Friday, February 23, 2024

Go south, south of Sydney!

The New South Wales coast, south of Wollongong is, perhaps, one of Australia’s most beautiful yet lesser-known regions. HELEN PERRY recently explored some of its bays and beaches all with the wow factor.

Arriving in Sydney for a surprise 60th birthday, family soon whisked husband and I down to Greenwell Point on the south coast for the big celebration.

During several days in the Shoalhaven district, we came to marvel at its sheltered shores and green countryside. The region encompassed lush farmland – mostly dairying – majestic national parks, secluded bays and surf beaches too.

However, it was the intimate coves of Jervis Bay and beyond, that we fell in love with – safe and calm with clear aqua waters, white, white, sands, rockpools, tree-lined banks and, hallelejuah, decent carparking. They were family perfect.

Undoubtedly, these secluded, tranquil waters, as well as ocean beaches, were ideal for a wide range of water sports from swimming, paddle boarding, and scuba diving through to surfing, kayaking, fishing and more. We also learned that sightings of dolphins and whales were not uncommon.

Well, I just had to tell her Howick and Pakuranga had been my stamping ground for more than 40 years and perhaps she knew the Howick and Pakuranga Times where I had worked for some 30 years. She did!

Driving south from Sydney our route took us through parts of Morton National Park. There travellers can access beautiful Fitzroy Falls plus all manner of recreation opportunities and, of course, stunning views. The visitor centre offes many activity suggestions but be mindful there is a small charge for the carpark.

We then passed through Kangaroo Valley, across the famous Hampden Bridge with its impressive towers and on to Nowra where a chance encounter soon made it clear we live in a small world.

Queuing for a comfort stop at the local McDonalds, I remarked on “only one loo for so many!”. The young woman next to me immediately asked where in New Zealand was home – obviously, she recognised my Kiwi twang!

I replied “Pukekohe”, she then told me her parents lived in Howick. Well, I just had to tell her Howick and Pakuranga had been my stamping ground for more than 40 years and perhaps she knew the Howick and Pakuranga Times where I had worked for some 30 years. She did!

Subsequently, the cramped rest room was soon the scene of a mini reunion. The young lass had been raised close to friends of ours and she knew The Times well. We chatted until the one cubicle came free then wished each other well – a lovely surprise meeting albeit in an odd location.

We then carried on to our nearby destination of Greenwell Point – a quiet, pretty township located on the Crookhaven River. There, seafood was in abundance – we gladly indulged in oysters and prawns.

Over the next few days we toured further south visiting busy villages such as Vicentia, Huskisson and Sanctuary Point down to Mollymook and Ulladulla.

Attractive homes, colourful boutiques plus many cafes, pubs and clubs most with a view all suggested a holiday in these parts offered easy relaxation with plenty of dining, shopping and leisure opportunities. The countryside also provided camping, hiking, cycling and a taste from local vineyards.

Like so many places in Australia, hearty pub/club meals were virtually a given and although prices pretty much mirrored those in New Zealand, there tended to be more variety and no stinting on generous portions.

I can recommend dining at Mollymook Golf Course while at Greenwell Point the local club and a nearby pub offered great choices as did the delightful Pelican Rock Café, specialising in seafood – amazing dishes – fully licensed and with river views.

While we opted for mostly casual dining, the 60th birthday party venue, The Butter Factory was special, too. Set among tall trees the 1800’s solid brick building encompassed an elegant public restaurant exuding period charm (I’ve earmarked this for a future visit) and a private function room.

With temperatures soaring to 38 degree Celsius outside, the function room, of medieval proportions and décor, was cool and comfortable. A stunning restoration, both venue and our three-course menu were hard to fault. Additionally, neighbouring Jindyandy Mill, convict-built in 1830, attracted plenty of attention for its antiques, market place, condiments and sweets!

When, finally, we headed back to Sydney, we took the coast road passing by the long stretch of Seven Mile Beach, its rolling surf a contrast to the sheltered bays further south.

We also stopped at Kiama to view its famous blowhole and late 1880’s lighthouse just a short distance from town.

This rugged piece of coast was quite spectacular and well worth visiting. There was disability access with great viewing of the blowhole plus idyllic picnic spots for those who cared to linger.

Setting out again, we bypassed Wollongong but for those who haven’t been that way before, take time to stop and visit townships such as nearby Berry, a tourist town influenced by its settler past.

So, for Kiwis seeking mountains, sea, rainforests and rivers, the NSW south coast is indeed the place to visit. Remember to pack swimsuits and hiking boots – you never know where you might end up and just what will take your fancy.

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