15 March 2024

Narooma Oyster Festival: a shellabration of more than a mollusc

| Dione David
Join the conversation
People in action at Narooma Oyster Festival shucking cotest

Shells fly during the Oyster Shucking Competition at the Narooma Oyster Festival. Photo: Narooma Oyster Festival.

As chef and TV personality Courtney Roulston gears up to host the always popular live cooking demonstration at the Narooma Oyster Festival for the third time, she doesn’t mince words about her respect for South Coast rock oysters.

“I’ve eaten oysters all over the world, and the oysters from the NSW South Coast region are really superior,” she says.

While Courtney is a steadfast oyster lover, she acknowledges the decadent molluscs aren’t for everyone. But, perhaps surprisingly, she says a person’s love of oysters has little impact on their ability to enjoy the festival.

It’s true that about 70,000 oysters are eaten each year during the festival, but in addition to rock oysters, festival-goers can try other species, including Australia’s other native oyster, the Angasi (a deep-water, flat oyster), and the Pacific, all served in various splendid ways.

But there’s a bit more to it.

“The Festival is a big celebration of oysters, true, but it also showcases exceptional examples of sustainable Australian and local seafood, produce and celebrated craft beers, wines and spirits too,” Courtney says.

Hailed as the biggest food and wine festival in Southern NSW, this event pairs oysters and seafood with a whole program of entertainment, spectacles, activities and activations, including a live music lineup headlined by Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier, Dom Turner & the Rural Blues Project, the SunBears and others.

READ ALSO Search for missing whale bone at centre of South Coast mystery enters new chapter

Even though oysters may be the hero of some dishes during the demonstrations, the focus this year is on all sustainable NSW seafood. Over the years, the live demonstration stages have seen everything from a salt-baked Trevally to a hundred different ways to cook with fresh prawns – and show audiences that you can do more with South Coast oysters than the classic Kilpatrick.

Colin Fassnidge once blew audiences away with his oyster nage – a kind of seafood stock-meets-Bouillabaise blended with other luxurious flavours like Pernot and saffron.

Courtney, who will be on stage facilitating and commentating, says regardless of individual taste, the demonstrations seek to send people away with recipes they can try at home.

If you are keen on exploring the world of oysters, there are copious pathways beyond the demonstrations. Much like a wine’s flavour profile is impacted by the terroir, oysters from different environments have different textures and tastes.

Festival-goers can delve into the merroir of oysters in an Ultimate Oyster Experience with leading seafood authority John Susman.

“Some are salty, some are creamy, some are small and pack a punch, others are plump and large, and the Festival provides the chance to explore that diversity of the region over two days,” Courtney says.

“It’s easily one of the best regional food festivals in this country and provides a paradise for all foodies. Everywhere you go, there are opportunities to discover the best of the region’s produce and products – everything from cured meats to honeys and all sorts of deliciousness.”

READ ALSO Fancy a stroll this summer? Stunning walks abound in South Coast national parks

While guests will undoubtedly leave with an appreciation for the fruits of the South Coast seas, the region has many other drawcards.

“The moment you arrive, you can understand why people choose this place as a holiday destination regardless of the festival – it’s such a paradise. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out,” Courtney says.

“There are the beaches, the great restaurants and produce, world-class diving and fishing, and 85 kilometres of epic new mountain bike trails to work up your appetite. You can grab a delicious coffee from just about anywhere or a pastry from Pistachio in Narooma and walk around the boardwalk, where you can watch majestic seals and giant stingrays gliding through the shallow waters.

“You’re also supporting the local businesses and producers behind these amazing products that we can all be proud of.”

Hand wearing mesh metal glove holding shucked oyster

Salty, creamy, big, small – oysters come in as many flavours and varieties as wine, and some of the best in the country are on show at the festival. Photo: Narooma Oyster Festival.

Coaches travel from Batemans Bay and Bermagui on Saturday, while a shuttle bus operates in Narooma during festival hours.

Oysters will come in from NSW estuaries, along with a glut of incredible seafood, live music, Australia’s Oyster Shucking Championships, Australia’s Biggest Oyster competition, Ultimate Oyster Experiences, cooking demonstrations, displays and exhibitions, markets, sunset socials and fireworks at the kid-friendly hour of 8:30 pm on the Friday Night Warm-Up.

“It’s a great excuse to book yourself a holiday home, jump in the car or on a plane and go because there really is something for everyone,” Courtney says.

The Narooma Oyster Festival takes place on Friday, 3 May and Saturday, 4 May.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.