South of Sydney, the Australian Coast Becomes Its Own Destination

Australia’s Eurobodalla, Shoalhaven and Sapphire coasts run about 250 miles from the dairy town of Berry — two hours south of Sydney via the Grand Pacific Drive, which is bordered by rolling farmland on one side and gleaming ocean on the other — down to a historic whaling center near the Victorian state border. In the mountains above are sites sacred to the Yuin and Ngarigo peoples, who have lived in the southeastern part of what is now known as New South Wales for as long as 60,000 years, as well as a half-dozen bird-rich national parks, including one in Eurobodalla that is an important roost for the highly endangered Swift parrot.

In the 1950s, residents of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne began using the area for fishing and boating. Then came the Australian mining boom at the turn of the millennium. As real estate in major cities became increasingly unaffordable, the young and creative either headed north, to the now thoroughly discovered surfer’s paradise Byron Bay, or to the quiet pleasures of the south coast: an abundance of bushland, sandy beaches and the country’s most sought-after oysters, which are sold from picturesque roadside shacks.

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Of late, the area has become known as well for its food. On the more formal end of the spectrum is the British chef Rick Stein, who arrived in the New South Wales town of Mollymook in 2009 to take over the restaurant at Bannisters by the Sea, a small hotel that soon became a global destination. Stein’s success there spurred a wider culinary awakening and an attendant restaurant scene. Yet despite the tourists, the beauty of the place remains blissfully unspoiled. For one, there are more than 10 million kangaroos among the south coast’s ghostly eucalyptus trees and golden dunes. The inhabitants must consider the region, as D.H. Lawrence characterized it in his Australia-set novel, “Kangaroo” (1923), to be a harmless Eden.

The Sydney-based hotelier Peter Cosgrove opened his second property, a more modern take on his Bannisters by the Sea, in 2015. It, too, offers priority reservations for Rick Stein’s celebrated restaurant, which, along with Mollymook’s highly regarded surf beach, is within walking distance. The 33 rooms and two penthouses are decorated in a Nordic-inspired palette of white and charcoal, and there are hanging rattan chairs in the rooftop pool and bar area, where, come Saturday night, Sydney-based fashion designers enjoy prawn and crab bruschetta, beetroot burrata and cocktails. bannisters.com.au

It can be surprisingly difficult to find a good place to stay in the Australian bush, which is often overshadowed by the beach. The best of both worlds, the 100-acre Paperbark Camp has 13 raised canvas tents that sit on the bank of a creek just a short drive from Hyams Beach, famous for its blinding white sand. And though this may be a campsite, there are polished hardwood floors in the tents and lemon-myrtle-scented bath products in the spacious outdoor showers. At the compound’s Gunyah restaurant — an ocher-toned treehouse above a communal fire pit — prix fixe dinners are served on hand-pinched ceramics and can include kingfish sashimi with finger lime and mint and kangaroo fillet encrusted in pepper berries. paperbarkcamp.com.au

This 100-year-old wooden cottage is part of an estate that includes a seven-acre stretch of sauvignon blanc and sémillon vines, a herd of Aberdeen Angus cows, a microbrewery and a fromagerie — don’t miss the bûche de chèvre coated in Australian seaweed, crushed pistachio and Mediterranean herbs. The two-bedroom home has period details including Casuarina roof shingles and a stone fireplace, but nature is the main show. Each morning, kookaburras laugh as the sun rises over Burrill Lake. Then a breakfast hamper arrives on the doorstep, filled with pork-belly bacon, farm eggs and bright yellow butter, which pair perfectly with a loaf of the organic spelt sourdough baked on the property. cupitt.com.au

One of the region’s more formal restaurants, Drystone is part of Mimosa Wines vineyard, which is just west of Bunga Lagoon. Its ironbark-beam-ceilinged dining room looks out onto Mumbulla Mountain, where local Aboriginal people held initiation ceremonies until the early 20th century. The biodynamic vineyard yields a zingy savagnin, a verdelho and a tempranillo, which are complemented by dishes like saltwater barramundi and crispy-skin duck. mimosawines.com.au

In the late 19th century, the south coast town of Bermagui was the preferred port for marlin fishing. Nowadays, its deep blue harbor and mellow beaches (Beares, Moorhead) are popular with travelers, who gather alongside locals at this unpretentious Italian restaurant on the edge of the marina to eat wild-caught organic oysters from Wapengo Lake. Also on the menu are tempura-battered zucchini flowers stuffed with goat cheese and pan-roasted blue eye. ilpassaggio.com.au

On his 1769 sailing excursion to the South Pacific, Captain James Cook named the peak that rises above the New South Wales village of Central Tilba “Mount Dromedary.” Just over a decade ago, ownership of the mountain — renamed Mount Gulaga — was handed back to the Indigenous Yuin people. At its base is a yellow-painted shed that serves as a showcase for the work of Indigenous artists, including that of its owner, Merryn Apma Atkinson, who, as a member of the Stolen Generation, was taken from her mother and raised by a non-Aboriginal family in the Victorian city of Geelong. She now makes vibrant paintings that incorporate scenes from her cultural heritage and sells ocher-on-canvas works, as well as beaded jewelry and handmade scarves by other Aboriginal makers from across Australia and the Torres Strait. 011-61-437-617-390.

This small vineyard, which opened in the foothills of Mount Coolangatta in 2003 and overlooks the meandering Shoalhaven River, might be the south coast’s prettiest picnic spot. The wines — chardonnay, chambourcin, verdelho — are informal and approachable, and so are the tastings. Once you’ve identified a favorite vintage, create a platter of antipasti complete with quince, salchichón and ash Brie, a regional favorite, from the small on-site store. twofigs.com.au

Most days, Peter Williams can be found throwing and hand-decorating pots inside Mogo’s circa 1867 Catholic church, which doubles as an art studio and gallery. In addition to his own wares, he also sells still lifes painted by his wife, Vanessa. This is just one stop on the informal art trail in Mogo, a 19th-century gold-mining town that, despite its population of just 322, is rich with craftsmen. Stop in at the gallery, as well as the Koori art workshop. mogopottery.com

The Sydney native Carolyn Killen has turned a rambling logger’s cottage on a working beef and sheep farm in Wapengo Valley into a white-walled gallery that shows established and emerging contemporary Australian artists. Currently on view is a series of gouache and acrylic paintings by the Aboriginal artist Cheryl Davison, who lives in the nearby town of Tilba Tilba. Killen is also an avid gardener, and so the allium-and-daffodil-filled grounds are their own meditation on beauty. ivyhill.com.au

With its curlicued bargeboards and balcony balusters, this mint-green Carpenter Gothic house museum is a distinctive, even eccentric fixture in the light industrial town of Nowra, the south coast’s commercial center. Its wooden structure has barely changed since the 1880s, and its rooms — once the domain of a settler family and still filled with old furniture, newspaper clippings, recipes and receipts — tell a history at once narrow and broad: The first residents were Jessie Thorburn and her four unmarried daughters, who spent their days making jams, embroidering, tending to the orchard and visiting local charities. The house has since passed through four generations of women, and you might encounter a Ms. Thorburn as your tour guide. sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/meroogal


Post time: Oct-09-2019