Tucked between Mount Coolangatta and Seven Mile Beach, and on the doorstep of the Shoalhaven River, Shoalhaven Heads is a peaceful coastal village that makes the perfect base for an idyllic getaway. Surrounded by nature, there’s plenty of outdoor activities to fill your days, while heritage wineries are only minutes away.
Shoalhaven Heads offers direct access to the pristine sands of Seven Mile Beach, curving from the river entrance through Seven Mile Beach National Park to Gerroa. This 12km stretch is a great spot for surfing, kite-surfing, horse riding and fishing. With 24hr off-leash areas, your dog can also join you for a dip in the waves. You can even spot whales from May to November.
On the southern end of Seven Mile Beach, Comerong Island has a protected nature reserve that is home to an internationally recognised shorebird population. Take the car ferry across Berry’s Canal, explore the bushy reserve and set up a picnic on a secluded beach within this peaceful natural wonderland.
There are bushwalks easy enough for the whole family; explore the Sand Tracks to see forested hind dunes running parallel to the beach and majestic blackbutt trees, a reminder of the woodlands that were once widespread along this coast. You can also walk to scenic grassy picnic areas and set up lunch before a jump in the ocean.
Stretching more than 300km, the Shoalhaven River spills into the sea at Shoalhaven Heads. Take a boat out to fish for bream, whiting, mullet and Australian salmon, or head to neighbouring Greenwell Point to cast your line into the calm estuary waters off Crookhaven River.
Eat and drink
The Shoalhaven River estuary is part of Australia’s Oyster Coast. Book the premium Oyster Experience at Bangalay Dining to sample fresh Sydney Rock oysters paired with local wine and spirits. Or head to Greenwell Point for a tour of Jim Wild’s oyster farm to learn the life cycle of an oyster and sample them freshly shucked from the water.
Shoalhaven Heads is also a great base to explore the nearby wineries located around the foothills of Mount Coolangatta. Explore the historic Coolangatta Estate Winery, the first European settlement in the region, built by convict labour in 1822. You can stay in convict-built cottages, taste estate-grown wines in the cellar door or enjoy lunch at the estate restaurant.
Other cellar doors in this tranquil area of the Shoalhaven Coast wine region include Two Figs Winery and Mountain Ridge Wines, which also has a restaurant and live music once a month. Cruise the wineries in Stoked Experience’s vintage turquoise 1963 Holden EJ wagon to see the region in style.
Things to do
Off the water, play a round of golf on the scenic 18-hole course at the Shoalhaven Heads Golf Club, an 18-hole links course by the sea. The Shoalhaven Heads Native Botanic Garden is a peaceful spot for a picnic lunch, housing a collection of 200 native plants and trees.
Take a thrilling ride up Mount Coolangatta with Big Foot Adventures on their monster 4WD open-sided tractor-bus. The tour offers some of the best coastal views and a guide to the colonial history of the region. Kids can sign up for Regal Riding School’s group or individual horse riding lessons, and adults can join a morning beach ride on Seven Mile Beach.
Getting there and where to stay
Shoalhaven Heads is a 2hr 15min drive from Sydney along the spectacular Grand Pacific Drive and just under three hours’ drive from Canberra. It’s only 15min from the charming town of Berry.
There are places to stay in the region to suit all budgets — book into one of the 16 private villas at Bangalay Luxury Villas; experience living history in the heritage cottages at Coolangatta Estate; rent a cabin or park your caravan at the Tall Timbers Caravan Park; or stay at the dog-friendly Shoalhaven Heads Hotel Motel, and rent one of their bikes to explore the area on two wheels.