Gosford is a city located on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, approximately 80km north of the Sydney central business district. The city is situated at the northern extremity of Brisbane Water, an extensive northern branch of the Hawkesbury River estuary and Broken Bay. The city is the administrative centre of the Central Coast region, which is the third largest urban area in New South Wales after Sydney and Newcastle. Gosford is the 18th largest local government area in Australia with a total resident population of 158,157.
Until European settlement, the area around Gosford was occupied by two groups of Australian Aborigines, the Guringai and Darkinjung peoples, with the Guringai being principally coastal-dwellers and the Darkingung occupying land to the west.
Along with the other land around the Hawkesbury River estuary, the Brisbane Water district was explored during the early stages of the settlement of Sydney. In the early 1800s some pioneering European settlers began occupying the land, for timber-cutting (mainly ironbark and Australian red cedar), lime production and grazing.
Gosford itself was explored by Governor Phillip between 1788 and 1789. The area was of difficult access and settlement did not start before 1823. By the late 1800s the agriculture in the region was diversifying, with market gardens and citrus orchards occupying the rich soil left after the timber harvest. The first road between Hawkesbury, (near Pittwater) to Brisbane Water was only a cart wheel track even in 1850.
Convicts once lived and worked in the Gosford area. In 1825, Gosford's population reached 100, of which 50% were convicts.
In 1887, the rail link to Sydney was completed, requiring a bridge over the Hawkesbury River and a tunnel through the sandstone ridge west of Woy Woy. The introduction of this transport link, and then the Pacific Highway in 1930 accelerated the development of the region.
Gosford became a town in 1885 and was declared a municipality in 1886.
Gosford proper is located in a valley with President's Hill on the city's western border and Rumbalara Reserve on its eastern border, and Brisbane water to the city's south. Mann Street, Gosford's main street and part of the Pacific Highway, runs north-south contains the frontage for much of its commercial district. The Central Coast Highway runs past Gosford's waterfront area, while its predecessor the Pacific Highway takes on several names through the CBD itself. Mann Street contains the main public transport links for Gosford, with Gosford railway station (CityRail and CountryLink) and the termini for several bus routes.
In the centre of Gosford is a shopping and community precinct, including Kibble Park, William Street Mall, Gosford City Library, the Imperial Shopping Centre, the Gosford Town Shopping Centre and a full range of shops, cafes, banks and services, especially along William Street Mall.
More recently, the Gosford CBD has suffered a decline as more commercial activity has relocated to nearby Erina, particularly Erina Fair. To address this, there have been proposals to revitalise the city centre by more adequately connecting it to the waterfront, and provide more employment and entertainment areas. However, there has been little concerted effort at State or Local Government level.