Under a canopy of gumtrees, on a sunlit grassy paddock, hundreds of kangaroos are living their best life between bushland and beach. This slice of Australian bush paradise could be a thousand miles from anywhere. But instead, we are in Jervis Bay, two and a half hours from Sydney, a little over two hours from Canberra and, importantly at golden hour, eight minutes from Huskisson’s excellent craft breweries.
Over the past few years, the trend for talent to migrate out of the cities has taken root in Shoalhaven’s fertile ground. This year alone over 1000 new residents have settled in the 4500-square-kilometre stretch between Berry and North Durras, enticed by greener pastures and a slower pace. Many of them are chefs, artisan producers and hospitality professionals who are building on the foodie culture the established players put in place (hello Bannisters Mollymook and Cupitt’s Estate).
Here’s your guide to the Shoalhaven region on the South Coast.
Where to eat in Shoalhaven
Part of the great migration of returning talent is Sharon Menezes who grew up in Shoalhaven and met her chef and sommelier husband Thiago De Paiva Menezes working front of house at Sydney’s Hugos. They bought their riverfront restaurant Ponte Bar & Dining in 2019 and after weathering bushfires and floods have turned it into a destination for quality tapas on the regular and event takeovers by the likes of Massimo Mele and Robert Oatley wines.
In Shoalhaven Heads Chef Simon Evans (ex Caveau) is bring local and native flavours to the beach at Bangalay Dining. Then there’s Small Town Food and Wine, which is soon to switch gears from exceptional multi-course dinners to a New York-inspired day time offering said to be “a little bit of Joe Pesci x Vince Colosimo” in mood. Cupitt’s Estate Restaurant is a go-to for an epic long lunch. Further South in Mollymook, Bannisters Pavilion delivers feel-good vibes to its rooftop with Rooftop Bar and Grill.
Back in Jervis Bay, Wild Ginger Huskisson satisfies elevated Asian cravings. Don’t miss the crispy pork belly on betel leaf or the light and bright cocktails. But first, stop in at Berry for provisions, especially the sourdough and pastries at Milkwood Bakery, legendary warm cinnamon doughnuts at Berry Donut Van, Flavours Shoalhaven (for picnic and holiday house supplies) and Berry Chocolatier for something sweet to snack on.
Where to drink in Shoalhaven
Gather a group, decide who’s driving (and what to buy the designated guide at each stop), because Shoalhaven offers exceptional brewery and cellar door hopping. Soon to open an Sydney sidepiece, Flamin Galah Brewing Co, is a festoon lit brewery and taphouse home to 10 craft beer varieties and Nest food van in Huskisson (Husky to friends). Just a couple of minutes away, Jervis Bay Brewing Co serves up fine house-made beer around firepits with the Five Little Pigs food truck on oysters and snacks. New family-owned pub, Bud’s Tavern is a heightened throwback to the 80s and 90s, in all the best ways while Husky Brewing, is a must-top microbrewery in Nowra. For something more vinous, Two Figs in Shoalhaven Heads samples great reds with river views. To go harder, Tara Distillery on Nowra Hill is a homespun operation welcoming visitors to their property to taste award winning gin and buttery limoncello. Then there’s the new kid on the scene, Old Salt Distillery, which crosses over into eating territory. Found inside an industrial estate in Nowra, the distillery is owned by chefs Terry and Michelle Robinson who between them worked at Quay, Sepia and Tetsuya and now craft spirits and snacks, drawing on their fine-dining past.
The scene of our Kangaroo-rich Shoalhaven arrival is Worrowing Farmhouse, a charming four-bedroom home with fireplace, lofty ceilings and a festoon-lit outdoor table. The farmhouse is one of eight standalone accommodations on the sprawling Worrowing Jervis Bay Estate, making it a magnet for weddings, or multi-generational group hangs. New to Shoalhaven’s accommodation hotlist is Berry View Hotel a chic palm springs style reboot of an old hotel. The CASA Kangaroo Valley is a luxurious eight bedroom, eight bathroom holiday home in a historic corner of Shoalhaven. Back at the beach is Motel Molly, is the South Coast’s answer to the reinvented surf motel trend with it’s dreamy pastel interiors.