Our trip was planned to coincide with the purchase of our daughter’s first home in Melbourne. We were unaware then that at the end of February, La Niña was waiting to slam an east coast low into communities from Gympie to the Illawarra. It was so devastating that rainfall records were broken and flood levels reached new heights. But on the Sunday night before witnessing this devastation, we spent the evening in Sydney, connecting with family who had been separated by the Christmas Omicron COVID outbreak. Cars were packed to the hilt and we farewelled Mia and Isabel soon to be reunited with us in Melbourne at the end of the week.
We set off south along the coast of New South Wales to visit friends in Kiama and find our first accommodation in Vincentia. As we drove down the escarpment from Stanwell Tops, we witnessed waterfalls cascading through rainforest. It was already very wet. Vincentia sits along the shore of Jervis Bay, a Royal Australian Navy stronghold and we got in a quick walk along the beach before the rain squalls came in.
We decided to explore Huskisson the next day, having memories of scuba diving there 40 odd years ago amid strong currents and giant kelp. The old Huskisson Hotel was the venue of my parents honeymoon in 1947 and the old world charm of polished wood remains with an extended bistro area and cabins out the back.
Huskisson is now a tourist town with appropriate cafes and we tried the 5 Little Pigs for our lunch stop. The smashed avocado with finger lime and micro greens was delicious.
Our coastal trip was planned to partly support the ravaged bushfire communities of the south coast but also to explore the beaches. We had packed our togs but the weather had decided otherwise and the rain squalls kept coming. We heard dire warnings of the east coast low travelling south. Despite this we enjoyed little stops in Ulladulla and Batemans Bay, admiring the vibrancy of these delightful towns.
Leaving the coast, we travelled inland towards the Eurobodalla shire and rich dairying country. Our lunch stop was at the Dairy Shed, Bodalla, where the cows, their milk, cheese and dairy manufacture are all Australian owned. We sampled outback saltbush, gum leaf smoked and three year vintage cheddar and indulged in a three year vintage cheddar toastie. Inside the cheese manufacturing shed we watched as cheese makers sliced curds and squeezed out whey.
On through Narooma and the rolling hills of the Eden shire, we travelled marvelling at how the country had recovered from the raging fires of two years ago. In Cobargo the town famously destroyed by fire in 2019/20, we met school friend Sue, who gave us a first hand account of surviving alone on her property as the fires raged to her doorstep. Cobargo is still recovering and the missing buildings in the Main Street are just that – still missing. Cobargo still has no public amenities and is struggling back on its feet. It is the community which is putting it back together.
We headed back to the coast for our overnight destination at Pambula Beach where the east coast squalls hit us once again. The next morning we called into Eden, the last town on the NSW east coast, famous for its fishing fleet and its role in sea rescue. We stood at the lookout where in the past whale spotters would shout to the large rowing boats which harpooned Humpback and Southern Right whales on their journeys north. Fortunately the only dead whales are now on display in the whale museum and the whales are no longer threatened species.
Our final destination before heading west into Melbourne was at Lakes Entrance. Here the clouds parted and the sun shone and we walked along the foreshore of the Gippsland Lakes admiring black swans, fishing boats and families enjoying seaside holidays. The town is bursting full of motels and caravan parks. We dined on fish, scallops and oysters at Sodafish, right by the water overlooking Middle Boat Harbour. It was a fitting end to five days on the road.