically placed person in your shot sometimes.

MacMasters Beach Location Information

Parking and access - MacMasters Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. Limited parking at any time.

Features - Rock pool, beach, headland

Best Conditions - low to medium tide.

Nearest coffee and breakfast - At the surf club but need to check opening times as these are seasonal. Less than a 5 minute drive away is Looloo’s Coffee Shack, MacMasters Beach.

Norah Head Lighthouse

This is an active lighthouse and you can also book it to stay in the keepers quarters.

A very popular tourist location for good reason but at dawn it's usually once again only fishers and photographers. You can shoot from up the top as in this photo or head down the steps to the beach and rocks for a plethora of compositions.

I noticed a coffee van there when I last visited but I couldn’t see the opening times (not when I was there unfortunately). Luckily there are a few cafes less than a 10min drive away in Noraville and Toukley.

Norah Head Location Information

Parking and access - Norah Head Lighthouse car park. Plenty of parking early mornings.

Features - Lighthouse from the top. Head down the stairs and left for rock shelf, formations and beach

Best Conditions - Most tides but check for swell if heading to the rock shelf.

Nearest coffee and breakfast - Surfside Snax, Soldiers Beach or The Local Brew, Noraville

Spoon Bay

Spoon Bay is located within the Wamberal Lagoon Nature Reserve and is not very well known outside the locals. It's really popular for beach walks and swimming, but be careful as it’s quite notorious for rips.

Spoon Bay Location Information

Parking and access - The end of Spoon Bay Road, Forresters Beach. Stairs to beach then head left to the headland

Features - Beach, rocks, rockshelf

Best Conditions - Low to medium tide

Nearest coffee and breakfast - di Matteos, Forresters Beach


Terrigal is probably the most well known suburb to visitors from Sydney.

It is full of accommodation options, cafes, restaurants and retail therapy, so could be a good place to base yourself if visiting overnight or longer.

It really depends where in Terrigal you want to shoot to know which tide is better and whether rock shoes are needed - this is where planning in advance comes in. The one constant is there's always coffee at hand anywhere here!

Terrigal Location Information

Parking and access - Varies - either the skillion, the Haven or the Surf Club. All can be busy at most times.

Features - Beach, the Skillion, rock shelf and formations at both the Skillion and the Haven

Best Conditions - All depending on tides.

Nearest coffee and breakfast - Bellyfish (near the surf club) or The Cove (near the Haven and the Skillion)

Umina Point

Umina is a busy coastal village at the southern end of the Central Coast. It is a popular destination for visitors and is less than an hour and a half from Sydney.

This is the suburb I grew up in yet I have only ever photographed twice. The first time was my very first sunrise when I started photography and the second was only a few weeks ago. It is a very easy walk from the car and depending on the tide whether you shoot from the sand or put your rock shoes on and head around the rockshelf.

This is also an off-leash area for dogs so to be noted if you're not comfortable with this.

Umina Point Location Information

Parking and access - Corner of Berrima Cres & Mount Ettalong Rd, Umina. Small carpark with around a dozen parking spaces.

Features - beach, rock formations, headland.

Best Conditions - accessible at all tides but only low tide to access rocks around the point.

Nearest coffee and breakfast - Ruby’s Cafe & Books, Umina

BONUS Location - Catherine Hill Bay

Now technically this is not actually on the Central Coast (by about 3km) but is definitely worth an honourable mention (and us Coasties would love to claim it as our own.

Catherine Hill Bay is an old mining village that is heritage listed and home to a disused coal loading jetty that is more than photo worthy.

Named after a ship called the Catherine Hill which ran aground here in the 1800's, this jetty was used to take coal to Sydney in the 19th and 20th centuries. There aren’t any shops or restaurants here, just the local Catho pub that is open for lunch and dinner. Very much worth a visit.

Catherine Hill Bay Location Information

Parking and access - Catherine Hill Bay Surf Lifesaving Club - plenty of parking.

Features - beach, rocks, jetty.

Best Conditions - definitely low tide only

Nearest coffee and breakfast - Swansea (10 minutes towards Newcastle) or Budgewoi (15 minutes towards Sydney).

For tips on how to plan your sunrise photography you can download my free checklist here

To improve your sunrise photography, this article has my top 5 tips including camera settings - you can read it here

That’s it for now - Keep clicking and stay caffeinated

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Note - This post does not contain any sponsored or affiliated links. All suggestions and opinions are mine. Unless otherwise stated, all photos are mine and remain my copyright images - Sam Wilson Photography.

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