Overnight stays: Tween Waters Holiday Park, Merimbula (3 nights); Dalmeny Camp Ground, Dalmeny (2 nights); Holiday Haven, Burril Lake (2 nights); Green Patch Campground, Jervis Bay (2 nights)
Growing up in Tamworth, once a year we would drive 10 hours to the NSW south coast to visit my grandparents and uncle and aunty for one of many annual family holidays. There we would hit the beach, golf course or lake where grandfather taught us how to catch bream and flathead. Needless to say this meant my memories of southern NSW were nothing but fond. Loz (and therefore Liv) had never been, so was pretty pumped to finish off our epic year lazing about, enjoying the unspoilt beaches and laid back lifestyle.
When you’re on the final days and weeks of your trip, you need to be fussy about where you stay, and for how long. At the beginning of the trip we would have taken our time, dropping into every cute town along the coast for a couple of nights. But with a return to work and real life creeping up quicker than Stroms on Instagram, we wanted to ensure we were staying in the best parks in the best towns, close to stuff and beaches.
We decided on Merimbula for our first stop, a nostalgic place for Deb, who used to holiday there as a child. We found a good park with essential services such as a jumping pillow and waterslides, between the beach and lake, where we settled in for a few nights of nothing.
Beach, bingo, basic shopping, fishing (unsuccessfully), chilling, and life-planning occupied most of our time as we wound down the intensity of the trip.
Loz and I maximised having babysitters on-hand and sat in for a ripping seafood platter and glass of Clare Valley Riesling overlooking the water. The platter was spilling with prawns, fish, scallops, squid, bugs, smoked salmon, and fruit to top it off. We are easily swayed by a seafood platter and we estimate this one as the best we’ve ever nailed – simply delicious.
The big cheese
As we rolled into the Bega Cheese Factory, which is a standard must-do on the south coast, I promised the girls this is where The Big Cheese is. Australia loves ‘big’ things, most of which are rubbish. But I have this weird memory of seeing a big cheese at the Bega factory from when we used to pass through as kids. Turns out I made this memory up, and there is no such thing as The Big Cheese (apart from the boyfriend who brings every conversation back to how beautiful his girlfriend is).
Apart from the lack of oversized cheese, the factory was good and the cheese mostly delicious.
As I mentioned above, we were by this point being super selective on which towns to stay in. We had The Gui in our sights a day or two prior, but finally agreed to give it a miss, as the internet did little justice for the town.
We cruised through to check it out and fell in love with it. A nice little Main Street with pubs, cafes, a fish coop, vibe, and a beautiful beach with a caravan park not far away. But our heads had already written Bermie off, so we decided for lunch only, overlooking the water, and to keep on keepin’ on. Had we been here at the beginning of our trip, we would have easily pulled up for a few nights.
The Narooma part of the coast is where all my childhood memories were born. My grandparents lived in the smaller town just up the road of Dalmeny, and my uncle and aunty were at Kianga, also small and just out of town.
We had agreed as a group to stay in Dalmeny, mostly because the caravan park has a ripping view of the beach, but is also just around the corner from where Nanna and Grandfather used to reside.
On our way through to settling in, we cruised around Narooma for a little while, with our first stop Australia Rock. This attraction, like most of those we’ve visited this year, was one I had no idea where the recommendation came from, or why. As the name suggests, it’s effectively a rock cutout that looks like Australia. It’s pretty impressive, even at the end of a lap of Oz where you’re acting like a spoiled brat.
As I wandered over to snag a photo I noticed a sign on the side of the road that said seals sometimes occupy this area. Suddenly my interest was piqued, and I wandered along the jetty searching for seals, while the girls waited in the car, not particularly keen on doing anything except getting to the caravan park.
I walked all of about 100 metres and spotted a seal only metres away, lazing on a rock. And then another a few metres away, and another, and a couple of pups playing in the water just up the way. This was incredible! So I raced back to the WomBatmobile, grabbed the girls, and returned to our seal mates for a bigger sticky beak. What I couldn’t believe was how close we were able to get to these wild animals, seemingly at peace with humans getting all upon their business. You pay $80 each to get this close on Kangaroo Island, and we came across this by accident! I don’t remember this as child – they either weren’t there then or we didn’t know about them…?
Tripping down memory lane
I vividly remember Nanna and Grandfather’s and Jude and Howie’s houses, and was excited to check them out after not being in this neck of the woods for at least 15 years. If it wasn’t for Google I reckon I’d still be searching for them, but thankfully she led the way to their front doors, where I stood like a creep with a camera, across the road.
Dalmeny really is bit of a nothing town for young people. There’s an IGA, caravan park. bowling club and rough beach. It’s sleepier than a shutdown US Government and seeing people walking around is rare. But we were happy to use the caravan park with a cracking view as a base for a couple of days, while Loz and Deb got their bingo legs back on, and Liv and I went for some beach time and to check out the surrounding sights (including the Narooma ice creamery).
It is a bloody beautiful part of the world! The waterways are spectacular, the town of Narooma vibrant, ice cream delicious, and beaches awesome, especially Bar Beach which is protected from the winds.
We also all revisited our seal mates and went to find Nanna and Grandfather’s names on the honour boards at the Dalmeny Bowling Club. I managed to find Nanna’s name, but it seems the pre-1986 boards had gone missing in renovations over the years, so I couldn’t brag under the boards about being the grandson of some of of the finest bowlers to ever grace Dalmeny’s greens.
Loz and Deb were back in the bingo winner’s circle, bringing home enough value in vouchers to reignite Argentina’s economy. So we all agreed to hit Club Narooma for our final dinner for a buzzing pre-Christmas atmosphere with cheap ribs and ham raffles.
500 reasons to holiday with your in-laws/parents
Loz and I have fond memories of family holidays growing up. But as we get older, holidaying with our families has become less common.
Having Deb and Stu join us for a few weeks at the end of our trip was great. Not only did we get to see them again after the most part of a year, but they were kind enough to babysit on a few occasions, shared the cooking, drove us everywhere, and provided happy hour snacks (showing us how to Strom). But what we enjoyed most about travelling with them was the games of 500 we played every night. Stu has played his entire life and Loz and I have known how to play since we were kids. The game was foreign to Deb, but she was excited to give it a go and make a game of it.
This mixture of experience in the group led to endless amounts of unpredictability, Mezzaire calls, and laughter. We will miss those games 😔.
He’s a Bodalla fella
After a failed attempt at reaching Honeymoon Bay, we got back on track to continue our northward journey, now within a day’s drive from home, with reality rushing.
I remember an ad jingle from sometime in the 90s for Bodalla dairy products. It went something along the lines of “he’s a Bodalla fella”, implying that Bodalla dairy products make you overtly obvious that you’re different. Doesn’t even rhyme when I look back on it now; not sure why it’s stuck with me?
Anyway, I had to see what a Bodalla fella looked like, so we pulled into the dairy on the side of the highway for a pie and chips, washed down by possibly the world’s greatest thickshake, and followed by some ridiculously good cheese and ice-cream tasting. This place was awesome! I reckon I walked out of there and people looked at me thinking, “wow, he’s a Bodalla fella”.
Through the cute town of Mogo and into more nostalgia, we arrived in Burril Lake. This is another place we used to visit annually as a family, with a large group of friends, camping for Easter. The thousand kids would put on a show each night for the adults, while they adulted playing games we couldn’t understand.
I can’t say the town or caravan park looked anything like my memory. Sure, it was nice enough, right on the water and the weather was great; but it was pretty bogan, and the beach wasn’t particularly swimmable, with more rips than a brand new pair of Diesel jeans.
We decided on just two nights, giving us enough time to have one lust hurrah with Deb and a Stu, and to see the place for all it was. I even battled on a kayak on the lake for an hour or so. The water colour and temp was delicious.
The pool also got a good workout, and for our last night we watched Elf on the caravan park’s outdoor projector to get into the Christmas spirit. The local shop’s fish and chips were second to only a selected few in Australia, punching well above their weight.
Continuing north, we knew we only had a few more sleeps left in the WomBatmobile. I had heard great things about the little sleepy town of Mollymook, and we loved what we saw, but with no caravan parks or campsites, it remains a place to revisit, only a few hours drive from home for a weekender.
I had only heard of Hyams Beach a few years ago, when claims were made of it having the whitest sand in the world. That’s a massive claim, almost like calling 90% of news outlets fake, of which the US President seems to believe.
This particular claim, most likely made by the local council to promote tourism in the area, seems to have worked ridiculously well, much to the disgust of the locals. It was a sunny Sunday and we rolled in mid-morning, expecting to find a drive-thru park as we always have at a beach. But this was hectic, super hectic. There were more cars here than are built in Australia, spilling into all streets like partygoers leaving a nightclub at 5am.
Hmmm, we were starting to think whether we would have to miss this much anticipated stretch of sand. Until, voila, just our luck, two cars right on the beach pulled out at the same time, allowing enough space for the WomBatmobile to manoeuvre a 26-point turn and slot in perfectly.
The beach is pretty damn good, and the sand it pretty damn white. But for us it was no Turquoise Bay, Greens Pool, Nudey Beach, or Whitehaven. It was a beauty, and absolutely worth a few hours’ visit, especially being so close to Sydney, but sadly the ‘whitest sand in the world’ wasn’t quite what it was cracked up to be. The water, however, was clear and deliciously warm, so I really shouldn’t rag on it – definitely one of the nicest beaches in the country.
Crossing the border
Weirdly, Jervis Bay is actually a separate territory from NSW. Turns out it was setup at some point in the past as federal land, to give coastal access to the government, or something like that. Why am I only learning this now, at 32 years old?!
Anyway, there’s a border crossing and everything, and we had to line up in the motorhome to enter, and pay a fee (the territory is also National Park). We were keen to check out some of the beaches in the bay, with Murray’s Beach our intended destination. From there we would return to NSW and continue towards Kiama, for our final nights in the WomBatmobile.
Along the way we spotted a sign to Green Patch Campground and figured we’d check out the beach there, with no plans to stay in a campsite; we wanted all the luxuries of power, water, and proximity to town for our final nights.
But when we arrived at the campground we fell in love, we had to stay. And so we did, as is the beauty of travel, we found a ripping site amongst the possums and peacocks, close to the pretty beach, and settled in for a couple of nights.
Again, we didn’t do much except laze around, swim, sunbake, and admire our recently learnt fact that peacocks can fly, and their calling noise is incredible.
It was the perfect ending for our (almost) perfect motorhome. Yes we’ve had a few things go awry through the year, but on reflection, when you’ve jammed a few year’s driving into 12 months, all the expenses are condensed and highlighted.
But our trip wasn’t over just yet – we had plenty of catching up to do with family and friends before Christmas, so were still well and truly in holiday mode.