by Sally Hammond
“Cheers, Dr Berry!”
As I take another sip of a Kladis Estate Wines' chilled rosé, I raise my glass to a man who has been dead well over a century.
Alexander Berry made a definite impression on the NSW South Coast. You see his name honoured in the cosy little town of Berry – and you savour his handiwork in the vineyards at Coolangatta Estate, which were planted well over 150 years ago, the first to be grown in this area.
This Scottish surgeon would smile if he knew what had happened since then, especially now that the Shoalhaven region has been named Australia's 95th and newest wine region.
Shoalhaven, stretching from Berry to Durras, is second only to Sydney for NSW visitor numbers, with an annual tally of almost three million visitors who find plenty do in the area: shopping, sightseeing, dolphin-watching, and now, wine-tasting.
Jervis Bay, the large bay that takes a massive bite out of the coastline just south of Nowra is pronounced as it is spelled. None of this JARvis bay, stuff. There are 49 towns and villages in Shoalhaven and most of them are on that scenic coastal strip.
Then there’s Berry. Think of it, if you like, as a sort of coastal Mudgee. City refugees have flocked here in the past ten or so years, lured by the ocean just five minutes away, an emerging winery scene, and the magnificent hinterland of rolling farmland, some of it with distant views of the sea.
Just on two hours south of the centre of Sydney, it's no wonder people have 'emigrated' here. Those who don't move in permanently, take up residence at weekends and in holiday periods, sunning themselves at the footpath tables of the thirty or so eateries in the town, swelling the resident population of 1600.
You could come to Berry, have a coffee, pick up some needlepoint and a teddy bear and move on to Australia's Tidiest Town, Kiama, with its blowhole, or zip on to Nowra, the shopping town for the region, but you would miss plenty.
But who needs an excuse, to come here? It is after all, closer than the Hunter for most Sydneysiders – and now there are wineries to match.
Once you are this far south, take some time to check out these twin towns that make the ideal fullstop on the exclamation point of any trip south, with Mollymook playing surfin’ sister to the more staid fishing port of Ulladulla.
Mollymook’s Whale Beach-like curve of sand finishes at the point on which stands Bannisters Point Lodge, winner of many accommodation Awards and home to Rick Stein's restaurant.
First sight of it is deceptive. Enter from the street and you’d swear it was just another 1980s motel. But check out the rooms – seagrass and silk, flowing drapes and soft towels – and the full sweeping view of ocean and bays, and wet-edge pool, and you’ll soon readjust you plans to stay longer than planned. Factor in a massage at the day spa while you’re about it, and do dine as often as you can in the restaurant. You won’t find better in Sydney.
Only minutes away, Ulladulla Guest House, almost lost in its landscaped rainforest garden, manages to be two things at once. It has all the charm and comfort of an English guesthouse, without the stuffiness. Think personal service, paintings for sale on the walls, knick-nacks in every corner, and a lounge overflowing with glossy magazines and newspapers to be enjoyed by the fire with a cuppa. Meals in Elizan’s Restaurant are a memorable experience, from the talented hands of new chef Kaibil, and there is a relaxed resort atmosphere to the place. Maybe it’s the pool.
Surf, shiraz, shopping, seafood. Seems that Shoalhaven’s invitation is just what the doctor ordered.
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