Mark the South Coast of New South Wales on your foodie map. Stretching south from Sydney along the Tasman Sea and Australia’s Oyster Coast, then heading inland to the lofty Southern Highlands, this is a delectable destination for a true taste of Australia.
Savour fresh-off-the-boat seafood, award-winning wines, gourmet foods, farm-to-fork fresh produce and authentic Aboriginal bush tucker from some of the most fertile land in Australia.
This sunny stretch of New South Wales also boasts spectacular scenery, a dramatic coastline, beautiful beaches, artsy villages and lush landscapes. Not surprisingly, it’s been a breath-of-fresh-air getaway for Aussies for years.
Getting to this scenic foodie escape is half the fun, following the picturesque coastal Grand Pacific Drive south from Sydney, meandering 140 kilometres along one of the most stunning stretches of road in Oz. From Sydney’s lush Royal National Park (the world’s second largest National Park) past soaring hang gliders at Bald Hill, over iconic Sea Cliff Bridge and dodging the drenching sea-spray at Kiama Blowhole.
This spectacular drive is even more amazing when you’re perched on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. “Our one-hour coastal drive along Grand Pacific Drive is the most popular Harley ride,” says mutton-chopped Steve Melchior of Just Cruisin’ Motorcycle Tours.
Next up, a Foodie’s Indulgence Tour, tasting our way through the seaside villages and rural towns of this ever-growing gourmet-region. “We take visitors to about six different regional producers on a full-day tour,” says Jacqueline Weiley of her Foodscape Tours. “The whole idea is to meet the makers, showcase the incredible local produce, artisan products and local wines of the region, along with the passionate personalities behind them.”
Our first stop is Coolangatta Estate Winery, proudly perched on the site of the first European settlement on the South Coast. Snuggled into Shoalhaven Head with Mount Coolangatta standing sentinel, the family-run vineyard is alive with history – the fantastic old farm buildings and convict built cottages now converted into comfy accommodations.
“The citrus flavours of our Semillon are a perfect match for the region’s Greenwell Point Oysters,” says cellar door manager Ben Wallis as we sample delicious local oysters along with his family’s award-winning boutique wines. “You’ll get to look around our lovely region and meet the folks who grow the food that’s here on the regional tasting plate in front of you,” says Wallis of Coolangatta’s signature lunch dish, including local cheeses, fish, meat, produce and breads paired with four estate-grown wines.
Next, we’re off to meet farmers Fiona and Adam Walmsley at their picturesque ocean-view Buena Vista Farm, specializing in pastured eggs and ethically raised chickens, free-range pigs, bees and coffee. If you want to immerse yourself, they offer a range of full-day hands-on classes covering topics such as: Cooking “From Scratch,” “Simple Cheesemaking,” How to raise and process chickens – “Chicken Day,” and Coffee production – “From Bean to Barista.”
Heading inland to the charming little town of Berry – the perfect name for a foodie town – Jacqueline introduces us to several shop owners as we sample our way along the town’s historic main street lined with handsome Victorian buildings.
The tasty conserves and preserves at South Coast Providores are hand-made in small batches with ingredients from local farmers and growers.
Sonya and Simon, offer their “real” hot chocolate and a shop full of hand-made chocolates at the Berry Chocolatier… a chocoholics dream come true.
The Berry Tea Shop is our last stop, with a private tea tasting, a chat with owners Paulina and Cliff, and just when you thought you couldn’t eat another bite, a scrumptious slice of Paulina’s popular Earl Grey Tea Cake.
Our next delicious destination is the northern tip of Australia’s Oyster Coast. This briny 300 kilometre stretch of shoreline from Shoalhaven, south to the Victoria state border, has eight major oyster-producing estuaries and boasts countless oyster farms producing three distinct species of oysters. Follow the Oyster Trail down the South Coast of New South Wales to slurp up these fresh-from-the-farm oysters.
Succulent seafood and TV’s celebrity chef, Rick Stein, helped put the state’s scenic South Coast on the foodie map. In 2009, the “sea-foodie extraordinaire” opened Rick Stein’s at Bannisters restaurant and boutique hotel in the popular beach town of Mollymook, giving the region some star-power.
Don’t miss the fabulous food and unique Australian bush experience at Paperbark Camp – featuring twelve safari style tents set amid a forest of flaky white paperbark and towering gum trees. My secluded tent even comes with a curious brushtail possum checking out the alfresco bathroom, complete with freestanding tub-with-a-view.
The Gunyah (the Aboriginal word for “place of shelter”) Restaurant is the heart of Paperbark Camp. Raised high above the ground to enjoy the sea breezes and bushy backdrop, this towering tree top restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for modern Australian cuisine, using locally grown and sourced produce.
And you can’t get any fresher than Aboriginal bush tucker, hand-picked at Booderee National Park. “Would you be able to survive in the bush?” asks our Galamban Extraordinary Aboriginal Experiences guide, as we forage for native bush tucker in this lush seaside national park owned by the local Aboriginal community.
The bristly Banksia flower makes an excellent drink and can double as a hair brush or torch to light your way. The sharp Needle Wattle gets rid of warts. Every shell fish possible seems to thrive here, used for everything from food to utensils to adornment. The Sarsaparilla plants flourishing here can cure almost anything, from kidney and skin diseases to fevers and arthritis. Our guide breaks off the young tips of leafy green Bracken for us to sample, its peppery taste perfect in a salad and roasted roots tasty bush tucker too.
“The name of our National Park – Booderee – means bay of plenty, and we have an amazing array of life all around us here – air, animals, birds and fish – our people would be gathering whatever was in season,” says our Aboriginal guide, sharing a lifetime of knowledge passed down through generations of her local Koori people.