March 2, 2020 / By Tim Falk
Towns such as Merimbula, Tathra, Eden and Bermagui, located along the Sapphire Coast, experienced tough days earlier this year when bushfires threatened the region. While the fires are now under control, their impact will be felt for a long time to come.
“The Sapphire Coast economy is heavily reliant on tourism,” says Chris Nicholls, Tourism Manager at the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre.
“The loss of our primary tourism season with the evacuation of tens of thousands of visitors was the worst thing a place like Merimbula could possibly experience, and economically shattering. Trade over the summer peak represents 60 - 70 per cent of the annual income for many businesses which are directly or indirectly reliant on tourism.
“Our local businesses have reported income losses of up to 90 per cent against last year’s summer peak period due to the bushfire disaster and the closure of the Princes Highway from Victoria. The story is the same up and down the coast.”
In Merimbula, many retailers, cafés, restaurants, accommodation properties and tourism operators have had an extremely difficult time. But there’s one simple thing you can do to help businesses throughout the region get back on their feet: visit.
“Predominantly, the Sapphire Coast towns and resorts are undamaged by fire, and with the recent soaking rains — the countryside is wonderfully green and fresh. Merimbula, Tathra, Eden and Bermagui are still among the most beautiful places to holiday or take a break in NSW,” Chris explains.
“Our message is, keep loving Merimbula and the Sapphire Coast — pack your bags and come and say hello, because seeing your face will bring a smile to ours!”
So to get you started with planning your getaway, here’s a snapshot of just some of the wonderful activities and attractions on offer.
If you love pristine natural beauty and laid-back seaside charm, there’s no better place to start your Sapphire Coast adventure than Merimbula.
It all kicks off with a visit to the beach — Main Beach is popular with surfers, while Bar Beach is a great snorkelling spot. You’ll struggle to find a more beautiful spot for breakfast than Bar Beach Kiosk, while there’s also kilometre after kilometre of uncrowded sand for beach combing or just stretching out in the sun.
To the south of town lies Merimbula Lake, where water sports are the main attraction. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Mitchies Jetty and go exploring, or grab coffee and cake from the espresso bar.
And with fishing charters, whale watching tours, quality local restaurants and the annual EAT Merimbula festival in March all on offer, there’s plenty of great ways to fill your weekend.
Just down the road from Merimbula, Pambula is all about laid-back charm. Beachcombing, fishing and surfing are all popular here, while the boutique local shops offer everything from fashion and arts and crafts to custom hand-shaped surfboards.
But you’ll also find plenty to tempt your taste buds in Pambula. If you’re craving seafood, Wheeler’s Seafood Restaurant is the perfect spot for contemporary Australian seafood dishes or a drink and a snack at the oyster bar. You can even book yourself in for a 45-minute oyster farm tour to find out how these delicacies make their way from the peaceful waters of Merimbula Lake to your table.
Alternatively, you could follow your nose to Wild Rye’s Baking Co. for freshly-baked breads and pastries, or get your morning caffeine fix at The Roastery. If you’d rather a craft beer or two, head to Longstocking Brewery to try the Autumn Ale or treat yourself to a tasting paddle. There’s also an oyster bar and wood-fired pizzas on offer if you’re feeling hungry.
Tucked away under the watchful eye of Mt Dromedary, the small village of Bermagui is another Sapphire Coast gem. You’ll find a host of beautiful beaches and swimming spots to explore here, not to mention the famous Bermagui Blue Pool.
If you’re keen to get out on the water, you might like to go kayaking or fishing on the calm waters of Wallaga Lake, or book a deep-sea fishing charter to try and catch an ocean monster. If you’d rather let someone else do the hard work of actually catching the fish, head to Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf to stock up on some fresh seafood or maybe tuck into some quality Italian fare at il Passaggio.
If you’re planning a visit at Easter, make sure you check out the Four Winds music festival. It’s held in beautiful bushland every second year and is on again in 2020.
If you’ve got an appetite for adventure, Tathra offers a host of memorable outdoor experiences. Mountain bikers can tackle the Bundadung trail network, with more than 70 km of pristine single track to explore. Tathra Beach & Bike offers convenient bike rentals, not to mention the option of hiring a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard for an hour or even a whole day.
Down at the beach, Coastlife Adventures offers learn-to-surf lessons for people of all ages, as well as kayak tours and stand-up paddle lessons in nearby Merimbula. Of course, you might prefer to just explore at your own pace, and spend a lazy afternoon strolling along the uncrowded sand.
And when all that activity starts to make you hungry (or thirsty), try some award-winning local produce at Tathra Oysters, or enjoy a coffee and the work of South Coast artists at The Wharf Local. Once you’re fuelled up again, head out to find your next adventure.
Eden, located near the Victorian border, is another of the Sapphire Coast’s sparkling natural delights. There’s plenty to see and do here, but many of the best attractions and activities involve whales.
For example, you might like to book a whale watching tour to get up close and personal with a migrating humpback. Then you can tour the remarkable Eden Killer Whale Museum and marvel at the skeleton of Old Tom, or check out the fun and festivities at the Eden Whale Festival, held every November.
For aquatic enthusiasts, Dive Eden can get you out into the deep waters of Twofold Bay. If you’d rather stay dry, you can buy Eden mussels straight from the boat and enjoy a seafood feast.
As Chris Nicholls explains, there really is so much to love about the Sapphire Coast. “For many, Merimbula and the Sapphire Coast is a rolling love affair which has been going on for generations, with families visiting year after year. And we love this place as much as they do because it is so special — we actively enjoy sharing it with our visitors.”
There’s never been a better time to visit, so pack your bags and start planning your perfect Sapphire Coast getaway.
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