It had been a long time since I’d tackled a road trip of any length, but with family responsibilities now sorted and Melbourne’s weather getting me down, it was time I set out again.
I’d never explored New South Wales’ south-east coast. Every time I’d decided on it, something had got in the way. This time I’d nail it. In September, I headed out.
I wanted to start with Mallacoota in the far east of Victoria, and from there drive up the coast to Kiama, cross the mountains to the Hume Highway, and continue down and along the Murray River to Cobram and back to the city. (The photos are a little grainy. My camera was being repaired so I made do with my father’s little Nikon, though it did a pretty good job, considering.)
It’s a much longer drive to Mallacoota than it looks on the map. I took a break in Orbost. I was a bit excited. From here on until I hit the Hume, everything was new.
I wandered along the banks of the mighty Snowy River. The Snowy originates on the slopes of Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain peak, flows down through the Snowy Mountains in NSW, and the Alpine and the Snowy River National Parks in Victoria, before emptying into Bass Strait.
I gave myself two nights in Mallacoota. I wanted to see how the town and surrounds had recovered from the horrendous bush fires of late December 2019. I loved it: a pretty village with access to forest, ocean beach and inlets.
I felt rested after my two nights in Mallacoota, and headed out early on my adventure up the east coast. Mallacoota was the only place I’d booked so that could be an adventure as well. Who knew where I would end up.
Eden was the first stop, only around 70 km away. Melbourne’s weather was immediately forgotten. By the time I arrived, I was discarding clothes left, right and centre. The region is known as the ‘Humpback Highway’, and every year between September and November sees the arrival of thousands of humpback whales on their way to Antarctica.
The cemetery looks out over the bay, as old colonial cemeteries often do, I’ve noticed. Must be something in that. I strolled around there for a while.
I found myself a cabin in a tourist park next to a lovely lake, Lake Curalo, for a couple of hours rest (which I regularly need. I find, now that I’m ancient),
then went back on the off chance of catching a whale or two. No luck, though. Apparently they were on the other side of the bay.
In the morning, I headed up to Pambula. I liked it; it felt a bit hippy-ish, if you know what I mean; some free thinkers there, perhaps.
I stopped in for coffee at Stella’s Vintage Tea Room, a cafe filled with all sorts of antiques and bric-a-brac. The lady running it had spent a large part of her life on the road and gave me some very good advice on what was worth visiting and what wasn’t. The cake was home-made and the coffee brewed at the table. I recommend morning tea here if you’re passing through Pambula.
By lunchtime, I’d hit Merimbula. After the quietness along the way, it was a bit of a shock. It’s a much bigger town than Eden and Pambula, with the traffic and general busyness that goes along with it. I wandered along the very pleasant boardwalk, spending a bit of time in a fabulous used book shop.
That was enough for me, though it could be a terrific holiday destination for families, with its main beach, Potoroo Palace, a wildlife sanctuary with wombats, echidnas and kangaroos, fishing charters, ocean wildlife cruises, and the coastal trails of Bournda National Park.
Tathra is another small town on the coast, and part of the Mimosa Rocks National Park. The park starts at the northern end of Tathra beach and runs north for about 16km. Tathra lies within the traditional lands of the Djiringanj people,
and was first settled by Europeans in the 1820s. A large wharf was built in 1861 and regular steam shipping commenced in 1862. It is the only remaining coastal steamer wharf in NSW. It’s now a museum and I would have liked to look in but there didn’t seem to be anyone around.
I spent some time on the viewing platform looking out over the wild and beautiful coastline.
By the time I reached Bermagui, I was pretty exhausted but not tired enough to pay what the hotel was asking. Luckily, I discovered a spotless holiday park a few kilometres down the road, beside Lake Wallaga and across the road from the ocean. Lovely people, beautiful cabin: I recommend Ingenia Holiday Park.
An early morning walk by the lake set me up for the day.
To be continued: