We’re close to the edge and I’m worried that a sudden movement will send us tumbling. The lighthouse is just around the corner and the sky above looks dark and ominous with impending rain. Nearby a giant frog sits with its mouth open waiting to gobble up whatever happens to slide past. Sound like something out of a B grade horror movie? Fear not, we’re amongst eighteen obstacles at the Batemans Bay mini golf course, one of the most entertaining courses on the Eurobodalla coast.
Batemans Bay has a host of attractions for the family travelling along this pristine coastal stretch, with mini golf just one of them. Whether you’re into nature-based water activities, a bit of fun and adventure or you just want to relax and savour the local produce, this area has something for everyone.
We had arrived at Batemans Bay the day before, having travelled from Rainbow Beach in Queensland. We were taking the coastal route back to Melbourne and wanted to re-visit Batemans Bay after our last visit eighteen years earlier pre-kids, the place where my now hubby proposed to me!
Batemans Bay is on the Eurobodalla Coast, a coastline that stretches for 130kms right down to Narooma. When you first arrive in Batemans Bay and cross the lift span bridge, the scene below is tranquil with boats of all sizes and shapes doted along the river. The bridge was built in 1956 to replace what initially began as a handheld ferry/punt service in 1871. These days it opens on average one thousand times a year to allow ships and boats to pass through the waters of the Clyde River.
Batemans Bay is surrounded by natural beauty: numerous sandy white beaches, pristine rivers and bordered by national parks and the Batemans Marine Park. It offers a smorgasbord of fun attractions for families with young children, not to mention those just looking to chill out. We were looking forward to doing a bit of both.
After checking out a couple of caravan parks which were booked out, we finally hit gold at Pleasurelea Tourist Resort. Located in neighbouring Batehaven and directly opposite the sheltered cove of Sunshine Bay, there were still sites available and we were able to take our pick and set up in a quiet area amongst tall trees and bush land with lots of space around us.
In our cocooned “oasis” the resort felt deceptively small and personal but at the other end of the park there was a huge camp kitchen, a playground and tennis court, a saltwater pool and ‘Scrumptious’ restaurant where happy hour drinks and snacks are served each afternoon from 4pm. Across the road sits a calm protected stretch of sand with waters perfect for swimming, though the weather was decidedly cool when we stayed.
The welcome we received was warm however and very friendly, both by the owners and resident cockatoos, who greeted us loudly each time we entered the boom gates. The owners are extremely knowledgeable about local tours and attractions and gave us loads of tips on the best places to visit in the area.
Batemans Bay has some of the freshest produce on the coast with oyster farming a booming industry in the area. Just down the road from the holiday park is Bernys, a bit of an institution in Batemans with the freshest oysters and seafood. They also offer tours out on the water, but we were more interested in their oysters and picked up two dozen for a snatch of a price. I was looking forward to savouring the fresh Clyde River delicacies that night.
A bit of exploring came first and one of the best ways to appreciate the town is on the Two Foot Tour CBD history Walk which takes in the heritage points in the central part of town including the Coal Bunker Wharf, the Bridge, the Bridge Plaza, the Courthouse and the Police Residence. You’ll also pass the Boatshed, which serves as a reminder of how Batemans must have been as a tiny fishing and timber village.
Today it has a huge waterfront area with all types of ways to get you out into the estuaries and ocean. Kayaks and canoes are easily hired or, if you prefer to sit back and let someone else do the work, you can cruise the Clyde River with Bernie on his thirty-foot oyster punt and hear first-hand the history of local oyster farming. If you’re keen you can charter a boat and try and catch a big one for dinner yourself or just throw in a line off one of the wharf jetties.
Observation Point wasn’t far from our camp site at Batehaven, an area which is partly built on Observation Head. The lookout has stunning views over the Clyde River and the Tollgate Islands. You’ll find picnic tables and facilities and it’s a good starting point for walks along Corrigans and Caseys Beaches.
Further south at Broulee there are surfing or paddling lessons available for the novice and at nearby McKenzies Beach more experienced surfers can ride the waves. If you want a break from the water, there’s plenty of activities to enjoy on land. The weather on our second day was cold and almost wintery so we headed off for a hit of mini golf enjoying an entertaining eighteen-hole course with each level varied in its degree of difficulty. There were lighthouses, transformers, castles, spirals and other challenging obstacles. For the more serious golfers there’s a superb 27-hole championship golf course just out of town which welcomes social players.
Just across the road from the mini golf is the Information Centre where you can pick up a three parks pass, providing entry to three of the best shore-based parks in the area. One of these is the Original Gold Rush Colony, at nearby Old Mogo town where you can pan for gold and get a taste of an early settlers’ life in a goldfield’s village. It’s nestled amongst the Mogo state forest and lined with old miners’ cottages, now galleries and speciality stores.
Close by is the privately-owned Mogo Zoo, a small and personal zoo well known for its dedication to animal welfare. There’s a distinct emphasis on preserving and breeding endangered species and the animals, including a pride of rare white lions (the only ones in Australia), snow leopards, red pandas, various monkeys, giraffes, deer, and many others that are all in naturally large paddocks and enclosures. There are lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the animals, including, if you’re brave enough, the big cats.
A bit more sedate back at Batemans that afternoon is the third park, the interactive Birdland Animal Park where you can experience a hands-on mix of native birds and wildlife on eight acres of waterfront bushland. That evening we drove to nearby Surf beach and enjoyed a walk along the pristine white sand whilst nearby keen swimmers braved the waves. Later, back at camp we enjoyed a succulent roast lamb on our Cobb Cooker with all the trimmings and savoured our freshly shucked Clyde River oysters for entrée, dining in style! Who says camping has to be rough?
The next day we said goodbye to Batemans Bay and 70kms south hit Narooma, a beautiful spot with plenty of places to camp along the foreshore. One of the best is Surf Beach Holiday Park on the waterfront which offers a perfect spot to enjoy all the activities that Narooma is renowned for. If you have bikes you can cycle the Narooma to Dalmeny Cycleway, a new coastal path that runs for six kilometres between the two towns and has incredible ocean views.
For snorkellers, both novice and experienced, Narooma has some fantastic spots to explore. Narooma’s bar beach south has a naturally protected and enclosed position near the mouth of the Wagonga Inlet and a break wall at its northern end. An Apex Park is near the beach with barbeque facilities and a playground and close by you can walk along to the break wall and check out Australia Rock where the inlet empties into the sea. The rock is an amazingly accurate shape of Australia, carved into the rock face over centuries of tides.
One of the highlights of a trip to Narooma is a visit to Montague Island Nature Reserve. The island has a historic lighthouse, but its biggest drawcard is its wildlife; a huge colony of fur seals and little penguins. The only way to set foot there is through a tour run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service guide. There’s whale watching tours in season and you can even snorkel with the hundreds of playful little fur seals.
There’s little doubt that the south coast has loads to offer. With its long stretch of pristine coastline and family-friendly beaches, its amazing array of shore-based activities and peaceful ambience it’s a perfect escape any time of year.