Just a 90-minute drive from Sydney and chockful of things to see and do, we know that Shellharbour won’t stay under the radar forever – so here’s how to make the most of it before the crowds arrive.
Where else can you peek inside a historical aircraft, cycle past detailed art, and surf some of the country’s cleanest waves, all in a single day? Here are some more of the fabulous experiences this NSW South Coast gem has to offer.
As is the case with most regional towns, the culinary focus in Shellharbour is on local. Meat, seafood and produce are best enjoyed close to where they were sourced, and in a produce-rich area like this, the food is extremely fresh. You can also expect friendly staff, airy spaces and generous side servings of sea breeze.
After authentic, yet affordable Italian? Look no further than Nardi’s Italian. The family-owned restaurant provides a hearty mix of pastas, meats, and breads on the menu, all under $29. Start with garlic bread with melted mozzarella cheese or herb bread before moving onto main servings of pesto linguine, scallopini ai funghi or pollo parmigiana. The backdrop here is equal parts cosy and industrial. Think dark wood tables and chairs against exposed overhead beams and steel hanging lights.
Address: 1 Burra Place, Shellharbour, NSW, 2529
Relish on Addison
Shellharbour isn’t short on casual seaside dining but, for something a little more upmarket (yet still quick and reasonable), head to Relish on Addison. Popular with locals, the cafe adds its own inventive spin on modern Australian fare with options like the cauliflower truffle mornay oysters, mushroom and baby spinach risotto cakes, and confit duck with parsnip puree. They’re open for Sunday breakfast too, so pop in for pancakes with grilled bananas after your morning surf or dip.
Address: 6 Addison Street, Shellharbour, NSW, 2529
Located in the Shellharbour Resort, Branches Restaurant is one of the laidback town’s few fine-dining spots. It specialises in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, with locally sourced seafood served up amidst tranquil views and a relaxing setting. The restaurant’s three-course chef’s selection menu is a hot choice, but you can order a la carte if you’d prefer. Don’t go past the marinated, crumbed squid with mango salsa, chicken cordon chorizo or Morton Bay bugs cooked in a garlic cream sauce.
Address: Corner Shellharbour Road and Ocean Beach Drive, Shellharbour, NSW, 2529
For a chilled-out Australian coastal town, it’s surprising how much culture Shellharbour has on offer. When you’ve had your fill of swimming, snorkelling or surfing, take an art walk that celebrates the area’s Aboriginal history or visit a museum dedicated to historical aircraft.
Lake Illawarra Art Trail
Rent a bike from South Coast Bike Hire before hitting the Lake Illawarra Art Trail – or walk the track if you’d prefer. The public pathway winds along the lake t for three kilometres, with artworks from local artists at various points along the foreshore. Admire mosaic sculptures and hand-carved wood pieces, learn more about the materials used to create the works and walk away with a newfound appreciation for the history and culture of the traditional owners of the region.
Address: Reddall Parade, Mount Warrigal, NSW, 2528
HARS Aviation Museum
Whether you’re into aviation or not, HARS (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society) Aviation Museum is still a worthwhile visit. The museum houses some of the country’s most historically important aircraft and, because admission includes a guided tour, you can get up close and personal with Australia’s aviation greats. For a special treat, book a tour of the record breaking Qantas Boeing 747, or a Wing Walk that has you climbing outside of the plane onto the aircraft’s wing, 16 metres above the tarmac.
Address: 54 Airport Road, Albion Park Rail, NSW, 2527
The Links Shell Cove
Australians are rather spoiled when it comes to scenic locations to tee off at a game of golf, and the Links Shell Cove is among one of the best. It was voted one of the top 50 Australian courses to play for under $50 – likely owing to a full fleet of electric golf carts, a brilliantly designed championship course, a turf-line driving range to perfect your swing and a licensed hotel and Brasserie conveniently located onsite. Keep an eye out for the purpose-built, short game practice area coming soon.
Address: Golf Drive, Shell Cove, NSW, 2527
You won’t find many big-chain resorts in Shellharbour. Instead, choose from privately owned hotels, charming holiday apartments and houses, quaint bed and breakfasts, holiday parks and fully equipped campsites.
Reflections Killalea Reserve
Disconnect from the daily grind and connect in real life on a weekend camping trip. Reflections Killalea Reserve makes it easy with a fully equipped kitchen, barbecues, toilets, showers and a kiosk, all onsite. Start your day with a stroll around one of the park’s many walking tracks or have a paddle at popular surf spot, The Farm. Don’t own a tent? Rent a bunk in the Bunkhouse.
Address: Killalea Drive, Shell Cove, NSW, 2529
Barrack Point Holidays
If camping isn’t your thing, then Barrack Point Holidays is a great alternative. Each of its 19 cabins comes with a kitchenette and microwave, air-conditioning and a TV to wind down after a busy day of activities.
In the morning, walk to nearby Cowries Cafe at Warilla Bowls before driving to Minnamurra Rainforest for a short (1.6-kilometre) boardwalk stroll to the dramatic Minnamurra Falls. Back at Barrack Point in the afternoon, book a court for a spot of tennis.
Address: Jason Avenue, Barrack Heights, NSW, 2528
If you have a little more cash to splash, spend a night at Escape778. Set on 20 hectares, this secluded accommodation located underneath the Illawarra Escarpment is, flanked by sheer cliff faces and lush rainforest, was once a private home and is now a quiet escape for a couple or a group of friends. Spend your afternoon soaking in the spa, curled up on the couch with a book, or wandering the grounds trying to spot a wallaby, wombat, or echidna.
Address: 778 Calderwood Road, Calderwood, NSW, 2527