Taking paths less travelled can be very rewarding. This is especially evidenced by the idyllic townships south of Sydney. If you’ve snapped enough selfies with the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, take a scenic propeller plane ride down the coast of New South Wales to reap the state’s rural rewards – undulating hills, untouched wildlands and clear blue water lapping against the whitest sand you’ll ever lay eyes on.
We recommend starting your northbound road trip toward Sydney from Merimbula, a quaint but breathtaking coastal town whose name is derived from the Aboriginal word for ‘two lakes’. The reason why the southernmost coast of New South Wales is known as the Sapphire Coast becomes apparent once its horizon is in sight. Where the endless deep blue sea merges with the equally stunning azure sky, visitors are welcome to lounge outdoors at The Waterfront Café, which offers both a view of the lake as well as crisp fried calamari and gigantic field mushroom burgers. Then stroll down the Merimbula Boardwalk at sunset, when sunrays weave through mangrove beds and eucalypt canopies.
Is a visit to any coastal town complete without a sumptuous seafood meal? If its freshly harvested and shucked bivalves that you’re hankering for in particular, Captain Sponge is your man. Book a spot on the Captain Sponge Magical Oyster Tour and the gregarious farmer himself will bring you out on a boat to explore his oyster farms. He’s a human encyclopedia of these parts, and will happily recount the ecology of the estuary for your education and entertainment, while of course plying you with his coveted Pambula Lake Sydney Rock Oysters. From nearby Oakland Barns, the ice-cold beer of Longstocking Brewery beckons a knackered traveller – the nanobrewery’s golden elixir gleams in vats right behind the cashier.
Tilba Real Dairy
While the Princes Highway running parallel to you is the fastest way back to Sydney, it holds no allure for the wideeyed explorer. Follow the breadcrumbs and the sprawling townships that trace the path back to Sydney will reward your patience with revelations of their beauty. The lush hills of Tilba, about an hour’s drive north from Merimbula, are dotted with herds of grazing cows. Family-owned and run livestock and agricultural businesses are the backbone of these close-knit villages, and Tilba Real Dairy is a shining example. The creamiest milk, yogurt and cheese of New South Wales hail from their herd of Jersey cows, which the earnest local enterprise sells to neighbouring towns as well – but nowhere further than that. A stone’s throw away is The Tilba Sweet Spot, whose irresistible old-school candies will convince you to throw your diet out the window, if you haven’t already. Picturesque Batemans Bay warrants at least a night’s stay, where sea-facing rooms at Bay Breeze Boutique Accommodation provide views of sunrise from one’s bed.
It would also be unforgivable to skip Cupitt’s Winery, whose fromagerie, winery and brewery are sprawled out across serene pastures on the outskirts of Milton . Cupitt’s beautiful, rustic restaurant is perfect for an afternoon of wine, beer and cheese tasting. Cap off your night at the Bannisters Pavilion in Mollymook – its panoramic rooftop is perfect for clinking glasses and throwing plump local shrimp on the cliched barbie.
Dolphins at Jervis Bay
You’ll be hard-pressed to find whiter sand anywhere else on Earth—at least, according to Guinness World Records. Jervis Bay’s clear water is highly favoured by dolphins. Over 120 bottlenose dolphins call the bay home, which has consequently attracted countless tourists, all hoping to spot these balletic creatures. Get up-close with these wild mammals when you hop on an eco-friendly day cruise with Discover Jervis Bay – just cross your fingers for a playful pod to swim up to your boat.
African safari tent at Paperbark camp
Enrich your wildlife experience by glamping in the bush at Paperbark Camp. Fortunately, camping in the wild for grown-ups comes with a touch of luxury and comfort. African safari tents, furnished with actual beds, are strategically spaced apart for privacy, because showering can only be done in the open where cover is minimal. Notably, the campsite relies entirely on solar energy to power its table lamps and heat its shower water.
Relish a meal made from fresh local produce in the resort’s in-house Gunyah Restaurant. Alternatively, curl up in front of the electric fireplace and exchange your #wanderlust stories with like-minded travellers – after all, ‘Gunyah’ is the Aboriginal word for ‘meeting place’.
Drink in your final intimate moments with nature, because soon you’ll have to reintegrate into the hustle and bustle of Sydney, which is a three-hour drive away.
For more information, visit Destination New South Wales.