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Take a cruise down the South Coast to art trails, juicy burgers and epic blowholes.
Heading south of Sydney, it's not until you hit Kiama that you really reach the South Coast. With just 12,000 people and backdropped by green, rolling hills, it's the coast's first seaside town proper (rather than a suburb of Wollongong).
The most famous attraction is the Blowhole, a natural rock formation that sends water spouting 20 metres into the air. But, when you're done Instagramming that, there are plenty more adventures to be had — from the 22-kilometre Kiama Coastal Walk to arts trails to markets galore. Plus, a short trip inland will take you to the 19th century buildings and classic country pubs of Jamberoo, while Gerringong village is ten kilometres south.
Find all this just a 90-minute drive south of Sydney. Here's your guide to a Kiama weekender.
It's pretty much mandatory to make your first stop the Blowhole. After all, people have been travelling here to see it for more than 100 years. For the most powerful action, swing by when the tide's high and the swell is rolling in. You'll get beautiful coastal views while you're at it and, if you're keen for a dip, there's a rockpool close by. Less known, but also worth checking out, is Little Blowhole, found just south on Marsden Head.
Next up, you might want to conquer the Kiama Coast Walk. All in all, it covers 22 sea-hugging kilometres, starting at Minnamurra River mouth and finishing at Gerringong. The way is dotted with beaches, headlands, basalt and patches of rainforest. Plus, there's easy access to four train stations, so you can walk just one section and get back to your car easily.
If some scenes are looking a bit familiar, chances are you've seen them in Lloyd Rees's paintings. He owned a house at Werri Beach, where he painted works like Fire Haze Over Gerringong and The Road to Berry, which are now both at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Loads of artists continue to find inspiration in local landscapes and, on the first weekend of every month, some open their studios to the public. You can check out their work, chat about their practice and maybe even sharpen up your skills at a workshop. Another place to get an art fix is the Kiama Makers and Growers Market, held on the fourth Saturday of every month at Black Beach.
Travel 11 kilometres inland and you'll get to Jamberoo. This 1500-person village is best known for Jamberoo Action Park, where you can ride a bobsled. For more thrills, an up-close look at a forest canopy and cracking district views, visit the Illawarra Fly, home to Australia's highest zip line. Or, for a more sedate outdoors experience, do some exploring in Budderoo National Park. The 4.2-kilometre Falls Walk takes in waterfalls, rainforest and canyon views.
The best caffeine hit around isn't in Kiama, but in Gerringong. The Blue Espresso Bar is a tiny cafe, housed in an aquamarine weatherboard cottage at 135 Belinda Street and open 7 days. Every seven days brings a new 'coffee of the week' — from Brazilian Daterra Monte Cristo to Kenyan pea berry. Match yours with a gourmet bakery treat.
Just down the road in Gerroa, you'll find The Blue Swimmer. It was bought by Three Blue Ducks operations manager, Paul Dewhurst, earlier this year, and Kiama chef Shaun Smith oversees the kitchen. As you might expect, there's a big emphasis on seafood. So, tuck into steamed mussels with white bone broth, saffron, carrots, cannellini beans and sourdough or chilli-prawn spaghetti. Breakfast is served all day, too.
Meanwhile, in the Mercure Gerringong's restaurant, Bella Char, another local chef, Jacinda Yates, has put together a seasonally-driven menu inspired by the South Coast. Sink into a red chair in the cosy, leather-and-wood splashed space and take your time over baked Australian scallops with cauliflower puree, salsa verde and toasted garlic crumbs.
Back in Kiama, there's some decent casual cafe fare around. Hit Flour Water Salt for baked goodness or try the Hungry Monkey for a superfood-charged breakfast and a wide selection of burgers, like the Po' Boy, which comes with cajun fried chicken, cabbage slaw, jalapenos, parmesan and aioli. Also, right next door to the lighthouse, there's Milk and Honey. Here, the focus is on fresh, straight-forward generous dishes, with house-made ingredients, like brekkie burritos, eggs benedict and muesli. The coffee is Allpress.
The Sebel Harbourside is perched, as the name suggests, right on Kiama Harbour. 80 rooms are spread over three levels, with many overlooking the water and, for groups, there are two-bedroom apartments with country-sized kitchens. A warm, yet contemporary, aesthetic runs throughout — think red-toned woods, plantation shutters and bucket loads of natural light. If you don't feel like going anywhere much, settle into the onsite Blue Diamond Bar and Bistro for a harbourside cocktail.
To stay on Blowhole Point, book a Kiama Harbour Cabin. Available in one-, tw0- and three-bedroom layouts, these cute hideaways come with water views, private balconies, electric barbecues and spa baths. There's also a tennis court onsite and the Blowhole is just 200 metres away, so you can max your chances of seeing it in action.
Meanwhile, on Airbnb you're likely to find a super deal on a beach house. The 170-year-old Driftwood, for example, is a classic South Coast cottage, with high ceilings, a fire place, a big ol' verandah, timber floors and a central outdoor room. Up to nine people can sleep here at once and it's perfectly located for exploring the Blowhole, local beaches and the town centre. A fancier option is Somerville, an epic, just-renovated, four-bedroom house with 270-degree ocean views. There's a big swimming pool, loads of patio space for lounging about outside, gym facilities, two massive TVs with Netflix and even a pizza oven. Nine people can fit in here, too.
Top image: The Hungry Monkey.
Published on August 01, 2016 by Jasmine Crittenden