Travel

Pastures, Beaches, and Oysters Await in This South Coast Town

A sleepy seaside escape awaits.

Narooma road trip
Photo: Destination NSW

The Grand Pacific Drive takes travellers from Sydney to the South Coast. While some stop at Batemans Bay, there’s another sleepy, coastal town further down the iconic road trip, dubbed Narooma, which is derived from the Yuin term for ‘clear blue water.’

MORE: Hit The Road With 11 Of New South Wales’ Most Scenic Drives

Some would speculate it got its name from the entrance to Narooma, which boasts turquoise inlet waters as soon as you cross the bridge into town, and a backdrop of Gulaga Mountain. The northern side of the inlet is the quiet side, home to boatsheds and fresh local oysters. The south side is more boisterous with oceans, whales, and beaches.

If you’re ready to swim with seals, take long walks on the beach, and shuck fresh oysters, here’s our guide to the south coast town of Narooma.

Grand Pacific Drive
Photo: Destination NSW

The road trip

Hit the Grand Pacific Drive through Royal National Park and over the picturesque Sea Cliff Bridge to journey through New South Wales south coast. Stop in at Kiama for a fish and chip lunch, before continuing along the road to Jervis Bay for a swim and more beach views. You will also find the whitest sand in the world here. Once you’ve soaked up the magic that is Jervis Bay, hit the road until you find Narooma. The trip should take approximately five hours without stops, so tack on a few extra hours for the stops. 

Fur seals swimming around Montague Island, Narooma.
Photo: Destination NSW

Things to do

As soon as you drive over the bridge, you’re immediately seduced by the sparkling Wagonga Inlet. Expect to see pelicans, kayakers, and stingrays feeding. Life here is easy, and slow. Sit back, take in the sights, the friendly locals, and the fresh produce. The Narooma coastline is dotted with beaches, including Narooma Surf Beach where you can see ancient rock formations of Glasshouse Rocks and Pillow Lava. You will find a pretty picnic area at the southern end of Handkerchief Beach and can hit the course at the scenic Narooma Golf Club

Visit Montague Island Nature Reserve to snorkel with fur seals and spot the historic lighthouse, where you can stay for the night. Between May and November, you’re very likely to spot a humpback whale. 

A must-see is Bar Rock Lookout, which overlooks a famous rockface called Australia Rock. When Australia Rock is viewed at just the right angle, the hole in the rock bears a resemblance to the shape of the Australian continent (without Tasmania). You will also be treated to views of Bar Beach and a stunning visual palette of blues and greens.

narooma what to eat
Photo: Narooma Oyster Festival

What to eat and drink

Narooma is at the heart of the Oyster Coast, offering some of the best oysters in the state. The Oyster Farmers Daughter offers a waterfront location to enjoy lunch or afternoon snacks with cocktails. Expect fresh oysters made every which way from natural to Kilpatrick, fish and chips, a prawn bucket, and lobster cooked daily. 

The Whale Inn offers 17 spacious rooms in a resort-style accommodation, and will soon have Elsa Marie and Julian May of Chez Dominique behind the kitchen. Their intimate paddock to plate bistro pop-up will open in late July, and focuses on vegetables from local producers with fresh, locally caught oysters, and other seafood. 

The Quarter Deck is situated in Forsters Bay and offers a seaside vibe, with tiki features. Enjoy a tiki bar, followed by classic seafood dishes, local oysters, and more. On the shores of Corunna Lake, visit Tilba Valley Winery and Ale House, which has a cellar door, lunch menu, and live music.

The Montague Island Lightstation on Montague Island, Narooma.
Photo: Eurobodalla Coast Tourism / @eurobodalla

Where to stay

There are plenty of accommodation options in Narooma from hotels to self-contained houses and Inns. The Whale Inn is a great option, situated in the middle of town. If you’re looking for a farm stay, Clark Bay Cottages is only 5km from Narooma, and Oakleigh Farm Cottages is set on 63 stunning acres with ocean views. You can set up camp at Dalmeny Campground, or sleep in the Montague Island Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage. What could be more romantic?

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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