A foodie’s first visit to the Sapphire Coast

IMG_1309

The landscape is ever-changing on the trip from Canberra to Merimbula, as we travel inland — first over undulating barren countryside on to native terrain, then past lush dairy farms dotted with fat cows, and beyond through densely wooded forests.

“Are we there yet?,” I ask with a giggle, three hours into the journey. It’s a standing joke whenever we’re travelling. “Actually, we can’t be too far away now,” my man replies, pointing to the display on the GPS. And then, as the Jeep makes its way over the bend, there she is in full splendour… Merimbula… on the magnificent Sapphire Coast. That glimpse of deep blue lake and ocean takes my breath away.

It’s my first visit to the area, as Narooma was as far south as I’d ventured and the scenery is different to that which I am accustomed. The Sapphire Coast comprises coastal and country towns including Bega, Bemboka, Brogo, Cobargo, Candelo, Eden, Merimbula, Pambula, Tathra, Wolumla, Wonboyn and Wyndham — and stretches from Bermagui to just near the Victorian border. Merimbula, long recognised as the ‘jewel’ of the Sapphire Coast (for good reason), is hugely popular with folks from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the surrounding areas — and many of the people we meet while we’re here are either holidaying with family or tell us that they moved to the area for a sea change.

Once we’ve checked into our accommodation, we hit the beach for an invigorating swim in the waves — just one of many things we have planned to do. Guided snorkelling is among the water activities available, together with sea kayak tours, stand up paddle boarding, canoeing and boating, scuba diving, windsurfing, whale and dolphin watching, and fishing.

P3080553Merimbula vistas…

Put on some walking shoes and take some time to discover the area via its excellent short or long walking tracks, then take a seat on the jetty by the Lake or the hill overlooking Bar Beach, catch your breath and drink in the stunning views. Plan your visit from June through to November and you might just see Humpback and Southern Right Whales, with calves in tow, as they make their way up to Queensland waters or back to the Antarctic! It’s said to be a spectacular sight.

Pelicans on the Lake… Flocks of pelicans are a feature on the Lake at Merimbula and, during an early morning photo walk, I stop to admire these interesting metallic sculptures by Richard Moffat, alongside their living companions. Look closely and you’ll see that the sculptures are made from recycled junk metal. Remarkable!

Feed me… Hungry? There are some very fine restaurants, cafés, food producers, wineries and locavores in and around Merimbula, the Bega Valley and along the Coastal Wilderness Drive which takes you from Merimbula to Bermagui. Together with the eateries, there is award-winning cheese, oysters, chillies, smoked goods, hand-made chocolates and ice cream produced in the region. There’s also the EAT Merimbula Festival held in March. The annual event brings together the best of the region’s local chefs and food producers to showcase their goods along the lakeshore at Fishpen Road. (See Liz’s post here)

P3070089Enjoy the flora and fauna… The area is surrounded by National Parks, as well as unspoiled bushland and forests. Mimosa Rocks National Park is just a short drive from Merimbula, it’s on the Coastal Wilderness Drive, and you can explore various walking tracks, beaches, lagoons, rain forests and historic sites. You can also camp in the park in one of the several camping grounds, or enjoy a picnic or barbecue. Australian natives are planted around the Merimbula Lake and Fishpen area, attracting colourful birdlife. It’s lovely to wake up to the sound of whip birds and wattlebirds, and see parrots feed on flowering eucalypts and grevilleas.

The food and produce of the Sapphire Coast region inspired the following recipes… Spaghettoni with Seafood (Merimbula Wharf Aquarium and Restaurant) Deconstructed baba ghanoush (with Eden Smokehouse smoked garlic) Oysters Kilpatrick and Carpetbag Steak (Wapengo Rocks Oysters)

Liz Posmyk is an award-winning food and travel writer. She visited the Sapphire Coast as a guest of Sapphire Coast Tourism. Images appear with her permission. www.bizzylizzysgoodthings.com  View all blog posts