Coastal bounty: surf breaks and seafood

The road from Sydney to Melbourne is a feast for both eyes and stomach — just make sure to work up an appetite en route. Trailfinders expert Arron Byran shares his insider knowledge on making the most of a trip along the coast.

By Trailfinders and Destination New South Wales
Published 17 May 2019, 12:13 BST
The Sapphire Coast

The Sapphire Coast

Photograph by Alamy

With seaside towns, white-sand beaches and sprawling national parks, the coastline from Sydney to Melbourne makes for an enchanting drive. While this 680-mile journey can be completed in around 11 hours, it shouldn’t be hurried. Take two weeks and stop off along the way, making sure to sample the exceptional food on offer.

For keen surfers, there are several iconic spots on this route, such as Minnamurra Beach (known as Mystics Beach) and Killalea Beach (known as The Farm), under two hours’ drive from Sydney. Accredited surf schools offer lessons for all levels and, for a beginner, it’s a great place to pick up the basics before honing your skills further south at the towns of Tathra, Merimbula and Pambula.

Seafood along the entire route is legendary, but the Sapphire Coast is particularly famous for its oysters, best sampled at eateries like the Waterfront Cafe in Merimbula or Batemans Bay’s Pearly Oyster Bar. For cheese-lovers, the enchanting towns of Bodalla and Bega are the places to stop and taste award-winning dairy produce. Milton, meanwhile, is famed for its al fresco cafes, fine-dining restaurants and art galleries.

Near the coastal town of Narooma, wildlife takes centre stage, with opportunities to swim, snorkel and dive with hundreds of fur seals in the clear waters off Montague Island. Further south stand two historic lighthouses offering top whale-watching opportunities: Green Cape Lighthouse in New South Wales’ Ben Boyd National Park and Point Hicks Lighthouse in the Victoria region of East Gippsland

Highlights in Victoria include the spectacular Ninety Mile Beach and Phillip Island; the latter is the ideal place to get up close to koalas, spot seals and watch penguins play in the surf, before hitting the cosmopolitan state capital — Melbourne.

Sea Cliff Bridge

Photograph by Getty Images

Trailfinders expert, Arron Bryan reveals what makes this trip stand out for him.

Q: What’s the most dramatic section of this drive?
A: There are scenic backdrops aplenty on this drive, so hours spent in the car will be just as enjoyable as those on the beach. Particularly impressive is perhaps the swerving 680m drive across Sea Cliff Bridge, north of Woolongong.

Q: Which place stands out for you?
A: Stopping at the small coastal town of Kiama is a must. The whole place has a relaxed seaside atmosphere, and its blowhole is the largest in the world. Stand on the viewing platform and watch waves surge through the cavern, ejecting plumes of water 25 metres into the air and drenching off-guard bystanders. With the area floodlit until 1am, ocean views are stunning from dawn to dusk. Nearby wineries, like Crooked River Wines, offer an excellent reason to stick around.

Q: Are there any off-the beaten track places worth stopping off at?
A: Jervis Bay is only three hours south of Sydney, but it has a real end-of-the-earth feel to it. The sand is powdery white, and the water an incredibly vivid turquoise, so make the most of some quality downtime here. If you’re here between September and December, look out for migrating humpback whales off the coast — but whatever time of year you come, a visit to the Huskisson Hotel (also known as the Husky Pub) has to be on the cards. Their salt and pepper squid is the best around.

Q: Where should you stop to take some postcard-worthy photographs?
A: Central Tilba, a tiny village about halfway through the drive, hasn’t changed since its 19th-century gold-rush heyday — and it’s all the more beautiful for it. On Saturdays, the small streets hum with activity. Be sure to browse the knick-knack shops and galleries and stop to sample artisan fudge at the weekly market. Finally, don’t leave without tucking into the legendary Tilba cheddar at the ABC Cheese Factory.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience on this road trip?
A: Just a half-hour drive from Tilba is perhaps this region’s best-kept secret: Bermagui’s Blue Pool, a giant rock pool that stretches out towards the ocean. I came here for a picnic with friends and we stayed the whole day, taking dips whenever we got too hot. It’s also a haven for sea life, so bring your snorkelling gear and look out for crabs, starfish and even the odd octopus or two.

To book your ideal trip to New South Wales, get in touch with a Trailfinders expert like Arron, here.

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