Lee Atkinson tests the waters on NSW's south coast and relishes getting back to nature.
Surrounded by national parks, a maze of beautiful waterways and a string of fabulous beaches, a holiday in Batemans Bay on the south coast of NSW is all about getting back to nature. And with a range of great value, family-friendly accommodation on offer in the many waterfront holiday parks in the area, it doesn't have to break the bank either.
What it's known for
At the mouth of the River Clyde, Batemans Bay is the largest town on the Eurobodalla coast - Eurobodalla means "land of many waters" and there are plenty of ways to get wet, with boat ramps, wharves and jetties in almost every coastal village. It's a great place to throw in a fishing line - or head out to sea on a fishing charter - go kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding or sailing, or just laze around on a beach.
What you didn't know ...
In 1851 gold was discovered just south of Batemans Bay near the present-day village of Mogo and by the 1860s more than 30,000 diggers were working the goldfields. Today Mogo is a popular pit stop on the Princes Highway, with a string of shops selling everything from New Age crystals and handmade jewellery to homewares, antiques and collectables, but a couple of blocks back from the highway is "The Original Gold Rush Colony", a heritage theme park full of replica and relocated historic buildings with blacksmith demonstrations, steam train rides and gold panning. In a nice twist of fate, the park manager is the great-great-granddaughter of Alexander Waddell, the first man to find gold in the area. It's open daily with guided tours at 10.30am, noon, 1.30pm and 3pm. Entry is $18 for adults, $10 for kids or $50 for a family.goldrushcolony.com.au.
New at the Gold Rush Colony is Mogo Maze, a palisade maze that includes a storyline of the Eureka Stockade. Although the maze is part of the heritage park, you can visit it on its own for $7. Don't be deceived by appearances - it's harder than it looks, and on my guided tour with the manager we still managed to get lost! Also new(ish) - it's been open for a year or so - the playground at Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens (seven kilometres south of Batemans Bay, just before you get to Mogo) is also worth a visit if you're travelling with kids. It's the perfect place to let them burn off some energy on a road trip. There are free guided walks through the gardens every Sunday at 11am.
Don't leave Mogo without visiting Mogo Zoo - the collection includes Nepalese red pandas, white lions, snow leopards, bears and tigers. They have a range of animal encounters and you can go behind the scenes and become a keeper for the day. New at the zoo is a baby giraffe, born earlier this year, and Chai, an adorable baby red panda. It's open daily, 9am-5pm (keeper talks and feeding sessions at 10.30am and 1.45pm) and entry is $28 for adults, $15 for kids, $80 for a family. mogozoo.com.au. Alternatively, if you prefer to see Australian animals in the wild, head to Murramarang National Park, where you can often see kangaroos on the beaches and around the picnic areas.
Where to eat
Popular with locals, Isabella's does good food and has good water views and some of the best desserts in town - breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. 23 Beach Road, (02) 4472 0253. Also on the waterfront, Sam's Pizzeria is great for pizza - dinner daily. 5 Orient Street, (02) 4472 6687. Innes Boatshed, open daily, is the place to go for fish and chips. 1 Clyde Street.
Where to stay
Murramarang Beachfront Nature Resort has one- and two-bedroom villas right on the edge of the sand, as well as powered caravan sites, a licensed restaurant, playground and swimming pool. An added attraction is the resident mob of kangaroos that call the resort home. If your kids have never had the chance to see a wild kangaroo up close, this is the perfect place. The sheltered beach is also ideal for kids. Beach villas start at $145 a couple. murramarangresort.com.au.
How to get there
Batemans Bay is 278 kilometres south of Sydney, via the Princes Highway. You should allow four hours' driving time.
- Sydney Morning Herald