Narooma Oyster Festival
For Australian foodies the chance to visit “Rock Oyster Country” for its annual Narooma Oyster Festival has long been compelling. In recent years, over 5000 visitors a year have attended, directly contributing almost $1 million to the local economy as they’ve eaten and drunk their way across the region (consuming 45,000 oysters in the process at the 2019 festival alone!).
Now, a new non-profit organisation, Narooma Rocks, from the team behind the Narooma Oyster Festival is set to ramp up the region’s food culture year-round.
From 2021, locals and visitors will be able to take part in regular food-focused events based around local harvest, passionate producers, indigenous ingredients, and of course, Australia’s best rock oysters well beyond the annual Festival itself.
It’s all part of the organisation’s mission to showcase the area’s produce and tourism gems, while promoting the Narooma region as a serious food destination.
“Over the last few years we saw events like the Oyster Festival’s long table dinners sell out well ahead of the festival,” says Chair of Narooma Rocks, Cath Peachey.
“We will still be delivering the oyster festival everyone loves but adding a suite of other events: pop ups that will deliver experiences you can only do once,” she says.
The Narooma Rocks team used the postponement of the 2020 Oyster Festival due to COVID to good effect – it gave them the opportunity to accelerate a three-year event strategy so it can launch full steam in early 2021.
According to regional tourism and events expert, Linda Tillman from Tilma Group, the move to add year-round, boutique events is a good move.
“One of the key trends in tourism at the moment is the immersive experience. People no longer want to be passive: they want to feel part of something, get their hands dirty and take away an experience that has created rich memories,” she says.
Linda believes food is a great way to introduce new visitors to the Eurobodalla, a region already loved for its superb coastal experiences.
“Food is high on the list of what consumers are looking for when they go on holidays, and visitors also want the backstory – they want to meet the farmers and connect. This has all the right elements to make something really special,” Linda says.
With the first events likely kicking off from March 2021, a couple of months ahead of the 2021 Narooma Oyster Festival, scouts from Narooma Rocks are currently out taking trips to find secret spots “only the locals would know about”.
“We’ve been working our way across locations from headlands to historic farms. We have hidden boat sheds, secret islands, a dairy property and oyster sheds – there’s a list of about 25 places we are looking into,” says Cath.
She’s been here for twenty years and loves it. But over the past few years, she’s enjoyed seeing an influx of visitors, especially those prepared to travel a little further down the coast than previously, for its local produce, great seafood and clear waterways.
“I always want to come back here: it’s good for your soul.”