If rolling hills, quaint cottage buildings and unspoiled beach breaks are what you seek, then look no further than the southern pocket of Eurobodalla on NSW’s South Coast for your next long weekender out of town. There’s plenty to explore with a bounty of hidden gems in the region, but it’s definitely worth starting in Tilba — the old heritage town that’s tucked away behind the Princes Highway.
For those adventuring from Sydney, it’s about a 5-hour drive and a little longer if you choose to take the scenic coastal route, which I’d highly recommend. Break up the commute by stopping at Milton for a chance to browse the array of homeware and op-shops as well as the town’s wonderful eateries. Flour Water Salt, Pilgrims and Brown Sugar will fill your belly and provide you with that much-needed caffeine hit.
There’s a real small-town charm to Tilba, with its promenade of shopfronts and businesses operating out of colourful timber cottages. It’ll truly make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. The once-booming mining settlement has been transformed into a place of leisure, and with its surrounding of beautiful green countryside, it’s oh-so easy on the eyes.
At the corner of Dromedary Pub, there’s a short but very worthwhile 5-minute walk up the hill to the water tower for a view of the surrounding hills. If you’d like to keep stretching the legs, it’s possible to access the Bellbrook Farm loop, which takes you around the foothills of Mount Dromedary (Gulaga) and across the surrounding paddocks.
As far as eating goes, the local Tilba Bakery serves up hearty pies and sausage rolls and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re in luck — scones and cakes are plentiful at Tilba Teapot Cafe. And amidst the many eclectic businesses, you’ll encounter the aesthetic Bath Patisserie and all its alluring soap and bath bomb varieties, and the Tilba Real Dairy that makes some of the creamiest milk, yoghurt, cheese and milkshakes you’ll ever try.
Two kilometres down the road you’ll find Tilba Tilba. And although it’s a fairly sleepy village, if you’re up for a proper hike, there’s a steep track (Mount Dromedary Trail) that leads up to Gulaga mountain — considered a sacred site for the Yuin aboriginal people. Stop at the saddle or continue onto the summit, but allow enough daylight for a five-hour return (14km) journey.
Mystery Bay… Stay in Paradise
What’s great about this region is everything’s in close proximity and you’re only a short drive from accessing the rolling hills or the emerald beach waters. There’s also something wonderful about sleeping and waking by the ocean, and Mystery Bay Campground is exactly where you can do that.
The site is fairly spread out so I’d encourage you to avoid the main camping area. Instead, follow the unsealed road up the hill until you arrive at the grassy section (which you can drive up to). The beauty of this spot is you’re not camping on the dirt ground and there’s an incredible path out to the headland that overlooks the ocean below. I’d recommend taking a camp chair out here to stargaze or simply take in the views at dawn or dusk (which was the highlight of my trip). While you’re up here, if you navigate the rocks on your left, there’s a small channel that opens up to a hidden ocean pool and is worth a quick visit (though it’s a little sketchy and unsafe should you decide to descend down to it).
The campground has cold shower facilities, fresh drinking water and surprisingly, fires are also permitted. Book online or in person when you reach Mystery Bay. During peak season it’s $17.50 per adult (per night) and $12 during non-peak periods. Rates vary depending on the number of visitors in your party and the length of your stay. For all food supplies, including supermarket and bottle shop requirements, you’ll need to stop off at Narooma or Bermagui, though you’ll pass by one of them on the drive in. And even if you forget something, it’s only a short drive from Mystery Bay.
Don’t forget you can use Campermate’s maps to filter and find essentials nearby.
Mystery Bay beach is ideal for an ocean swim, but I’d encourage you to jump in your vehicle and take the drive along the unsealed 1080 Road for a chance to swim at the isolated Pooles Beach. The driving path is well maintained and easy to navigate in a basic 2WD. Further along the track, you’ve also got 1080 Beach, a bunch of picnic tables and a fantastic south-facing vantage point that makes for a wonderful lunch location.
Take the road less travelled…
From Mystery Bay you should definitely take the drive along Sunnyside Road. It’s full of fresh paddocks, rolling hills and of course, mighty trees. For a moment, it’s as though you’ve been transported to the Scottish Highlands with all that majestic greenery, particularly on a misty morning. There’s even a spot where you can feed the horses from a box full of carrots — talk about a wholesome experience!
An afternoon of exploring
The South Coast is full of hidden gems, including its single-file bridge crossing at Wallaga Lake. It’s here that you’ll encounter Payne’s Island — a scenic rest spot with views of Honeysuckle Island and the occasional fisherman at the water’s edge. Stop here for a break, use the toilet facilities and continue on your way. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Continue south along Wallaga Lake Road and take a left turn down Wallaga Street until you reach Lake Reserve carpark. Leave your car and follow the coast track (which is well marked), along a series of boardwalks and dirt track to Murunna Point. You’ll have a beautiful northerly view of Wallaga Beach and Mount Dromedary behind it.
It’s easy enough to perch yourself on the grassy knoll and enjoy the afternoon sun, otherwise, continue along the track that hugs the cliff face to Horse Head and Camel Rock. Keep an eye out for the inquisitive kangaroos which roam the grass. At the time I visited there was even one with bodybuilder-like abs and proved rather intimidating, so don’t get too close.
Keep an eye out for…
If you’re lucky, you might catch a pod of humpback and southern right whales out at sea. They usually migrate between September and November as they head down to feeding areas in the Southern Ocean. Interestingly, humpbacks are distinguishable by their singular cloud blow, whereas southern right whales produce a double or v-shaped spurt. It’s not uncommon to spot Australian and New Zealand fur seals in the region, with a healthy colony hanging out at nearby Montague Island.
If you have time…
About a half hour’s drive south of Mystery Bay, you’ll arrive at Bermagui, the entrance to the Sapphire Coast of NSW. At the eastern end of town there’s a beautiful natural ocean rock pool, aptly named the Blue Pool, which is ideal for a refreshing dip. After a splash in the ocean, drop into Fishermen’s Wharf for fish and chips at Blue Wave Seafood or Bermagui Gelati for ice cream.