February 13, 2023
5 mins Read
Find the complete list of the Top 50 Aussie Towns here.
The road bends back and forth time and again as you arrive in Narooma, and the vistas are incredible. The big draw is the blue water, which is a national marine park home to sea lions, whales, dolphins, octopuses and a vast congregation of manta rays.
Staring out to sea here is like indulging in colour therapy. Tourists from Victoria and the ACT have been trickling here for decades. But they didn’t arrive in substantial numbers until Justin Hemmes turned up. The hotelier owns a property nearby, and has invested heavily in the area’s fortunes. The ocean is central to the way of life here which is precisely what appealed to Hemmes and the many sea-changers that followed him.
Best of all: you don’t need a superyacht to enjoy it; much of the town’s charms lie in the fact that its beauty is very democratic. This rugged stretch of coast is all sugar-white beaches and deep ravines that are like rips in the seam of the Earth.
As well as being a shade of blue you never knew existed, the lagoons get an influx of seawater and freshwater, the right mix of which provides premium conditions for growing oysters. In fact, judges at the Narooma Oyster Festival have declared oysters from this region to be some of the very best in the world. Beyond slurping bivalve molluscs, here is where to eat, stay and play in Narooma.
You will meet some of Narooma’s salt-of-the-earth characters at SALT, which is what inspired the name of the waterfront cafe. It’s where to go to refuel on caffeine.
In addition to The Whale Inn, where Hemmes has opened Queen Chow, Merivale has renovated the much-loved Quarterdeck and is giving Lynch’s some love. The menu at the heritage hotel serves up classics reimagined from the period the pub was established (1895) such as beef pie with peas and potato mash as well as staples like schnitties and steak.
Perch, like the nearby pelicans, at The Inlet on Wagonga Inlet, which is open for takeaway only and known for its fresh fish and chips.
You should also attach yourself, like one of the creatures on the rocks below, to the Oyster Farmer’s Daughter, overlooking the bright bangle of Barlows Bay, to enjoy a glass of rosé and a dozen Sydney rocks.
If you want a quiet night in, order dinner to go from Mr Bold Catering, a local chef who curates quality food boxes and heat-and-eat items or pick up some fresh fish or abalone (when in season) from Narooma Bridge Seafoods.
Book ahead for Southbound Escapes to pitch a pop-up picnic which will come with all the bells and whistles as well as a hamper full of treats and goodies.
Southbound Escapes also hires out e-bikes and one of the best things to do in Narooma is head out, if the weather allows, with a destination in mind. In this case, we recommend hiring an e-bike that will take you to the Big Niles Brewing Co. in nearby Dalmeny, or further afield to the Dromedary Hotel in Central Tilba. You can also hire one of Mal’s BBQ Boats and putter around the protected waters stretched smooth and taut like too-tight denim around the curves of the coast.
As well as the secluded bays where you can swim in solitude, you will find kayakers weaving their way around caves and emerald grottos, surfers slicing through seas shafted with sunlight, and happy hikers with suntanned legs marching around sections of coastline so jagged they seem to pierce the sky.
Montague Island Adventures will also facilitate snorkelling with seals and penguin tours in addition to its guided loops around the protected nature reserve.
Work on your handicap at Narooma Golf Club, or kick off your kicks and keep it low-key with barefoot bowls at Club Narooma.
Throw back the curtains during your stay at The Whale Inn, the charming hotel Hemmes has so beautifully renovated, and you will be met with vivid colour from the sapphire-blue seas tangled like a ribbon around the fingers of land.
Book a package deal with Southbound Escapes and you will benefit from a stay at one of The Wharf apartments. You can also dispatch yourself to Amooran Oceanside Apartments and Motel or Mystery Bay Cottages, both of which are enveloped in the bucolic countryside with sweeping ocean views.
You will find Oakleigh Farm Cottages stitched onto the Far South Coast’s patchwork quilt popular for those under pressure to find pet-friendly accommodation.
If the latest Narooma rumour is true, it seems Justin Hemmes might have snatched up another place to stay in the town. Watch this space. But also know that the hotelier’s increasingly considered and restrained approach is bound to further bolster the area’s amenity and appeal and provide yet another reason to visit Narooma.
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