We spent five minutes with Sally Bouckley, Director of Southbound Escapes to see another side of Eurobodalla.
Her slight Scottish accent is a giveaway that Sally Bouckley isn’t originally from Narooma. But the director of experiential travel and accommodation provider Southbound Escapes has a deep connection to this genetically blessed corner of the Eurobodalla Shire, having visited the area since she was a child growing up in Scotland with an Aussie mum.
“My mum’s originally from Cootamundra, and the whole family holidays in Narooma, so we’d come here on family trips,” says Sally, who made her first visit to the picturesque seaside town – which shares similarities with her hometown of Gullane, near Edinburgh – at the tender age of seven.
Bouckley didn’t only inherit an Australian passport from her mother, but also an Aussie-style love for travel, which saw her “work to travel” as soon as she finished high school.
“I didn’t live anywhere for more than six months for 10 years,” says Bouckley, who went on to work for tour operators around the world before settling on Sydney’s Northern Beaches in 2003. But the pull of Narooma proved too strong, which saw her return to the coastal holiday playground of her youth in 2018 to launch Southbound Escapes.
“I realised there was a gap in the market on the NSW South Coast a higher-end tourism offering that connected visitors to the incredible experiences the region has to offer,” says Sally. “And I really loved Narooma – so I created a business that I could move here to run.”
A one-stop shop for immersive, mindful travel on the NSW South Coast, Southbound Escapes offers a range of curated local experiences as well as accommodation in a stylish three-bedroom apartment in central Narooma with breathtaking views across the idyllic Wagonga Inlet. An advocate for sustainable tourism, Sally’s experiences celebrate innovative ways to explore the region in eco-friendly ways, from e-biking to Indigenous-led tours.
“A friend of my dad’s had done an incredible e-bike tour in New Zealand, and we’ve got the most beautiful coastal bike track in Narooma (the 21km-return Narooma to Dalmeny Cycleway), which made me think that e-biking could work really well here,” Sally says.
But Sally doesn’t only rent electric bikes. Joining forces with the region’s top tour guides and producers, Southbound Escapes also offers a suite of unique e-bike tours ranging from a self-guided Tilba Valley winery and ale house tour to an Indigenous-themed tour that includes a storytelling session with a Yuin Elder at a beautiful lookout along the way.
“Until you know the traditional stories and the Indigenous history of the area, you actually don’t know the South Coast,” says Sally, who has developed a passion for creating pathways for people to experience local Aboriginal culture and history. “There’s so much more to the landscape than meets the eye, and we have these incredible Indigenous guides in the region who bring these fascinating stories to life,” she adds.
Southbound Escapes also specialises in events including weddings, product launches, and even outdoor cinemas under the stars. Featured on Channel Nine’s Married at First Sight, Southbound Escapes’ pop-up picnics offer a memorable – and delicious – way to experience the region’s most scenic settings.
“The picnics have been especially popular with locals, who book them for special occasions like birthdays,” says Sally.
Like many of the Eurobodalla Shire’s tourism businesses, the impacts of the Black Summer bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic have been tough on Southbound Escapes, yet the company remains dedicated to giving back to the local community, with $1 from every bike hire donated to the Dalmeny Boardriders Association, which runs community surf comps.
“We also donate $1 to the Narooma Mountain Bike Club, which moving forward will support mountain bike coaching for local kids, and a percentage of our tours support the Little Yuin Aboriginal Pre-School at Wallaga Lake,” Sally says.
Welcoming her daughter Bella to the small Southbound Escapes team in 2021, Sally has harnessed COVID-19 era downtime to make the business even more sustainable.
“We’re currently working on our ecotourism certification, which has led us to make lots of small changes like installing low-power sockets, and including more information about eco-friendly options in our welcome email,” she says.
Sally also has plans to expand Southbound’s Indigenous experience offerings to include ‘walking festivals’ that celebrate the heritage of local Songlines (Aboriginal walking routes that link important sites.)
“It’s early days at the moment, but it’s my hope that the festivals will provide another fantastic way to experience the rich Indigenous culture and history of this region,” she said.
Sally Bouckley’s top five things to do in Eurobodalla
- Walking on Country with a Traditional Custodian such as Brinja-Yuin woman Patricia Ellis. “We can learn so much from how Indigenous people have lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years,” Sally says.
- Exploring the Wagonga Inlet with Wagonga Inlet Cruises, which runs trips on the atmospheric Wagonga Princess, thought to be one of the oldest commercially operating vessels in Australia. “We can host pop-up picnics on the boat, which is such a fun way to experience the inlet,” says Sally.
- Hanging out at the Mossy Café at Mossy Point. “I really like their food and the café has such a great atmosphere,” says Sally. “It has that really nice locals feel.”
- Hiking the Bellbrook Farm Loop Walk in Central Tilba. “You walk down a staircase between these huge boulders and it pops out on this beautiful hinterland trail,” says Sally.
- E-biking from Narooma to Tilba. “When you ride into Tilba, it feels like you’re riding into a fairy-tale,” Sally says. “And if you don’t want to ride back, we can pick you up!”