It’s hard to capture the allure of Narooma in words. The seaside fishing town on the New South Wales south coast, the place I’ve called my home away from home since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, has always been a part of my life and to this very day still fills the senses when I need to fill my lungs with sea air, take a swim in the ocean, or devour a freshly shucked oyster by the bay.
I can still go back to the day when we set up our first caravan at one of the larger caravan parks, I was excited because it had its own playground, tennis court and tuck shop. The van was cozy, with a table that converted into a bed, an annexe to store our belongings in, and place by the sea to call home.
The walk to the beach was only a stone’s throw away, trailing through sweet-smelling native shrubs and sooty soil that reminded me of volcanic ash, always leaving my feet dirty. Even in the holiday periods, the beach was sparse and uncrowded, it was a sandy playground just waiting to be explored, and with spade and bucket in hand, anything was possible.
Each time I revisit the magic of those childhood summers and memories still come flooding back. While time may have passed, the town remains much the same. There’s the big Woolies that hasn’t been renovated in about 20 years, something I find weirdly comforting, the tackle shop at the top of the hill is now a yoga studio and O’Brien’s Hotel is still offering their famous “Million Dollar View”.
No visit to Narooma is complete without a meal and a pint at O’Brien’s Hotel, with a view that more than lives up to its name. The seating outside looks out over the inlet and harbour, crafted with the lapping of pristine turquoise waves and optimistic pelicans and seagulls feasting on leftover scraps from the fishing boats. It’s a happy place when you have a plate of freshly cooked fish and chips, a glass of something cold and the orchestra of cheeky seagulls and pub rock playing in the background.
I like to think my taste buds have matured over time, to finally enjoy the simplistic perfection of oysters, something I would have once refused to go near, let alone taste as a kid. Now I can’t get enough of them and have even attended the annual Narooma oyster festival held every May. It’s a great way to taste some of the finest local produce, have a chat with the locals and of course, eat oysters.
You can find some of the best oysters down on the flats near Fosters Bay, keep your eye out for the little unassuming boat shed painted fire engine red with a blackboard out the front. Here you can purchase oysters that have picked straight from their beds, shucked, unshucked and even pickled. Another hot spot is the seafood co-op which is near the main bridge into town, abundant with fresh fillets, prawns and many other ocean delights.
After countless years of gazing out onto the horizon and wondering what Montague Island was like, I solved my curiosity only two years ago by setting out to shore. Celebrating my father’s birthday, my family and I had the privilege of staying out on the island. National Parks and Wildlife NSW have all the details on how to arrange an island getaway, great to do in the whale watching seasons.
Full of history and aboriginal culture, penguins, seals and whales during the right season, this is a sacred place full of spirit and is an experience I would love revisit-even if it means getting stranded on the island for an extra night due to bad weather! True story.
A trip to the historic township of Tilba, 12minutes down the road was always a fun expedition, especially when ice creams, lucky dips and cheese tastings were involved! It’s a quaint town that has maintained its charm with the famous Tilba Cheese Factory and cafes. It has an authentic country atmosphere, and worth taking the time to fossick and meander through.
Living in the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s big smoke, I often long for those childhood carefree sun-baked summers by the sea, to breathe in the salty ocean air, to wiggle my toes beneath the white sands, and to hand write postcards to loved ones back home, signing off with a “Wish you were here”.
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