Where Is It?
For the uninitiated, the south coast of New South Wales is roughly defined as anywhere from Wollongong down to the area around Bateman’s Bay and Bega. My family has a caravan in a park on the shores of St George’s Basin, near Huskisson and Vincentia.
Getting There – Car:
The heart of the south coast – Jervis Bay, Sussex Inlet, St George’s Basin, etc. – is about a two and a half hour drive from Sydney (down the Princes Highway past Wollongong, through Kiama, Berry, Nowra and then a turnoff just south of Nowra) with tremendous views of the spectacular coastal scenery, and the particularly majestic countryside between Kiama and Berry, one of my favourite stretches of road anywhere.
The new bypass both north and south of Kiama has changed some of the driving down south, and there’s more to come, which is a bit of a shame, except when it’s Sunday afternoon and you’re stuck crawling along at five kilometres an hour all the way from Berry to Wollongong. Trust me, that’s no way to end a holiday.
Getting There – Train
Alternatively, you can do what I did: head down to Nowra-Bomaderry on the train. As far as short train journeys around the state go, this has to be right up there with the best. The entire trip is a little more than two hours, and the last ninety minutes – roughly from when you pass through Waterfall right through to when you alight at Bomaderry-Nowra station – are as good a showcase of the south coast as there is.
Sit on the left-hand side of the train and look out the large picture windows for the best views of beaches, cliffs, the water and dozens of caravan parks and pubs that slip by. It’s worth fighting for a window seat on the left, and everyone seems to know it; my Friday morning train south was barely full, but nearly all the left-side seats were occupied. You’ll see why once you clear the Sydney suburbs.
(If you’re in possession of an Opal Card and are doing this trip on a Friday afternoon, as I was, then you’ve probably already amassed eight or more journeys in the week, which means it’s a free trip – nothing better!)
You have to change trains from electric to diesel at Kiama, which is a great excuse to get off and walk into the charming township. It isn’t that much of a walk to some amazing fish and chips (Saltwater Kiama on the main street is the best of the bunch), not to mention the iconic Kiama Blow Hole, which draws hundreds of tourists every day. The Blow Hole is actually at it’s best when the weather is ugly. On Friday afternoon, it was barely happening, but the afternoon was so pleasant it hardly mattered. Kiama is nice at the best of times, but when the sun is shining down from a cloudless sky, there are few nicer places in the world.
Berry is another place worth checking out, especially if you love to eat, drink, read and enjoy antiques. Pretty much, no matter what you like, chances are there’ll be something to keep you amused, occupied and well-fed in this quaint country town, which gets hellishly busy every weekend. It’s a destination now, so even the freeway bypass that’s being built won’t really slow things down.
We ate lunch at Our Book Shop & Café on Monday, which handily combines two of my favourite things: eating and reading. What’s not to like about that? The Berry Burger on Turkish bread with homemade relish was my choice, along with some freshly squeezed orange juice, and both were great. There’s indoor seating as well as outdoor in the courtyard, which is nicely shaded and perfect for a midsummer lunch!
My favourite Berry experience is the famous Berry Donut Van, which, as it’s name would suggest, specialises in making donuts, and awesome ones at that. Their mixture is homemade, and everything is done manually. They cook the donuts to order, and, let me tell you, they come out piping hot! Almost as good as the donuts are the coffee and milkshakes. The key is to not eat too much elsewhere so you’ve got room for donuts!
Bream Beach, a town with only the holiday park that shares it’s name, is on the dead-end Wright’s Beach Road, which itself is a turn off from the road through to Hyams Beach – a stretch of coastland famous for apparently having the whitest sand in the world, and a shockingly crowded place during peak periods as a result – and the Booderee National Park (Commonwealth territory), which is home to some great beaches and a surprisingly vast Botanical Gardens area.
You turn right off the Jervis Bay Road if you’re coming from Nowra/Huskisson/Vincentia and head down the long hill, through Erowal Bay, and into the bush. About thirty seconds on, the bush opens up, there’s a sign that says ‘Bream Beach’ and the park entrance is off to your right not much further on.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that the caravan park where the family has had an onsite van and annex for nearly two decades is old-school, and definitely a far cry from those mammoth resorts that scatter the north coast, but that’s all part of it’s charm.
Also, the fact that you’re only about a half-minute walk from the peaceful waters of St George’s Basin – warm, and shallow; you can walk out a good hundred meters before the water’s up over your waste – is a giant plus. As is the huge amount of wildlife that lives around the place. The park is home to a large and mostly friendly mob of kangaroos, a few possums that scuttle around the place, and, when it’s empty (as it is most of the time other than Christmas-New Year and Easter) you feel like you’re in a secluded bush camp.
Close to Bream Beach is the township of Sanctuary Point, from where we did the Basin Walk, which meanders along the foreshore, passing by dozens of small beaches, and offering stunning views across the expanse of the Basin. On a clear day, it’s magic. We started near the boat ramp on Sanctuary Point Road and went around to Paradise Beach, from where you can easily walk into town and visit a coffee shop! I recommend stopping at the Bakery. Great custard tarts – a weakness of mine – and milkshakes – another weakness of mine – there.
Vincentia & Huskisson
Close to Bream Beach are the seaside towns of Vincentia and Huskisson. The two are connected by a bike/walking path that mostly winds it away along the coast. It’s actually my favourite way of getting between the two towns. The path is mostly flat, so you can cruise along pretty easily. The views are fantastic, too.
In Vincentia, the excellent Bayview Bakery has been my go-to for as long as I’ve been spending time down there. The cakes and coffee (and milkshakes!) are out-of-this-world good, and the views of the ocean are almost unparalleled.
I’ve been to the Noodle House a few times, and it’s pretty good takeaway fodder if that’s what you like!
Elsewhere in Vincentia is the 3 Gringos Mexican restaurant, another of my favourites. You wouldn’t immediately peg Vincentia as being a hotbed for good Mexican cuisine, but, trust me, it’s really good. No matter what you order, it’s gonna taste awesome. Keep in mind the amazing churros for dessert, if you’ve got any room. Ate there Friday night, and ate well!
(Unfortunately, a giant shopping complex has opened up nearby, and it remains to be seen how many business in Vincentia and around there will go out of business because people choose to shop and do other things at the new complex, rather than at Coles and elsewhere in Vincentia. It would be a real shame if that happened!)
Over at Huskisson, there are literally dozens of opportunities to eat and drink: the Huskisson Hotel on the corner as you come in from Vincentia is great. So is Club Jervis Bay down the road a little, and there are plenty of cafes along the main drag that serve good food and drink. It’s just a matter of finding one that you like.
The weather was so good this weekend that we decided to do a sunset cruise. Huskisson has a wide array of companies that offer various sorts of cruises, everything from whale/dolphin spotting to ones that take you out to explore the sea caves along the coast. We chose something a little more sedate, a two hour (return) trip up the Currambene Creek, which was really, really nice. Jervis Bay Wild do a great job, especially on the narration front. I learnt a bunch of new facts about the area from a local called Ernie, who was awesome.
(We were a little disappointed that they didn’t have any sunset bay cruises running when we booked…but Sunday night turned out to be a windy one, and Jervis Bay was heavily populated by whitecaps. Currambene Creek, on the other hand, was largely wind-free and the cruise was lovely).
That’s really just pricking the surface of even the Huskisson/Vincentia/Jervis Bay area. It’s a great place to be outdoors. The weather over the weekend made it even better. There’s plenty to see and do…or you can spend the entire time relaxing and catching up on a good book!