If you're chasing the dream of a weekend getaway in the hinterland, New South Wales' South Coast is where you'll find the perfect spot.
An enchanting collection of crystal-clear waters, deep valleys and green hills, Shoalhaven is a romantic destination just two hours drive south of Sydney. With an emerging foodie scene and plenty of charm, it's the sort of country-town-by-the-sea destination that will make you feel as if you've left the rest of the world behind – even if just for 48 hours.
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Settle in with an evening stroll along Seven Mile Beach located at Shoalhaven Heads, with its long stretches of golden sand and forest surroundings. Wander up to the lookout and watch an incredible sunset over the crashing waves, or do as the locals do and enjoy a picnic in the nearby parklands (we recommend the secluded Gerroa picnic area) after taking a dip in the cooling waters.
On the northern end of Seven Mile Beach, walk across the Crooked River pedestrian bridge and stop in at the Blue Swimmer at Seahaven. A stylish little restaurant serving gourmet dishes, fresh seafood, all-day breakfast and quality coffee, it's well worth a visit.
If you haven't noticed by now, Shoalhaven is a bit of a haven for wine lovers. Driving around the region and stopping at the wineries along the way is a bit of a must-do.
Pay a visit to the Coolangatta Estate Winery – not to be confused with Queensland's Coolangatta region. Dating back to 1822, the winery includes convict-built-cottage accommodation, a nine-hole golf course and plenty of ancient, sprawling trees. Head to the Cellar Door to try the beautiful estate-grown wine and grab a bite to eat at Firegrill.
The Silos Estate is another must-visit winery, with origins dating back to 1870. Visit the 12 acres of vineyard for fine dining and spotting the adorable alpacas wandering the grounds.
Also a fantastic day-trip spot, Two Figs Winery is a boutique establishment that doesn't just offer great wine but also sweeping views of the Shoalhaven River. Try a cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, chambourcin or verdelho variety and take in the breathtaking scenery.
For laid-back dining and delicious meals, venture over the Shoalhaven River into the town of Nowra (just under 20 minutes' drive from Shoalhaven Heads).
By the river, Wharf Rd Restaurant and Bar offers water views, a sophisticated atmosphere and modern Australian fare. With offerings such as hot smoked blue-eye trevalla with white bean puree, broad beans, parsnip chips and anchovy crumb, the restaurant is a favourite with visitors and locals alike.
Further inland, The Butterfactory Restaurant (25 minutes drive from Shoalhaven Heads) is an elegant option set in a 19th-century building. Country views, live music and an impressive menu make the restaurant a highlight of any Shoalhaven getaway.
Take a walk on the wild side and visit Shoalhaven Zoo and Adventure World. Here, you'll see more than 100 species of native and exotic creatures including lions, giant tortoises, dingos and koalas. Top off your getaway with a lion-feeding encounter (if you're brave enough), or get up-close and personal with the sweet-faced marmoset monkeys.
For something a little more relaxed, join Shoalhaven River Cruise for sightseeing along the Crookhaven and Shoalhaven Rivers on their Downriver Cruise. A scenic and chilled way to pass three hours, the cruise includes a classic lunch of fish and chips, and departs from Nowra Public Wharf.
A quiet and picturesque region, Shoalhaven is the ideal destination for a lazy weekend getaway. Escape now, kick back and soak up the sunshine.