Officially, the NSW South Coast will welcome visitors from Canberra and beyond from Monday, 1 June as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
However, while it is permissible to return to the coast and its beaches, the advice is to do so with care.
Andrew Edmunds is a member of the Far South Coast branch of the NSW Surf Lifesaving Association and he told Region Media that people need to exercise extreme caution and make sure they know what they are doing on beaches that are much emptier than usual.
“There’s been no-one around,” he said. “You’ve got your own patch of beach and the weather has been good, but we also know lots of people who have got businesses and they’ve been really struggling. It’s been a bit weird, to be honest, but it’s been beautiful at the same time.”
In addition to empty beaches and sparsely populated communities, a powerful low-pressure system delivered a huge swell to the region’s beaches last weekend and most of this week. The large waves provided a playground for many who risked the dangerous conditions for a surf, but on Sunday, 24 May a 43-year-old kayaker died at Long Beach, near Batemans Bay.
Eurobodalla Shire Council’s manager of tourism and events, Tim Booth, said the shire’s businesses continue to be heavily impacted by the past summer’s bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had the one-two hit with the bushfires and now COVID-19, which has affected nearly every business in Australia, and businesses here have not been immune,” he said.
Mr Booth said the council is encouraging visitors to return to the coast, but urged people to plan ahead and not travel on a whim.
“We’re looking forward to people being able to get out and enjoy themselves a little more, but there are going to be some changes, with restrictions to hospitality and eateries,” he said. “So where you can, make forward bookings.
“Everyone is craving to get out of their houses, but things are still going to be a bit different to normal. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as special, it just requires a bit more forward planning.”
The South Coast community has rallied around businesses that have found unique ways of staying afloat. The Broulee Surf School has continued to operate, albeit with one-on-one lessons. Three66 cafe at Lilli Pilli is one of many that has allowed locals to pre-order and pick up meals.
“Our beaches haven’t had the problem that the capital cities had with overcrowding,” said Mr Booth. “It’s also been really pleasing to see how people have connected digitally to get their favourite meals and support local businesses.
“The Eurobodalla has a great sense of community so it wasn’t a surprise our community rallied around our businesses and supported them as best they could through the COVID-19 period.
“Bookings are starting to look really good and we certainly encourage any people who are wanting to travel to make sure they are booking ahead, whether that be with NSW National Parks if they are going camping, or with hotels, motels and caravan parks.
“Some facilities will still be restricted in some ways so we’re just advising people to pre-plan and pre-book as much as they can to ensure they get the holiday or trip they are wanting.”
South Coast District Commander Superintendent Greg Moore said police will continue to conduct proactive patrols on the Saturday and Sunday of the long weekend before travel restrictions are relaxed on Monday, 1 June.
“I understand people are eager to get back down to areas such as the South Coast to support tourism, but this weekend is not the time to do so,” he said.
It will also be a cold and snowy start to winter for southeast NSW.
A pair of cold fronts will sweep across southeastern NSW between Saturday, 30 May and Tuesday, 2 June, bringing a burst of wind, rain and snow to some parts of the state. The second front is expected to produce strong and blustery winds, showers, thunderstorms, small hail stones and snow.