Gosford is a city located on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, approximately 76 km 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 has been designated as an important growth centre under the NSW Metropolitan Strategy. The city's population was 155,271 in the 2006 census.
Gosford is considered an exurb of the Sydney metropolitan area, with a significant proportion of the population commuting for work or study. This can be attributed to a lower cost of living, lack of employment and educational opportunities in the area, lifestyle factors and the development of strong transport links. These factors have caused the population of both Gosford and the wider Central Coast to grow rapidly in recent years.
Until European settlement, the area around Gosford was occupied by the Guringai peoples, who were principally coastal-dwellers. 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 19th century 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 difficult to access and settlement did not start before 1823. By the late 19th century the agriculture in the region was diversifying, with market gardens and citrus orchards occupying the rich soil left after the timber harvest. The road between Hawkesbury (near Pittwater) and Brisbane Water was 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.