Stunning Sapphire Coast
Author: Ali Millar
Easily one of the most pristine and isolated stretches of the NSW coastline, the Sapphire Coast has an excellent mix of quiet bush camps, tranquil lagoons, wild surf beaches, and colourful towns.
Located halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, and stretching roughly from Bermagui down to the Victorian border, this region is perfect for those travelling in a motorhome.
It had rained overnight and the misty drizzle was still lingering when the kookaburras woke us bright and early, cackling away in the spotted gums above our campsite at Mystery Bay, less than 15km south of Narooma. By the time we’d packed up our camp, the sky had cleared and the sun was glinting off the RVs dotted around the campground, enticing campers onto the beach. We’d chosen the council-run Mystery Bay Campground as the starting point for our Sapphire Coast road trip, lured by the shady beachfront campsites and the quiet mid-week atmosphere. It’s a stellar, back-to-nature campground that draws a crowd in peak periods and operates on a first-in, first-served basis. We headed south on the Princes Highway, enjoying the dappled light flickering through the stands of forest, interspersed with patches of grassy pasture land and picture-perfect properties, before detouring towards the hinterland towns of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba.
The jacarandas were in full bloom, creating an explosion of colour alongside the brightly painted heritage buildings of Central Tilba’s main street. We were immediately blown away by the charm of the tiny town. Tourists wandered the gift shops and emporiums, sat outside the teahouse with cuppas in hand, and clustered around the bakery, with a bus load pouring into the ABC Cheese Factory for tastings. It’s well set up for RVers with a spacious parking area just off the main street. The surrounding countryside is green and lush, with granite slabs sticking up out of the hillsides. Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba, just 7km down the road, are flanked by Mount Gulaga, which was covered with moody clouds on this early December morning.
We headed for Cobargo, a great little town with a strong sense of community and a focus on health and natural remedies. Cobargo is also an RV friendly town and there’s a free rest area (up to 96 hours) out back of the Cobargo Hotel Motel, within easy walking distance of the main street.
From Cobargo we did the 25km trip to the seaside holiday town of Bermagui. Nothing says coastal touring to me like a fish and chip lunch, so we stopped at the Fishermen’s Wharf on the north side of town. The wharf building is home to various restaurants, a wine bar, and a gelato shop, as well as some very persistent seagulls. We took our fish and chips to a Bermagui icon – the Blue Pool, a naturally filled rock pool at the base of the cliffs which has been a popular Bermagui swimming spot since its development in the 1930s. It’s a steep descent into the small car park so I’d consider leaving the RV up top. If you want to stay in town, South Coast Holiday Parks Bermagui is the place to be, with some sites offering views across the bay. We were after something a little closer to nature, so followed the coastal road south across several single lane bridges spanning sandy lagoons and creeks to Mimosa Rocks National Park, where we scored a beautiful beachfront campsite at the RV-friendly Gillards Campground.
There are several campgrounds in the national park, but many of the roads are narrow, with steep gravel that makes them unsuitable for larger rigs. Mimosa Rocks has some lovely coastal walking trails at Aragunnu and Bithry Inlet, but the real stars of the show are the beaches – wide, white sand, open ocean, and largely empty – perfect for long strolls. We sat by the campfire watching roos graze on the dunes as the sky turned pink and lightning lit up the clouds at sea – coastal camping perfection.
FALLING FOR YOU
From Gillards, we doubled back to take the winding Dr George Mountain Rd to the Biamanga Cultural Area and Mumbulla Falls. This area is sacred to the Yuin people and an important men’s initiation site. It was tranquil and quiet, the flow of water slow and gentle. At the end of the mountain road we popped out near Bega – of dairy fame – the urban hub of this region and another RV friendly town. It’s a pretty place with tree-lined streets, and surrounded by rolling green pastures that certainly look the part.
We returned to the coast at Tathra, where I’d highly recommend a visit to the old sea wharf. The Wharf Locavore is housed in the beautiful old wharf building and had plenty of delightful sweet treats, as well as art and pottery displays. You can sit in the window looking back towards Tathra main beach, behind which are three caravan parks, offering various accommodation options all in close proximity to the water.
Our camp for the night was Hobart Beach Campground in nearby Bournda National Park. This is a lovely spot with good facilities and more than 60 sites scattered through the bush near Wallagoot Lake. It’s a great base for exploring the national park, which has heaps of options for bushwalking, surfing, kayaking, and fishing.
A separate access road skirts the northern shores of Wallagoot Lake and ends back in the national park at Turingal Head with more options for coastal walks. Take a short stroll through the tea trees to Wallagoot Gap where the sea creeps through the rocky cliffs onto a lovely protected beach.
RAISING THE BAR
The next morning we hightailed it to the Bar Beach Kiosk for a coffee overlooking the stunning turquoise waters of Merimbula Bar. Summer was in the air and the kiosk was bustling with locals, many who’d jumped in for a swim before making their way up the hill. Merimbula is the area’s largest coastal town and a busy holiday spot with plenty of caravan parks, but you’ll need to venture out of town for other camping options.
A popular boardwalk starts near the bridge and winds around the lake’s edge, finishing at Top Lake Boat Hire and Kiosk – reportedly a good spot to enjoy sunset.
Our final stop was the port town of Eden, best known for its whaling history. In fact, this whole coastline is great for whale watching, as whales stop to nurse and rest here during their annual migration. Make sure you visit Eden’s Rotary Lookout for views across the deep natural harbour toward Ben Boyd National Park.
This is a place of wild natural beauty and there’s something here for everyone. I’d recommend taking the time to explore it thoroughly.