February 24, 2020 / By Tim Falk
This week's rain saw the fires on the NSW South Coast brought under control. For many locals, such as those in Narooma, that means it's now time to start picking up the pieces. And while Narooma itself escaped any damage, the economic impact of the fires on a town where tourism is the number-one industry and employer has been huge.
Due to forced evacuations in early January and road closures, there were virtually no visitors in town for the first three weeks of January. This is normally the town’s peak time, when most businesses make between 25 - 40% of their annual income. This year, their takings have been a small fraction of what they would usually be, as Lisa Brown and Alison Spurgeon from the Narooma Visitor Centre explain:
“Our boat tour operators that offer fishing trips and tours of Montague Island were shut down, and all South Coast national parks were closed, either because of fire impact or their staff were busy working with the fire crews. Cafes and restaurants were deserted."
"Other retail businesses that had stocked up for the summer season had no customers. These businesses also provide casual employment for locals, e.g. students, during the summer but this just didn’t happen."
“I'm sure all these businesses are struggling due to loss of income. Some may not recover and have to close down — it's still too early to tell the full impact.”
The message from staff at the Visitor Centre is simple: Please come and support our beautiful town!
“Narooma and neighbouring townships such as Bodalla and Tilba were not burnt at all in the fire. The wonderful coastal national parks to the south of us towards Tathra and Bega are untouched. We have all our natural attractions intact, including tours to Montague Island to see seal colonies, penguins and the historic lighthouse.
“We enjoy wonderful quality local produce; seafood in abundance, dairy products, fruit, vegetables and fungi, poultry and other meats. Gourmet tourism is a large part of our tourism market."
“Best of all, the place is not at all crowded — you can probably have a beach to yourself!”
If you’re planning a weekend getaway in Narooma, here are three great ways to spend your time.
1. Get wet
If you like being on, in or near the water, you’re spoiled for choice. From the stunning sapphire waters of Wagonga Inlet to the crashing waves and uncrowded sand of the area’s beaches, this stretch of coastline is made for adventure.
One of the simplest ways to enjoy it is to go for a paddle on Wagonga Inlet. Narooma Marina offers canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals — perfect for exploring peaceful bays, finding hidden beaches and getting an up-close view of the local oyster farms.
For something that requires a little less muscle power, you can always book a charter tour. Narooma Charters offers fishing and diving charter tours, as well as whale watching tours for anyone keen to have a memorable encounter with a majestic humpback whale.
There are also tours available to Montague Island, an unspoilt nature reserve that lies just 9 km offshore. From little penguins and fur seals to southern right whales, there’s a diverse range of wildlife you could encounter when you head out to the island. Snorkelling and diving are popular activities, while you also get to take a wander through the Montague Island Lighthouse.
Booking a charter tour lets you sit back and relax while someone else does all the hard work. There are plenty of tour operators to choose from, so shop around to find your perfect day out on the water.
2. Café culture
All that adventuring will no doubt make you hungry (and probably thirsty too!), so it’s a good thing indeed that Narooma has a thriving café culture. Whether you’re looking for a coffee on the go or a lazy breakfast or lunch, there are plenty of eateries offering a treat for your taste buds.
The Narooma Ice Creamery Café is something of a local institution, and well worth a visit while you’re in town. The innovative home-made ice-cream flavours here are oh-so-enticing — good luck picking just one — while the café also serves up quality fare for breakfast and lunch. Try a muffin or a vego burger and you’ll go home happy.
If you like your café meals with a side serving of beautiful scenery, The View Coffee & Bites will probably be your café of choice. And once you tear your gaze away from those picture-postcard views, you’ll find plenty on the menu to get your stomach rumbling. You can’t go wrong with the scrambled eggs with bacon, while the coffee’s pretty good too. And if you score an outside table, everything tastes even better.
But if you’re on the hunt for a casual feed beside the beach, Surfbeach Café has got you covered. With the sand and the waves right next door, it’s the perfect spot for a bacon & egg roll and a coffee after a morning surf.
3. Sample some seafood
One of the highlights of touring the Eurobodalla region is the fresh local produce on offer at farm gates, farmers’ markets and restaurants. And with Narooma located in the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast, it’s no surprise that the local seafood is a major drawcard.
Narooma even hosts an annual Oyster Festival each May — it’s a must for any foodie and will be held 1-2 May 2020 — while delicious seafood is a staple at local restaurants all year round.
One of the more popular venues is The Quarterdeck, a waterfront tiki bar and grill on the shores of Forsters Bay. Eden black mussels, local fish of the day and Narooma-grown Sydney rock oysters are just some of the menu highlights, especially when washed down with a cocktail or a beer or two.
Over at The Whale Restaurant, the focus is on making the most of the fresh local produce. The fish of the day, served with Eden mussels and bouillabaisse sauce, will impress, while there’s plenty more to enjoy on the ever-changing menu. Some of the herbs and vegetables are even grown in the restaurant’s own garden, so you know that only the freshest ingredients are used.
Of course, sometimes the only thing that hits the spot is the quintessential beach holiday meal: takeaway fish and chips. Blue Water Seafoods is a local favourite for anyone craving fresh fish and thick-cut chips, while The Inlet Seafood Restaurant on Riverside Drive also does take-away. Grab a calamari pack or a piece of crumbed flake and chips, find yourself a spot overlooking the water and treat yourself to a seafood feast. Sounds pretty good, right?
The fires may have come and gone but Narooma is still standing, and everything that makes it such a wonderful holiday destination is still there. So why not book a relaxing weekend away in Narooma? Not only will you be treated to a memorable holiday, but you’ll be helping this beautiful seaside town get back on its feet at the same time.
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