Jervis Bay is that summer paradise on the NSW South Coast. Book your Jervis Bay accommodation or choose one of the amazing camping spots, pack your bathers, here is your comprehensive guide to things to do in Jervis Bay. By Jim Harnwell
t would take a lifetime to properly explore Jervis Bay. About 2.5hrs southeast of Sydney, this coastal indent is a vast pool of relatively shallow water fringed by long sandy beaches interspersed on the western foreshore by a series of small rocky outcrops. The bay itself is huge. It’s more than 16km by water from the main township, Huskisson, across to the entrance, marked by Point Perpendicular in the north and the bluff cliffs of Bowen Island in the south. For those with a statistical bent, the bay holds the same amount of water as eight Sydney Harbours and boasts an impressive 90km of beaches.
“JB” is wonderful throughout summer, the week between Christmas and New Year is flat out, and February, March and even April offer excellent swimming months. Because it’s such a vast embayment, JB often misses out as the first tongues of warm water move southward with the East Australian Current, so late summer and early autumn see water temps of 22-23 degrees – lovely for swimming. And there are plenty of other water activities to enjoy.
The brisk nor’easters that spring up around lunchtime during the summer months provide sailors with strong, steady winds, and most weekends the northern side of the bay is dotted with sails. The same breeze pushes fishermen and powerboaters back into the protected waters of Currambene Creek or over to Long Beach, where flotillas of pleasure boats anchor close to shore and families disembark to set up camp on the flat, sandy beach.
A favourite family activity is to take the White Sands Walk at Vincentia. This involves strolling along a bush track. Huge old gums huddle amid weathered sandstone boulders to your right, water glints through scrub on your left, and the easy 20min walk ends at a series of rough steps at Chinamans Beach, a sloping expanse of pure white sand. Another five minutes and you’re walking down the main street of the tiny but exclusive village of Hyams Beach, admiring the million-dollar waterfront shacks. No White Sands Walk is ever complete without a coffee and milkshake for the kids at the local cafe, then it’s time to walk back, taking the opportunity to stop at the various lookouts on the way in the hope of spotting some of the resident dolphins or, if the season’s right, maybe even a whale.
There are various other walks. One for the dedicated is the trek into Steamers, a magic ocean beach across the border into the ACT on the southern side of the bay. Getting there involves about 3km of fairly easy walking along a well-defined track, then a steep descent via wooden steps down a ridge to the beach. Once there (and it’s only mad fishermen and super energetic types who make the trip), the beach opens up like a great big smile of yellow sand, green bush and blue water. A huge jutting headland, home to a colony of seals, forms a perfect backdrop to the ocean.
Jervis Bay Accommmodation
When I was a youngster, Mum and Dad used to rent the ground floor of an old place right on Collingwood Beach, the main stretch of sand separating Husky and Vincentia. Back then it was probably 50 bucks a week for very basic lodgings. That same place is still standing – and looks unchanged from what it was 30 years ago – but a week in prime time now costs $1000 or more.
Tourism is JB’s main economic activity and there are many lodging options ranging from holiday homes, motels, farm stays, B&Bs and camping/caravanning. Many of the houses, especially around Vincentia and Hyams Beach, are holiday homes rented out either by the owners or by local estate agents; most of these are fine for a week away, but the houses operated by owners are usually far better presented. Expect to pay about $2000 a week for a decent beach house in the peak summer season.
Quite a few B&Bs have sprung up in recent years. Operated mainly by out-of-towners who fancy a bit of a sea change, these offer short-term stays mainly for couples. There are also several unique and interesting places to stay. Ten minutes west of the bay lies historic Parma Farm, a 250-hectare heritage-listed cattle property with three self-contained houses on offer, including Parma House, a graceful mansion built in 1874, which sleeps up to 12 ( 4447 8098, www.parmaescapes.com.au).
Then there’s Paperbark Camp at Woollamia, a few minutes out of Husky on Currambene Creek, featuring luxury tents amid, surprisingly enough, a paperbark forest ( 4441 6066, www.paperbarkcamp.com.au ). The Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages are popular, albeit cosy, and are designed exclusively for couples ( 4441 7838, www.hyamsbeachseasidecottages.com.au).
Camping remains a perennial favourite with visitors and locals alike and one of the highlights of any camping trip to Booderee is booking a bush tucker tour with local Aboriginal elder Barry Moore, a member of the Wadi Wadi tribe who’s lived at JB all his life. Barry’s a real character – my kids love him – and he tells some wild and very funny stories. He’s also extremely knowledgeable when it comes to identifying the culinary and medicinal properties of native plants, as well as detailing the long history of Aboriginal settlement in the area. You can contact Barry on (02) 4442 1168.
Where to eat
Not so long ago a culinary experience at JB centred on fish ‘n’ chips, Chinese, a steak at the pub, club food at the RSL and a “cappuccino” that consisted of instant coffee topped with frothy milk. Things are a touch more trendy nowadays. The Bay offers Indian, Thai, Italian and Mod-Oz cuisine at the array of cafes and restaurants that have magically appeared in Huskisson and Vincentia in the past few years. Happily, the old Chinese restaurant on Owen St at the edge of town remains the same as it was in 1975, the famous Husky pub still does great steaks, the RSL is still good for a cheap meal and the fish ‘n’ chips remain a Sunday afternoon ritual.
The Boulevard cafe at the top of the main street gets a lot of passing trade because it boasts a good location. However, you’ll get much better food, coffee and service just down the road at the Jervis Bay Kiosk, a hip little cafe that’s deservedly popular with locals and tourists alike. For those interested in dining out for lunch or dinner, Seagrass, just off the main street, does a pretty good job of offering classy fare in a stylish, relaxed environment.
Best Beaches in Jervis Bay
The clear waters of the bay offer ideal family fun; most beaches are protected from swell and waves, although big southerlies can kick up a groundswell on the more exposed beaches. Mornings are best, before the nor’easter kicks in, although if you own a decent boat you can find a protected beach on the northern side of the bay and stay out for the entire day. The same applies when a southerly is blowing – head over to beaches such as Scottish Rocks, Hole in the Wall or Greenpatch to find complete protection.
The most popular beaches are Moona Moona Creek (great for little kids), Blenheim and Greenfields at Vincentia, Sailors and Shark Net at Huskisson, Hyams and Chinamans at Hyams Beach, Greenpatch and Murrays beach on the south side and Target and Long Beach to the north.
Good snorkelling is on offer around the rocky points that separate many of the beaches. You’ll spot blue groper, bream, blackfish, wrasse and harmless port jackson sharks. Because it’s protected from all but the biggest swells, surfing is fairly limited in the actual bay. However, big southerlies produce some cracking waves at least a few times a year with reef breaks at Husky, Vincentia and Callala Bay.
Apart from good surfing and swimming, JB has plenty on offer for the keen fisherman. The rock ledges fronting both the north and south arms of the bay, and the “tubes” just inside the bay beneath the lighthouse, provide some of country’s best land-based game fishing. Plenty of giant black marlin are landed off the rocks by keen anglers who traverse sheer cliffs to access the best ledges. JB is one of the few places in the world where you can hope to catch a big marlin, tuna or shark directly from the shore. Whiting and bream are common off the sand during summer and there are usually plenty of flathead in Currambene Creek.
If you have a boat, you can launch at either the main Currambene Creek ramp or at Murrays Beach to the south. Recreational fishing is restricted in certain parts of the bay, so don’t try fishing in a no-go zone unless you want to be fined $500 by a ranger. Plenty of unknowing tourists – and more than a few locals – get done every year.
Two professional fishing charter services operate within JB, offering trips either in the bay or offshore. Contact Ron “Simo” Simpson at Simo’s Afloat on 0429 669 656, www.simosafloat.com.au or Angelo Megamuci’s Jervis Bay Fishing on (02) 4447 8177, www.jervisbayfishing.com.au. Dave Venn owns and operates JB Tackle, the area’s only fishing tackle shop, on (02) 4441 6377. You’ll find a full range of tackle and bait, as well as the increasingly popular JB Lures, which Dave makes by hand at the shop.
Jervis Bay Marine Park
The JB Marine Park encompasses about 100km of coastline and adjacent ocean, extending from Kinghorn Point in the north to Sussex Inlet in the south and includes most of Jervis Bay. It’s described as a “multiple-use marine park”, which means “extractive” activities like recreational fishing, spearfishing, collecting and commercial fishing are limited to specific areas. Anchoring, using PWCs and fish feeding are also subject to restrictions. You can swim, snorkel, scuba dive or drive a boat anywhere and at any time.
Most locals and tourists regard the formation of the park as a good thing for the long-term sustainability of the area. Restrictions on fishing have caused some local angst, but if you’re just into swimming and lying around on the beach, you won’t even notice the park is there.
Jervis Bay Dolphin and Whale Watching
JB is home to resident bottlenose dolphins and fairy penguins and is seasonally visited by humpback whales and Australian fur seals. Dolphin watching in local charter boats is very popular. Contact Dolphin Watch Cruises on (02) 4441 6311 or go to www.dolphinwatch.com.au for details. Although you don’t need to go out in a boat to see dolphins. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen them off the beach, especially on the southern side near Scottish Rocks and Bristol Point.
Now that the Japanese aren’t allowed to turn whales into sushi, the annual migration along the east coast of massive humpbacks has seen more and more of these amazing mammals make a stopover in and around JB. The cliff tops around Cape St George (near the ruined lighthouse) are great spots to spread a blanket, set up a picnic lunch and scan the horizon for any telltale plumes or large black shapes. Prime whale seasons are June/July and September/November. Attached to Dolphin Watch Cruises is Jervis Bay Whales (www.jervisbaywhales.com.au) which has been operating for about two years. There’s also a growing seal colony south of JB and boaties and anglers often encounter bait- and fish-stealing seals, especially in the cooler months.
Jervis Bay Travel Guide
Best months to go: December-March and July-October
Most underrated aspect: Winter is perfect for romantic weekends. No crowds. Plenty to do . . . or not to do.
Most overrated aspect: JB’s famous white sand. It still gets in your cossies.
Be prepared for: Lax service & inferior food in some Huskisson eateries.
Watch out for: Some great new cafes and restaurants with friendly service and good food.
Best value encountered: Jervis Blue at Hyams Beach, (02) 4443 3874, a great little cafe/deli.
Contacts: www.jervisbaytourism.com.au , an independent site run by a
local tourism group. www.shoalhaven.nsw.gov.au, the Shoalhaven District’s site, is run by the local council.
More things to do in Jervis Bay
1. Charter a sailing boat: (02) 4441 8777 or (02) 4423 6709
2. Go on a trike tour: (02) 4441 7032
3. Visit the botanic gardens at Booderee NP: (02) 4443 0977
4. Feed fish and visit maritime museum at Lady Denman Heritage Complex, Huskisson: (02) 4441 5675
5. Check out the latest movies at Husky Pictures: (02) 4441 6343
6. Buy antiques at Husky Trading Post: (02) 4441 5241
7. Visit Lilliputland Miniature World: (02) 4447 8664
8. Kayak around the Bay: (02) 4441 7157
9. Ride a horse: (02) 4447 8320
10. Learn to scuba dive: (02) 4441 5012 or 1300 139 850
11. Enjoy cold beers and steaks in the beer garden at the Husky Pub: (02) 4441 5001
12. Admire old planes at the Museum of Flight at HMAS Albatross: (02) 4424 1920