Faraway on the Italian Riviera, a picturesque walking trail connects the famous Cinque Terre (Five Lands). The five villages that make up the area of Cinque Terre and the Sentiero Azzurro (Light Blue Trail), which links them, were the inspiration for the Central Coast’s biggest winter draw card, the 5 Lands Walk.
Blessed with our own beautiful coastline, distinct seaside villages, and rich indigenous and multicultural communities, idea and location were a perfect fit for this event that links our people with our cultural history in our beautiful surroundings.
The five lands begin at MacMasters Beach and head north through Copacabana, Avoca Beach, North Avoca, and end in Terrigal. Each stage of the walk presents visitors with a vibrant range of activities, entertainment, exhibitions and food that all celebrate our diversity.
This is a community-based event that began with the aim of connecting locals with their land and with each other. Since its inception in 2006, the 5 Lands Walk has grown in popularity and is now a major addition to the Coast’s tourism industry.
The 5 Lands Walk is a cultural, physical and spiritual event. It’s guaranteed to be a fun day and it’s completely free to take part. Especially poignant this year, as the Walk falls on Saturday 21st June, the Winter Solstice, and in part celebrates the coming of warmer, longer days.
The Walk is a string of five festivals gathered around the surf clubs – the hub of many coastal communities. Each festival includes cultural displays, Aboriginal ceremonies, music, art and food, all against the backdrop of our stunning local scenery. Children play a particularly important role in the 5 Lands Walk with local schools involved in performing and exhibiting. It’s also a great opportunity to gather you own ‘clan’ together for family-friendly activities and attractions that will be dotted along our wonderful coastline. The 10km route follows beaches, headlands, bush tracks and back roads, taking in spectacular scenery. Each leg of the walk is hosted by the local village and includes a distinct cultural group from the Coast, as well as the involvement of our traditional landowners, the Darkinjung people.
The day begins at MacMasters Beach Surf Club with a free breakfast shortly after 7am. Surf clubs provide important focal points for these coastal villages; a place to gather as a community, as well as play an important safety role for locals and visitors to the beaches. The Macs Beach club is located on an important meeting place for the Darkinjung people, so it’s a fitting place to host the opening ceremony and Welcome to Country. The Macs community also honours its Scottish roots as well as hosting the Coast’s Greek community.
After breakfast, make a visit to the photography exhibition that features images entered in the hotly contested photographic competition, held in the run-up to the Walk. Stroll around the exhibition from 7.30am in the surf club. Make sure you’re done before 9.00am so you can witness the official opening and follow the Macs Beach bagpiper north along the glowing morning sand. Remember the camera!
A short stroll along MacMasters Beach, past Cockrone Lagoon, brings you to the community of Copacabana. Early in European settlement the area was known by the Aboriginal word Tudibaring meaning, “where the waves pound like a beating heart”; an apt name for a place known for its crashing surf. In a mid-century developer flight of fancy, Copa, as it is fondly known amongst locals, went on to be named after Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana Beach in the 1950s. Copa will play host to the Connections exhibition in the surf club, and this year welcomes the local Chinese community with some stunning dancing from the Gosford Chinese Performing Arts. There will also be Aboriginal performances, local musicians and the beginning of the very popular Ephemera Sculpture exhibition along the beach.
Copa is also a great place to learn more about the humpback whales you’ll hopefully see along the Walk, whose timing is set to coincide with the whales’ migration north from Antarctica to Queensland. The Captain Cook lookout, just up the hill from Copa, is the perfect place to spot these majestic creatures as they closely follow the coastline on their journey. Famous “whale lady” Jeannie Lawson will be giving talks about these beautiful mammals during the day, and local Aboriginal Man, John Oates, will be presenting Whale Dreaming Talks on the north-facing platform of the lookout in the morning. The humpback whale is an important totem animal for the Darkinjung people, making them an important feature of this celebration.
Next on your journey north is Avoca Beach, a bustling coastal village with a strong connection to the arts. Its Aboriginal name is Bulbararong, a word describing the estuary meeting the sea. Its current name, given for the Irish village in County Wicklow, Ireland, has much the same meaning and was bestowed by the first European landowner in the 1830s. The Connections exhibition continues in the Avoca Beach Surf Club, as does the Ephemera exhibition on the beach, with many local artists making their home in Avoca. This year, Avoca hosts the African community of the Coast and is also home to A Taste of Avoca Food and Music Festival on Sunday 22nd.
Across Avoca Lagoon lies North Avoca, a hidden gem where the pace slows and the spiritual aura increases. This year, North Avoca will host the Aboriginal and Irish communities with an exciting programme featuring, music, dancing and storytelling including a finale involving both Aboriginal and Irish performers. There is also an exhibition of youth art in the surf club and a spectacular beach display of giant, colourful kites, including the famous whale kite.
The fifth and final Land is famous Terrigal whose name is taken from the Aboriginal name for the area meaning “place of little birds”, a nice connection with nature for what is now the resort capital of the Central Coast. During the 5 Lands Walk, Terrigal parties all day (and quite possibly all night!). Music and cultural displays entertain visitors while a major feature of Terrigal is the “plein aire” artists located along the beach. Stop to watch them work, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, this is the artists’ chance to bring their talent and technique out of the studio. This year, Terrigal is hosting the Latino communities of the Coast, making for a colourful end-of-day celebration!
It’s best to plan to take the whole day for the Walk. Wander and lose yourself in both the festival atmosphere and the beauty of this stretch of coast. Much of the walk is along the sand, with some sections of bush track, making it hard going for prams and wheelchairs. The committee is currently working with local Liesl Tesch to improve disabled involvement in the Walk and there is a special shuttle bus running on the day for those in wheelchairs.
The walk is moderately easy to complete, even for children, with a few steady inclines and the odd goat track. Walking the full route should take you four to six hours, but bear in mind that your time is at the mercy of spontaneous dancing, absorbing the various ceremonies, fantastic food and, of course, whale watching!
If you are a local and you haven’t experienced the 5 Lands Walk yet, make this the year to do it. If you are keen to visit the area, what better excuse for a long weekend’s stay on the Central Coast?