November 02, 2022
18 mins Read
Book some annual leave, throw your bags, kids and dogs in the car and follow our itinerary around the stunning NSW South Coast. Just remember to pack light, as you will want to stock up on artisan produce during the course of your leisurely road trip.
This road trip loop begins in Sydney to Jervis Bay. But if you’re travelling south to north, you could easily pivot this itinerary around Eden. The stunning Shoalhaven town of Jervis Bay is a playground comprising crystalline waters and white sands.
The first thing you need to note when visiting Jervis Bay is how to pronounce it: it’s JERvis, not Jarvis. When you mention Jervis Bay, many Australians recall the spectacular white sand and turquoise waters of Hyams Beach. But Jervis Bay is actually a huge marine park with 16 beaches. It’s also a haven for bottlenose dolphins, the northernmost fur seal colony in Australia, and fairy penguins, making it one of the best places in the country for wildlife experiences. It’s what makes the region extra special.
Fringed by Booderee National Park and Jervis Bay Marine Park, the region is a veritable paradise for nature lovers, surfers and – from May to October – whale watchers who come to see the whales come into the bay to rest and play. You can’t possibly do it all in one trip, but we’ve narrowed it down to our top 10 things to do and one of the standout options is a self-guided trail that will take you from Flamin’ Galah Brewing Company to Jervis Bay Brewing Co. where hop heads can pick up a few different styles of ale and lager to take home.
Whether you’re keen for casual frolicking or serious underwater adventure, the dazzling waters off the coast of Jervis Bay beckon: head to the marine park and book yourself in for a snorkel or dive session with Woebegone Freedive.
When all that saltwater action has worked up a ravenous hunger, head to the Huskisson Hotel for good, coastal pub fare or refuel with an Aussie-style burger and milkshake at The Cooked Goose on Hyams Beach, one of many top spots to eat in Jervis Bay.
There are a number of great Jervis Bay accommodation options, but to start your trip on a luxe note spend a night or two at Paperbark Camp. Here, you can truly appreciate the unique importance of your bushland surrounds in the Deluxe Plus Safari Tents which are perfect for family and friends travelling together as they can accommodate up to four people.
You can also immerse yourself in the coastal experience at Bangalay Luxury Villas, Shoalhaven Heads. For something altogether more casual, book a tiny cabin at Huskisson’s Holiday Haven White Sands.
For families on a budget, head to the old-school Green Patch campsite in Jervis Bay, which is a short stroll away from Green Patch Beach and a protected, picturesque lagoon set within Booderee National Park. The Jervis Bay Holiday Park, which is set right on the river, is very family-friendly and you can pitch a tent or park your caravan on one of the powered or unpowered sites.
You can find more Jervis Bay accommodation options here.
After breakfast, pick up a grab-and-go option from Bangalay Dining to enjoy at your final destination: beautiful Batemans Bay. But relax and take it easy; there’s no hurry to get there. It is, after all, about the journey, so rise early and thread your way through the historic village of Milton, enjoying a stroll and stopping for coffee and cake at Small Town Food & Wine.
Navigate your way to the hills behind Milton for lunch and you’ll be rewarded with a wine-and-dine experience in the hinterland at picturesque Cupitt’s Estate. We do recommend, however, that you have the ‘designated driver conversation’ before you start your meal.
Once you’re suitably fed and quenched, it’s just an hour’s drive to Batemans Bay, where there’s plenty to see and do. Do it right and time this leg so as to arrive for a restorative afternoon swim. Make a note to return to the property without the kids to stay in the luxury new pods. And don’t leave before picking up more provisions from Cupitt’s Estate, home to a fromagerie, brewery and winery.
Make sure you build in some time to sample at least one of the many culinary gems dotted around Milton and the neighbouring towns of Mollymook and Ulladulla.
This area is well-endowed with excellent eateries, from the sleek and polished Rick Stein at Bannisters and Tallwood in Mollymook to Milton’s inviting Harvest Bar and Ulladulla’s Maverick Coffee.
You can also treat your tastebuds to lunch at The Ruse overlooking Ulladulla Harbour.
The next leg of the South Coast NSW itinerary steers visitors into Batemans Bay for the night. But if you’re altogether captivated by Milton and its surroundings, you can opt to bed down at nearby Surfside Cudmirrah Beach.
If you are continuing on, however, there’s a good chance you’ll arrive late in Batemans Bay. Know that when you do turn up, you’ll be warmly greeted at The Esplanade, a boutique hotel where you’ll likely want to add a second night.
But what are road trips, if not flexible, right? You can also plump for a few nights at Pebbly Beach Escapes, just a 20-minute drive away in magical Murramarang National Park. The newly renovated Bay Breeze Motel is another boutique option located on the waterfront in Batemans Bay.
Before you put tyre to bitumen on the Bay to Bermagui leg, we strongly suggest you spend a good portion of the day exploring this country town in the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast.
You might choose to do so by bike and pedal your way along the Batemans Bay cycleway, or perhaps you will decide to paddle along as part of a kayak tour with Bay and Beyond in the gentle waters of the Batemans Bay Marine Park.
Be sure to block out some beach time at Mossy Point, which is often overlooked by visitors travelling along George Bass Drive. Stop off at the Mossy Point Cafe for coffee and healthy food options. Mossy Point is located smack-bang between the pristine Tomaga River and Candlagan Creek and one of the best ways to explore the coastal village is via kayak with Region X. You can also cycle all the way from Candlagen Beach to South Broulee.
Before setting off bound for Bermagui, head to the Oyster Shed on Wray St to pick up a cheeky dozen. Foodies will love the fact they can also arrive at the Oyster Shed by paddling along the Clyde River with Region X. You can also go for a twilight seafood cruise on the Clyde/Bhundoo onboard the MV Merinda, operated by the Innes family, long-term South Coast locals.
Continue onto Bermagui on the stunning Sapphire Coast. This picturesque harbour town is well known for its impossibly fresh seafood and deep-sea game fishing. While you may not be here to throw a line out, you can certainly indulge in the catch of the day at the Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf.
The traditional owners of the land around Tilba are the Yuin people and Gulaga is the sacred mother mountain of the region. After European settlement, the region’s rich volcanic soil lured dairy farmers and this industry is still evident at makers such as Tilba Real Dairy. You can also enjoy artisan produce at the famous heritage-listed Dromedary Hotel.
If you’re travelling with children, we advise you swing through historic Mogo and pay a visit to Mogo Zoo before continuing onto Bermagui. There’s also a Rock Platform Discovery Walk near Depot Beach along the intertidal zone in Batemans Bay Marine Park where you can spot colourful crabs walking sideways to their homes in the rock pools. For parents with teens, there are quality points and beach breaks dotted between Mollymook and Batemans Bay.
Order some meals online from Eastwoods Deli & Cooking School, pop into the Camel Rock Brewery Bar & Grill for woodfired pizzas and pints, and enjoy fine dining on the grounds of Mimosa Winery in the heart of the Sapphire Coast. Make sure you restock your picnic hamper with bakery items from Il Passaggio and Honorbread.
If you choose to drive to Bermagui via Bega, you can enjoy the South Coast’s award-winning premium gin experience.
Although the name implies that the gin is made in Eden, North of Eden distillery and cellar door is actually located closer to Bega. North of Eden Gin runs gin-making classes – a must for an interactive experience in the region – and bookings are essential.
Buy some local oysters from the iconic East Lynne Store roadhouse and enjoy a seafood feast by the pool at The Anchorage Bermagui before retiring to your self-contained apartment.
Oakleigh Farm Cottages is half an hour’s drive from Bermagui and another family-friendly option for accommodation on the Eurobodalla South Coast of NSW. You can also bunker down at Mimosa Wines farmhouse, which sleeps nine guests – perfect for a few families or group of friends – or nestle down in Narooma at the Bermagui Beach Hotel, which has great food and magic views.
Other accommodation options in the area include Mystery Bay Cottages, Mountain View Farm at the base of Gulaga and Tilba Lake Camp.
Rise and get the day off to a shining start with some more baked delights from Bermagui’s Honorbread. Once you’ve inhaled some delicious carbs, head to the famous Blue Pool just off Pacific Drive for an invigorating dip. The pool is still worth a visit in the cooler months as it offers a great vantage point for whale-spotting.
Enjoy Red Brick Coffee and supreme plant-based cuisine at Boneless, a vegetarian café in Bermagui. Enjoy aperitivos at the Harbar overlooking – you guessed it – Bermagui Harbour before finding a place to perch at Il Passaggio, a modern Italian restaurant located at the Fisherman’s Wharf.
It’s time to roll on to the Merimbula Wharf Aquarium and Restaurant where you can feed the fish in this remarkable location that clings to the coastline. Stop in at Toast Pambula for a healthy brunch, then cross the road to the Wild Rye’s Baking Co to pick up some coffee and pastries that will sweeten the short drive to NSW’s most southerly town of Eden.
Do not leave town before dining at Valentina, the hottest (and most sophisticated) ticket in town and sister restaurant Dulcie’s Cottage, which serves craft cocktails and beer alongside local oysters and fries.
Eden is a town of deep beauty, where the verdant bush virtually tumbles down craggy cliffs and into the sea. It also has a fascinating (and horrific) whaling history, which you can explore at the home-spun Eden Killer Whale Museum and by driving the Killer Whale Trail on the Sapphire Coast.
If you’re wild about whales, plan your visit in November to coincide with the Eden Whale Festival. Keen bird-watchers will appreciate the gentle pace of a kayak tour with Kiah Wilderness Escapes, as guide Jen Robb points out native flora and fauna in the local environment. Grab coffee and a toastie or healthy salad at Sprout, a cafe on the main street of Eden that also puts together epic picnics.
Head to Green Cape Lookout for mesmerising vistas from the jagged peninsula, where you might even spot a fur seal or an albatross. Join a Cat Balou cruise of Twofold Bay for a more in-depth interaction with this coastal beauty or a Wharf to Wharf Walk with Sapphire Coast Guiding Co. Guide Cam Read also conducts e-bike tours of Mimosa Rocks National Park and can tailor a tour of the Sapphire Coast to suit. Foodies can also pinball between oysters, distillers, brewers, makers and bakers along the newly launched Gourmet Coast Trail.
Keep it low-key at one of the many Airbnbs or camping parks in the area or stay at the newly made-over Hillcrest Merimbula which is luring style-savvy road-trippers with its retro vibes.
The two-storey motel, which is located at the top of Merimbula Drive, faces seaward and has the feel of a lighthouse. It also has a tennis court, pool, and fire pit and can arrange a private sit-down dinner catered to by local chefs.
Sadly, it’s time to point the nose of your car homeward. Stop at Sprout Eden for brunch where you can stock up on local smoked seafood from the Eden Smokehouse before your cruise north.
Then it’s onward to Tathra, where you can find yourself an ocean-side picnic spot and decant the smoked goods from your esky, supplemented with some Tathra Oysters you’ve picked up on the way.
Walk along the new Tathra Headland Walk to arrive at the iconic Tathra Wharf, before heading to the Tathra Hotel for lunch. Pividori’s Tathra Beach is the new sister eatery to Blend and a prime spot to perch. Burn off those calories by hiring an e-bike from Tathra Beach & Bike and exploring the region’s 55 kilometres of trails.
The biggest takeaway message when exploring the tiny coastal hamlets on the NSW South Coast is that you will have a multitude of reasons to return. If you didn’t get to Narooma on the way south, head there on your way northward to check out what hotelier Justin Hemmes has contributed to the local amenity.
Hemmes, who owns a coastal homestead nearby, has given a very considered zhoozing to the tiki-style Quarterdeck pub and cocktail bar, The Inlet next door and the 17-room The Whale Inn.
Believe the Narooma rumours: Hemmes has done a wonderful job of reimagining all three properties, which are still a work in progress. In taking that slowly-slowly approach, Hemmes is being led by the community and giving them what they need and want.
Take a tour out to Montague Island with Montague Island Adventures where you can snorkel with the seals, take a penguin tour and enjoy hearing the history of the island with a National Parks & Wildlife Guide. Fisherfolk should also factor in an offshore adventure with Charter Fish Narooma.
The clear waters of Narooma in the Eurobodalla region invite swimmers, surfers, snorkellers and divers into its pristine depths. But if you have the time, a must-visit itinerary item is a day trip to Montague Island with Montague Island Adventures. Here, you’ll find incredible sea life, birdlife (including penguins) and a fur seal colony, all just nine kilometres from Narooma.
Hire an e-bike from Southbound Escapes and burn off some of those Quarterdeck calories on your way to the quirky food van known as The Oyster Farmer’s Daughter, located overlooking the Coxon family’s oyster lease on the banks of Wagonga Inlet.
Beer nerds will also appreciate craft beer and tacos and live music on offer at Big Niles Brewery, another noteworthy Narooma operation run by Cam White, a former pro BMX rider turned brewer.
As aforementioned, The Whale Inn was snapped up by Justin Hemmes in 2021. And the bar tsar, who calls Narooma home for much of the year, has built on the previous owners’ vision for a destination restaurant with rooms. Check into The Whale Inn before taking a short drive to Tilba for a lazy afternoon at the Tilba Valley Winery and Alehouse.
If you have time, take a side trip to explore Cobargo, Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba, where lunch at the Dromedary Hotel is a must. Reserve a table at The Whale Inn for dinner so you can enjoy some Merivale magic.
You will also enjoy views over Montague Island from your room at the Amooran Apartments just opposite the cliff-top Narooma Golf Course.
Bed down beachside at the adorable Mystery Bay Cottages, where you have your own, private four-star cottage set on a beachfront 12-hectare property or step it up a notch again and treat yourself to a night in a converted barn studio at Tilba Lake House, set against the sacred Mount Gulaga.
For something a little more low-key and family-friendly, try Big4 Narooma East’s Holiday Park and Tathra Beach House Apartments.
Today is the day you will be making your way from Narooma to pretty Kiama. Enjoy a pop-up breakfast picnic on the shores of Wagonga Inlet via Southbound Escapes or visit the takeaway window at Mr Bold Catering Co. in the industrial area of Narooma to stock up before you set off. Mr Bold Catering takes pre-orders of local grazing platters on Wednesday afternoons with a rotating roster of heat-and-eat meals that you can enjoy at your local accommodation. You can also pre-order a picnic platter and cocktails or the full dinner party feast.
When you do arrive in the coastal village of Kiama, you must take a tour of those breath-snatching blowholes before settling into the laidback-luxe vibes at Diggies at Blowhole Point for a well-rounded afternoon of good eats and cooling cocktails.
Still hungry? Head to The Hungry Monkey and The Brooding Italian for burgers. Miss Arda is the sister venue of Otis Deli, both opened by chef Emily Herbert (the former head chef under Yotam Ottolenghi at Ottolenghi Belgravia in the UK).
The Kiama Coastal Walk is a 20-kilometre track that curls gently from Minnamurra River to Gerringong’s Werri Werri Beach. For such a staggeringly beautiful coast-fringed walk, it’s remarkable how under-the-radar this experience is. You needn’t do it all; simply choose the section that suits you best and be entirely captivated by this special place.
Kiama has a sparkling new boutique hotel. Complete with 32 stylish rooms, a pool, and coffee dispensed from a ‘Kombi’, Nova Kiama will bring your road trip to a well-appointed end.
It’s time for the final leg of your NSW South Coast escape. You came, you spent money, and you’ve left these communities in slightly better shape than before your visit. There’s no doubt you’re also feeling restored by this enriching experience punctuated by clear waters, astounding wildlife and friendly locals. This is what we call mutually beneficial tourism. Well played, travellers.
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