Australia is no stranger to lush island escapes.
From the crystal clear waters that surround the Whitsundays, to the pines that cover Norfolk, we are spoiled for choice.
But a tiny island off the coast of NSW, just moments by boat from the sleepy township of Narooma, is a nature-lovers wonderland and an island you may never have heard of before.
Have you heard of the Eurobodalla Shire? Well, you have now.Source:News Corp Australia
After spending what felt like an eternity cooped up in my own city like almost everyone else in the country, I was invited to visit the Eurobodalla Shire for a long weekend of sand, sun and a magical swim with a few hundred friendly seals.
Having never visited the region before (or even heard of the ‘Eurobodalla Shire’, to be honest) I was busting to see how the bush and beaches between Batemans Bay and Tilba Tilba had recovered after the devastating 2019 summer bushfires.
2021 is set to be a bumper year to jump in the car, and hit the road checking out all the best spots Australia has to offer.Source:News Regional Media
With the region being covered by almost 80 per cent bushland, this slice of Australia had faced a double whammy of destruction from the bushfires followed by the impact COVID-19 has had on tourism across the country.
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Following the devastating bushfires towards the end of 2019, I was keen to see how the far south coast of NSW had recovered. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
Winding down the Princes Highway, the scars a year on from the devastation have begun to heal, with new life and green shoots a stark contrast to the sporadic charred logs that remain roadside.
Cruising past the white sands of Bawley Point, Pebbly Beach and South Durras – it was like uncovering a secret on the south coast. The beaches were untouched and almost empty as the bush rolled onto the beach, with a few kangaroos sunning themselves on the sand as we cruised on by.
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All the best bits of the Eurobodalla Shire. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
From two wheels to no wheels, there’s plenty to explore in a weekend – or even a whole week. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
So with just 48 hours up your sleeve (but trust me, you’ll want more time) this is the best way to spend weekend exploring one of Australia’s untouched slices of paradise.
It’s not quite the Eurobodalla Shire, but no visit down south is complete without a stop into Bannisters by the Sea. Surrounded by the nature – and not skimping on luxury – Bannisters is a well known sea-escape for those wanting to forget the hustle and bustle of city life.
Not a bad way to lap up the start of a long weekend. Picture: suppliedSource:News Corp Australia
Bannisters by the Sea bedroom is the perfect way to start your stay.Source:News Regional Media
Rick Stein’s restaurant, which is just footsteps from your room, serves more seafood than you’ll know what to do with. Freshly shucked oysters, prawns on ice, fish tacos – if you’re a pescetarian you are in for an evening of heaven.
Listing a bunch of local wines, the restaurant is a real indulgence but it doesn’t come cheap, with the average main costing around $40. But with the silly season around the corner, it’s worth the splurge – especially if you opt for the restaurant’s signature ‘fish pie’ while overlooking their lush plunge pool.
Bannisters by the Sea dining takes in all the best views the hotel has to offer. Picture: Alan BensonSource:Sunshine Coast Daily
Fish pie from Rick Stein at Bannisters in Mollymook.Source:Supplied
Less than two hours further south, and you will arrive in the Eurobodalla Shire.
For the weekend, I spent two nights in Narooma which is close to a five-hour drive from Sydney or two from Canberra and is the perfect base for everything in the region.
The beauty of Narooma – and landing a room at The Whale Inn – is that you’re just footsteps from the best restaurants, bars and beaches the region has to offer.
The Whale Inn is a quaint and central accommodation option in the heart of Narooma.Source:Supplied
The Inn itself it quaint and unassuming. There’s the simple necessities needed for a beach stay and some pretty sensational views. But let’s be honest, you’ll be spending more time on the sand than inside.
Sitting on top of a hill, the almost unobstructed views from the Whale Inn’s in-house restaurant are second to none. Grab a seat at sunset, and order a round of the region’s fresh Sydney rock oysters while watching the sun go down is a pretty spectacular way to start your stay.
The Whale Inn’s restaurant is a local hangout and has stunning views across Narooma’s Wagonga Inlet. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
You won’t find fresher oysters than this. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
The prices are decent given it’s a local favourite, and you won’t walk away needing a spot to fill.
For a real mid-arvo meal like no other, you can’t go past a few hours on the water throwing back a some local oysters straight from the Clyde River. Think of this experience with Region-X Kayaks as a wine tour on water … but with oysters.
Not a bad way to sample the local oysters than from the seat of a kayak.Source:Supplied
The oyster kayak tour is like a wine trail … but with oysters. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
You paddle to some of the most successful oyster farmers on the south coast and learn about how they farm in Batemans Bay. But the best bit of course is that you get to taste test some of the freshest oysters possible taken from the river moments before they land in your mouth. From just $59 for the tour, it’s a standout experience in the region – especially at sunset.
All that physical activity calls for a cold one, especially in the middle of summer.
If you’re in the mood for a local brew, stop by local hangout Big Niles for a paddle of beers or just a pint made on site.
Drop into Big Niles for a local beer, and you might even catch Big Niles the dog himself.Source:Instagram
Big Niles is a locals favourite brewery owned and run by former professional BMX rider Cam White.Source:Instagram
It’s off the beaten track in Dalmeny, but the shipping container is loved by locals and with a bit of luck, you might catch Niles himself between drinks.
Big Niles local brewery makes fresh beer on site on the pristine NSW south coast township of Dalmeny.Source:Instagram
No visit to the region is complete without a trip to Montague Island off the coast of Narooma. Surrounded by a few hundred friendly locals (yes, I’m talking about the resident fur seals), this is a nature encounter like no other. The trip itself is about 20 minutes off the coast, but once you arrive on to the island you won’t want to leave.
Nothing beats a dive with the friendly seal locals at Montague Island. Picture: GoPRO Hero9Source:Supplied
Some of the friendly locals in the water off Montague Island. Picture: GoPRO Hero9Source:Supplied
As the second largest island off the coast of NSW, what brings tourists to the island is the abundance of seals and Little penguins – both of which will join you for a swim.
As you can only get there with a chartered tour, Wazza – who has been running tours for more than 20 years – knows all the best spots for a seal swim.
Montague Island is home to a few hundred friendly seals, who love to join you for a swim. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
Have you heard of the Eurobodalla Shire? Well, you have now.Source:News Corp Australia
And if you’re in no mood to leave, you can even rent out the lush lighthouse residence for a few nights – with the lighthouse on the southern end of the island available for overnight stays.
Keeping on the adventure theme, take a drive along the coast to Broulee for a surf lesson. The waves are small and the water is crystal clear, making it the perfect training ground for first-timers.
Shane from the Broulee Surf School will have you standing in no time … even if it’s just on the sand.Source:Supplied
A surf lesson will bring you a wave of laughs.Source:Supplied
Instructor Shane from the Broulee Surf School will give you a good laugh and is as patient as they come.
But from sand to the surf, there’s really no better way to take in all the far south coast has to offer than with a trip in the sky.
The Eurobodalla Shire stretches from Batemans Bay to Tilba Tilba in NSW.Source:Supplied
Bring your camera, because you’ll be inundated with photo opportunities. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
Now, a short flight with South Coast Seaplanes from Moruya river start from $188 for a 15 minute flight, so while it’s an investment the views are well worth it every dollar.
I jumped on the Montague Island tour, which went for around 40 minutes along the coastline and out over the island.
The best way to see the region in all its glory is from the sky. Picture: Eurobodalla Shire.Source:Supplied
The South Coast Seaplane flights start from around $188.Source:Supplied
With the hinterland on one side and the island on the other, the photo opportunities are endless – and really makes the best way to end your stay.
This journalist visited the Eurobodalla Shire as a guest of Eurobodalla Tourism.
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