Seaside Sojourn: a Sydney to Jervis Bay Driving Holiday

A man wading through water at Murrays Bach sea cave in the Booderee National Park near Jervis Bay

Sydney may have great waves, but Sarah and Chris are heading further afield to what some describe as the most beautiful beaches in Australia. But that’s not all that Shoalhaven offers – there are also wineries, welcoming towns and national parks.

When we’ve got a weekend at home, Chris and I love to hit Sydney’s beaches, but – let’s face facts – a few days is far more satisfying than a few hours. We’ve picked up a vehicle from Apex Car Rentals at Sydney Airport and we’re heading south for five days to explore Jervis Bay, where the beaches are even more beautiful than what’s on our doorstep and we’ll have to contend with fewer people.

Thar She Blows: Sydney to Kiama

Water spouting from the blowhole at Kiama, Shoalhaven, NSW

We’re so lucky that just outside of Sydney is the Royal National Park, the world’s second oldest national park. Chris and I head here often to breathe in the fresh air, but today we’re going to follow the Karloo Track to Karloo Pool. It’s an incredible day, so we’re not the only ones who’ve decided it’s a good idea. It’s only five kilometres there and back through the bush, but at the halfway mark you get to have a swim at one of Sydney’s best natural swimming holes.

We’re going to stay at Kiama overnight, since the only time we’ve driven this way before we barely paused at this pretty town. Blowhole Point is a great walk that takes you to Kiama’s famous booming water feature and the lighthouse perched on the cliffs. As the sun begins to go down, it’s the perfect place to stop and plan for the days ahead.

Country Roads: Kiama to Berry

Welcome sign on a wagon at the front of Coolangatta Estate winery, near Berry, Shoalhaven

One of the most popular spots in Shoalhaven isn’t even on the beach. The charming country village of Berry is a popular weekender for Sydneysiders. There are several wineries in the area, and we stop at Coolangatta Estate. The winery is built around an old convict-built village, now surrounded by vines and gardens. We order a tasting paddle – the medium-bodied reds are excellent – and a cold seafood platter to share in the wine garden.

The reason Berry is so popular is because it feels a million miles from the city. Many of the heritage buildings on the main street have been preserved and there’s a downloadable walking guide that tells the history of each of them. Along the way, we fuel up at the Famous Berry Donut Van. It’d be easy to stuff your face with the hot cinnamon marvels, but we’ve made a booking for dinner.

The European-inspired South on Albany is as popular with locals as it is with visitors thanks to its regularly updated three-course set menu that makes the most of seasonal availability. Tonight we’re wowed by the excellent fare, including an exceptional terrine of chicken, duck and jamon, served with sourdough from the local bakery. If they’re in season, you can also add a half-dozen freshly shucked rock oysters.

Time for Play: Berry to Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay New South Wales

It’s only an hour from Berry to Jervis Bay, and we can’t wait to get there. We’re staying in Huskisson because it’s central, but when we spy its snow-white beach, I can’t say I’m disappointed. We take a dip before heading off to Booderee National Park to the south. At Green Patch beach, we follow the shore, cross some rocks and find another tiny beach. Soaking up the sun, I can feel the tension from too much work melt away. Then it’s on to Cave Beach, where the surf is up, so we catch a couple of waves before trying to coax the wallabies hanging around the car park to come closer with handfuls of grass. Not surprisingly, they’re smarter than that.

It’s time for a cold one and some food, so we make a beeline to the Flamin Galah Brewing Co. The cool space is run by a couple of locals, and we order hazy pale ales to drink in the beer garden. That’s where we discover The Nest, a permanent food truck, dishing up sliders, dumplings, wings and fish and chips (beer battered, of course).

Water is like a second home to Chris and I, and we always like to swim with aquatic animals when the opportunity arises. Here, the scuba diving is spectacular – the visibility is usually superb and there are 65 different sites, including a shark nursery and cuttlefish garden – and Dive Jervis Bay takes out anyone, from beginner snorkellers to experienced tech divers, on its boat every day. We’ve managed to get here just in time for the end of the season to swim with Australian fur seals (May to October). We’re leaving the tanks on land today though, and have chosen to snorkel. More than a hundred seals live at the colony at the northern end of the bay, and when people describe them as the puppies of the ocean, they’re not wrong. They swim right up to us, swoop through the divers’ bubbles and do turns and rolls as if trying to entice us to come along. It’s a magical experience and one we’ll never forget.