With so many activities available on land and sea, the only problem for visitors to Narooma is fitting it all into one trip.
When a coastal town’s name translates to the local Yuin phrase for ‘clear blue water’, it’s obvious from the get-go that you’ve chosen your destination well. But while it’s tempting to immediately jump into Narooma’s glistening aquamarine waters, they also make a beautiful backdrop: in this location, there are dozens of memorable activities to do, and many of them involve staying dry.
Exploring Narooma by land is an excellent beginning. Start with Surf Beach, where ancient geological formations make this area one of the most photographed on the NSW South Coast.
At the southern end of Surf Beach is Glasshouse Rocks, accessed at low tide via a short walk from the carpark around the headland. Instagrammers love this spot, partly for the monoliths, ancient geological formations dating back 510-440m years, and partly for the magnificent sunrise captures it offers up.
Australia Rock, a natural formation (yes, it’s in the shape of Australia) sits at the base of another top scenic vista, Bar Rock Lookout. Take the wooden stairs from Australia Rock up to the lookout for spectacular views over the stunning blues of Wagonga Inlet.
You don’t need to be an Instagrammer to notice that Narooma’s coastline is dotted with great photo opportunities. On the self-guided e-bike tour called Pedal to Produce visitors will be tempted to pull out their camera dozens of times. This three hour, 21-kilometre ride along the Narooma to Dalmeny Coastal Trail combines the spectacular sites of the coastline with wildlife spotting (including whale watching in spring) and picnicking on local produce. The experience pairs perfectly with a beverage from Big Niles Brewing Co, the local brewhouse.
The 350m Mill Bay Boardwalk is another way to get close to Narooma’s natural beauty without getting wet. The Boardwalk hugs the water’s edge on the northern side of Wagonga Inlet. Don’t forget to look down – large schools of fish and stingrays are often spotted in the waters below.
To get even closer to Narooma’s wildlife (and with plenty of opportunities for getting wet), take the short boat ride to Montague Island (Barunguba). This nature reserve sits nine kilometres off-shore and is such a sanctuary for wildlife that it’s been described as the East Coast’s Galapagos Islands. Accessible only by boat, book on a daily charter to access this magnificent natural wonder.
Home to NSW’s largest colony of New Zealand fur seals, Montague Island is a focal point for a wide variety of nature-based experiences. On everyone’s bucket list is a snorkel with the playful seals.
New experiences are often best relived over a good meal, and as foodies soon discover, Narooma offers an abundance of memorable dining options.
For 20 years Narooma’s locals have headed to Quarterdeck to catch up and celebrate. Now acquired by Merivale, the newly revamped restaurant and tiki bar boasts the perfect position on Wagonga Inlet. The best time to visit is dusk watching sunset with a daquiri in hand.
Not far away, Merivale’s Queen Chow has taken up residence at The Whale Inn. The restaurant’s fresh take on traditional Chinese food features its signature dishes like dim sum, honey king prawns, as well as new plates inspired by the produce of the surrounding area: Wagonga Oysters with rice wine mignonette, local crayfish with XO sauce and local sashimi with mandarin ponzu are just a few examples.
At Salt South Coast the menu changes seasonally, but local, sustainable produce and marina views feature year-round. Up the hill at Paul’s on the Course, part of Narooma’s Golf Course, brasserie dining offers clifftop views across the Pacific Ocean. Like so many restaurants in this foodie-friendly town, local and fresh are the feature.
Speaking of locals, you don’t get more local than Natasha Clutterbuck, fourth generation oyster farmer. Her boutique café, Oyster Farmer’s Daughter, tucked away on the shores of the Wagonga Inlet, sells coffee, juice, seafood as well as the fresh oysters her father, Brian Coxon, has been farming for 40 years.
Of course, Coxon is not the only oyster farmer in Narooma: the area is so well known for its oyster heritage it now hosts the annual Narooma Oyster Festival. On the first Saturday in May, thousands of visitors join the growers, chefs and producers to celebrate. While the oyster is the obvious star of the show, there’s plenty of other sustainable produce on offer: fish, shellfish, abalone, urchins, kelp, dairy and olives.
It all makes for an impressive visit. But as you leave Narooma behind, don’t be sad. Instead, look back at that clear, blue water and say out loud what you already know in your heart: “I’ll be back.”