Cast back a few years and the 100-kilometre stretch between Batemans Bay and Narooma could only be described (lovingly) as sleepy. Not anymore. These days the coastal paradise buzzes with life, thanks to the mass migration of 2020 and 2021 that turned coastal towns into culinary talent incubators. Of course Merivale deserves much of the credit for making Narooma happen. The hospitality empire has transformed multiple local institutions into city-slick venues including Queen Chow at The Whale Inn, and Quarterdeck, a go-to for cocktails with a view. Locally owned and run, The Oyster Farmers Daughter is a boutique food trailer on Wagonga Inlet with mismatched furniture and sun umbrellas creating a laidback atmosphere, where delicious food – including incredible oysters – are served from a shipping container kitchen. In Batemans Bay, at the Quays Hotel, The Sandbar marries South Coast produce with French techniques and Japanese flair.