Part country town, part laidback beach village, the sleepy Far South Coast enclave of Merimbula really is the best of both worlds.
- The Killer Whale Trail
- Merimbula Aquarium
- Magic Mountain
- Ben Boyd National Park
Merimbula is at the heart of the Sapphire Coast, sitting roughly halfway between Melbourne and Sydney on the Far South Coast of New South Wales. Take one look at the ocean and you’ll see how this region got its name. It’s dotted with charming towns and villages set on the sparkling ocean, beside glassy lakes or tucked into the gentle hinterland. Drink craft beer themed for the Roaring 20s, pluck fresh oysters straight from the water and look out for migrating whales.
Where to eat
Merimbula locals Kirsty Pongratz and Mitchell Nadin have transformed a charming 1920s house into the region’s trendiest cafe and bar, Dulcie’s Cottage. Pongratz’s husband is Sydney hospitality icon Jason Scott of the Swillhouse Group, who brings a bit of big city cool to this little country cottage. Expect classic American style burgers (cooked in a restored 1950s caravan parked in the courtyard) and plenty of fresh local oysters.
After an early morning swim, refuel at the Bar Beach Kiosk. This tiny wooden shack serves up great coffee, superfood bowls, salads and housemade muffins right on the edge of Bar Beach.
The craft beer revolution arrived on the Sapphire Coast with the opening of Longstocking Brewery in Pambula at the start of 2016. The brewery is open Tuesday to Sunday with about a dozen beers on tap including Gypsy Ginger Beer, Al Capone Amber Ale and Tommy Gun IPA. Sit down for lunch with a schooner and a plate of fresh oysters or prawns.
Wine bar, cocktail lounge, cafe and deli all in one, Horse & Camel sits on the top floor of the Fishermen’s Wharf complex in picturesque Bermagui. Hours vary depending on the season, but the views over the marina are always good.
Where to play
The Sapphire Coast is one of Australia’s kitesurfing hubs, thanks to its long beaches, calm water and reliable winds. Try it yourself with South Coast Kitesurfing. Lessons can be tailored for all levels of experience and you can choose between the flat waters of Wallaga Lake or the gentle waves of the ocean.
Sample oysters at their absolute freshest on Captain Sponge’s Magical Oyster Tours, where the captain himself will pull oysters straight from Pambula Lake. You’ll also learn about the process of oyster farming and see how they are harvested.
The port of Eden was the centre of Australia’s whaling industry for more than a century. Local legend has it that a pod of killer whales used to help the whalers in their hunt, driving frightened humpbacks into Twofold Bay. Today, the Killer Whale Trail self drive tour visits five significant historic sites along the coast. Interpretive signs have been set up at each point: scan with your smartphone for more information. From September to November, you will see humpbacks migrating along the coast.
Where to splurge
Embrace the privacy and seclusion of camping without any of the hard work. South Coast Luxury Camping will set up a luxurious belle tent anywhere along the Sapphire Coast from Tathra to Pambula and have lots of special (unknown) sites they can recommend. The tents come in two sizes, ideal for couples or larger family groups, and are fitted with proper floors, queen beds, plush linen and towels, a mini fridge, basic kitchen supplies and an outdoor seating area. The campsite will be completely set up when you arrive and packed away after you leave, so all you have to do is settle in for the night. For a little extra luxury, order a picnic hamper stuffed with local goodies and sparkling wine, or even a spa pack with a foot bath, face masks and massage oil.
Where to stay
You can see the ocean from almost every corner of the NRMA Merimbula Beach Holiday Resort. After a major refurbishment, facilities now include a heated pool, water park, jumping pillow, tennis court, sand volleyball court, games room, kids’ club, bikes and go karts. This 4.5 star park has a huge range of accommodation options, from a beach house and clifftop bungalows to condos, spa villas, cabins and units, as well as powered and unpowered sites. The park is also pet friendly, so it’s a great option if you’re travelling with furry family members.
Image credit: Destination NSW