International travel looks to be off the cards for the foreseeable future and with most states shutting borders down due to the coronavirus, Sydneysiders have found themselves looking closer to home for their next holiday.
Country NSW appears to be on the top of people’s bucket lists, with places like Mudgee, Shoalhaven, Kangaroo Valley and the Blue Mountains being eyed up for weekends away from the city.
While now might not be the best time to head away, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian asking people to “limit non-essential travel for the next few weeks”, there’s no harm in dreaming up our future escape.
Stayz has launched the #RoadTripPledge, a regeneration promise to support regional towns and families impacted by the devastating bushfires and the coronavirus travel bans.
If you’re one of the first 1,000 people to make a booking for over $1,000 before August 11th, or before stocks run out, the holiday house rental website will give you a $100 VISA gift card, injecting much needed money back into the area.
I was invited to stay at a Stayz property in Shoalhaven, three hours south of Sydney, to check out the region for myself and give back to the community who have endured unimaginable hardships in the past few months.
Where to stay
Smack bang in the middle of Ulladulla, my holiday home was the perfect base for exploring the wonders of the Shoalhaven region.
Just a few minutes walk down to the harbour and within a stone’s throw of shops and cafes, the three-bedroom modern house was definitely a luxurious home away from home for the weekend.
The place was spotless, with hand sanitiser left in the kitchen and ample amounts of soap provided in the bathrooms, a point I may not have mentioned before COVID-19 but perhaps this is just part of our ‘new normal’ now.
I especially appreciated the reverse cycle air conditioning when the sun went down, which was a big treat, coming from my tiny one-bedroom apartment in Sydney which takes hours to heat up with a tiny radiator.
What to do
One of our first stops on our south coast road trip was the historic town of Berry, a favourite for Sydneysiders due to the abundance of stylish eateries, chic wineries and bush walks in the area.
Join the queue at the famous Berry Donut van for cinnamon donuts like you’ve never tasted before. Be prepared to wait in line as people flock to the town especially for the treats, but the rave reviews online do speak for themselves.
Grab a coffee to go from hip small speciality coffee shop IV Coffee on the main street or if chocolate is more your thing, you won’t want to pass up a visit to Berry Chocolatier, where you can pick up some lime and champagne truffles, caramelised macadamias dipped in milk chocolate or some Kangaroo Valley fudge.
Head onwards towards the historic town of Milton, which is full of country charm from the surrounding rolling hills to the quaint picket fenced cottages.
Browse the specialist stores and the Van Rensburg Galleries, which features exhibitions of works by Australian and internationally collected artists and Nulladolla Pottery, a studio space where you can also buy a selection of pottery from the talented artists.
Drop in to Woodstock Chocolate Co. for some of the best handmade chocolates you’ll taste. Believe me, I’m already planning my trip back just to get my hands on their salted caramel truffles.
For a bit of fresh air, take the short journey to popular surf spot Narrawallee Beach and walk along the stunning beach or head over to Mollymook Beach, which is just five minutes away and has a 2km stretch of dreamy white sand.
The area is packed with plenty of walks to suit any ability, with my favourite being the One Track for All walking track on the north headland of Ulladulla harbour.
Through carvings and paintings with written text by local Aboriginal Elder Noel Butler, who grew up in Ulladulla, the cultural trail tells the the story of southern Shoalhaven Indigenous history and has some of the best views of the harbour you’ll find. There’s an easy walking track which brings you in a loop and numerous viewing platforms along the way.
Over on the other aide of Ulladulla harbour you’ll find the Warden Head Lighthouse, which has two trails leading from the car park. Both are equally as scenic and not too strenuous, with plenty of viewing points and places to stop along the way.
Where to eat and drink
Foodies will be thrilled to learn that the area is heaving with restaurants serving delicious fresh and local produce.
For breakfast, you can’t look past Pilgrims Cafe in Milton, a vegetarian cafe which serves up brekkie until 12pm. If you’re up earlier, don’t miss out on their sumptuous homemade blueberry and white chocolate muffins which usually sell out within a few hours.
Right next door, Peach. deliver on their promise of the ‘perfect cup of coffee’ and their halloumi roll. with marinated halloumi, garlic tomatoes, house made tomato chutney and spinach topped with a fried egg is definitely a great way to start the day.
For lunch, I recommend heading over to Cupitt’s Estate, an award-winning winery where they serve up a cheese board along with some tastings of their best wines. The cellar door is open from 11AM - 5PM Wednesday to Sunday.
Or if you’re after something a bit heartier, Hayden’s Pies in Ulladulla has people from all over NSW travelling for hours just to taste their delicious creations They use local produce from the area and they even have their own blend of coffee roasted by Coffee fix in Nowra.
Head back into Milton to recently renovated The Milton Hotel for a tipple. It’s a historically restored building which is now the home of their own craft beer label on tap, Dangerous Ales. Or if it’s a cocktail you’re after, make your way to Bannisters By The Sea, where you can chill out with the sounds of waves crashing up against the clifftop in the background.
For dinner, Tallwood in Mollymook is a stand-out option, with each and every dish lovingly created by executive chef Matthew Upson. If modern, flavoursome and just all round great food is your jam, you won’t be disappointed by this coastal restaurant. They champion local sustainably grown produce and with the sea at their doorstep have some of the best seafood in town.
I’m still dreaming of the raw chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake with mandarin sorbet dessert, which has left me with extremely happy thoughts of the Shoalhaven area.
This journalist was a guest of Stayz