A Place For All Seasons: Eurobodalla Nature Coast
by Jane Sandilands
Think of this part of the South Coast and the chances are that its spotted gum forests come to mind, followed closely by seemingly endless beaches, great fishing, abundant native bird and animal life and evening skies, far from city lights, studded with remarkably bright stars. The area is also rich in Aboriginal and European history, has an increasing range of art galleries and fine local craft and many good places to eat, from atmospheric and homely coffee shops in heritage villages to fine dining with an ocean outlook.
John Blunden is a walking testimonial to the natural bounty of the far south coast. An enthusiastic builder, fisherman and lover of life on the coast, Blunden has lived and worked in the Batemans Bay area for over 25 years. With his wife Margaret, the Blundens established and operated Edgewood House Bed and Breakfast overlooking Denhams Beach, one of the many small and beautiful sandy coves in the area. Though they have now moved on, naturally to another part of Eurobodalla’s Nature Coast.
To support his claim of the region’s bounty and that ‘it has everything Bali’s got - only ten times nicer’, Blunden’s favourite story is of the crayfish who walk in to the beaches and coves each year from the deep waters of the Continental Shelf to shed their shells to enable them to grow. It’s one of the old world charms of the area that each family has the right under the Fisheries Act to catch enough crayfish - two per person per day - to feed themselves. But the crayfish have a fighting chance: they must be caught either with gloved hands or in a single craypot. Blunden claims that despite increases in population and many more families taking up their right to crayfish dinners, the numbers haven’t diminished. And, he adds, ‘the crayfish wouldn’t be coming back if the water wasn’t pure and the environment just right’.
Eurobodalla has 130 kilometres of coastline to explore and almost everywhere there’s evidence of nature’s bounty. Take Durras, the first small coastal settlement reached by the traveller driving south from Sydney. Drive the few kilometres on a good road and you’ll meet the welcoming committee of perhaps hundreds of Eastern grey kangaroos. And these kangaroos know their place. They graze tidily on the green pick on the edge of the road, munching on neat lawns, stopping only to give visitors a casual glance. For the ultimate nature photograph, especially appealing to overseas visitors, the kangaroos also spend time on nearby beaches.
The Eurobodalla coast rewards the curious traveller who is prepared to spend a little time taking a turn down one of its many roads leading to yet another gem. At the National Heritage area of Guerilla Bay, about 15 kilometres south of Batemans Bay, a walk through coastal banksias leads both to spectacular views from the lighthouse repeater station and to a narrow fishing track with steps down to rocks where fishermen report regular catches of kingfish and snapper.
Travelling south, there’s an unspoilt holiday feel at Broulee where its landmark Broulee Island began life connected to the mainland in the 1830s by a sand spit covered with low scrub and coastal banksia. Then, it formed part of Broulee Harbour, at that time the only major port between Wollongong and Twofold Bay. In 1841 a long low weatherboard bungalow was built near the edge of the cliff on the northern edge of the Island and used as an hotel. In a stark reminder about the importance of retaining vegetation, when the track was widened in the 1870s, the vegetation was removed and the root systems binding the soils were destroyed. The sea broke through and the harbour was lost.
Eurobodalla National Park
Eurobodalla National Park covers 2220 hectares of coastal lands on the south coast of New South Wales between Moruya and Bermagui.
There are opportunities for camping, swimming, bushwalking, birdwatching and surfing. The park conserves plant communities such as spotted gum forest, littoral scrub, wetlands and lake fringes and actively promotes waterbird conservation by protecting coastal, estuarine and freshwater habitats. The Park is a paradise for birdwatchers with migratory species such as the eastern curlew, green knot, whimbrel, greenshank, turnstone and bar-tailed godwit visiting. The Park is also home to endangered species such as the long-nosed potoroo, white footed dunnart, little tern and hooded dotterel.
There are many Aboriginal sites throughout the Park including shell middens, stone working areas and quarries.
Offshore Adventure: Montague Island
Winner of many awards for Environmental Tourism, Montague Island has a rich history and an abundance of attractions for visitors interested in the natural world of the region. The trip to Montague is in a high speed, fully licensed charter boat with a professional National Parks and Wildlife Service guide. An exploration of the island will reveal the history of the lightstation, the importance of the island to local Koori people and inside knowledge of the animals and plants of Montague.
There are both day and evening tours throughout the year, dependent on weather, and all have particular delights, depending on the season.
From the end of winter to early December, up to a thousand fur seals inhabit Montague and the chances of having dolphins play around the tour vessel are high.
Between September and November, whales move south from tropical waters to the Antarctic.
Experience Mt Dromedary
Known as Gulaga by the local Aboriginal people, the Yuin, a trip up this particular mountain is an unusual experience. The mountain towers 797 metres over the historic villages of Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba. Tours are run by Umbarra Cultural Tours in a four wheel drive vehicle accompanied by an Indigenous guide who will interpret its significance for Aboriginal culture. Walkers can leave from Pam’s Store at Tilba Tilba on a good accessible 11 kilometre all-weather track which takes between two to two and a half hours, depending on how long you spend admiring the range of vegetation, the granite rock formations and simply experiencing the stillness and power of this sacred mountain. And it’s not just the spiritually ‘tuned’ that attest to the Gulaga experience: talk to many locals from all walks of life who have settled in the area and most will mention the mountain as a significant part of their reason for being there.
· Call into a Visitors Centre and National Parks and Wildlife office for information and maps;
· For a blend of art and nature visit The Forest Gallery on the South Durras Road, set in State Forest
· See the Clyde River Bridge at Batemans Bay, floodlit at night
· For sustaining travelling food, legendary salad rolls at The Cake Trolley, South Moruya
· For a taste of the coast, Bernie’s Seafood at Batemans Bay, for oysters and what’s been caught that day
· Visit Clyde Valley Farm for blueberries
· Experience McKenzie’s Beach: perfect for surfing, strolling, sitting - and accessible just seconds from the car park
· Cruise the waterways: Clyde River and Wagonga Inlet