6 July 2012
From Sydney, our first stop on a trip south is Wollongong's North Beach and Boat Harbour. The coastal path north from the bay leads to the entrance of the dazzling saltwater Continental Baths. A swim there leaves us tingling with the feeling that the holiday is at last underway. A walk along the esplanade to the Fisherman's Co-op for a good handful of fresh prawns sees dinner sorted.
The small rustic town of Berry is charming and vibrant and has possibly the best bread shop on the coast. Berry Woodfired Sourdough Café was opened in 2003 by brothers Jelle and Joost Hilkemeiser who "just wanted a decent loaf of bread". The fine sourdough range of breads stays fresh for days, while breakfast and lunch is bursting with local produce.
On Berry's high street you'd be doing yourself a favour stopping by Nelsons Meats Butchery for a selection of Mick Wedd's award winning sizzling sausages. With the shelves in the fridge starting to fill, we made a resolution to avoid soulless supermarkets and buy local produce wherever possible.
If the magnificent flora of the South Coast and adjacent ranges interests you, then a stroll through the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens is a most pleasant and relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Watch out for the signs just south of Bateman's Bay.
Tempted by the turnoff to Mystery Bay some 10km south of Narooma, we witnessed an exceptionally beautiful and pristine coastline. Exposed rock platforms and shallow reefs around the bay are a great place to snorkel amongst the abundant marine life. A camping area set amongst tall shady spotted gums slopes right down to the beach.
Leaving Mystery Bay, the bulk of Mount Dromedary dominates the landscape. Named Gulaga by the Aboriginal people the mountain is particularly important for the Yuin women of the South Coast who still visit a sacred site close to the summit.
Taking the short diversion off the highway the colourful National Trust village of Central Tilby nestles beneath this extinct volcano. Built up around the discovery of alluvial gold in 1852, the miners moved on once they'd taken their spoils and the hamlet would have been abandoned if it hadn't been for the ABC Cheese Factory which provided local employment. At the entrance to the village the South Coast Cheese Shop sells their cheeses and ice cream made from the rich milks of their Misty Glen Jersey herd. While only a few minutes’ drive from town, the vines of the Tilba Valley Winery stretch picturesquely to the foot of the fertile mountain.
Bermagui has come a long way from the sleepy fishing village it once was. It now boasts a brand new Fisherman's Wharf designed by renowned architect Philip Cox, who has had a long association with this stretch of coast. The strapping trunks of locally sourced spotted gums play major supporting roles, reassembled in a new forest of logs to house restaurants, cafés, gift shops and a Fisherman's Co-op. But our favourite spot here is the Blue Pool. Turn left at the water tower on the hill, and steps lead to a deep pool hewn out of the rocks and constantly refreshed by glistening southern water.
A coastal road links Bermagui to Tathra and a right turn just 2km out of town is a crafty option. Follow the signs for Mudworks Pottery and watch Mike and Kim at work bent over their potters wheels or hand building decorative wall planters.
Another craftsman has also been at work just 14km from Bermagui as evidenced by the striking dry stone entrance gates leading to Mimosa Dry Stone Winery and Restaurant. Glenn and Gail Butson have been hands on in all stages of the creation of this outstanding venue which has become a focal point for foodies and imbibers alike.
The entrance to Aragunna and the northern section of the Mimosa Rocks National Park is just along the road. It is a place we never tire of visiting. Be it swimming off Aragunna beach, scrabbling over the rocks to dive for sea urchins or watching the sinking sun flaming the massive blocks of weathered volcanic rocks named after the 'Mimosa' which was wrecked on them in 1863.
Just further south along Bermagui Road watch out for Lake Wapengo Road. Shane Buckley will be proud to let you sample possibly the best rock oysters you'll ever taste because of the pollution free nature of the constantly flushed waters of Wapengo Lake.
Before reaching the coastal town of Tathra, it's worth checking out Bithry Inlet, Middle Beach and Nelson Beach. Another worthy attraction is the Narek Gallery in the picturesque Old Tanja Church, built by locals in 1899.
For all of you that adore an attractively laid out Garden Centre, Kangarutha Nursery, just south of Tathra, is for you. It frequently features in The Best Garden Centre awards and each visit inspires us.
We reckon we could live in Merimbula, a well balanced town set on a beautiful estuary with glorious beaches and an attractive hinterland. We'd soon become locals at the Bar Beach Café housed in a brightly coloured cargo container set into the hill overlooking the entrance to the estuary and the tiny Bar Beach.
A little further south is the small township of Pambula and an opportunity to stock up on organic sourdough bread and great pies at Wild Rye's Baking Co on the main street. The owner, Ann Dellas, is easily recognisable by her fabulous vintage dresses.
Little Surf Beach at Pambula is a great spot for a swim. Those that seek a close encounter with nature should visit Panboola, a Pambula Wetlands Heritage Project. Within its 50ha, it encompasses the old Pambula Racecourse – great fun if you have your bicycles with you.
Housed in an old abattoir building, just before Eden, is the quirky Disaster Bay Chillies. They harvest 2t of chillies and 5t of tomatoes each year to make their range of sauces, chutneys, chocolate and jellies.
No trip to Eden would be complete without a feed of fish and chips down on the Fisherman's Wharf. Likewise a visit to the Killer Whale Museum to learn about Old Tom, the whalers' friend, is a must. Directly across Twofold Bay from Eden is the historic Davidson Whaling Station, accessed via the southern section of the Ben Boyd National Park. Entrepreneur Ben Boyd had the handsomely dressed five-storey Ben Boyd Tower built as a lighthouse to guide his ships into the bay but it was never approved and served only as a lookout for whalers.
Overall, what we've seen and the people we've met along our trip will leave us with nothing but great memories of the NSW South Coast. As we head back home, we find ourselves already planning our return adventure.
From Sydney: Head south on the Princess Hwy for 1.5hrs to Wollongong or 6 hours to Merimbula. From Melbourne: Head north on the Hume Hwy via Canberra (10hrs to Wollongong) or follow the coast east on the Princess Hwy (7hrs to Merimbula).
MIMOSA ROCKS NATIONAL PARK
Camping at Aragunna. The access road is not considered suitable for caravans, although motorhomes and 4WDs with camper trailers shouldn't encounter any problems
MYSTERY BAY CAMPING AREA
Ph: (02) 4474 1000
Site is administered by Eurobodalla Shire Council. Fees are well priced and indicated on the visitors' board. Camping on the beach front area requires wheel levellers. Larger flatter sites are available further back on the rise. Pets on a leash are welcome, open cooking fires allowed
GREEN CAPE LIGHTHOUSE
Ben Boyd National Park. Open for tours Thursday to Monday, 1pm to 3pm
ARV Caravans and Motorhomes Where: Princes Highway, Eden NSW
Ph: (02) 6496 4411
WOLLONGONG CONTINENTAL SALTWATER POOL
Where: North Beach, Cliff Road North Wollongong, NSW
Open: Everyday. Showers and toilets available
Ph: (02) 4229 1115
EUROBODALLA REGIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS AND CHEF'S CAP CAFÉ
Where: Princes Highway, Batemans Bay, NSW
Open: Wednesday-Sunday, 9am to 4pm and daily during school holidays. Guided walk 11am Sundays. Spacious parking for caravans
Ph: (02) 4471 2544
TILBA VALLEY WINES
Where: 947 Old Highway, Narooma NSW
Open: Daily 10am-5pm October to April. Other months Wednesday-Sunday, 11am- 4pm (closed August)
Ph: (02) 4473 7308
ABC CHEESE FACTORY
Where: 37 Bate St, Central Tilba NSW
Open: Daily 9am-5pm
Ph: (02) 4473 7387
BERMAGUI BLUE POOLS
Where: Blue Pools, Pacific Drive, Bermagui NSW. Showers and toilets available
MUDWORKS POTTERY AND CAFÉ
Where: 23 Alexander Drive, Bermagui NSW
Open: 10am-5pm, Thursday to Monday
Ph: (02) 6493 4661
Where: Old Tanja Church, 1140 Bermagui Road, Tanja NSW
Open: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday 10.30am-5.30pm
Ph: (02) 6494 0112
Where: Evans Hill, Tathra NSW
Open: Seven days
Ph: (02) 6494 1500
With fresh sourdough and local oysters, we were hardly roughing it There are plenty of secluded day areas along the way, perfect for a lunch break The Wollongong
EDEN KILLER WHALE MUSEUM
Where: Imlay Street, Eden Open: Daily. Monday-Saturday, 9.15am- 3.45pm. Sunday, 11.15am-3.45pm
Ph: (02) 6496 2094
Price: $7.50 adult, $7 senior concession, $2 kids (aged 5-15), kids under five free
THE SPIRES NURSERY AND LOVE AT FIRST BITE CAFÉ
Where: Corkhill Drive, Tilba Tilba NSW Open: 9am-4am, seven days
Ph: (02) 4473 7196
BERRY WOODFIRED SOURDOUGH BAKERY AND CAFÉ
Where: 23 Prince Alfred Street, Berry NSW
Open: Wednesday-Sunday, 8am-4pm Dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday 6pm-10pm
Ph: (02) 4464 1617
Where: 129 Queen Street, Berry NSW
Open: From 7am-5pm weekdays. 7am- 1pm Saturdays
Ph: (02) 4464 2446
MERIMBULA VISITORS CENTRE
Where: 2 Beach St, Merimbula NSW
Ph: (02) 6495 1129
BAR BEACH CAFÉ
Where: Bar Beach off Lake St, Merimbula NSW
Open: Seven days. October to Easter
Ph: (02) 0410 698 479
WILD RYE'S BAKING CO
Where: 26 Quondola Street, Pambula NSW
Ph: (02) 6495 6649
MIMOSA DRY STONE WINERY AND RESTAURANT
Where: 2845 Bermagui/Tathra Road, Bunga NSW
Open: High season – lunch everyday and dinner Thursday to Saturday. Low Season – lunch Thursday to Saturday
Ph: (02) 6494 0164
WORDS BY STEPHEN AND MICHELLE GUILDFORD PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN AND MICHELLE GUILDFORD AND BRETT SHEARER