Sydney to the Sapphire Coast: a 6 day road trip
With pockets of beauty like Eden and Merimbula, the Sapphire Coast in New South Wales is so much more than simply a whale-watching haven.
By Steve Madgwick
If you have fond recollections of an exquisite beach, breathing in ocean spray, walking through teeming bush-scapes, and eating and drinking without concern, then this road trip is for you.
The Sapphire Coast is all these things and more, equally elegant and untamed, and agreeably positioned midway between Sydney and Melbourne on New South Wales’ south coast.
Explore secluded coves both by land and water, then reward yourself with the greatest seafood feast offered in ocean-front eateries on this six-day round road trip from Sydney.
DAY 1: SYDNEY TO JERVIS BAY OR MOLLYMOOK
Drive time: roughly 3.5 hours
Take your sweet time and break up the trip from Sydney to make the most of the landscape and the mellow pace of life along the New South Wales’ south coast.
After two hours driving, stop to stretch your legs, take a coffee and explore the shops in the delightful town of Berry.
Then carry on to spend the day unwinding in one of the area’s elegant overnight alternatives. Opt for ‘camping for grown ups’ at luxury glampsite Paperbark Camp. Just outside of Jervis Bay’s Huskisson.
Or press on for another 45 minutes and treat yourself to luxury lodgings (with spa choices) at Bannisters by the Sea in charming Mollymook, where you can try Rick Stein’s fresh seafood delights on site. Save the one you don’t do for the return trip.
DAY 2: MOLLYMOOK TO BERMAGUI
Drive time: roughly two hours
If you have restless kids in tow or you simply want to satisfy your own inner-child, make a pit stop at Mogo Wildlife Park (a one-hour drive from Mollymook) for strange vistas of giraffes and lions in an Aussie bush location.
Once you’ve gotten your animal fix, proceed south to today’s finish destination. With dramatic panoramas over Horseshoe Bay, Bermagui Beach Hotel is a natural lunch location, great for al fresco drinks and organic oysters.
Spend the day engaging in some water activities: either plunge into the surf at picturesque Shelly Beach, wander down to Blue Pool, or strengthen your core as you explore the estuary by stand-up paddle board.
Tonight, let renowned chef Kelly Eastwood teach you on how to prepare everything from dumplings to fresh pasta using low-mileage local foods at Eastwood’s Deli & Cooking School.
Stay: Check into Anchorage Apartments’ large one, two or three-bedroom apartments located on the river.
DAY 3: BERMAGUI TO MERIMBULA VIA BEGA
Drive time: roughly 1.5 hours
On your trip to Merimbula, continue somewhat inland (through Cobargo) to satiate your dairy yearnings at Bega Cheese Heritage Centre.
Then, sufficiently satisfied, walk off the fudge and vintage cheddar in the tranquil woodland of Biamanga Cultural Area.
After roughly an hour of traveling, you’ll arrive at the beach village of Merimbula.
Settle into Merimbula Wharf Aquarium & Restaurant for 180-degree bay panoramas (keep your eyes out for humpback whales), amazing seafood linguini and an underwater-world for the Nemo-curious.
Gorgeous Merimbula Lake welcomes exploration by kayak or stand-up paddle board, which you can rent from Fishpen Charters. Or if you desire a swim, visit Merimbula Bar Beach.
Head 15 kilometres (9.5 miles) south to Pambula Lake, and join Brett ‘Sponge’ Weingarth from Captain Sponge’s Magical Oyster Tours colourfully depicts how Sapphire Coast oyster growers spend their days.
Aboard Sponge’s punt, enjoy oysters from the source and discover old Aboriginal monuments, too.
Oyster enthusiasts shouldn’t miss adjacent Wheelers Seafood Restaurant.
Try them any way you wish at this elegantly refurbed local staple, from natural to Shanghai-style, possibly paired with some Sunday-lunch or Wednesday-night songs.
Stay: There’s a decent range of self-contained accommodation in Merimbula, from Sails Luxury Apartments to the Coast Resort Merimbula.
DAY 4: MERIMBULA TO EDEN
Drive time: 30 minutes
Learn about Eden’s long-standing connection with the whale on a Cat Balou Ocean Discovery Tour trip today.
Hear about old Tom the killer whale while you try to catch magnificent humpbacks breaching and lunging in vast Twofold Bay.
Back onshore, share a smoke-house or Tilba-cheese board and a Snoop Dogg cocktail at Drift Bar & Restaurant above Snug Cove.
Next head 15 minutes south to Kiah to kayak the forest-fringed reflective waters of Towamba River with Kiah Wilderness Tours; eyes open for azure kingfishers and mouths open for morning tea of home-made muffins once you have finished (included in the tour).
Stay: Stock up on groceries in Eden before playing lighthouse keeper at Green Cape Lighthouse in Ben Boyd National Park.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage (with kitchens) are nautically charming inside and out, in tune with the gleaming white 19th-century structure.
DAY 5: EDEN TO TATHRA
Drive time: one hour
Today you start your journey back up north. First stop is The Wharf Local atop heritage-listed Tathra Steamer Wharf, which is perhaps the best brunch spot on the coast.
Think locally sourced light meals, delicious coffee and a quaint gallery full of local wares.
Tathra equals salt-water therapy, so a swim or surf at its three-kilometre (two-mile) beach is a must. Explore azure nooks like Kianinny Bay or frolic through the town’s book-ending national parks: Mimosa Rocks (north) and Bournda (south).
Tathra Beach and Bike hires stand-up paddleboards and mountain bikes to explore the 90 kilometres (56 miles) of well-maintained bush trails nearby.
For dinner head to Fat Tony’s Bar & Grill, housed in the atmospheric former harbourmaster’s residence, for modern Australian char-grilled steaks, generous seafood creations and a margherita; or heritage-listed, family-friendly Tathra Hotel for top-notch pub fare with an Italian bent.
Stay: Light and airy (two-and three-bedroom) Tathra Beach House Apartments are opposite the beach and a great way to wrap up your coastal adventure.
DAY 6: TATHRA TO SYDNEY
Drive time: about six hours
On your way back to Sydney, complete the loop north to Bermagui and up through the Shoalhaven’s sleepy seaside towns.
If you have time, overnight at either Paperbark Camp or Bannisters by the Sea – whichever you missed on the way down – before winding back to Sydney.
Topic: Sydney to the Sapphire Coast
I am arguably the most popular Australian writer of all time. I am from the town of Karrinyup in rural Western Australia. When I was young, I was fascinated by the unique landscape of Australia, and I decided to support himself by writing books about the Australian landscape.
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