Roughly 200kms south of Sydney lies the city of Shoalhaven. Filled with beaches that stretch for miles, magical waterfalls, awe-inspiring national parks and quaint country towns, it’s a holidaymaker’s paradise.
The summer of 2019/20 saw the East Coast of Australia ravaged by bushfires and the city of Shoalhaven was hit hard. Burning for 74 days, 499,621 hectares were destroyed resulting in heartbreaking loss for so many. As we watched our country burn, many of us vowed to holiday local and invest in communities that lost so much during the fires. For me, Shoalhaven was one of the first places I wanted to get back to for a couple of days – here’s why.
Lake Conjola is a haven for water sports such as fishing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and surfing. Being spoilt for choice, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to the watersports on offer. If surfing is your thing, you’ll be impressed with the breaks off Green Island, and Conjola beach is stunning.
The beach stretches for miles so there’s plenty of room to soak up the sun and splash in the waves. It also boasts some sand dunes if you fancy sliding down the dunes on a board! The beach is unpatrolled and there can be rips and strong currents, so if you’re after a safer spot to swim then the lake is perfect. There’s lots of room on the banks for a picnic and a few fishing platforms as well as a rope swing if you fancy flinging yourself into the water!
No country town would be complete without a club of sorts, and Lake Conjola Bowling and Recreation Club quickly became one of our favourite country town clubs. You know the ones, as you walk in you can almost hear the Cheers theme song “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”. You look around and everyone is smiling and laughing, and the smell of pub grub wafts towards you beckoning you inside.
The Club officially opened on the 31st December 1977 when the first bowl was rolled by the Foundation President, Norm Baker. Gentlemen only were invited to attend from 10am until 12 noon, then ladies and gentlemen were welcome to attend from 1.30pm until 5pm. Now everyone is welcome at all times and you can even have a game or two of barefoot bowling. The menu is filled with all the pub favourites and the parma is delicious.
Just a short drive from Lake Conjola is the tiny historic village of Milton. With art galleries and antique vendors, cafes and fine-dining restaurants, fashion boutiques and contemporary homeware stores, this is a cute village to visit for a bite to eat and a stretch of your legs. A must-stop shop on the main street is Nikki B’s. It may be described as a Vintage Collectables and Giftware shop, but it’s so much more than that! It’s filled with some of the quirkiest wares I’ve seen and if you’re after a good coffee while you’re there, just up the road is Coast Cafe, situated in a gorgeous 1874 heritage building.
Down the road from Milton you’ll find the coastal town of Ulladulla. Well known for its seafood, the town’s harbour has a number of commercial fishing trawlers and if you fancy a deep sea fishing adventure then this is the place to go. Salmon, king fish, snapper and flathead are just a few that you can expect to reel in. If you’re travelling with kids, or you yourself are a big kid at heart, then you’ll get a kick out of Funland Ulladulla. Situated in the heart of the town and with tonnes of arcade games, ride simulators and laser skirmish, Funland Ulladulla will provide hours of entertainment!
Always on the hunt for a good pie, we stopped in to Hayden’s Pies just down the road from the harbour. Their pies did not disappoint! From chunky steak and mushroom, chicken and veg to honey roasted pumpkin with spinach and feta, there’s a pie for everyone. You’ll even find a pie of the day such as Atlantic salmon and king prawn, lamb, sweet potato and green olive, or even a cheeseburger pie! There’s even parking available for caravans and trailers.
Don’t let the bushfires deter you from exploring the national parks in the area. Although they may have lost their lush green beauty there is something eerily beautiful about the bush after a bushfire. As the plants find their way through the ash covered ground and blackened burnt trees searching for the sun the vibrant green regrowth is stunning.