The sea dictates the flavours and stories of the aptly named Sapphire Coast.  

Story Therese Hall  Photos Trent van der Jagt

The sea is your chaperone when touring the Sapphire Coast. It accompanies travellers for most of the 140km stretch of the far South Coast of New South Wales, from Bermagui to the Victorian border. But the natural sparkle of this region doesn’t end at its shoreline. An almost continuous chain of national parks hugs the coast, providing a beautifully uncivilised green buffer.

And, to cap off the experience, a string of small towns offer places to stay, plates full of seafood, some serious beer brewing, city-standard coffee and a band of friendly locals.

Known as the ‘humpback highway’, this stretch of Australia’s east coast is a prime whale-watching locale. According to Lana Wills, who runs Eden-based Cat Balou Cruises with her husband Brad, it is the whales’ return trip to Antarctica that brings the most sightings. “They slow down to rest and play with their calves in protected bays on their southern migration,” Lana says. Between early September and mid-November, the Wills provide a ‘whale guarantee’ on their whale-watching trips (offering a return trip for free or a half-fare refund). “Brad has very keen eyes,” Lana laughs. 

In a refreshing reverse trend to most native animal statistics, Lana claims that whale numbers have dramatically increased. “Our last whale census estimated that 33,000 whales – mostly humpbacks – pass on their seasonal migration,” she says. “When commercial whaling finished about 90 years ago, there were just 500 left.” 

Though whale-watching is the region’s scene-stealer, there’s a raft of other water-based activities on tap, such as oyster shucking, kayaking, surfing and fishing. In fact, if you miss out on sighting a whale, you’ll be compensated by having your fill of oysters, as Sydney rock oysters can be plucked from the unspoiled waters of Merimbula and Pambula lakes all year round (though they are at their best between November and August). 

This story excerpt is from Issue #127

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2019