Unexpected adventure in the Sapphire Coast itinerary
Want to explore one of NSW’s most underestimated seaside destinations? Here’s your guide to the unexpected attractions of the beguiling Sapphire Coast.
On the Sapphire Coast, urban stress and development peel away, and ever-more-gorgeous scenery unfolds. The beautiful beaches, watersports and coast-hugging towns are expected, but you’ll be surprised at the variety of lush landscapes, activities and flavours that await. Pack your sense of adventure for an indulgent three-day escape.
- Taste regional produce from cheese to oysters, boutique beers to local wines
- Enjoy quirky encounters with playful dolphins and camel-like rocks
- Appreciate glorious coastal and hinterland scenery
- Get active on mountain-bike trails, hiking paths and beaches
- Go glamping and enjoy bush settings in style
The start of your tale of the unexpected.
Set your sights on Foxglove & Co, your home for the night. The French provincial-style luxury hotel sits amid rose gardens and woodland beneath Gulaga (Mt Dromedary) in the lush Tilba Tilba Valley.
Don’t be seduced by its cosiness, crisp linens and plump pillows right away, however. Stretch your legs in nearby Central Tilba, one of Australia’s most delightful heritage towns. Then tuck into dinner at The Dromedary Hotel. Who would think an 1895 country pub would serve the likes of American ribs in bourbon sauce or elegant seafood linguine?
After a leisurely breakfast on your B&B’s private veranda or courtyard, take time to delight your eye with the colourful weatherboard cottages of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba, set against lush green countryside dense with forest.
Never climbed a volcano? Then tackle the 14km Gulaga Mountain Walk up a long extinct one, for spectacular views from the summit. To learn more about the land’s significance to the local people, consider an indigenous tour with Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Awareness.
Alternatively, browse the village shops for traditional crafts, contemporary arts and regional produce such as honey. Sample amazing local cheese, from pecorino to mountain-ash camembert and Persian feta at the ABC Cheese Factory. The most unexpected flavour you’ll find? Wasabi, surely.
At lunchtime, wander over to Tilba Valley Winery and titillate your tastebuds with its semillon, chardonnay and shiraz. Match the wine with a ploughman’s lunch – and a spot of croquet afterwards.
Drive south into a labyrinth of waterways between ocean headlands and inland lakes. Stop for a goggle at Camel Rock before arriving in Bermagui, which sits between scalloped bays dotted with towering Norfolk pines. Take a plunge into Blue Pool, surely one of the planet’s most magnificent natural rock pools, or try your hand at big-game fishing. Bermagui is world-renowned for black marlin and yellowfin tuna.
Stay at Tanja Lagoon Camp set in glorious coastal scenery 35km further down the coast. This is glamping in style, where tents have a lounge and deck, and you’re lulled by the eucalyptus-scented breeze. BYO picnic dinner, or dine at one of the waterside restaurants at Bermagui Fisherman’s Co-op. Alternatively, stop in at Mimosa Wines, whose set dinner menu showcases regional ingredients such as crayfish, ocean trout and duck.
A short drive takes you to Tathra, where you can tuck into a stack of pancakes or French toast at the Tathra Hotel. Here you’ll also find the Humpback Brewery – though tasting should maybe wait for later.
Tathra is best known for water activities – boating, kayaking, fishing, surfing – but goes unrecognised for its brilliant mountain-biking trails. Spend the morning on an easy ride amid beautiful scenery or tackle a more challenging rollercoaster track through forest.
The work-out means you’ve earned sometime lunchtime indulgence at Merimbula Wharf Restaurant, which proves poké bowls, quinoa and Asian-style salads aren’t unknown in regional NSW – although the seafood platter for two is hard to resist.
After a stroll along Merimbula Boardwalk or a plunge into the waves at Main Beach, continue to Pambula Beach, renowned for its sand-hopping kangaroos (you can also find them at Gillards Beach in Tathra). Then check out the beers at Longstocking Brewery and the region’s oysters, which ought to be better known. Captain Sponge’s Magical Oyster Tours shows you the workings of an oyster farm and how to shuck oysters. Tasting samples included, of course.
Alternatively, continue south to Eden, where you can explore Ben Boyd National Park and drive the Killer Whale Trail around sights associated with the town’s former whaling industry. Set out with Cat Balou Cruises to see playful dolphins and lazing seals (or magnificent migrating humpbacks huffing and splashing between September and November). Take a deep dive into Ben Boyd with Sapphire Coast Guiding Co, which offers guided walks through this magnificent wilderness, including the three-day Light to Light walk from Boyds Tower to Green Cape Light Station.
Drive inland and you’ll see how the Sapphire Coast could just as easily be named the Emerald Hinterland. Stay at Currajong Retreat, where luxury tented accommodation (with dinner provided) sits with views over the Towamba River valley. The outdoor tub on your deck provides an unusual place from which to stargaze – and the perfect one for romantics.
Wake up to a breakfast hamper and the cackle of cockatoos. Today’s first surprise: Currajong Retreat’s angora goat farm, where you can get friendly with the cute creatures and even bottle-feed newborn kids.
The Sapphire Coast isn’t just about coast, so journey home through highly scenic farm country chewed by fat cows. The inland route takes you through delightful villages such as arty Candelo, settled in the 1830s and still lively with markets and music festivals.
In Bega, you can happily overdose on regional cheeses at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre. More unexpected is North of Eden Gin School, where you can learn to make and bottle your own gin from a choice of 30 botanical ingredients.
Another great pit stop is Cobargo, which has colonial streetscapes and small shops where you can browse through antiques and second-hand books, and talk to artists and leather craftsmen. Choose from its pubs, bakeries or cafes to fuel up for the drive home, during which lovely scenery unfolds through the windscreen.