Want to enjoy an epicurean escape? At the heart of NSW’s Sapphire Coast is the quaint town of Bega, encircled by lush pastures and rainforest, and not far from glittering beaches. Home of Bega Cheese, top of the list should be picking up dairy goodies for a picnic in one of the surrounding national parks.
Things to do
Dairying began in the verdant Bega Valley in the 1850s and the original Bega Cheese factory opened in 1900. Learn about the history of the valley and the cheesemaking process – and taste the delicious results at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre, a reconstruction of one of the first buildings of the Bega Co-operative Creamery Company.
If you want to delve deeper into the history of the town, head to Bega Pioneers Museum, housed in a building from the mid-1800s, to peruse over 200 photographs of early pioneers, a horse-drawn ambulance and a large militaria collection from the world wars.
Streetscape, Bega - Credit: David Rogers Photography
For a contemporary art fix, drop into SECCA (South East Centre for Contemporary Art). It’s a first-class exhibition space and curates thought-provoking collections. The biennial Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize attracts famous artists from across the country and honours the memory of the gallery’s eponymous patron. Check out the events calendar for exhibitions and touring shows at the gallery.
Just a 5min walk away, Spiral Gallery hosts a rotating calendar of exhibitions by emerging and established local artists.
Uncover the tranquil nature reserve of Brogo Wilderness in the valley of Brogo river, with deep narrow gorges, glassy waterways and abundant wildlife. It’s backed by the majestic Kybean Range to the west, densely carpeted in banksias and grevilleas, and fringed by mountain gum forests.
Enjoy a trek with Brogo Wilderness Canoes and paddle through the serene natural landscape – pause to hear birdsong, explore curved inlets and have a picnic by the water. Owner Dave will set you up with maps, route suggestions and comfortable canoes that fit two to three people, along with dry bags and safety gear.
There are many magnificent nearby national parks to explore with rich Aboriginal history and diverse landscapes. They include Wadbilliga, Bournda and Biamanga: a significant site for local Yuin Aboriginal people. In 2006, Biamanga was returned to its traditional owners — immerse yourself in the wild landscapes of granite boulders and gum trees, and ancient Indigenous lore.
Just a short drive from Bega, Mimosa Rocks National Park is home to beautiful lagoons, quiet beaches and breathtaking headland views. It’s the perfect spot to camp by the shore, snorkel in calm waters and look for the thousands of birds that call the park home.
Local Candelo resident, Wassim Hayfa, upgraded from his busy market food van on the weekends to a shopfront in Bega in 2018. At Byblos, he serves fresh, healthy Lebanese favourites such as dip platters, fresh juices and falafel. For Wassim, creating and dishing up his native street food is a labour of love.
At PeaNut Eatery, expect inventive cocktails and modern Australian cuisine like crumbed local fish and hearty burgers, while over at Nook Tea & Espresso Bar, try one of their delicious toasties. Grab vibrant vegetarian food with local seasonal produce, alongside a turmeric latte at Red Café, and for an upscale pub meal, step inside the Commercial Hotel.
Cafe Evolve, Bega - Credit: David Rogers Photography
For a laidback afternoon, head to North of Eden's Cellar Door for a gin tasting overlooking the rolling hills of Bega Valley. Afterwards, relax in the gardens with a cocktail from the on-site bar, which also serves beer and wine for non-spirit drinkers. Make a day of it by bringing along pooch and your own picnic, or signing up for a class at the Gin School to learn how to craft your own gin creation.
Bega is located halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, and is around 5.5 hours from Sydney by car. From Canberra, the drive to Bega is under three hours. You can also fly to Merimbula Airport and rent a car.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.