A good three hour drive from Sydney is the wonderful town of Ulladulla, nestled right on the coast. Known to the local Yuin people as ‘ullada ullada’ which means ‘safe harbour’, today a huge fishing fleet takes advantage of the harbour sheltered between two striking headlands. Plenty of holidaymakers take advantage of the location too—here’s just some of the reasons why.
The land and sea in and around Ulladulla hold plenty of stories for history buffs. Captain Cook sailed past on his voyage back in 1770 and named one of the hills Pigeon House Mountain, then in 1797 explorer George Bass sailed past on his journey along the southern coastline. During the next 30 years the area was surveyed and a town was settled to the north near present-day Milton, where a number of historic homes still stand.
The harbour at Ulladulla was used to load goods and timber bound for Sydney and the industry boomed in the 1840s. A town and timber jetty were eventually built along with a lighthouse at nearby Warden Head, due to the exposed rocks around the headland. Today Ulladulla is home to the largest fishing fleet in NSW. Each year on Easter Sunday the Blessing of the Fleet festival is held where the town shuts down for a host of activities, games and parades.
Inspiring coastal walks
The town itself is surrounded by several national parks where you’ll find plenty of walking tracks across the headlands and along the beaches, with views of crystal clear water (which is also ideal for diving offshore). The hills behind Ulladulla are just as picture-perfect, dotted with grazing animals.
The Warden Head lighthouse, found only minutes from town, is a great base for several walks and is an attraction in its own right. Built in 1873 it was originally placed down on the break wall but a few year later it was moved to where it stands today. At only 34 metres high and built from curved iron plates, it was changed over to electricity in 1964 and still shines bright today.
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From here, take the two-hour Coomie Nulunga Trail that winds its way around the headland, giving stunning views along the coast. As you meander past coastal waratah, headland heath and trigger plants, keep an eye out for the black cockatoos that love to eat the waratah seeds.
To the north of town there is an amazing walk called One Track For All. This headland track has several lookouts overlooking the town and coast, but the most interesting features are the timber sculptures and carvings created by local elder Noel Butler. These tell the story of the locals and their interaction with the land, sea and when white man came to the area.
Away from Ulladulla to the north, Mollymook is a holidayer’s paradise where endless waves roll in over the town’s beautiful beaches. There’s a beach for everyone in Mollymook, with rock pools for the kids, stretches of pristine sand for those who love to walk and explore, barrelling waves for surfers, and stunning lookouts for those who enjoy their beaches from above.
Mollymook is a small town with basic facilities but it stays busy all year round with holidaymakers and retirees who flock here for the sun and pristine environment, and to escape the bustle of the larger Ulladulla.
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Homegrown heritage charm
Milton is just 6km to the north and while this town was once a quiet pass-through village, these days it’s full of boutique coffee shops and a heap of history to be discovered. There is a self-guided walk around town that leads you to no less than 25 places of interest which date back as far as 1859. There are old churches, high house keeper’s residences, cottages and historical old banks to see.
These days it’s hard to get a parking spot as people are catching wind of this beautiful little village and its homegrown meals, amazing coffee and handmade gifts. A lot of these businesses operate from heritage buildings which add to the charm. Every month there are local markets highlighting what is grown within the area, and for something a little different you can go on a night time Ghost Walk where you’ll be told old tales as you wander around town by lantern light.
Stunning coastal lakes
Within cooee of Ulladulla there are many hidden lakes where you can fish and enjoy a day on the water. Burrill Lake is open to the ocean and, being no more than six feet deep in most parts, it’s absolutely crystal clear. A stunning white sand lake bed means the water has a beautiful turquoise blue to it. This massive lake system is teeming with a variety of fish and rays, birds and so much more.
Smithy’s Point is a grassy parkland with shelters and barbecues right beside the lake. Take a picnic or if you want some of the best fish and chips around, the little seafood shop at the lake has been awarded the best fish and chips in NSW!
There’s a few big caravan parks around the lake and if you head south for 3km to the Lagoon Point Conference Centre you’ll find bush camping on acreage all within a three minute walk of the stunning Wairo Beach. Surrounded by national parks you can be assured of wildlife emerging from peaceful surroundings.
There are plenty of facilities, massive informal shady sites which are great for groups or you can just tuck away in a corner. Down here you can fish till dark or just wander for miles exploring the area or the honeycomb rock at the headland.
The adventures continue
Whether you’re into bushwalking, cycling or scenic drives, the surrounding national parks and countryside have got you covered. Morton National Park is home to Pigeon House Mountain which you can walk to the top of and enjoy almost endless vistas all around while the Budawang wilderness area is ideal for experienced campers looking for a remote adventure. (Before visiting please check the NSW National Parks website for the latest closures and updates on the bush fire recovery.)
The south coast beaches speak for themselves but if you can drag yourself away from the coastline, follow the tourist drive signs from Milton for a great half-day loop into the hinterland towards the top of the Clyde River and returning back to Ulladulla. Make sure you pack a picnic and swimmers as there are some beautiful stops along the way.
Get back out there
While Ulladulla may not have the modern glitz and glamour of other seaside towns, there are few places with the same abundance of natural beauty, preserved history and laidback vibes. Do yourself a favour, take a few days off to explore Ulladulla and the NSW South Coast.