Stuck at home for most of the year like everyone else on the planet, a road trip during the spring school holidays was something we eagerly looked forward to. Of course, we wanted something rejuvenating. With stunning views. How about the South Coast of NSW? Googled. Booked. And then felt concerned that that the accommodation was in Narooma for a one-night stay – some 400 odd kilometres away from Sydney along the South Coast!
However, as we embarked on our journey, we realised that more than the destination, we were going to enjoy the journey itself. Aside from the pleasure of travelling along the coast, we would also get to see how people were getting back on track in all those little communities after a devastating season of bushfires followed by half a year of COVID shutdowns.
We travelled through Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Gerrigong, Berry, Milton, Nowra and Bateman’s Bay to reach the sleepy coastal town of Narooma. What really captivates is the fact that each of these towns have a different character! Enroute to Kiama, the unanticipated mosaic of the vast stretch of beautiful coastline on the one hand and pastures on the other, simply enthralled.
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Coming up next, Berry is a little town named after Alexander Berry who pioneered the European settlement there. Quite unlike the rest of the towns in the region, Berry has an urban population rather than a farming one, with the large acreages of land subdivided into small hobby farms. And in the town centre – branded shops.
The heritage bakery in Milton was something we could not miss, visiting for the look of the building. The bakery claims to be the first cashless one in Australia: looked like the smart minds in this historic building had predicted an impending cashless future! Pumped up with the amazing date-almond-chocolate and orange-polenta cake from the bakery, we trudged on towards Bodalla.
We halted there – yup, for the cheese – topping it up with a wholesome lunch at the Bodalla pub. They seated us outdoors, with picturesque mountains in the backdrop. “You should come back here,” said the staff there enthusiastically, “if you fancy a dinner watching a beautiful sunset.” Noted.
One thing was for sure: these regional towns were efficient at observing social distancing and other regulation, perhaps much more than the metros.
What awaited us in Narooma was spectacular. Truly “a room with a view”. Never before have I spent so much time on a balcony. Our evenings and mornings were spent there, looking over the sun painting magic in the horizon. Better still, I yelled out to the neighbour asking why she needed binoculars to look at the sea, and she gave me the priceless answer, “You can spot whales from here, run and grab a pair from reception.”
I claimed the very last bino all in my pyjamas, to then be captivated by the spray of water, and then the whales themselves, all from our balcony!
Strolls along the South Coast’s pristine Narooma beach took us to the glasshouse rocks, and to a glimpse of the amazing “Australia Rock”, an unusual rock formation in the oceanfront setting. Folklore has it that this accidental formation came into being when a ship was tied to the rock many years ago.
Driving back, we stopped at Bateman’s Bay, wanting to catch the “River of Art” exhibition, on the foreshore. But COVID had played spoilsport there. The artists had the exhibitions in their own individual galleries, bookings needed in advance. We settles for a fabulous lunch from the Soldier’s Club overlooking the bay. On a drive along the stretch of glistening waters though, we did catch some artworks, and at the Batehaven village market I picked up a gorgeous blue and white bone china vase to bring home.
Choosing a different route for the stretch home through Monga and Goulburn, two unique sights awaited us. One was that of epicormic growth on the fire-burnt gum trees for tens of kilometres, and the other was the golden canola fields – both of which depicted spring, as well as hope for the future!
As we returned home from the South Coast, what stayed with me was the smell and sound of the sea, wildflowers along the way, delectable seafood, the aroma of the crushed eucalyptus leaves, rare sighting of a kangaroo or a koala, flavour of local cheese, the sundried inland roads, old ports and historic towns like Narooma. My source of mindfulness!