Sapphire Coast, NSW

By: Ali Millar, Photography by: Glenn Wardle


Road tripping NSW’s stunning Sapphire Coast.

Woman -walking -on -the -beach -at -Bournda -Wallagoot -Gap -NSW

Easily one of the most pristine and isolated stretches of the NSW coastline, the Sapphire Coast is a favourite summer playground of mine for its excellent mix of quiet bush camps, tranquil lagoons, wild surf beaches and colourful towns. Located halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, and stretching roughly from Bermagui down to the Victorian border, this region is perfect for RVers who enjoy walking on long stretches of empty beach just as much as perusing the streets of colourful country towns.

Even though I’ve spent plenty of time on the coast here, I’ve never really explored the region fully, so was looking forward to investigating beyond our usual haunts and uncovering some hidden gems.

With that in mind, we decided to head inland to explore the hinterland, before zigzagging back down the coast.

MYSTERY BAY

Walking -with -a -dog -at -Mystery -Bay -beach

It had rained overnight and the misty drizzle was still lingering when the kookaburras woke us bright and early, cackling away in the spotted gums above our campsite at Mystery Bay, less than 15km south of Narooma. By the time we’d packed up our camp, the sky had cleared and the sun was glinting off the RVs dotted around the campground, enticing campers onto the beach.

We’d chosen the council-run Mystery Bay Campground as the starting point for our Sapphire Coast road trip, lured by the shady beachfront campsites and the quiet mid-week atmosphere. It’s a stellar, back-to-nature campground that draws a crowd in peak periods and operates on a first-in, first-served basis. Payments are organised with the caretaker on site, and there’s unpowered sites to suit rigs of all sizes.

Caravan -at -Mystery -Bay -camping -ground

We headed south on the Princes Highway, enjoying the dappled light flickering through the stands of forest, interspersed with patches of grassy pasture land and picture-perfect properties, before detouring towards the hinterland towns of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba.

CENTRAL TILBA

The jacarandas were in full bloom, creating an explosion of colour alongside the brightly painted heritage buildings of Central Tilba’s main street. We were immediately blown away by the charm of the tiny town. Tourists wandered the gift shops and emporiums, sat outside the teahouse with cuppas in hand, and clustered around the bakery, with a bus load pouring into the ABC Cheese Factory for tastings.

The main street is lined with old weatherboard buildings, including two fabulous old halls, and there’s plenty to explore here, including a well-stocked lolly shop that I couldn’t resist. It’s also well set up for RVers with a spacious parking area just off the main street.

The surrounding countryside is green and lush, with granite slabs sticking up out of the hillsides. Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba, just 7km down the road, are flanked by Mount Gulaga, which was covered with moody clouds on this early December morning. For a challenging walk and great views you can take the steep old goldminers’ trail up the mountain from Pam’s Store in Tilba Tilba.

Cobargo -main -street -NSW

We decided to stick inland for one more stop and, I’ll be honest, we initially headed for Cobargo, less than 30 minutes down the road, because my interest had been piqued by ‘Gnome Alley’ — a collection of garden gnomes — on Cobargo’s main street. What we discovered was a great little town with a strong sense of community and a focus on health and natural remedies. There are health food stores, a whole foods café, yoga, a herbal dispensary, and a shop selling natural skincare products all within around 100 metres.

Cobargo offers a free rest area (up to 96 hours) out back of the Cobargo Hotel Motel, within easy walking distance of the main street. We grabbed –a takeaway coffee at Chalk and Cheese, a tasteful café with a relaxed atmosphere, before browsing the local vintage stores, op shop, and second-hand bookshop — all goldmines for treasure seekers.

BERMAGUI

From Cobargo we did the 25km trip to the seaside holiday town of Bermagui. Nothing says coastal touring to me like a fish and chip lunch, so we stopped at the Fishermen’s Wharf on the north side of town. The wharf building is home to various restaurants, a wine bar, and a gelato shop, as well as some very persistent seagulls. There’s also a local grower’s market each Thursday afternoon.

Bermagui -Blue -Pool -NSW

We took our fish and chips to a Bermagui icon, the Blue Pool — a naturally filled rock pool at the base of the cliffs which has been a popular Bermagui swimming spot since its development in the 1930s. It’s a steep descent into the small car park so I’d consider leaving the RV up top.

If you want to stay in town, Reflections Holiday Parks Bermagui is the place to be, with some sites offering views across the bay. We were after something a little closer to nature, so followed the coastal road south, across several single lane bridges spanning sandy lagoons and creeks to Mimosa Rocks National Park, where we scored a beautiful beachfront campsite at the RV-friendly Gillards Campground.

There are several campgrounds in the national park but many of the roads are narrow, with steep gravel that makes them unsuitable for larger rigs. Mimosa Rocks has some lovely coastal walking trails at Aragunnu and Bithry Inlet, but the real stars of the show are the beaches — wide, white sand, open ocean, and largely empty — perfect for long strolls. We sat by the campfire watching roos graze on the dunes as the sky turned pink and lightning lit up the clouds at sea — coastal camping perfection.

BIAMANGA CULTURAL AREA AND MUMBULLA FALLS

From Gillards, we doubled back to take the winding Dr George Mountain Rd to the Biamanga Cultural Area and Mumbulla Falls. This area is sacred to the Yuin people and an important men's initiation site. Out of respect, it’s requested that you don’t swim in the pools. Creation stories and indigenous history are shared along the short walkway, which meanders along the hillside to a platform overlooking the falls, then down some rocky steps to the base. It was tranquil and quiet, the flow of water slow and gentle.

Woman -walking -to -Bournda -Wallagoot -Gap -NSW

At the end of the mountain road we popped out near Bega – of dairy fame – the urban hub of this region. It’s a pretty place with tree-lined streets, and surrounded by rolling green pastures that certainly look the part. We decided it was imperative to sample the local cheese and fudge, so pulled into the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre, which houses a small museum of dairy history, craft gallery, gift shop, and café, as well as the local visitor centre.

For those wanting to linger a little longer here, Bega Showground is relatively central and has both powered and unpowered campsites scattered through the grassy grounds.

We returned to the coast at Tathra, where I’d highly recommend a visit to the old sea wharf. There we watched a lone fisherman frantically trying to catch some large kingfish as they swam past — to no avail. The Wharf Locavore is housed in the beautiful old wharf building and had plenty of delightful sweet treats, as well as art and pottery displays. You can sit in the window here looking back towards Tathra’s main beach, behind which are three caravan parks, offering various accommodation options all in close proximity to the water.

Our camp for the night was Hobart Beach Campground in nearby Bournda National Park. This is a lovely spot with good facilities and more than 60 sites scattered through the bush near Wallagoot Lake. It’s a great base for exploring the national park, which has heaps of options for bushwalking, surfing, kayaking and fishing. We tried our luck in Bournda Lagoon, but the fish had other ideas.

A separate access road skirts the northern shores of Wallagoot Lake and ends back in the national park at Turingal Head with more options for coastal walks. Take a short stroll through the tea trees to Wallagoot Gap where the sea creeps through the rocky cliffs onto a lovely protected beach.

EDEN

Eden -Rotary -Lookout -NSW

The next morning we hightailed it to the Bar Beach Kiosk for a coffee overlooking the stunning turquoise waters of Merimbula Bar. Summer was in the air and the kiosk was bustling with locals, many who’d jumped in for a swim before making their way up the hill.

Merimbula is the area’s largest coastal town and a busy holiday spot with plenty of caravan parks, but you’ll need to venture out of town for other camping options. A popular boardwalk starts near the bridge and winds around the lake’s edge, finishing at Top Lake Boat Hire and Kiosk — reportedly a good spot to enjoy sunset.

Our final stop was the port town of Eden, best known for its whaling history. In fact, this whole coastline is great for whale watching, as whales stop to nurse and rest here during their annual migration. Make sure you visit Eden’s Rotary Lookout for views across the deep natural harbour toward Ben Boyd National Park.

This is a place of wild natural beauty and there’s something here for everyone. I’d recommend taking the time to explore it thoroughly.

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #574. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!