With its 100 beaches – including the fine white sands lining Jervis Bay – aquamarine waters, whale watching and national parks, Shoalhaven is a nature-lover’s paradise less than three hours’ drive from Sydney and Canberra.
Its mild maritime climate has also helped it evolve as one of Australia’s key emerging wine regions. Not only that, it’s also a thriving craft brewing centre and home to Australia’s largest slow food movement, with a host of enticing restaurants and cafes in seaside towns such as Mollymook and Shoalhaven Heads, and hinterland villages like Milton, Berry and Kangaroo Valley.
Wineries and moreThe Shoalhaven Wine Coast grows a diverse array of varietals including chambourcin, merlot and shiraz, semillon, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. White wines are fruit-driven and well-balanced, while the medium-bodied reds have fine tannins and elegant fruit characters. There are nine cellar doors, and most are family owned, so you’re likely to meet the producers when you visit.
One of Shoalhaven’s gourmet trailblazers, and founder of South Coast Slow Food, is Rosie Cupitt of Cupitt’s Estate outside Ulladulla. She learned her minimal-intervention winemaking techniques from Alphonse Mellot in Sancerre, and now her son Wally crafts their wine from estate-grown grapes as well as those sourced from Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Orange and the Canberra District. As Cupitt Estate’s cheesemaker, Rosie makes haloumi, feta, gorgonzola, washed rind and other artisanal cheeses.
Today, Cupitt’s Estate offers wines, craft beers and cheeses in the heritage creamery on-site, and you can dine at their farm-to-table restaurant or enjoy pizzas on the terrace with views over the vineyards to Burrill Lake. There’s live music on Sunday afternoons and you can also stay the night in one of the new luxe accommodation pods.
Historic Coolangatta Estate is the most awarded winery in Shoalhaven with their wines made by the esteemed team at Tyrrell’s. Taste their Wollstonecraft Semillon, explore the convict-built structures of the first European settlement on the South Coast, and feast on local produce at the restaurant.
Go for a wine and cheese picnic (try the chambourcin) at the off-grid Lyrebird Ridge Organic Winery and sample shiraz at Two Figs Winery overlooking the Shoalhaven River. Sample the chardonnay/arneis blend at Mountain Ridge Wines and enjoy spectacular views from their paddock-to-plate restaurant. In the Kangaroo Valley foothills, savour high tea and rosé on the lawn and lunch at Cambewarra Estate, and sample the wines, jams and nuts at Yarrawa Estate.
Silos Estate, close to Berry, has a casual restaurant and alpaca farm, and dog-friendly Bawley Vale Estate (don’t miss the sparkling rosé), with its farmyard animals, are particularly popular with families.
Beer lovers are spoiled for choice with new craft breweries like Flamin Galah Brewing, with its adjoining food van at Jervis Bay, and Nowra’s Husky Brewing and South Yeast Brewing, plus old favourites such as Dangerous Ales at the Milton Hotel and Jervis Bay Brewing.
Restaurants and cafesMollymook’s popular Rick Stein at Bannister’s is now one of many dining drawcards in the region. Nearby is the casual Bannisters Rooftop Bar and Grill, and Matt Upson’s Asian fusion joint Gwylo. Beside the Ulladulla Harbour, Ruse serves up edgy Central American dishes alongside tequila cocktails.
In Milton, Alex Delly works with local produce at Small Town Food and Wine while The Milton Hotel delivers top pub grub, craft brews, and local live bands. Down a country road, Milk Haus offers wholefood café fare with produce from their kitchen garden.
At Shoalhaven Heads, Bangalay Dining offers inspired creations with locally foraged native ingredients, and Jim Wild’s Oysters is an institution at Greenwell Point.
Bangalay Dining at Shoalhaven Heads.
In the Kangaroo Valley, The General Cafe makes its own sourdough, kombucha and creative dishes, while Hampden Deli is a great lunch spot, often surprising with pop-up dinners and also offering cooking classes.
Popular venues in Berry include South on Albany and The Garden Berry, while Far Meadow Table offers cooking workshops showcasing local produce.
Where to stayOne of Shoalhaven’s newest experiences is the Art Museum and Bridge for Creative Learning at Bundanon, the bequest of Australian artist Arthur Boyd. Located on 1000 acres of bush overlooking the Shoalhaven River near Nowra, the Discover Bundanon package is a weekend immersion with accommodation, fine dining, and tours of the museum, homestead and studio.
Cupitt’s Estate, outside Ulladulla, has new accommodation pods with living spaces, kitchenettes, comfortable beds, designer bathrooms and decks.
The luxury accommodation pods at Cupitt's Estate.
Bannisters by the Sea and Bannisters Pavilion in Mollymook offer rooms and suites in a fresh coastal palette. Their newest property, The Jackson Ranch, sports five cabins, a Wild West-inspired event space and saloon bar tucked into bushland on Bawley Point.
Banaglay Villas has 16 private villas with fireplaces and north-facing decks set beside the Bangalay Sand Forest behind Seven Mile Beach in Shoalhaven Heads.
Paperbark Camp is a peaceful bush retreat with luxe tented accommodation and an airy treetop restaurant in Jervis Bay.
Barranca features four sleek luxury villas in picturesque Kangaroo Valley with stunning escarpment views.
Top image credit: Cupitt's Estate.