I visited Australia’s Sapphire Coast. It made me realise I didn’t need to spend $4,000 on flights to Italy to laze about near shimmering waters, or eat top-notch seafood.
If I wanted crystal clear waters, I used to always visit Jervis Bay (or dream of Italy). I used to be one of those Sydneysiders who clogged up Hyams beach with selfie sticks (and Huskisson with requests for Three Quarter Oat Flat Whites). But I have now discovered there is more to the NSW South Coast than Shoalhaven’s blinding white sands. There’s volcanic (looking) rock too.
Yep: there’s an even cooler, less crowded, Italian island esque (read: picturesque layabout spot with nice seafood) alternative, just a few more hours down the coast.
That alternative? The Sapphire Coast (or as I’m calling it, ‘Australia’s Sicily’).
A two day trip in a 2013 Toyota Coaster, booked via Camplify, helped me realise this.
From unplanned wildlife encounters to cold pink sunsets (to the lack of fellow Sydneysiders), this is why I think Australia’s Sapphire Coast (one of the most ‘slept on’ stretches of coast in NSW) is worth the extra hours of driving.
First though: what is the Sapphire Coast? The Sapphire Coast stretches from Bermagui in the north to Eden in the south. Bermagui is 5 and a bit hours from Sydney (as opposed to Jervis Bay, which is just 3 hours from Sydney). Eden is 6 hours and 10 minutes from Sydney (I’ll admit I didn’t venture down that far).
My trip started in Sydney, and took me down to Bermagui, and then back up again, with a group of friends. We left on Friday afternoon, sleeping near Kiama on Friday night, and then made the trek down to Bermagui on Saturday afternoon. We arrived in Bermagui at around 4pm on Saturday, and then left Bermagui at about 11am on Sunday to begin the trek back to Sydney.
Despite spending less than 24 hours in Bermagui, it was enough to convince me the drive (if you look at it on a map, it’s almost in line with Jindabyne) was worth it. Here’s why.
We got to experience the indescribable magic of being part of the food chain
On Saturday afternoon we checked out the Bermagui Blue Pool. We had been told there had been seals around, but other than a couple of splashes in the distance, there wasn’t much to see.
The next morning we woke up to grey skies and rain, and went down to the pools for a quick dip, just to wake ourselves up, not expecting to see much. This time about 20 seals were bobbing about, around the corner from the pools (in the open ocean).
We never would usually have dared, but the fact that two divers were swimming nearby gave us the confidence to wander around the rocks and contemplate jumping in and having an underwater squiz at them (from a distance).
I probably wouldn’t have jumped in on my own. But as soon as I started getting cold feet my friend started plotting a route in and out of the rocks. We both ended up jumping in. We kept a good distance from the herd of seals but soon enough a few came straight at us.
Not wanting to disturb them we left pretty quickly. One followed us though, creating a priceless moment where it glided alongside us, looking straight at us.
We got out, babbling (“I wonder if they’re thinking ‘how cool was that!’ too?”) and wondering whether they appreciated our underwater pirouettes. I also thought about how absurd it was that we just did that, considering just weeks ago I scrambled out of the surf back in Sydney, after seeing just one seal, for fear it could attract a shark.
But for whatever (not necessarily logical) reason, I just felt safe in Bermagui (plus: I knew I’d spend the rest of my life regretting it if I didn’t jump in).
It also felt extra special (if extra stupid) that it wasn’t part of some guided tour. We were in their environment, not the other way around – if anything they were checking us weirdos out. Though we were conscious we shouldn’t be disrupting them, the encounter made me appreciate nature more than basically any other moment in my life, as cliché as that sounds (and as little as that counts for, unless I now go out and become a Green Peace volunteer).
But if we want governments to make better decisions on environmental issues, then we probably want more people to have more of these encounters (in a sustainable way).
We saw one of the coolest rock pools in the world
Though the locals probably would have had a good laugh at us taking so many photos of a rock pool (I probably would find it bizarre for people to get so excited with a rock pool in Sydney), the Bermagui Blue pool really is something. It’s even in the hall of fame for rock pools. We also got lucky in that the best time of year to see it is in autumn when the water isn’t yet too cold, the horizon is throwing out wild colours, and the summer crowds are gone.
We got to lounge around on rock platforms… without spending $4,000 on flights to Italy
Just take a look at some of the photos of the Bermagui Blue Pool on Instagram – you’ll see what I mean… Kilalea national park wasn’t too shabby on the way down, either.
We got to eat fresh, local seafood… also without spending $4,000 on flights to Italy
Although the seafood linguine might have been better in Italy, it also would have been a lot more expensive. Also: the seafood on the Sapphire Coast is world class (top tip: if you’re in Bermagui, check out the Bermagui Beach Hotel).
We weren’t locked into an expensive Airbnb or hotel
Checking out the region in our van, we were able to wake up exactly where we wanted to be each day (rather than having to drive there after waking up) and appreciate those little moments (like sunrise and sunset) on the coast that you usually just don’t end up getting any other way.
On the Friday night we stayed in Kilalea Reserve Holiday Park, which is nestled in the middle of a quiet national park (and is much better than car camping in Shellharbour, listening to the local P-Platers doing burnouts). This camp site is only a short walk to Mystics, a great surf beach on the day we were there, and a short drive from The Farm, a beautiful swimming beach (on the day we were there).
On Saturday night we stayed at Reflections Holiday Parks Bermagui, which was a 10-minute walk from the Bermagui Blue Pool, a two-minute walk (if that) to the Bermagui Beach Hotel, and a two minute walk (if that) to Woolworths. It also had hot showers and powered sites.
We got a sneaky surf in on the way home
The waves weren’t quite as big as I had hoped for this trip. As someone obsessed with surfing, this would usually annoy me. But I didn’t care. Swimming with the seals in Bermagui made my weekend. And we got a sneaky surf in on the way home in beautiful, glassy waves.
We didn’t even see most of The Sapphire Coast, but it still blew my mind
We only saw Bermagui, really. And I still had an absolute blast. So it just goes to show how amazing this coastline is (and has me raring for more). I’m now daydreaming about my next trip, where I hope to see the killer whale museum, spot a whale, taste ocean fresh oysters, take a photo at horse head rock, mountain bike, hike, kayak and eat more good food… Actually, come to think of it, I might have to come twice…
There are more cool places to stop on the way home (if you live in Sydney) than you can throw a piece of smashed avo toast at…
From Australia Rock and the seal colonies in Narooma, to Congo Beach (which makes you feel like you’re in another world), to various cheese factories, breweries, wineries and wildlife parks, there is a lot to see.
DMARGE travelled as a guest of Naked Malt and Camplify.