There are no English words to properly convey the colours of Wagonga Inlet. The word Narooma, derived from the Yuin term for ‘clear blue water’ seems to fit best, with the vibrant hues of the waterway the first thing seen by visitors arriving from the north.
It’s one of the most spectacular town entries anywhere, with a series of sweeping bends bringing the stunning estuary and old steel bridge suddenly upon you. The inlet and bay waters are instantly inviting, and the urge to pull over and immerse yourself in the landscape is hard to resist.
There is a lot on the north side of the inlet to explore. The timber boatsheds tucked beside the bridge offer fresh local oysters and seafood direct to the public, with oysters shucked in front of you if you’d like to eat them then and there. Eurobodalla sits at the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast, which is celebrated in style each May with the annual Narooma Oyster Festival.
Also on the northern side of the inlet, the Mill Bay Boardwalk meanders scenically along the water’s edge. Part of the Batemans Marine Park, schools of fish, as well as rays, dolphins and seals are often seen scooting by. Wide enough for walking and cycling, the boardwalk leads to Apex Park, where the nearby clear netted waters at Bar Beach provide the perfect spot for a sheltered swim or snorkel. As well as barbecues and toilets, this side of the breakwall offers a choice of inlet or ocean fishing and a quality boat ramp.
The southern side of the breakwater offers equally rewarding exploration. To get there, take a scenic drive through town and along Bluewater Drive to Bar Rock Road. Home of the famous Australia Rock, the area is a favoured place for local fur seals to relax in the sun. The lookout here gives extensive water views to Barunguba (Montague island) one of Australia’s top destinations for a snorkel or dive with seals. Australian fur seals have a reputation as funsters and seem to enjoy engaging with the strange land creatures who regularly drop in. For an even bigger rush, diving with the fierce looking but notably harmless Grey Nurse sharks gets you up close and personal in a more harmonious way than a cage dive.
For those who refer to stay above water, Montague Island makes a great day trip, with whales, dolphins, flying fish and over 90 species of bird calling the area home throughout the year. The granite lighthouse on the Island is almost 140 years old and retains most of its original features. Climbing the original winding stairs provides outstanding 360 degree views and a chance to spot passing whales. For a unique overnight stay, accommodation is offered in both the lighthouse keeper’s, and assistant lighthouse keeper’s cottages.
The fishing around Narooma is superb and can be as easy as casting a line from the shore. The waters here are productive year-round with the estuary offering bream, flathead and leatherjacket, and the ocean reefs providing snapper, morwong, wrasse, trevally, and kingfish. Game fishing here is internationally renowned with yellowfin tuna, albacore, and striped and black Marlin found closer to the continental shelf.
Out of the water, Narooma has a lot on offer for a small town. Narooma Kinema has Art Deco influence and ambience, with the building placed on the National Heritage Register because of its significance to the community. The town’s restaurants, cafés and galleries reflect the open and authentic nature of life here. The small café area around Riverside Drive is particularly stunning, and offers the chance to dine or picnic while watching over Forsters Bay and Gulaga (Mount Dromedary). Gulaga is a deeply spiritual place for the Yuin people, and to learn the story of Gulaga, Najanuka and Barunguba, is to see the country through new eyes.