Our southern escape

How was your Easter? I’ve been on a five-day South Coast road trip with the youngest. No blogging, no computer, often not even mobile phone reception.

I really needed the break and an adventure in uncharted territory was just what the doctor ordered.

Heading south was an odd choice for me, as most of my Aussie beach holidays have been spent in Northern NSW. I’ve always harboured a weird impression that it’s cold and windswept on the South Coast, a bit like the South Pole.

During my childhood, most school holidays and long weekends at my grandparents house on the riverfront at Hawks Nest.

When I had kids of my own we gathered with my ex-husband’s family at Boambee near Coffs Harbour several times.

And I’ve had some glorious getaways at Forster, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Byron Bay and South West Rocks.

The South Coast has always been a bit of a mystery to me, other than a couple of brief visits to Nowra and Culburra. I haven’t even set foot Newcastle’s sister steel city of Wollongong.

Easter seemed a good time to redress the balance, so I enticed the youngest to join me on a road trip, with the promise of learner driving opportunities and surfing.

We headed off on Thursday morning at about 10.30am and had a pretty good run until we hit Nowra. A big sign told me the government had forked out $3.5million on a recent upgrade to the road, but the traffic congestion suggested it hadn’t been well spent.

Endless roundabouts and highways are not a good combination. Seven long hours after leaving home we arrived at our final destination: Narooma.

I chose Narooma for a very odd reason. I’ve been writing lots of stories about Merivale’s Justin Hemmes buying half the town and declaring it the “new Noosa”. I was curious to discover the sleepy destination that had captivated a billionaire.

So I booked three nights at the motel he bought – The Whale Inn, pictured above – and made reservations at justin’s three restaurants – Lynch’s Hotel, Queen Chow and The Quarterdeck.

The Whale Inn was an instant win for me when we arrived at sunset. It’s perched up on the hill overlooking the bay. We scored a room with a separate living area and balcony overlooking the gorgeous coastline.

The motel isn’t super glamorous, but spacious, well-appointed and the view is fabulous.

After checking in, we wandered across the road to the pub – aka Lynch’s Hotel – for fish pie for dinner (plus pink wine for mum).

Our waiter was from Nowra and agreed with me that it was STOOPID to spend millions of dollars on a new highway right through the middle of town rather than bypassing it.

The old pub was only acquired recently and hasn’t been given a makeover yet. The only Merivale touch is a new menu – out with the Nepalese curries that we’d Googled and were keen to try and in with traditional pub food like parmies and steaks. Including a $99 one!!!!

The food was pleasant but unremarkable. We both agreed we would have preferred a curry.

It was a novelty to be away eating dinner with the youngest, who is quite like me in many ways, but vastly different in lots of others.

For example, she noted during our meal that she was thinking about joining the army for a year after high school because she fancied some hard core training.

Hello, what?

After dinner we pottered back to the motel to watch separate TVs – ABC’s Foreign Correspondent for me and an AFL match for her, before crashing out after our huge drive.

First impression of Narooma: pretty fab. Stay tuned for tales of seals and dumplings tomorrow.

Song of the day: Icehouse “Great Southern Land”

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