If the stillness of water calms you and vast expanses of unspoilt nature make your spirit soar; if the mention of local oysters, cheese and wine whets your appetite and the idea of a luxurious glamping experience surrounded by paperbark trees is what your holiday dreams are made of, then the sensational South Coast of NSW may be just the destination you didn’t know you needed to discover until now.  

A coastal strip that starts below Sydney and continues on to the border to Victoria, the NSW South Coast is made up of four main geographic regions: the Illawarra Coast, the Shoalhaven Coast, the Eurobodalla Coast and the Sapphire Coast. Each of these is flanked on one side by the Pacific and on the other side by national parks. It’s an endless string of picture-perfect beaches and dramatic headlands, dotted with charming towns and interspersed with experiences just waiting to be discovered as you drive through the region.

Will you come with us as we journey?

Stop 1: Illawarra Coast

Explorers will find a few hidden treasures in the top quarter of the NSW South Coast. Inland, the Hampden Bridge – reminiscent of an entrance to a British castle – welcomes you to the small hamlet of Kangaroo Valley Town, home to art galleries, local produce stores, antique shops and even a pet friendly beer garden. Just 6km down the road, on 160 sweeping acres of farmland, you’ll find Broger’s End Kangaroo Valley, a dairy farm and shed-turned-haven of sustainable living, which welcomes overnight visitors with high ceilings, reclaimed timber carpentry and double-sided fireplaces, warming both the living area and open bay.

BRogers end living room 2

Photo: Broger’s End

Photo: Broger’s End Kangaroo Valley

Not far down the road is luxury accommodation and spa retreat Crystal Creek Meadows – a self-contained B&B surrounded by Morton National Park’s emerald forests and frequented by birds, wombats and kangaroos. Wildlife spotting, fruit picking, stargazing and board games go hand-in-hand here, and there’s nothing quite like home-baked scones with a view of the surrounding landscape.

Crystal Creek Meadows collage

Photo: Crystal Creek Meadows

Stop 2: Shoalhaven Coast

Travelling further south you’ll find a seafood-lovers’ paradise: Greenwell Point, famous for oysters and home to the relaxing South Coast Retreat. Whether it’s the spacious, family and pet friendly waterfront accommodation or the chance to get out in a boat or on one of the freely available bicycles that attracts you, this eco-friendly spot is sure to be a place you return to time and time again.

South Coast Retreat collage

Photo: South Coast Retreat’s accommodation includes cabins, a waterfront house and glamping tents

Heading back inland, you’ll find Paperbark Camp – Australia’s original glamping accommodation. Founders Irena and Jeremy Hutchings, inspired by the tented safari accommodation they discovered on their own travels through Africa, built this hideaway among the trees some 20 years ago, laying the groundwork for many others to follow and giving international visitors and city escapees alike the chance to be immersed in nature.

Paperbark Camp King Deluxe Exterior EliseHassey L 023

Photo: Paperbark Camp

Speaking of immersion – on your way down the coast, be sure to stop at Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness and have a chat to founder Dwayne Bannon-Harrison. This Aboriginal owned and operated cultural service provider runs Aboriginal tourism experiences in the Narooma/Tilba region on Yuin Country and also works with the corporate, event and education sectors to help ensure that traditional Koori knowledge is upheld in the region.

20180703 Eurobodalla Ngaran Ngaran DestinationNSW JM DX2 9744 lg

Photo: Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness

If you happen to be on the lookout for a wedding venue (or just like the idea of a bungalow in the forest), make sure you stop in at Bewong River Retreat, just 10 minutes’ drive from beautiful Jervis Bay. Nestled amongst temperate forest on 160 acres of Australian bushland, this riverfront accommodation is halfway between Sydney and Canberra on the map and, as such, a perfect venue for special occasions – but be prepared for some unusual wedding guests!

Bewong River Retreat photo by Translucent Photography

Photo: Bewong River Retreat / Translucent Photography

If you prefer to stay by the beach, The Cove Jervis Bay may by just the spot for you. Sandy feet and windswept hair are the style of choice here, and what better way to relax from a day on the beach than in an outdoor bathtub surrounded by nature? Oh – and if you’re still on the lookout for a wedding venue (maybe llamas aren’t your thing – which we don’t understand, but we won’t judge you), then rejoice: The Cove is a magical place for weddings, too.

The Cove Jervis Bay collage

Photo: The Cove Jervis Bay

Stop 3: Eurobodalla Coast

After all that lazing about, it’s time to get a bit active. Luckily, your drive south now takes you into the stunning and serene Eurobodalla – a word which literally means ‘land of many waters.’ Here, long, empty beaches invite hand-in-hand strolls, the morning light provides the backdrop for early rising surfers and the interwoven expanses of rivers, estuarine and ocean waterways draw you in. It’s the perfect place to hire a sea kayak, meander peacefully and feel the weight of the world lift off your shoulders. The best place to do this? Region X, who offer both self-hire kayaks and guided kayak tours. They even have glass-bottom kayaks, giving you a fresh perspective on life below the surface. 

Region X NSW Coast Marine 2

Photo: Region X

Stop 4: Sapphire Coast

You’re nearing the end of your trip through NSW’s south coast, and in fact by now you are halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, and just a three-hour drive from Canberra. Unless you’re heading inland to explore our nation’s capital or perhaps travelling onto Mount Kosciuszko after being inspired by our recent journey into Australia’s alpine regions, stop in at quaintly historic Central Tilba town for morning tea before taking the Coastal Wilderness Drive (Tourist Route 9) south to the turnoff to Haighs Road and Tanja Lagoon Camp Luxury Safari Tent Accommodation, your resting place for the night. Did we mention the NSW South Coast region is a glamper’s paradise?

Tanja Lagoon Camp collage

Photos: Tanja Lagoon Camp

Nature lovers will feel completely at home here, as a stay at Tanja Lagoon Camp is all about immersing yourself in your surroundings and appreciating the simple things: comfortable beds, slow breakfasts, bushwalks, star gazing. If you revelled in your sea kayaking experience in Eurobodalla, you can rent a canoe or kayak here too, for free – and if you want to share your time on the water with the local pelicans and swans, try an early morning or late afternoon paddle.

If you’re someone who prefers to explore their surroundings on dry ground, with feet secure in comfortable hiking boots, then make sure you stop further south along the Sapphire Coast to experience one of Australia’s best undiscovered walks: the 30km Light to Light walk through Ben Boyd National Park, from Boyd’s Tower to the Green Cape Lighthouse. The landscape here is diverse and dynamic: heathland to forest, tea tree groves to banksia woodlands.

Light2Light Coastal Walks

Photo: Light 2 Light Coastal Walks

If you’ve got time to do the whole hike, we recommend checking out Light 2 Light Coastal Walks for locally-guided, accommodated and amazing-food included options, but if you’ve only got a little bit of time, you can simply enjoy a small section of the track as well.

Who knows – you may just be back in this incredible region next year.    

WWF’s World Wildlife Magazine Recommends GSTC

Planning a getaway? Make sure your vacation is a win for the environment. © CHRIS GASH/WWF-US Planning a getaway? Consider destinations, hotels, and tour operators that meet the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) standards. By doing so, you can minimize your environmental impact and send a powerful message to the travel industry about […]

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Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Joins GSTC

Jeju Special Self-Governing Province has joined the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) as a Destination Member. As the largest volcanic island in Korea, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province is one of Koreans’ popular destinations due to its unique and beautiful nature and culture, and is most commonly known to Koreans as the best honeymoon destination in […]

The post Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Joins GSTC appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).


When you speak to Toni Brennan, CEO of multi-award-winning tour company Fun Over Fifty, a few things strike you about her simultaneously: her dedication to excellence, her undeniable commitment to sustainable tourism and her humour.

“You’ve called me at a good time,” she said during a recent phone call, the remnants of laughter in her voice. “I’ve just been on the phone with one of our suppliers – we work with over 600 suppliers, you know – and we were all just in fits of laughter about something she thought I said.”

For someone who heads up one of Australia’s most successful touring companies – Fun Over Fifty was recently featured in the Australian Financial Review as a leading sustainable tour operator, has been announced as a finalist in this year’s Banksia Awards and won silver at this month’s Queensland Tourism Awards – Toni is incredibly down to earth.

It’s a value she’s knitted into the fabric of her company’s success, which started from humble beginnings at a sewing table in the laundry back in 2002. Now leading the charge for a repertoire of 125 ECO certified tours (the most, by far, of any ECO certified tour operator in Australia), Toni still works closely with her staff at all levels and makes time to catch up with Fun Over Fifty’s guests, ensuring that everyone feels like family and that fun is kept front and centre.

Toni and Rob accepting GOLD at Australian Tourism Awards for Ecotourism category

Photo: Fun Over Fifty CEO, Toni Brennan and Coach Operations Manager Rob Archibald at the 2018 Tourism Awards

Whilst Fun Over Fifty’s website jokes that those lacking a sense of humour need not sign up to take part in their tours, it’s not all fun and games for this company, either. When it comes to sustainable tourism, Toni and her team are seriously dedicated.

With a vision to be recognised as the best quality and most sustainable tour operator in Australia, Toni says the company recognises the need to break stereotypes. Transporting guests in coaches across the country (and a few select international destinations), Toni appreciates the need to show people that business can be done differently: that tour operators can be accountable and show they care.

“It’s a team effort,” she explains, when asked who’s behind the company’s constant eco innovations.

“We have it ingrained in the company vision from [the] CEO, office and on-road crew to consistently look for ideas to innovate, protect and contribute. We strive to create new industry first policies and not just tick the box of donating to big organisations. Our initiatives directly support the regions we visit and [we] strategically plan our offsets from office operations to on road emissions.”

Group after win Staff and Ceo on Green Leave World Environment Tree Planting Challenge

Fun Over Fifty’s sustainability policies and programs are diverse. They include the Green Guest Policy (GGP) – which gives guests the option to say no to room servicing in order to reduce their impact, the Being Seen Being Green (BSBG) initiative – allowing guests to take part in practical measures such as tree planting and dune rejuvenation, ECO, Climate Action and Respecting our Culture (ROC) certification through Ecotourism Australia and a World Environment Day Tree Planting Challenge.

So how do Fun Over Fifty’s guests respond to these initiatives? There is much said today about millennials leading the charge of more conscious and responsible consumption patterns, but not a lot about the over fifties market.

Fun Over Fifty article photo 2

“Our Being Seen Being Green on tour tree planting uptake is so popular that we have to limit participation!” says Toni. The uptake for the company’s Green Guest Policy, which gives guests financial incentives to forfeit room servicing, is also increasing every year.

For those who want an immersive ‘eco’ experience, Fun Over Fifty even offers Helping Hand Holidays and Green Getaways tour programs, which are 100% designed with a focus on ecotourism and community projects and causes.

“Again, the uptake on these tours is increasing annually and feedback is extremely positive. The guests’ emotions and feeling of directly ‘giving back’ [are] incredibly powerful.”

Fun Over Fifty article photo 3

So, what advice would Toni give to other newly certified tourism businesses and operators?

“It’s very rewarding to operate a tour company knowing you are not negatively impacting the environment and that you can create and share wealth in regional areas buying local and hiring local guides, etc. You can be profitable and give back.”

Now that’s something that everyone can have a joyful laugh about.


[Photos: Fun Over Fifty]

The Globe and Mail: A guide to understanding your impact on the environment and how to reduce it

“If you want to be an eco-friendly traveller, you’re going to have to work for it. This collection of tips, resources and ideas will help you reduce your environmental footprint wherever you travel” “To change the way you look at travel, try to seek out designations such as the Green Destination Standard, which sets environmental, […]

The post The Globe and Mail: A guide to understanding your impact on the environment and how to reduce it appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

Sustainable Travel – Travel the Smarter Way (University Observer)

Sustainable travelling is finding effective ways to be a tourist, without harming the natural surroundings and resources of the place you visit. The emphasis is on reducing our so called ‘footprint’, in this context defined as our personal negative effect on the places we visit. So defined, it also involves considering the impact of tourism […]

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MEDIA RELEASE: Overtourism and a low carbon future high on agenda for new Ecotourism Australia / University of Queensland PhD candidates

After an extensive and competitive process which saw The University of Queensland (UQ) receive 42 applications from around the world, three PhD candidates have now been awarded scholarships to begin research into some of the most pressing issues facing Australia’s ecotourism industry.

The topics, decided on jointly by Ecotourism Australia and The University of Queensland, include overtourism, low carbon futures and social licence.

Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman says that these topics align closely with needs that are high on the agenda for many Ecotourism Australia members.

“These three topics centre around issues of community participation, protecting and conserving Australia’s special places and taking a stronger stance on climate action – which all require an evidence-based approach, said Mr Hillman.

“Thanks to our partnership with The University of Queensland, we can now take real strides in learning about how we can best address these issues and deliver measurable outcomes for communities and Ecotourism Australia’s members.”

Dr Sally Driml, a tourism expert from the UQ Business School who coordinated the application process for the scholarships, said that the University was overwhelmed with the number of high-quality applications.

“It is encouraging to know that many emerging researchers wish to contribute to a better understanding of ecotourism and its role in a sustainable future for tourism,” said Dr Driml.

“We are confident that the students will produce some very useful research with impact for the industry.”

The students were selected based on their academic performance and experience in the ecotourism industry and will begin their research in early 2020. A fourth scholarship will be finalised in the new year.

The scholarships are funded by the University of Queensland under a Memorandum of Understanding between UQ and Ecotourism Australia which will see both parties contribute expertise. All the candidates will be enrolled in the UQ Business School.


For questions and comments, please contact: Rod Hillman – CEO 0427 279 414

Additional info

Ecotourism Australia signed a partnership agreement with The University of Queensland in November 2018 after an already long-held, positive working relationship between the two organisations. For more information, visit

[Header image from left to right: Mrs Csilla Demeter (candidate), Dr Sally Driml (advisor), Ms Sonya Underdahl (candidate), Dr Noreen Breakey (advisor), Professor Brent Ritchie (advisor).]

The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2019 by CREST

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) released a new tourism industry study, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2019. The report highlights growing consumer demand for sustainable travel experiences and analyzes the role businesses and destinations play in mainstreaming responsible tourism. The report contends that while consumer demand for responsible tourism continues to […]

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