At Batemans Bay on NSW’s South Coast the shimmering waters of the Clyde River pour into the Pacific Ocean.
If you’re into seafood, the river estuary is one of Australia’s best locations for shellfish, and you can try super-fresh oysters freshly plucked from the waters.
Batemans Bay is also an ecotourism paradise, where you can hike in mangroves and coastal forest, kayak with migrating whales, rays and dolphins and discover some of the continent’s most ancient rock formations.
Or you could go with the simple joy of a perfect sandy beach, sheltered from the ocean surf by this cosy recess in the coast.
1. Oyster Tasting
For anyone with a taste for oysters, Batemans Bay is as good as it gets.
The Clyde River estuary has hectares of beds producing world-class oysters in the Angasi and Sydney Rock varieties.
There’s a couple of farm gates – Pearly Oyster Bar and Farm and Wray Street Oyster Shed – where you can go right to the source.
At both companies you can head to the bar for freshly shucked oysters or pick up unopened oysters to take with you.
For something completely out of the ordinary you could also paddle off to the oyster beds in the Clyde River National Park for an oyster tasting trip on a kayak.
This experience is available through the tour website GetYourGuide.com.
2. Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens
This beloved attraction showcasing the botanical splendour of the Eurobodalla Region was struck by bushfires in early 2020, but by the time of writing in August 2020 the recovery was remarkable.
The gardens’ most recent buildings, like the herbarium, visitor centre and cafe, were built to the highest fire safety standards and came through intact.
Planted across 42 hectares are some 2,000 species of plants, trees and shrubs that can be admired at display gardens and in an arboretum along walking tracks.
The gardens are also home to a profusion of animals, including kangaroos, bandicoots, wallabies, snakes, echidnas and a rich array of birds.
There’s a superb playspace for kids, a plant sales area and a cafe that would be worth the trip alone.
3. Corrigans Beach
The first beach after the marina is a pleasing arc of soft sand with quite a few things going for it.
The view of the bay is exceptional, with the little Snapper Island a few hundred metres off shore, and the mass of Square Head across the bay to the north.
You can take in the scene from the lookout at Observation Point, which marks the beach’s southern boundary.
If you’re visiting with wee ones, the Corrigans Beach Reserve has what may be the best playground in the city, joined by barbecue and picnic shelters.
There’s a cycleway beginning at the beach and hugging the waterfront for much of the bay, while the popular Birdland Animal Park sits on beach’s margins at the north end.
4. Batemans Bay Heritage Museum
If you’d like to get a feel for the city and its past there’s a great volunteer run museum on the edge of the CBD.
This has a fine location, in Batemans Bay’s former courthouse (1905), with accompanying police station and residence.
The permanent display looks back at the local timber industry, which goes back well over 200 years, and explores the fascinating geology of the South Coast, home to some extremely old rock formations.
You can also learn about the bay’s extensive Aboriginal heritage, and dip into topics like domestic life, education, crime and punishment, medicine, entertainment and military history.
There’s a fun dress-up area, as well as a kids’ space and reading room.
5. Mogo Wildlife Park
The zoo with the largest array of exotic animals in Australia sits less than 10 minutes down the Princes Highway.
Like much of the area, the Mogo Wildlife Park was affected by the bushfires and then the pandemic in 2020, but reopened twice to present its extraordinary collection to the public.
The zoo is praised for the high standard of its enclosures, which seem to merge with the surrounding bushland.
Among the 250+ animals on show are giraffes, meerkats, rhinoceroses, zebras, Sumatran tigers, snow leopards, gorillas and silvery gibbons.
For an additional fee you can book a special animal encounter, from hand-feeding an emperor tamarin or squirrel monkey to getting within centimetres of a lion or tiger.
6. Batemans Bay Snorkelling Trail
The waters along the NSW South Coast are celebrated for their bountiful marine life, which makes Batemans Bay the perfect place to pack a snorkel and some flippers and see what you can find.
At the Batemans Bay Visitor Information Centre you can find out more about the local snorkelling trail, which has three main stops, from Maloneys Beach in the north to the ancient rocks of Guerilla Bay in the south.
Under the waves among the reefs and seaweed beds you’ll come across lobster, grouper and endemic fish like luderick, red morwong and bream.
7. Clyde River National Park
Where the tidal Clyde River twists towards Batemans Bay there’s a national park conserving some nine kilometres of beautiful river frontage.
The park is ripe for exploration, especially on the water where you can take a boat, canoe or kayak to paddle along the course of the river, or the innumerable little waterways that branch off it.
There’s an astonishing amount of birdlife in the red river gums on the banks, and one important inhabitant is the critically endangered swift parrot.
This land has been key to the Walbunja Aboriginal people for thousands of years, leaving behind middens on the water’s edge, composed of shells piled up over generations.
8. Holmes Lookout
A favourite destination in the Clyde River National Park is this lofty vantage point which has drawn visitors for millennia.
The Walbunja people would use what is now Holmes Lookout as a meeting and communication point thanks to its commanding views from the ridgeline, and this place is even part of a local dreaming story.
You can get here in a few minutes from Batemans Bay to hear the kookaburras and parrots and watch the Clyde River snaking into the Pacific Ocean, which opens out to the south-east.
Turn your gaze north-west and you’ll see the outline of the majestic Budawang Range, and if you come late in the day you’ll be treated to a dreamy sunset.
9. Surf Beach
Fronting the suburb of the same name, 10 minutes south of the CBD, is an enticing piece of sandy coast nestled between two headlands and littered with rocks at the north end.
With a big tidal range, Surf Beach is broad and shallow, stooping gently into the pacific.
The beach is patrolled throughout the peak season, and has lots of knee-deep water for little ones to enjoy.
There’s also a small playground close by, and youngsters are sure to enjoy poking around the tidal pools for little marine creatures.
10. Birdland Animal Park
This perennial favourite with tourists was also hit by the bushfires but has remained open.
Set in waterfront bushland and gardens, Birdland Animal Park is has more than 100 species of native birds as well as Australian marsupials like kangaroos, wallabies and wombats.
You’ll make your way past the aviaries and enclosures on winding trails, and there’s a miniature train and an expansive picnic and play area for families.
Twice a day, at 11:30 and 14:30 you’ll be able to handle the park’s harmless snakes and sit with a docile wombat in your lap.
11. Batemans Bay Cycleway
There’s a couple of places in town (Batemans Bay Cycles, Region X) where you can hire a bike for an easy ride around the bay.
The bayfront is on the south side of the estuary is edged by a continuous paved cycleway separate from Beach Road.
The terrain is flat and suitable for cyclists of all ages, and there are sensational views of the yachts in the marina and the hills across the bay.
You’ll find no shortage of places along Beach Road where you can pause for a cuppa or fish and chips.
12. Cullendulla Creek Nature Reserve
Over the Clyde River Bridge there’s an area of beautiful protected nature just east of Surfside Beach.
The reserve covers a series of rare dune formations known as cheniers, which are long, low ridges rising no more than six metres and tracing the shoreline.
There are two main walking routes threading through the reserve.
The Beach Track takes you to a beautiful patch of sand on Batemans Bay, ideal for a swim or if you want to launch a kayak or canoe for a paddle up the creek.
For more insight into those dune formations, the Mangrove Walk is partially on elevated boardwalks and sprinkled with information about this delicate ecosystem.
As you go you may catch sight of Australian white ibises pecking around the shore.
13. Broulee Beach
Go south from Batemans Bay and there’s another delightful beach around 15 minutes away.
Broulee Beach is a long crescent of sand defended to the south by Broulee Island and Mossy Point to the north.
The sand is spotless, and the foreshore has been kept clear of heavy development, so it will feel like you’re in the bush even though there are shops, surf schools and homes hiding behind the treeline.
Broulee Beach has gentle surf, and because it’s on a very gentle gradient, children will have a lot of shallow water to play in.
Reachable on foot, the island on the south end is joined to the mainland by a sandbar and offers a habitat for birds like the white-bellied sea eagle and the superb fairy wren.
14. Region X
More on the local company Region X, which organises a wealth of half, single and multiday nature experiences around the unspoiled South Coast.
Many of the these take place on the water in kayaks, with activities as diverse as glass bottom kayak trips, oyster tasting, whale watching (May to November) and wildlife encounters with dolphins and seabirds.
You can also head off into national parks for guided hikes and bike rides, and mix paddling and hiking on epic three or five-day adventures, most of which depart and return to Batemans Bay.