An amazing turnout at Words on the Waves 2024

Crowds flow in for free Family Fun Day at The Dip, in the Peninsula Recreation Precinct

Despite the weather, Words on the Waves Writers Festival 2024 saw a dramatic increase in attendance, with the audience size increasing by more than one fifth on previous years.

The festival recorded more than 5000 attendances, with an additional 1088 local primary and high school attendances recorded for the festival schools’ program.

The increase in attendance was largely due to the addition of The Dip, a new venue and program stream aimed at engaging a broader and more diverse audience base. The Dip’s free family fun day alone was attended by more than 1200 people. Likewise the ticket sales for the popular main program, held at Umina and Ocean Beach surf life saving clubs, were up on 2023.

Judy Nunn in conversation with Suzanne Leal as part of Central Coast Reads, held in The Dip

‘As the festival has developed and grown we’ve become known for the calibre of our authors and for great conversations in our sessions,’ says festival director Angela Bennetts. ‘Our audiences also tell us how much they appreciate having a writer’s festival on the Central Coast – combining stunning scenery and culture –  and I think that’s helping our audience numbers go from strength to strength.

‘This year with the support of the NSW Government through CreateNSW, we were able to offer a range of free and financially accessible sessions including cooking, mental health, history, parenting and fiction, in addition to a dramatically larger family fun day featuring children’s book authors and illustrators, craft and Indigenous storytelling. We also included our new Central Coast Reads program, which aims to connect socially isolated seniors with the support of the Department of Communities and Justice, all of which proved to be very popular.

‘And we have just heard that we’ve been successful in the 2024/25 round of CreateNSW funding so we’re confident we’ll be able to continue to build on the success of this year’s festival in 2025.’ 

Sue Turnbull, Benjamin Stevenson, Amanda Hampson and Steven Carroll discuss crime fiction

The festival bookseller, BookFace Erina, also reaped the benefits of a popular program with strong sales over the weekend. The top ten book sales were;

1 (equal) – Your Time Starts Now, Julie Goodwin (Penguin Random House)

1  (equal) –  Death of a Foreign Gentleman, Steve Carroll (HarperCollins)

2Finding My Bella Vita, Pia Miranda (Hachette)

3Work, Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin)

4 (equal) – Hope, Rosie Batty (HarperCollins)

4 (equal) – Black Duck, Bruce Pascoe & Lyn Harwood (Thames & Hudson)

4 (equal) –The Space Between the Stars, Indira Naidoo (Murdoch Books)

4 (equal) – Time to Reboot, Carla Wilshire (Monash University Publishing)

5The Last Daughter, Brenda Matthews (Text Publishing)

6 (equal) – Red River Road, Anna Downes (Affirm Press)

6 (equal) – Free, Meg Keneally (Echo Publishing)

7The Axeman’s Carnival, Catherine Chidgey (Allen & Unwin)

8 (equal) Cool Water, Myfanwy Jones (Hachette)

8 (equal) – Dreamers and Schemers, Frank Bongiorno (Black Inc)

9 (equal) – Faking It, Toby Walsh (Black Inc)

9 (equal) – The Cop Who Fell to Earth, Craig Semple (Echo Publishing)

10 (equal) – Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect, Benjamin Stevenson (Penguin Random House)

10 (equal) – I’ll Let Myself In, Hannah Diviney (Allen & Unwin)

And it wasn’t only the audiences who enjoyed the festival. The more than 100 authors who took part in over 80 sessions also praised the experience.

“Words on the Waves was amazing… It was a really great session and a beautifully run event.” – Julie Goodwin (Your Time Starts Now)

“Despite the rain the festival felt busy and full of life, I spoke to so many people who were enjoying it so much. It seems to me that the growth has been exponential and I know how much work goes into that….” – Cheryl Akle (Better Reading founder)

“Lots of good vibes and interest and some terrific conversations.” – Gabbie Stroud (The Things That Matter Most)

“I thought the programming was fantastic … And everyone I spoke to loved the marquee venue … All the volunteers I met were wonderful as well, very organised and so welcoming and helpful. – Ashley Kalagian Blunt (Dark Mode)


Words on the Waves is a not-for-profit literary festival, the first of its kind for the Central Coast region. Its mission is to deliver an immersive annual festival of stories, ideas and connection, set against the scenic Central Coast, and to enrich the cultural landscape of the region year-round. Its vision is to become one of Australia’s leading regional literary festivals, known for its vibrant and diverse program as well as its unique setting. 2024 was its fourth annual event.


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Smoking Ceremony with Tim Selwyn (Girri Girra Aboriginal Experiences), and MP Liesl Tesch

Former Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty in conversation with Sue Smethurst at Words on the Waves 2024

A full house for Tony Birch, Myfanwy Jones and Kate Evans at Words on the Waves 2024

Hannah Diviney, Jessica Kirkness, Sara Saleh and Brenda Matthews in the panel ‘Speaking Up, Staying Strong’

Cheryl Akle (Better Reading) in conversation with Nat’s What I Reckon at The Dip

Indira Naidoo in conversation with Michele Seminara at Naughty Noodle Fun Haus

Matt Cosgrove and Eva Amores at the Family Fun Day