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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.