Sponsored by Destination NSW
With parents from Brisbane, we always travelled to Northern NSW for holidays, meeting other families at beach towns like Yamba, Byron Bay, Ocean Shores and Currumbin. Naturally, I became familiar with the drive, and the destinations spotted along the way. In comparison, I knew almost nothing about Southern NSW aside from an odd surf trip and a weekend at Bannisters By The Sea. When Destination New South Wales approached me to do a trip to highlight the gems of the NSW South Coast, my decision to partake was the easiest of my year so far. Armed with a bulging itinerary, I packed up my Hertz rental and hit the road, heading three hours South, to the only familiar location on the list, Bannisters.
After attempting to navigate my way through sleepy Milton towards Bannisters By The Sea from memory, I gave up and plugged the address into my phone. I arrived later than I would have liked to, the sunset by the pool is sensational, and not to be missed if you can help it. My room for the evening was on the corner of the property with an 180 degree view of the lapping ocean. The 32 rooms are beautifully put together, and all come with their own unique features – mine was a showpiece bathtub in the centre of the room. I used it for all of two minutes before dashing over to Rick Stein’s restaurant for my dinner reservation.
Sadly, I overlooked the Shellfish soup, opting instead for a Kingfish ceviche, which, fortunately, was excellent, then Rick’s take on a Spaghetti Marinara which was perhaps the best I’ve had. Unfortunately, the wine wasn’t as delicious as the food, but that was my fault. I chose a Fonseca Port with a local blue cheese to cap off another great experience at Rick Stein’s. I rose with the sun and incredible views of the trees and ocean had a small breakfast at the restaurant and climbed back into the car for a 2-hour drive to Barraga Bay. 12 hours of bliss at Bannisters simply isn’t long enough.
Somewhat shady from the previous eve, I relished in how easy the drive was, there’s something more relaxed about driving in the South of the state. I couldn’t help but pause at Mogo to admire a vintage car club who’d stopped for coffee.
With my mind on the waves at Cuttagee Beach, I initially missed the turn off for Long Time No Sea, perched up on the hill above Barragga Bay. Former Noma chef William Wade has created a formidable dining destination with an emphasis on outstanding food made with the best local ingredients available to him. I chose to have the chef serve me whatever he wanted, sampling a duck liver parfait, terrine and exquisite buffalo mozzarella. For main I was served a half lamb shoulder with salsa verde alongside a portion of roast pumpkin and simple butter lettuce with delicate mustard dressing. The entire meal blew me away. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
For the following two days, I used Tanja Lagoon Camp as a base for what may aptly be described as a culinary crusade of the South. Tanja Lagoon Camp is wilderness camp with four luxury ‘Glamping’ tents equipped with an attached bathroom and kitchen. It’s one of the most exciting, fulfilling and relaxing places I’ve ever stayed, totally detached from the world. Centrally located between Bermagui to the North and Merimbula to the South, Tanja Lagoon Camp gives you endless options for remote beaches, hikes, surfing, fishing and of course, eating.
Merimbula is the furthermost point South I visited, about a half hour drive from Tanja. I scored a morning of great waves at Bar Beach then had an excellent breakfast burrito and coffee at Bar Beach Kiosk overlooking the point. Just outside Merimbula is Longstocking Nano Brewery, run by a passionate brewer named Rob. It’s a tiny operation producing some cracking beers, including a phenomenal Dark Ale. Unfortunately, you can’t take it away. You can, however, take it across to the Oakland’s Cafe which just steps away.
I ate a Japanese Chicken salad which was incredible for what I considered to be a rather unassuming little cafe. I was then persuaded to try their famous Cheesecake drizzled with salted caramel sauce. That slice of cake is worth the journey itself, hands down the best Cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.
The best’s didn’t stop at the desserts. En route back to Tanja, I popped into Tathra Oysters for a chat with Garry Rodley. The Rodley family have been farming oysters since 1988, and have won over 180 awards for their produce. Run out of the family home; their operation has an incredible authenticity about it. Customers walk through the garage displaying the plethora of awards and names of restaurants currently stocking their Oysters, think Bridge Room, Bent St, etc., then into a small space which houses their innovative sorting facility and Tathra’s finest Oysters. I left with three trays, a gift from Garry, and I can assure you they too were the best I’ve ever eaten too.
There’s plenty of fantastic dinner options in the area. In Tathra, there’s local favourite Fat Tony’s Bar and Grill or Woodfired Etc, which make a cracking Pepperoni pizza and then Churros if you have space. At Bermagui, I dined at Il Passagio, and for the first time in my life chose my entree and main from the specials as told to me by the waitress. She was chuffed with my ‘fantastic’ choices and when they arrived, so was I. The ricotta gnocchi with duck ragout was world class. I actually couldn’t believe how nice it was. Paired with a simple house blend red, heaven.
On my trip back North I visited Bithry Inlet where Wapengo Lake connects with the sea and photographed Kangaroos on the beach, which Pebbly Beach further north is also famous for. I stopped to check the surf at various spots along the coast and reflected on three days of superb food and friendly folks over lunch at Scarborough Hotel. From The Royal National Park to the beautiful Sapphire Coast, deep in the NSW South Coast there are so many great experiences to be had. I’m disappointed I’ve left it so long to get acquainted!
Share what you love about holidays in NSW including the places you visit and the experiences you uncover. Upload your NSW holiday videos and photos to www.visitnsw.com/ilovensw using #ILoveNSW – the best videos selected will feature in a collection of films produced by Destination NSW and go into the draw to win Canon Prize Packs.