Avoid the crowds at these beach getaways
Think beyond the obvious for your next beach holiday, and head for a town where you might just get a stretch of sand, or a clifftop bushwalk, all to yourself.
With a coastline stretching more than 1,300km, NSW has more than its fair share of beautiful beach holiday destinations. While some are world famous, others quietly fly under the radar.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, here are four locales that you won’t necessarily need to share.
Head for idyllic Eden
Journey to the far south of NSW to discover a historic town surrounded by wild beauty. On the deep natural harbour of Twofold Bay, a 30min drive north of the Victorian border, Eden is one of Australia’s most famous whale-watching destinations: from August to November you don’t have to head out far from the wharf with Cat Balou Cruises for close encounters of the cetacean kind.
For the remainder of the year, Eden is a quiet paradise, with much to explore.
Soak up epic coastal views from the lookouts at Boyds Tower and Green Cape Lighthouse, both on the rocky coastline of Ben Boyd National Park. You can trek from one to the other on the three-day Light to Light Walk, camping along the way and enjoying a swim at remote Bittangabee Bay. You might just feel like the only person on earth.
Try the seafood while you’re here (Tidal Restaurant & Bar is always a winner), explore the bay’s underwater world with Dive Eden and watch the sun come up from a kayak on one of the area's pretty rivers.
Where to stay: Perch yourself on the end of a windswept peninsula overlooking Disaster Bay at the historic Green Cape Lightstation Keepers’ Cottages.
Pine no more at South West Rocks
For national parks, Norfolk pines and nurse sharks, head for South West Rocks, a 5hr drive north of Sydney, on the magical Macleay Valley Coast.
Explore the ruins of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park and climb the guard tower lookout for dramatic views. Then take a stroll along Trial Bay Beach – it’s 3.5km long so you’re bound to have stretches of it all to yourself.
Head to Back Creek for stand-up paddleboarding and breakfast at Back Creek Café, strap on the scuba gear with South West Rocks Dive Centre or Fish Rock Dive Centre to dive with grey nurse sharks and explore the famous Fish Rock Cave, and enjoy a shady picnic at Little Bay with local kangaroos.
In Hat Head National Park, explore the spectacular Smoky Cape Walking Track from Smoky Cape Lighthouse. It links up with the Green Island Walking Track, which is full of wildflowers in spring.
Where to stay: Settle into a stylish riverside villa at Salt at South West Rocks.
Beat the blues in Narooma
The first thing you see as you arrive in Narooma from the north – Wagonga Inlet – is all sorts of shades of beautiful. Is it sapphire, teal, aquamarine? Grab some freshly shucked oysters from a boatshed and see if you can work it out.
Narooma (a 4.5hr drive south of Sydney), means clear blue water in the Yuin language, and you’ll find exactly that at every turn. The inlet can be navigated on a cruise or a kayak. Or hire a bike and follow the 21km scenic Narooma to Dalmeny cycling route, along the shores of inlet and ocean.
Head to the Bar Rock Lookout and Australia Rock, where fur seals bask in the sun, take a beach walk to the spectacular Glasshouse Rocks, play a round at stunning, oceanside Narooma Golf Club, and jump on a boat out to Montague Island to discover wildlife from seals to penguins, as well as a fascinating history.
For a Yuin perspective on what makes this land so remarkable, join an on-country retreat with Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness, and experience Indigenous ceremonies and dreaming stories.
Where to stay: Get a room with a view at the Whale Inn and Restaurant.
Hang 10 at Angourie
Head to the top of the state for some beachside bliss in the Northern Rivers. A 90min drive south of Byron Bay is the up-and-coming coastal town of Yamba, and another 10min beyond that: Angourie.
The point break here is so revered that in 2007 it became NSW’s first legally protected national surfing reserve. It would be a shame not to have a surf lesson while you’re here. You should also go for a swim at idyllic Spooky Beach, take a leap into the spectacular Blue and Green Pools, and have a wander down to Angourie Back Beach in Yuraygir National Park. Want to feel completely alone, together? You can keep walking for days, if you like, along the 65km Yuraygir Coastal Walk.
Life in Angourie is pretty simple: it’s all about soaking up the beach vibe and the natural surrounds. But there’s a bit of sophistication, too: make sure you book at Barbaresco, for fine Italian dining in a setting that makes you want to linger over your linguine all night.
Where to stay: A 10min bike ride from Angourie village, Angourie Resort offers villas, apartments, a day spa, pool, restaurant amid subtropical rainforest.