THE TOWN FOR ALL SEASONS
Berry is a friendly town with a wealth of food, culture, history and scenic views. You’re going to love it!
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY NOEL SMART
Although a short distance from the Pacific Ocean, Berry is accepted as part of our NSW south coastal region. We’d learnt from previous experience that the region of Berry – with its temperate weather and consistent rainfall – is an excellent RV destination all year round. Wanting a powered site, close the attractions, we found the Berry Showgrounds worked very nicely as a base to explore the region. The showgrounds are laid back, in a convenient location, and facilities included a very efficient camp kitchen.
The original inhabitants of Berry were the Wodi Wodi tribe. In 1810, the area was reported as being ‘worthy of settlement’, with red cedar being the main attraction. Alexander Berry and Edward Wollstonecraft pioneered the settlement in 1822, and the private town was called Broughton Creek. This was the first settlement on the south coast and the population later reached 300. Many of our south coast towns started life as private towns. This one was on a 10,000 acre land grant named Coolangatta, which is from an aboriginal word meaning ‘Splendid View’. The Berry family held more land adjoining the northern edge of Coolangatta.
THE TOWN OF BERRY
Needless to say Berry, only a couple of hours south of Sydney, pulls many visitors from Sydney. The population is around 2500, with the district holding closer to 4500. The climate is warm and temperate, with 17°C being the annual average. When approaching the town from either end, you pass through magnificent dairy pastures with grand escarpments as a back drop.
The town was once dependant on dairy farming, a tannery, and timber cutting. Today it’s filled with thriving independent businesses from unique and stylish boutiques to gourmet cafes and restaurants geared toward tourism. This is typical of the south coast.
Berry has lots of fantastic places for travellers suffering caffeine addiction and a need for eggs benedict breakfasts. Shops ranging from antiques to clothes to craft could keep the ladies busy for days, and it was refreshing to find most people really wanted to help travellers in their town.
The Community Activity Centre sells all sorts of craft works from local people. A bit like an ‘Op Shop’, it takes a commission which is directed back into community projects. They have now handed out many thousands of dollars from their efforts. A valuable shop.
The Treat Factory was definitely a favourite. It is the largest gourmet food outlet on the south coast, with thousands of delicious food stuffs, waiting to be tasted. There are two parts to the Treat Factory – the factory itself and the warehouse. In both you can browse to your heart’s content. We found it very difficult to leave without a purchase. You’ll find jams made from a multitude of fruits, spicy sauces and sweets, and a variety of temptations that will make chocoholics tremble with anticipation. They produce more than 200 varieties of confectionary, jams, sauces and chutneys on site, and there’s a time table for when all the produce will be made. If you’ve always wanted to see how they make jam or hard boiled lollies, hop onto their website and plan your visit to coincide with the manufacturing process.
Berry’s markets attract around 200 stallholders on the first Sunday of each month, except February. Produce markets, on the second Saturday and fourth Sunday, sell fresh fruit and veg, eggs, crafts, and other goodies, and Flea Markets are held at the Great Southern Hotel. All the monthly dates are available on Berry’s tourism site.
The Great Southern Hotel, part of the social hub of Berry, is a people stopper. Several surf boats rest on the roof and their bottle shop façade is festooned with hubcaps. You can’t drive past without noticing.
12 minutes from Berry is Shoalhaven Heads – a small town with a big tourist following. We crossed Broughton Creek on the way there and found it to be a picture of tree-lined placidity and colourful reflections. An excellent boat ramp provides access to some great tidal fishing water.
Further on we found Unreal Rocks garden centre and statue gallery. Concrete sculptures were spread around the grounds under the trees. These were some of the best stone sculptures we’d seen. There was even a life-sized horse! Others were even bigger. We spoke with the obliging worker Scott Stewart, he said the business had only been there a year, and kindly explained the story behind a WW1 soldier we saw in the display at the entrance.
For the 100th ANZAC anniversary, the business owner, Grant Findlay, spent five months designing and creating four life sized pieces, made up of three service men and a nurse. They were then generously donated for the Shoalhaven Heads War Memorial. Scott told us that Grant, the owner and creator, made trips to the National War Memorial to confirm the accuracy of the old uniforms. We found them to be the work of a true artist. You really must go and see.
Our planned loop road from Shoalhaven Heads wandered north through Gerroa, then Gerringong. A heady mix of ocean headlands, golden surf beaches and brilliant green rolling hills are back-dropped by sheer escarpments to the west. Nobody really wants to die, but given a choice, many would choose to be buried in the cemetery at Gerringong with its million dollar ocean view. Cemeteries can tell a great deal about a town and this one was full of fascinating history.
But all too soon we were returning to Berry via the Princes Highway. The enormity of the work being done to upgrade this road and finally by-pass Berry is impressive. This is a highly recommended, short, easy, and pretty drive with some great holiday photo spots.
Another gem from Berry was ‘Flavours Shoalhaven’, a shop operated by the smiling Linley. Linley stocks a fantastic range of unusual deli stuff to satisfy any discerning taste. She was a pleasure to meet, and of course we left with another bag of goodies.
That night, three other couples wandered in for a happy hour and another couple the following night. They were glad to help empty a nice bottle of wine and share their stories of life on the road.
The next day we were lucky enough to meet some members of S.C.C.M.A. (South Coast Country Music Association), from Wollongong. Some members are caravanners and visit Berry Park two or three times a year. As well as providing free entertainment under the grandstand each night, they were excellent company, and even threw in a light supper one evening. They went out of their way to make us welcome and were happy to meet for some happy hour pics. Everyone then adjourned to the Bowling Club for dinner. A lovely group of people and we hope to meet again. If you see them somewhere, go and say hello. You won’t regret it.
This region has everything visitors could ask for, deep rainforest valleys and spectacular mountain views, a, comfortable and friendly mix of old, world atmosphere, modern attitudes and peaceful rural ambience with lots of nearby beaches and ocean views thrown in. It’s pretty safe to call it a mixture of rustic and sophistication and is definitely a destination for all seasons. You don’t have to travel far, and shouldn’t have a dull moment in Berry. We didn’t.