So many visitors to Australia stick to the tried and true path, and miss out on the best bits! Their focus remains firmly fixed on the heavily promoted destinations of Sydney, the Gold Coast and Great Barrier Reef, and yet the hidden gems that represent the best of Australia, remain just that – hidden.
Just between you and me, and ‘ssshhh, don’t tell anyone’, it’s time to discover Merimbula!
Merimbula, in the far south of NSW, is all about the natural beauty of the coast and its pristine waters, both ocean and lake, are the real stars of the show.
Flying into Merimbula is a wonderful introduction to the region. The plane follows the coastline ever south where impossibly blue waters are edged by strips of brilliant white beach, bordered by another contrasting strip of the dusty green coastal scrub. It brought to mind that old saying that, “blue and green should never be seen without a colour in between”. It’s Nature’s very own fashion statement.
Stepping off the plane and then catching a taxi into the town, it was glorious to feel the gentle, moist sea air on my skin. Just such a different feel to living in inland Australia. Equally beautiful was the sound of Bellbirds (Oreoica gutturalis) ringing out across the town. Who would have thought that they would have adapted so well to urban areas? Perhaps I am showing my coastal ignorance.
On this trip I was visiting the region for work, so I really only had a tiny window of time to squeeze in as much as I could at the start and the end of the working day. The little I did get to see certainly whetted my appetite for a much longer return visit and I am now a confirmed Merimbula fan.
Merimbula is located on the edge of the Merimbula Lake system. The town merges with a number of other small localities and villages and, over time, the urban area has expanded to embrace both the lake foreshore and the coast. The lakes are home to a whole range of water sports and industries, foremost is obvious large number of oyster farmers. Oysters have been farmed here since the early 1920’s and the racks of oysters create an interesting contrast to the smooth texture of the lake waters – almost like an underwater crossword puzzle.
Work would not be denied so I had to switch my brain out of tourist mode for a short while. Luckily for me, my client was a group of oyster farmers, so I got to sample both the wares and the pristine waters of the region.
The next day it was easy to kick myself out of bed early enough to explore the place on foot. A magnificent raised walkway hugs the edge of Top Lake and that was my target for a morning stroll. All was calm and quiet as the sun rose and oyster farmers puttered out to their leases in their dented tinnys (a small shallow motor boat). Sweaty joggers and happy dogs thundered past me on the boardwalk and leaving silence in their wake. For me, this walk was as much about the journey as the destination and I wanted to savour all the aquatic sights, sounds and smells to store them before I had to return to my home far from the salt water. I could not believe my eyes as I spotted a small stingray nestling in the sand and being harassed by small, sandy-coloured fish, less than a metre from the boardwalk. That’s how crystal clear the waters are in this part of the world.
The Top Lake walk is 3.5km return on excellent boardwalks or solid, smooth dirt paths. Coffee awaits at the end of the path if you need a heart-starter to make the return trip.
Of course there is more to Merimbula than just the lake. Fishing is a popular pastime and a charter boat full of eager passengers were donning life jackets, and getting ready to head out to sea to do battle with Nature, as I strolled back to the motel. Too much water in between all the fish for my liking. It’s much easier to pop into the closest fish and chip shop. They clean AND cook the fish for you!
Swimmers can enjoy the protected waters of the lake or head to any number of perfect, pure white beaches. Main Beach is the place to be for families and surfers alike, while Short Point or The Bar await the more experienced and adventurous board riders.
If the weather turns grim (hard to believe it could ever happen) then there are plenty of non-water pursuits to keep you amused and entertained. Merimbula is surrounded by National Parks for bushwalking and the area is rich in Indigenous heritage.
Located right on the edge of the sea, at certain times of the year, Merimbula becomes a prime spot for viewing the annual whale migrations – either on their way north, or homeward bound with their babies. Whale watching cruises leave from Merimbula Marina and there is a fascinating whale museum in Eden, only a short 25-minute drive away.
If you are a foodie, then don’t leave without sampling the region’s delicious Sydney Rock Oysters. I didn’t know that oysters can have similar characteristics to wine and can taste different depending on the waterway they have grown up in. Perhaps a comprehensive oyster tour is in order?
Why would you focus on the bright lights of the big cities when you have these coastal gems waiting?
Just between you and me, where are your favourite coastal hideaways?
What: Stay at the Town Centre Motor Inn. Only a few minute’s walk from the shops, restaurants and lake and around $95.00 per night for a single. I can recommend tasty lunches with spectacular views available right on the lake’s edge at Waterfront Café, or overlooking the ocean at Merimbula Wharf.
Where: Merimbula is located 461km south of Sydney, right in the heart of the Sapphire Coast region.
When: On this trip, I visited in early Summer, and previously I was there in mid-Winter. Merimbula is gorgeous at any time, just vary the amount of clothing layers you are wearing.
Why: Believe me, you do not need a reason to visit Merimbula! Just go!
How: Rex Airlines flies to Merimbula twice a day from Sydney and once a day from Melbourne.
Who: Anyone, regardless of age, who loves fresh seafood, sleepy towns and crystal clear waters.
Related Posts: For more hidden gems in Australia, have a look at my post about, the gloriously named, Dunns Swamp!
Related Blogs: To whet your appetite for the Merimbula coastline, see what the Nomadic Explorers found.
Read About it: To discover more gems of the East Australian coastline, grab your copy of Lonely Planet East Coast Australia from Book Depository