A nicer Nerriga Road trip to Nowra

Paul Costigan 13 July 2016 16


While some people may enjoy the buzz of living within densely population metropolitan cities, there are definite benefits to being in Canberra and being able to head out into the country in a few minutes, rather than struggling down the crowded toll ways.

A big attraction about having the time to travel the regions around Canberra is the opportunity to observe the differences in the geographic and climatic areas on this side of Australia – being very dry in some places while predominately green in the next.

I have always sought out different ways to drive between destinations. Decades ago I ventured onto the road from Nowra via Nerriga and Braidwood as an alternative to the usual route back to Canberra. That particular journey nearly cost me my car as the roads were not as passable as colleagues had said. Much of the roads were rough dirt roads – being very basic back-country roads not meant for much through traffic. Worse still a couple of the river crossings were clumps of rocks pretending to be a road.

Move forward to 2016 and a couple of weeks ago we had the occasion to attend an exhibition event at the Shoalhaven City Art Gallery in Nowra. Even after much internet searching I remained hesitant about using that set of roads again. But I was keen to use an alternative to the usual via the Hume Highway and over to (very beautiful) Kangaroo Valley. I should not have worried so much – it was a great drive down and back – taking easily under three hours each way.

There was very little traffic about and it was so much less stressful than using any of the major highways. Given that I love trees and the changing countryside – this was one of those drives that delivered pleasure from the drive itself rather than just being a means to get from one place to the next.


The journey from Canberra heads out to Bungendore. Then instead of turning right for the coast, head straight through to the small town of Tarago. Along the way you get to appreciate the wonders and beauty of those giant wind farms – and to laugh again at those stupid statements by Joe Hockey. Remember him?

At Tarago, instead of turning left for Goulburn, drive straight ahead and follow the signs to Nerriga and Nowra. Along the way the road cruises past the Bungonia National Park and the trees start to become very distinctive and denser. The roads are now all sealed (completed in 2015) but they are still very much country roads. I was amazed that it was sign posted for 100 kph, as travelling at about 80 or so was safe enough for most of this stretch.






The next town, being a small group of buildings, is Nerriga. The two photos of buildings, above and at the top of the post, were taken there.

And that’s about it for the whole journey except for a few at Sassafras.* After that the road widens and becomes a secondary highway into Nowra.

The bridge at the Shoalhaven crossing has recently been replaced with a high standard structure. Likewise the bridge at the Endrick River crossing is very new with no hint of the former notorious and dangerous rocky road.




It is a journey to be recommended especially if you have the inclination to take it easy and enjoy the country along the way. As for Nowra, it is a coastal town that has really picked up and is very busy. The local council has spent wisely in landscape design work around the centre’s main streets. The city has retained enough of the historic public buildings and houses to keep this regional centre as an attractive area to visit. It is apparently also attracting significant numbers of retirees from Sydney.

The country to the east between Nowra and the coast is to die for. It is just so green – and so flat. Along the coast, being between Jervis Bay and the mouth of the Shoalhaven River, are some wonderful beaches to be enjoyed at this time of the year – being very quiet – and with absolutely magnificent views of the ocean.

I can totally recommend a breakfast at a Culburra Beach little café – Ten Thousand Tastebuds – they serve some very nice hot coffee.

So next time you are contemplating a few days away from Canberra and wish to head to the NSW South Coast, I recommend the quiet drive directly to Nowra and then to take in the areas around Berry, Nowra and the coastline north of Jervis Bay.

But as one local told me, the recent upgrades to these roads have been very welcomed. But they now hope that the impatient drivers of large vehicles – in particular she did mention Jeeps and a couple of other road monsters – leave these country roads to the sensible ones who wish to enjoy driving and not just want to be the first to get to their destination – or more likely be the first to kill others in the process. So with that in mind, if you have been one of those must-get-there–first drivers, please slow down or stay away.

And for those who wish to travel further north, the road from Nowra to Sydney is almost a complete multi-lane freeway. There are just one or two places still to be upgraded – notably around Shellharbour. It will not be long before it will be plain sailing north bypassing Berry, Kiama, Wollongong, onto the outskirts of Sydney.

The reason for the drive? The exhibition in Nowra, a survey of works by one of Australia’s great photographers, Robert McFarlane, is there till 21st May. Well worth the visit.



* Sassafras: This was one of the forty townships that vied for the honour of being named Australia’s capital city. Now there’s a thought – what if they had been chosen – the journey to the coast would definitely have been much shorter on the weekends.

Music for travel? Why not play Driving Away From Home by It’s Immaterial (1986)

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16 Responses to A nicer Nerriga Road trip to Nowra
HenryBG HenryBG 1:59 pm 02 May 16

madelini said :

Motorbikes use the Nerriga road frequently to avoid the freeway. They don’t need more hopeless car drivers on there .

Most Canberran’s can’t keep a steady line and speed on the Kings highway .

Judging by the high frequency of single-vehicle motorcycle deaths in and around this town, the hopelessness of Canberra drivers extends to whatever kind of vehicle they employ.

wottaway wottaway 12:34 pm 30 Apr 16

Between ’82-’87 I had many opportunities to try the Nowra-Bungonia trip but had heard so many legendary tales of the Wool Road,I made sure I steered clear of it.As luck would have it,after visiting friends in Yerriyong several years ago,I wanted to continue on to Goulburn and the road had been opened after sealing only the day before.Absolutely beautiful,had it to myself.

    Avinash K Avinash K 9:11 am 25 Jan 18

    Hi Wottaway,

    I am planning to take this route, but what about the “Legendary tale of Wool Road”?..you make it look scarrier.

amiclams amiclams 11:41 am 29 Apr 16

I have been a great fan of the Jervis Bay area for many years, and have tried many different ways to get there.

It is great that the route via Nerriga is finally sealed and has a new bridge at Oalan Ford. I have been a user of this route for many years, and in the days of dirt and corrugations, or mud, had several friends who rolled their cars on what was then reputedly one of the worst roads in Australia. It’s a delightful trip these days, and you can get a quick feed at Tarago or Nerriga on the way to the Nowra coast. Shorter in time and distance.

Keep an eye out at Sassafras, as chestnuts are sometimes on sale there in season.

The route via Braidwood still has unsealed sections – apparently due to some funding issue.

Angela, ACT

gazket gazket 8:33 pm 28 Apr 16

Nerriga to Braidwood is not sealed.

Motorbikes use the Nerriga road frequently to avoid the freeway. They don’t need more hopeless car drivers on there .

Most Canberran’s can’t keep a steady line and speed on the Kings highway .Better get the Ambulance on standby if your promoting Oallen and Nerriga road to the masses .

Mello Mello 4:29 pm 28 Apr 16

Yep, and now you get stuck behind semis and caravans. Oh well.

Crazed_Loner Crazed_Loner 3:12 pm 28 Apr 16

I drove from Nowra (specifically the excellent Naval Air Museum) homewards about 3 years ago when all but the last 2-3 km on this side of (then) Oallen Ford had been sealed. It’s a great drive and doesn’t suffer from the precipitous descent/ascent as all the other coastal routes to Nowra do. It beats the other routes to Nowra hands down, though I’m reluctant to advertise that fact.

The road to this side of the Shoalhaven River, and a bit beyond, is of local council road standard and was progressively sealed over quite a few years but on the other side of Nerriga it has been engineered to a higher standard. It was originally upgraded as a Road of National Importance pork-barrelling project to help MP John Sharpe (remember him?) but one couldn’t help wonder if it was so important why it hadn’t been upgraded for over 150 years! Still, it’s nice to have.

vivien johnson vivien johnson 2:55 pm 28 Apr 16

I have been along all those routes and enjoyed them, and going further afield with the Southern Tablelands 4 wheel drive club. I now live on the Mornington Peninsula where the bush is a few minutes away, as is the bay beach and the surf coast. Melbourne city is two hours away. The main reason I was glad to leave Canberra after 30 years was the suffocating political correctness, the assumption that everyone is a Left wing Labor acolyte, a believer in global warming, and has a mandate to spread this point of view all around the place regardless of anyone who thinks differently. I hope that this blog can keep out of politics and respect the possible different views of others.

puggle puggle 2:15 pm 28 Apr 16

A highlight of this trip for us is spotting the emus around Sassafras. Have also had a deer sprint across the road in front of us near Tarago.

HenryBG HenryBG 12:54 pm 28 Apr 16

devils_advocate said :

Braidwood to Nerriga is not completely sealed and won’t be for a long time. It is very corrugated in parts.

Much more of it has been sealed – last time I went down there was a couple of years ago and I counted 19km left unsealed.

Masquara Masquara 12:46 pm 28 Apr 16

It used to be such a great drive. I’ve driven pre-sealing in a small cheap Holden hire car – it’s such a myth that you need 4WD to drive on even corrugated dirt. Tell that to my Dad, who drove CBR-remote Kimberley and back in an EH in the 1960s! There’s an old almond orchard and the homestead at Sassafras is amazing. Unfortunately, a gas pipeline project or some such blasted through wonderful rock formations in parts of the forest a few years ago, as they needed to get rid of all the tight corners on the road.

Zan Zan 5:11 pm 27 Apr 16

Braidwood to Nerriga is not completely sealed and won’t be for a long time. It is very corrugated in parts.

Paul Costigan Paul Costigan 4:08 pm 27 Apr 16

Dear MERC600. I was going to include such a photo – but edited it out as I wanted to use more photos of trees along the road from Tarago to Nowra.

But – I will take the hint and maybe do another post one day on images of wind farms – I have quite a few from both sides of Lake George – and other places.

Paul Costigan Paul Costigan 4:04 pm 27 Apr 16

Dear bronal – re Nerriga to Braidwood – I have not been along that section recently – so can only speculate that it would be sealed given it is the same road that you turn off towards Tarago. My money would be that it is sealed – but need someone else to confirm that.

MERC600 MERC600 12:37 pm 27 Apr 16

Paul of the 7 nice outdoor photos , you have you omitted, probably inadvertently, some piccys of the wind farms .

Kindly insert so we may all appreciate the ” wonders and beauty of those giant wind farms “..

bronal bronal 10:09 am 27 Apr 16

Has Braidwood to Nerriga also been sealed?

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