Beautiful beaches, scenic seaside towns and action-packed adventure – it’s easy to see why the Shoalhaven is the perfect place to get away for a weekend.
If you had to pick a word that’s long encapsulated the Shoalhaven, relaxation would be right up there. But it’s adventure that has become the new buzzword for the region. From spending the night in a secluded bay to scaling vertical sandstone cliffs or partaking in a kayak safari, nature-based adventure is what the new Shoalhaven is known for.
While finding it during the day is an easy feat, it’s the exploits that last into the night that are really shaking things up. Here are five to check out.
1. Overnight sailing on Jervis Bay
Swap the hotel for a night on the water instead. Pleiades is a brand new Seawind 1260 catamaran from Jervis Bay Sailing Charters offering overnight stays aboard the luxury vessel. With a professional skipper at the helm, you’ll visit Booderee National Park and Jervis Bay Marine Park, exploring over 100 kilometres of pristine ocean at your own pace, before anchoring at a secluded beach for the evening. BYO champagne and local seafood or get one of the region’s restaurants to do the catering for you.
2. Booderee National Park
Perhaps one of the most picturesque national parks in the country, the park’s namesake, Booderee, literally translates to ‘Bay of Plenty’. And it’s not wrong; hidden beaches with crystal-clear waters, pure white sand, towering sandstone coastal cliffs, interesting native wildlife and sprawling botanic gardens – it’s got it all.
What makes it so special is that, like Uluru and Kakadu, it’s co-managed by Parks Australia, which can tell you a little about the area’s significance. Traditional owners, the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community, are also involved in caretaking the land.
There’s so much to discover; you’d be rushed to do it in a day so set up base camp at The Cove – a collection of eco-certified accommodation that blends in with the rainforest surrounds, but doesn’t skimp on modern comforts. It’s run by the same guys that own The Woods Farm, so it’s no surprise that the aesthetic is more coastal chic than campground craggy. Glamp in a canvas bell tent complete with king bed, or opt for one of their shacks catering to couples or larger groups.
From here, venture into one the park’s many nature trails, hire a stand-up paddleboard or kayak, or cast a line from the beach in your backyard.
3. Kayak the Kangaroo Valley
Coast along the banks of the Kangaroo River in a kayak for the best chance of spotting a kangaroo taking a drink. At this pace, and from the water, you might even catch a glimpse of a platypus or water dragon while you’re at it.
Stop by Kangaroo Valley Kayaks as you enter the river to hire your own for two hours, or the whole day, and for an overnight adventure, Kangaroo Valley Safaris has you covered. BYO camping gear and follow the two-day, self-guided tours from Bendeela to Tallowa Dam or Tallowa Dam to Shoalhaven Gorge, with each day requiring about three hours of paddling. If you want to extend the trip to three or five days, combine the two safaris and take your time discovering the river’s secrets, such as the Sunken Forest in Yarrunga Creek. It was intentionally flooded in the 1970s as part of the Shoalhaven hydro-electric scheme, and now is home to hundreds of stringybark trees that jut out from the water. Like the ghosts of a forgotten forest, it makes for an eerily beautiful sight.
Shoalhaven Gorge, considered to be one of the most scenic flat waterways in the state, is also well worth the overnight trip. Because it’s part of the Sydney Catchment Area, no powerboats are allowed, so it’s just you, your kayak and the water dragons on this 26-kilometre waterway.
4. Outdoor Raw and Grady’s Retreat
Adventure enthusiasts flock to Nowra for its world-famous rock-climbing spots, boasting around 2000 different climbs just 10 minutes from the town centre. Kyle Jones from Outdoor Raw takes groups on rock-climbing expeditions that will have you scaling sheer cliffs and feeling like Free Solo climber Alex Honnold or, if you’re a beginner, gentler climbs that will see you hooked on the adrenaline sport before long.
Kyle also hosts cliffnics. More than just a pretty picnic on a clifftop; you’ll dine while suspended off the edge. Perched just so, the gravity-defying platform comes complete with a picnic hamper full of local produce, beer and wine. It’s an experience not for the fainthearted, but one that makes for an epic memory and an even better Instagram photo.
Stay overnight at Grady’s Riverside Retreat – a pet-friendly campsite on the banks of the Shoalhaven River, giving you easy access to fishing, canoeing and paddleboarding. If waterskiing and wakeboarding are more your thing, bring your boat and use the boat ramp and jetty onsite.
For more land-based fun, there’s a BMX track, while adults will be thrilled with the campsite’s close proximity to 4WD trails.
5. Region X
You could be forgiven for thinking this is like the school for gifted youngsters in X-Men. Rather, it’s the name of an adventure tour company that operates around Ulladulla, Mollymook and North Durras. Opt for a great three-day South Coast Walk through Murramarang National Park, taking in 44 kilometres of coastline and a terrain that includes beach sand, pebbles and interesting rock platforms. Tour guide Tom isn’t perturbed when the group encounters high water; the overland track through forests and cliffs is just as spectacular. There’s also a five-day package which includes transfers to and from Sydney.
Accommodation is in twin-share villas with private bathrooms on the campgrounds inside the national park. Depot Beach campground boasts a brand new pizza oven, too, so you can fuel up on carbs for the next day’s travels.
The three-day hikes are for all fitness levels, but if you want to warm up with something smaller, Pigeon House Mountain is a good place to start. It has a steep ascent, flat plateau and a series of steel ladders built by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to get you to the summit and the view over Budawang National Park.