Summer in Australia means spending time on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most travellers will instantly think of Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach or St Kilda Beach in Melbourne or the magnificent stretches of coastline around Byron Bay, Noosa Heads and far north Queensland. However a little known gem known as Narooma, lies just five hour south of Sydney. In Narooma you will find not only pristine waterways and national parks to explore, but an abundance of natural wildlife to experience up close. This unspoilt paradise is also far less crowded than the more famous tourist destinations.
Narooma is a former fishing town and now a popular seaside resort in the Eurobodalla region of New South Wales. “Narooma”, means “clear blue water” in the indigenous Yuin dialect. It is certainly the only word to describe the sweeping views which greet you as you approach the coastal resort town.
The crystal clear waters of Wagonga inlet are impossibly blue, with rock walls snaking around the waters leading recreational fishing craft safely out to sea. In the background lies Mt Gulaga, watching over the sweeping Pacific Ocean coastline and endless stretches of white sandy beaches. Out to sea, the famous Montague Island, with its historic lighthouse and abundant wildlife stand sentinel.
Unlike the more well-known beach resorts of Australia, Narooma and the surrounding townships of Bermagui and Dalmeny are considerably less crowded. Thinking of what to do in Narooma while you’re there? With its broad range of sights and activities, holiday makers can enjoy watersports, fishing, hiking in the national parks, cycling, and enjoying the local seafood and wines. From Narooma, you can also experience a number of wildlife both on shore and from the waters around Montague Island.
WHAT TO DO IN NAROOMA
EXPLORE THE BEACHES OF NAROOMA
If it’s your first time to Narooma, start it right by exploring the pristine beaches around. With so many beaches to choose from, you can either catch a wave at one of the many surf beaches in Narooma, or find a secluded sandy cove to relax and work on your tan under the sun. At both Narooma Bar and Dalmeny Beaches, you will discover endless stretches of white sandy surf beach, adjacent to a safe swimming lagoon ideal for children to play in.
Narooma is renowned as a fisherman’s paradise. Dangle a line from the town wharf or the boardwalk along the clear waters of Mill Bay. Try your luck fishing for whiting on the sand flats around Forsters Bay, where you will find rows of charming historic wooden boatsheds lined along Wagonga Inlet. Here, you can also hire a small boat and spend the day floating around calm inlet waters, cruising past the oyster leases, catching flathead and enjoying the surrounding bushland. You can also enjoy a morning’s guided cruise around the estuary.
More adventurous fisherman can take a fishing charter out to Montague Island for a spot of game fishing.
SAMPLE THE LOCAL PRODUCE
Narooma is the centre of the Oyster Coast, so be sure to sample the local oysters and seafood while you are here. The boatsheds surrounding the inlet provide fresh local oysters and locally caught seafood that you can cook yourself, or relax by the water and dine on local seafood at one of the many waterside restaurants and cafes. There’s also the annual Narooma Oyster Festival taking place every May featuring award-winning chefs and fun activities for food lovers.
The surrounding villages of Bodalla and Tilba once supported a thriving dairy and cheese industry. Today you can still wander around the heritage towns and sample locally produced cheeses.
Join the ultimate Food & Wine Tour with a visit to a local winery, cheese factory and the Bermagui Fishermans Wharf for a complete gourmet experience while in Narooma.
No visit to Narooma is complete without making the 11 kilometre trip out to Montague Island. Learn the history of the former lighthouse, which is now a nature reserve, home to a large seal colony and around 90 species of birdlife, including one of Australia’s largest colonies of little penguins.
Montague Island is protected by the National Parks and Wildlife, so only licensed charter operators can land on the island. During a tour of the island you not only have the opportunity to learn the history of the lighthouse and the local cultural significance of the island. You can also snorkel with the seals, or at dusk you can watch the penguins waddling back to their burrows from a day’s fishing.
From July to November you are likely to see a number of humpback and southern right whales putting on a spectacular display during their annual migration. Narooma is known as one of the best places to enjoy a memorable whale watching experience.
MEET THE WILDLIFE
Narooma is home to an abundance of native wildlife, but you don’t need to leave the shore for a unique wildlife experience. Flocks of pelicans and seabirds can be seen at any of the boat ramps, jostling for a free feed from the “catch of the day”.
Take a walk along the southern break-wall at Australia Rock, where you will find a small colony of Australian Fur seals who have taken up home there. You can literally stand within meters of the seals sunning themselves on the rocks, and putting on a display as they frolic in the waters.
From the Mill Bay boardwalk or from one of the many beaches, you are sure to catch seals or dolphins at play, stingrays or pelicans jostling for a feed and even the odd emu and kangaroo.
A 21 kilometer cycle-way runs around the coastal headlands between Narooma and the nearby town of Dalmeny. Several viewing platforms give you the opportunity to enjoy a spot of whale watching while you take in the spectacular coastal views.
We recommend renting an E-bike or joining a full day E-bike private tour to experience all of the above in a fun way that’s suitable for all fitness levels.
WHERE TO STAY IN NAROOMA
Narooma offers a wide range of accommodation to cater to all holiday styles and budget. From basic campground, onsite cabins, self catering holiday accommodation to luxury serviced apartments, the choice is yours.
BEST TIME TO VISIT NAROOMA
Narooma has one of the most temperate climates in Australia. Average daytime temperatures in winter are usually around 17°c (64F). Summer in Narooma sees temperatures around 24°c (75F), with some days up to 30°c (86F). September to April are the most popular months to visit Narooma. If visiting during the cooler winter months, you can take advantage of cheaper off-season accommodation.
HOW TO GET TO NAROOMA
Narooma is five hours drive from Sydney, or three hours drive from Canberra. While a hire car will certainly be the most convenient way to explore the Eurobodalla, buses run daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra to the south coast.
It is also possible to catch a flight from Sydney of Melbourne to the nearby Moruya Airport and hire a car from there. It is only a very small regional airport, so pre-booking your car is an essential.
Now that you know what to do in Narooma, start planning your next summer holiday in this unspoilt paradise of Australia!
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About our contributor: Ian and Lesley Connor are two Australians living on the pristine south coast of NSW. They provide travel tips and stories to provide local knowledge to travellers planning a trip to Australia, as well as sharing their experiences travelling in Europe through their travel blog https://emptynesterstravelinsights.com