|South Coast, NSW, getaway|
....head off for a mini break to the lovely NSW South Coast
Imagine hundreds of kilometres of coastline, deep bays, rocky inlets, lakes and beaches. Of course you'll find magnificent wild-caught seafood and farmed oysters. And that's only at the water's edge. Inland is lush green farming land producing everything from fruit to dairy foods (think some of the best cheeses) and much more.
So hop in the car and come along. Yes, if you want to see the entire coast you may need a week more than a weekend, but who's to say you can't make several trips, dipping into a different area every weekend?
After the sprawl of Sydney and lovely Wollongong (worth a separate visit of its own) you are launched into the Shoalhaven region with Nowra as its capital. Be sure to visit Berry, a delightful town, home to Berry Sourdough Bakery, one of the state's best, with a great cafe too. Open Wednesday to Sunday - otherwise this is all you'll see.
Ulladulla is the sister-town south of Mollymook (where Bannister's Lodge is home to Rick Stein's restaurant) with a boat harbour and fisherman's coop where you can taste the harvest from the fishing boats. Yes, it's that Rick Stein, UK’s celebrity TV chef, who attributes his unexpected choice of an antipodean address to fond memories of eating the local seafood here years ago.
.....or book a table at one of the many places serving seafood, where you can sit in the sun and enjoy the water views.
The Princes Highway snakes along the coast line, often too narrow for speedy travel, which is a good thing as otherwise you could miss tiny Mogo. Take a detour to the Mogo Zoo for some exercise and excitement and see the great work being done there to care for at-risk animals.
Be sure to also drop in to this place for a meal or at least a to stock up on local cheese. By now the countryside has morphed quite obviously into dairying land as the pastures turn a deeper shade of green. Driving on side roads in the late afternoon you may be temporarily held up by lumbering herds of ‘ladies’ off to have the burdens of their massive udders relieved in the milking shed.
The good thing about driving this highway is that there is always something to call you off the road – a roadside stall selling strawberries, the sign to a quaintly named bay, a café, a picnic spot just asking for a blanket to be thrown down. Names such as this, and the occasional cream can used as a postbox, underline the major industry of the area.
Also picturesque, tiny Central Tilba caters for the tourist's every whim, from wood and leatherwork shops to jewellery, candles and sweets.
Just as you turn into the main street, a new addition is this cafe featuring South Coast Cheese, a range of local produce – and some of the best coffee you'll find.
A night at Bellbird Cottage in Bermagui, in the north of the Sapphire Coast, is a must. Just one decadent room awaits, hidden in the trees, with a soundtrack (as you would have guessed by the name) of bellbirds. With a spa, double shower, king-sized bed and a lovingly created breakfast feast, you'll quickly realise it's not only the cat that is 'spoiled rotten' here!
If you wish, chef and owner Patrick Reubinson of Stroudover Cottage will cook a meal for you and present it in the self-contained two-bedroom cottage on your own dining table.
With views over the ranges and the abundant local birdlife it will be difficult to move on from here.
At Tathra Wharf, due to celebrate its very important 150th birthday this October, there is more than just fishing to do – although many people love to come and throw in a line here. Tathra Locavore cafe an gallery has delicious offerings on one side and handmade jewellery on the other, with room to enjoy it beside a stunning view.
They call this area the Sapphire Coast, although it could just as easily be the Pelican Coast. These huge birds are everywhere and here immortalised in front of the equally famous oyster beds atMerimbula.
The walk around the bay shows that the area is enjoyed by many.
For a perfect retreat after a day of exploring the area, Robyn's Nest Guest House overlooking the lake, has to be the ideal spot. The main building and several fully self-contained cottages have been carefully sited around the grounds, and the visitors' book contains many glowing comments from local and international visitors about the views, the accommodation and especially the welcome.
If oysters are the signature of the Sapphire Coast, then the Wheeler family wrote it. Known for decades as a must-stop-at place on the highway at Pambula, just south of Merimbula, to pick up seafood for lunch, there is now a restaurant as well.
Aptly named – the stunningly beautiful little port of Eden is deceptive. The deepest harbour on the south coast, it can play host to cruise ships.
The seafood is legendary, and multi award-winning local producer Eden Smokehouse has also been named a finalist in the ABC delicious. magazine awards. Come here for smoked oysters, mussels, fish and even eel.
And while the here-and-now in Eden is almost like paradise, the history is fascinating too, and it is well worth dropping in to the Eden Killer Whale Museum just up the hill from the wharf.
The four-hundred kilometre drive from Wollongong to Eden is worth planning as a holiday. Take it slowly, taste the fruits of this region and you will realise that you have to return – perhaps to venture inland to the hinterland and see yet another face of the countryside.
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