Spring is peak whale watching season along the NSW Sapphire Coast as the flourishing Humpback whale population migrates south from breeding grounds off tropical Queensland to summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic. CW editor Julie Samaras shares highlights of a recent weekend getaway.
After a scenic three-hour drive from Canberra, we arrived in picturesque Merimbula mid-afternoon Friday, checking into a beautifully appointed two-bedroom apartment at Coast Resort. We took advantage of the convenient location on the Fishpen Peninsula, to take a leisurely stroll along the lakefront to the ocean. The resort also boasts two solar-heated pools (gas-boosted in summer) and a tennis court.
Coast Resort, 1 Elizabeth Street, Merimbula. T: 6495 4930.
Friday night dinner, we were warmly hosted by owner of Wheelers Seafood Restaurant at Pambula for the past six years, Jacqui, who returned to the Sapphire Coast for a sea-change and career change after several years overseas. The vibrant restaurant was filled with a mix of locals and out-of-towners, attracted by the focus on local oysters and mussels, fresh seafood and seasonal produce. My companion selected the chef’s special oyster of the day for entrée, perfectly char-grilled salmon with vegetable medley for main, both matched with Jacqui’s recommended rosé, followed by a delectable sticky date pudding for dessert, while my chargrilled vegetable stack entrée and Korean nourish bowl were refreshing and satisfying.
Wheelers Seafood Restaurant, 162 Arthur Kaine Drive, Pambula. T: 6495 6330.
Saturday morning, we meandered along the Merimbula waterfront to Mor Mors where our gracious host Minka kindly seated us in the morning sunshine. Canberrans will appreciate the acclaimed Ona coffee on offer, my scrumptious serving of house-made spiced Boston baked beans had me hankering to return another time, while my companion’s fluffy scrambled local free range eggs on sourdough toast were delish!
Mor Mors, 15/20-30 Market Street, Merimbula, T: 0436 118 920.
A leisurely 25-minute drive to Eden and soon we were eagerly boarding the 9.30am whale watching cruise with Lana and Brad from Cat Balou out of Twofold Bay. Three hours of cruising off the coast saw us catch plenty of whale action – including a rare double breach by two juvenile humpbacks as a third frolicked nearby, vigorous displays of tail slapping and pectoral fin slapping, along with visits from seals, dolphins and seabirds, including majestic albatross. Morning tea included.
Cat Balou Cruises, 235 Imlay Street, Snug Cove, Eden. T: 0427 962 027.
Those few hours of fresh sea air stimulated our appetites and we were treated to a delicious lunch at the Merimbula Wharf Aquarium and Restaurant, boasting spectacular views across the glittering sapphire sea. With ocean views like this, you’re clearly not in Canberra anymore, Toto. As well as showcasing local Broadwater oysters, Eden mussels and fresh seafood, the menu offers plenty for non-pescatarians too. Our Instagrammable and tasty quinoa salad and Wharf tasting plate for one hit the spot, perfectly finished with a complimentary visit to the fascinating aquarium downstairs. An idyllic way to spend an afternoon seaside.
Merimbula Wharf Aquarium & Restaurant, Lake Street, Merimbula. T: 6495 4446.
A half-hour drive inland past Wyndham village brought us to Saarinen Organics, where pioneering organic farmers Kay and Gregg Saarinen have created a successful organic skincare business, Eco Seed to Skin. Kay began making calendula ointment from homegrown herbs 11 years ago to relieve her daughter’s eczema. It proved so popular amongst locals that her skincare range has since expanded to 30-plus products – from the iconic comfrey root Gardener’s hand cream to peppermint lip balm, jojoba facial scrub cleanser, nourishing day and night creams and more. You’ll find them online, at select markets and ACT stockists, including Let’s Be Natural, Mawson. Tours of their inspiring permaculture farm and straw-bale home, which the couple built themselves, are by prior arrangement only.
Saturday night it was back to Snug Cove for dinner at Drift Eden. This contemporary wharfside eatery has a laid-back vibe (would be right at home in Braddon), offers views across the twinkling lights of the harbour and a creative menu with an emphasis on local produce and beverages. Our affable host, Leigh, is also the brains behind the popular Great Southern Hotel in downtown Eden. My dining companion chose the local Wagyu beef burger with sweet potato chips and a glass of South Coast rosé, while my substantial salad of the week was tasty and satisfying. Cool vibes and food to match.
Drift Eden, 1/253 Imlay St, Eden. T: 6496 3392.
Sunday morning began with an uplifting private 8am beach yoga session with beautiful Beth from Bhoja Eco Awareness. Beth and Tim tailor experiences to suit your skill levels and interests – from yoga and floating meditation to flatwater river tours and stand up paddleboard (SUP) sessions – all in the beautiful Kiah/Eden area.
Back to Eden for breakfast on Sunday morning, and the sleepy coastal village was pumping with visitors from the first cruise ship of the season to dock at the upgraded wharf. We stopped into Sprout Eden, a cool little eatery that offers up the best of seasonal fare, grown by local producers. My roasted vegetable focaccia was nourishing and my companion’s local eggs were poached to perfection.
Sprout Eden, 134 Imlay Street, Eden. T: 6496 1511.
On the southern side of Eden’s Twofold Bay, Cam at Light2Light Coastal Walks led us on a morsel of the magnificent three-day Light to Light Coastal Walk through Ben Boyd National Park that extends from Boyd’s Tower in the north to Green Cape Lighthouse in the south. Our mini walk took us from Leatherjacket Bay to Mowarry Point, traversing through remarkable changes in vegetation punctuated with views of stunning coastal scenery. This little taster stimulated our appetite for the fully catered package, which includes three days of expertly guided walking and two nights either of camping or staying in style at historic Green Cape Lighthouse; or choose a self-guided walk.
Editor’s note: Julie Samaras stayed as a guest of Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing.