Ultimate guide: The 10 best places to visit on the South Coast NSW
Welcome to the South Coast. This stretch of golden beaches, turquoise waters and tropical forests covers the southern half of New South Wales, from Sydney to Victoria. This is a place to experience all that’s great about Australia in one neat package: beautiful coastlines, wildlife-rich national parks, endless open roads, wineries, food markets, camping and much more.
Read on for our ultimate SCx guide to the South Coast NSW, where we give you our pick of the best places to visit as you travel from north to south…
Austinmer & Thirroul
The sleepy coastal towns of Austinmer and Thirroul stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the rolling South Coast. The area is known for its beaches, with author D. H. Lawrence having described the sands as having “deep pock-holes that were full of brilliantly clear water and delicately-coloured shells and tiny, crimson anemones”. Thirroul was Lawerence’s home for four months in 1922 while he wrote the iconic novel Kangaroo. In fact, today many Sydney city workers opt to live in the area and commute in thanks to the laid-back coastal setting.
Endless golden sand and verdant green hinterland – these are two of the most prominent features of Gerringong, a town once known for its rural dairy culture. The area is loved for Werri Beach, a cool surf strip with large sand dunes and even larger waves. Make sure you visit the various heritage buildings in town (of which there are 14), including the 19th-century Gerringong Uniting Church with its magical stained-glass windows, and the historic Boat Harbour Store, which opened in 1856.
This charming village is country living at its very best. Colourful houses dot the shoreline above the pretty beaches and sparkling blue ocean. This is where you’ll find Seven Mile Beach, which – true to its name – offers over 12 kilometres of golden coastline, with rich foliage behind and gentle waves in front: a great place to learn to surf. Be sure to head up to Gerroa Headland if you’re visiting between May and November – migrating dolphins and whales are frequently spotted off shore.
This vibrant village is set among the working dairy farms and green hills of the NSW countryside. It’s a place to cycle, hike, kayak, swim and eat – with a burgeoning food scene that rivals most towns in the South Coast. From sourdough breads to artisanal wines, you’ll find producers creating all kinds of local treats in the area, as well as a range of foodie festivals, cooking classes and vineyards tours that will have you coming back year on year.
This might be one of Australia’s most beautiful valleys. Rich green pastures, lush rainforest, twinkling rivers and very few crowds make it one of the South Coast’s true hidden gems. Stroll the old streets, dating back to 1870; kayak on the quiet rivers; or explore one of the local farms, where produce is always fresh and delicious. If you’re visiting in October, make sure you visit the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, full of crafts, music and lots of dancing.
Coastal walking, fishing, swimming and relaxation – these are the best reasons to visit Shoalhaven Heads, a town that lies at the other end of Seven Mile Beach from Gerroa. This is a top choice for birdwatchers, with thousands of shorebirds frequenting the Shoalhaven River and estuary – some visiting from as far away as Siberia. Walking is another popular pastime, with the Seven Mile Beach National Park offering flat and easy trails through the pretty foliage.
Huskisson and Jervis Bay
From the coastal town of Huskisson, you can discover the natural beauty of Jervis Bay – known for having some of the world’s whitest sands. The near-translucent waters house an abundance of marine life, including bottlenose dolphins, fur seas, penguins and weedy sea dragons. At night, the sea literally sparkles: a result of the bioluminescent light show performed by the algae that live in the waters.
The coastal fishing village of Curragong is a lovely spot to spend time in the sun, sea and sand. Just north of the main town you’ll find Hammerhead Point, where you can watch humpback and southern right whales during their annual migration. Make sure you bring your snorkelling gear: there’s also an expansive reef just off shore, teeming with dolphins, octopus and stingray.
Mollymook and Milton
The historic town of Milton and it’s beachside neighbour Mollymook are too often passed by on the Princes Highway. Just three hours drive from Sydney, but a lightyear away from the bustle of the city, you’ll find a community bonded by the tide, the slow pace of life and a love of all things South Coast. Beaches are less crowded than those a little further north, with great spots for swimming, surfing and fishing. You’ll find yourself visiting for the artisanal bread and award-winning restaurants, but staying for the bushwalks and seaside air.
In the shadows of Gulaga Mountain stands the vibrant coastal town of Bermagui. Here, the pristine beaches are framed by the rolling blue mountains – a place where you can surf, swim, paddleboard, dive, kayak and snorkel. Thanks to the continental shelf 20km off shore – the closest point to Australian mainland – the water is overflowing with a rich variety of fish, which makes big game fishing a very popular pastime.