Stretching from the south of Sydney to the border of Victoria, the South Coast of New South Wales offers a relaxed seaside vibe and is perfect for anyone looking for a taste of country life. Whether it's beaches or inlets, cafes or restaurants, boutique accommodation or nature adventures you're after, you'll find it all here.
A comfortable bed
Spoil yourself with a stay at Bannisters by the Sea in the coastal enclave of Mollymook, a three-hour drive south of Sydney. The oceanfront views from the private terraces off the deluxe rooms are wonderful, or you can go all out and book a penthouse. Rooms cost from about Dh1,000.
Tilba Lake Camp, two hours further south in Eurobodalla Shire, is great for couples and those seeking a back-to-nature experience. Bunk down in a "tiny house" (which are just as they sound and very on-trend) or choose to glamp in a Lotus Bell Tent. Prices start from about Dh580 based on a two-night stay for two adults.
Merimbula Beach Holiday Resort is ideal for families – it's close to the shore and has a water park and children's jumping pillows. You can choose from campsites, cabins, villas and bungalows. Campsites start from about Dh106 per night.
Find your feet
Given the region's bountiful natural landscape, there are plenty of options for getting the lay of the land. The Kiama Coast Walk from Kiama to Gerringong, which is considered one of the best trails in Australia, is 22 kilometres long and more often than not is tackled in three sections. It offers walkers plenty of stunning vistas, while you may also see pods of whales that frequent the area between May and November.
If a seaside stroll sounds appealing, there are several beaches and smaller coastal inlets to discover. Some of the best include North Wollongong, Scarborough Beach and Jervis Bay. Children will love the 1,500-metre Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk in Knights Hill, with its zip line suspended about 35 metres above the forest floor. Entry is Dh56.
Meet the locals
Make your way in to the Wollongong Harbour Precinct, or to any local beach, and you're certain to come across plenty of locals. If they're not priming the stand-up paddleboard for a morning on the water, they'll be supervising the children on the play equipment or having breakfast at a beachside cafe.
For a local of a different kind, head to Montague Island. It’s here you’ll meet the state’s largest colony of penguins and, once you’ve been acquainted, it’s a great spot for snorkelling.
Book a table
Given the breadth of the South Coast region, travellers are never short on meal options. Considering the area is often referred to as the Oyster Coast because it produces a year-round supply of the seafood staple, you really can't pass on the Quarterdeck at Narooma for a tasty mollusc-inspired dish. The site was once an oyster grower's shed and the meals and the outlook are its best draws. Oysters start from Dh7 each.
Most foodies will have heard of celebrity chef Rick Stein and he's got a restaurant at Mollymook that's one for the must-try list. Rick Stein at Bannisters is all about freshly caught seafood and flavour combinations. Try the warm shellfish with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice to share (Dh189) and the French-style seafood dish fruits de mer (Dh273), which is essentially deliciousness served in a shell.
If you're in or around Wollongong and looking for a more casual beachside breakfast or lunch, head to Bulli Beach Cafe. It overlooks the ocean baths and seaside, and has indoor and outdoor seating. Dine alone or settle down at one of the park-style picnic benches for the family. Dishes cost from Dh32.
Wollongong's Crown Street Mall has everything you'd expect from a shopping centre, from clothing and footwear outlets to restaurants and cafes. It's right in the centre of the city and open every day. For market fans, Kiama hosts a pretty good one on the third Sunday of each month. The Kiama Seaside Market is held at Black Beach and has arts, crafts, clothing, food and rides. Its stalls are open from 9am until 3pm.
If you're a big fan of cheese, you'll be in heaven at Bega in Eurobodalla Shire. The Bega Cheese Heritage Centre offers tourists the chance to buy the local product, while learning about the history of the dairy industry in this part of the world.
Witnessing the whale migration off Jervis Bay. The Jervis Bay National Park offers tourists some of the state's best vantage points for watching the giants of the sea and their young move along the coast. White Sands Walk, Greenfield Beach picnic area, Bull Hole Lookout and Hammerhead Point picnic area are all ideal spots for catching a glimpse between May and November. And there are plenty of whale-watching tour boats if you'd prefer to get up close to the creatures.
What to avoid
Getting stuck in heavy traffic. Depending on when you're planning to visit this part of Australia, it's worth considering travelling midweek or outside of school holidays or peak tourist times, as the roads leading south can become congested. If you need to travel at peak times, consider setting off early or late in the day.
This region begins about an hour's drive south of Sydney and extends 400km to the Victorian border. Emirates and Etihad fly to Sydney from Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively, with return flights starting from Dh3,330 per person. More information on the region is at www.visitnsw.com