For my annual pre-Christmas mini-vacation, I headed to a long-time favourite coastal destination, Batemans Bay. There seems to be some confusion about who the original “Bateman” was, but there is no doubt the name is synonymous with getting away to the coast for a summer holiday and enjoying some relaxed seaside living. I particularly love Sandbar Lounge and Dining @ Quays Hotel, and it was interesting chatting with locals and finding out what they particularly liked about living either in the Bay or in one of the nearby coastal villages. Ideas ranging from the active (think beach and bushwalking, whale watching, kayaking, joy flights) to the usual food-related activities (with lots of suggestions for good cafes and restaurants). Since we are already well into the holiday season, surely it must be time for some fish and chips!
Bateman’s Bay didn’t really come into its own until the bridge was completed in 1956 and the Bay has been expanding steadily for the past 60 years. Prior to that, the bridge crossing had been at Nelligen. If summer visitors feel the need to constantly carry-on about the traffic delays on the Kings Highway to Batemans Bay between Christmas and New Year, I discovered a complaint in a Sydney newspaper about a four-hour delay in waiting to cross the Clyde River by the old vehicle ferry in the summer of 1955.
Now, with the future of the new bridge assured, as well as Federal funding for pontoons to allow access for cruise ships, I think things are going to change mighty quickly. There is even discussion about a permanent cruiser wharf being built to the south-east of the township beyond the Marina near Hanging Rock. The arts are not being ignored; with generous patronage, a sculpture walk is being developed. That Batemans Bay is no longer just a haven for lucky retirees shows in the quality of the restaurants and cafes and the variety of tourist activities that are booming.
In recent years, Rosedale has been one of my favourite coastal destinations and a morning excursion into busy Batemans Bay a must. Favourite activities include celebrity-spotting in the well-situated waterside Starfish Deli, which offers an all-day menu with good coffee, seafood and pizzas. Later we would indulge in traditional fish and chips at the delightful historical Innes’ Boatshed. Nearby, a three-hour lunchtime cruise regularly departs from the small jetty. The day I waved the “Escapade” off, it was almost full.
Innes’ Boatshed is a great spot to watch the huge stingrays and pelicans, and fight off the bold seagulls, who are as addicted to fish and chips as the rest of us. Central Batemans Bay has the benefit of lovely water views: the bridge frames the western end and beyond is the Clyde River. In North Batemans Bay, you will find a small oyster shed on Wray Street, selling the freshest oysters on this part of the coast, and there are tables on the verandah for those who can’t wait to get home! Another very popular restaurant is On The Pier, located in the heritage punt house, which has lots of shaded outside seating and a lovely location right on the Clyde River just near the bridge. We often plan our departure to coincide with an early light lunch before we head back up the Clyde Mountain.
Another fun way to get near or on the water is a BBQ Boat Hire. Clyde River Houseboats have boats to hire for both BBQs and fishing, with no license required. They also have drive-yourself luxury spa houseboat hire, but these are immensely popular and early booking is essential.
Back on the other side of the Clyde River, an attractive boardwalk from the centre of the Bay offers an enjoyable 900 metres walk to the marina and JJs at the Marina, serving some of the best fish and chips on the coast. With excellent service, really good views over the Bay and the sandbar, and plenty of shaded outside seating, this is a great spot for all the family.
More on-water activities are available in the area. Highly rated by locals and Tripadvisor, RegionX offers an amazing range of water-based adventures for all tastes. From oyster-tasting kayak tour to glass-bottom kayak paddle through the Cullendulla Sanctuary to an onboard kayak pizza dinner at sunset on the Clyde River.
If you have time to explore further, head down the coast towards nearby Moruya, sparing time to pop and visit the quaint Old Mossy Point Shop which is now the Mossy Cafe. With new management, a makeover and blissfully open seven days a week and public holidays, it is popular with locals and visitors, and there is plenty of parking and a diverse all-day menu.
On the way south is the Mogo Zoo, always a popular destination for families, with the village full of the most amazing assortment of craft shops and cafes.
The drive into Moruya along the Deua River takes you past the pretty riverside Quarry Park. It marks the site of the quarry for the stone that was used for the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Moruya is just as busy as Batemans Bay and is loved for the regular Saturday Country markets. At peak times there are over 140 stalls presenting high-quality local craft, bric-a-brac and locally grown produce and food under the shade of the trees in Riverside Park. These community markets have been compared to both Salamanca in Hobart and Channon in Byron Bay, and Moruya is one of the few markets in Australia that are on weekly.
Tuross locals Mischi and Peter West have a regular, brightly coloured stall called “Kaleidoscope”. They present a wide range of tie-dyed shirts, sarongs and silk scarves perfect for all-natural casual summer holiday wear, as well handmade timber mirrors, and handspun and hand-dyed pure Australian wool. This is a stall not to be missed! The market site was developed specifically for the market and there are many attractions including South Coast Seaplanes, who do joy flights over Montague Island. Tickets can be purchased from their stall at the markets and they provide a variety of other services including flights to popular spots such as the Tuross Boatshed for lunch.
I was advised not to miss the French patisserie Les Gourmandises, conveniently co-located next to the Moruya IGA in a shady arcade. I was delighted to meet Isabelle and Joseph and could immediately see why their pastries are so admired.
Open almost three years, they have delighted locals with their authentic French style cakes, quiches, pastries and excellent coffee. Isabelle told me they source their coffee beans from an Italian coffee roaster in Batemans Bay, The Venetian. News of my search for real French croissants seems to have travelled some distance and Joseph kindly rewarded me with a still warm croissant to have with my morning coffee. It was a perfect croissant.
Yes, the whole of the South Coast is going to be busy for the rest of this summer, but I am assured there is still space down there for more holidaymakers! Eurobodalla Tourism can assist with all types of accommodation, bookings and general advice about spending time in the area around Batemans Bay and Moruya.
There are always so many places and things to try down the coast? Do you have any special recommendations you would like to share with The RiotACT readers? Comment below.