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Published November 21st 2017
Calm waterways with culture, scenery and wildlife
Culburra Beach has been a holiday destination for decades and over that time, the road winding down from Sydney through Wollongong, Kiama and Nowra has been massively improved, taking an hour off the journey. For the scenic route, turn off at Gerringong and enjoy the spectacular view of seven-mile beach, native bush, dairy farms and the winding Shoalhaven river.
The train offers even more scenic views as it ventures much closer to the coastline. Emerging from the few tunnels, one can spy some stunning tiny beaches and dramatic cliff drops from Stanwell Top, right down into Bomaderry. Expect to change trains at Kiama and the journey may even include a bus diversion on weekends, as they maintain the railway lines. A great adventure if you have the time.
But once you take the Culburra turn off from Nowra, you can meander through dairy farms where cows might cross after milking. You can also buy fresh produce and homemade jams to give you a 'taste' of the rural life. Be sure to look out for kangaroos if you drive near dawn or dusk as they are in abundance out here.
Culburra Beach boasts a large camping ground, a small motel, B&Bs and plenty of holiday lets for accommodation choices. While several cafes, a Chinese restaurant, a supermarket and the local bowling club provide food and entertainment for all ages, the big attraction for me is the waterside walks. With only 3,500 residents, it retains that village feel in the off-season. There are tennis and squash courts for the more active and it offers native fauna and flora - the bird life is colourful and nature lovers or photographers will find much to enjoy.
As Culburra is on a peninsula, you can start from anywhere on the main beach and walk up to Penguin Head, which offers vast views in all directions. The surf club is just below, close to Lake Wollumboola This lake mouth closes off from time to time making the perfect natural trap for prawns or shrimp. It is huge, goes for miles and is ideal for boating, skiing, fishing or any water sports. There are plenty of picnic areas along the way, so pack a thermos and snacks. And remember that it's an easy drive to Jervis Bay, although quicker walking along the beaches, which I have done.
Then walk back along the main beach, where the sand dunes hide a few old holiday shacks and many new modern homes as suburbia creeps south. Then across the rock pools that still hold some starfish and sea anemone with wave splashes to dodge. Across a narrow neck, climb towards the lighthouse which is no longer active. This narrow neck was popular for helicopter pilot training for Vietnam, as it challenged them to fly low with nominal clearance.
The views out from the lighthouse area look right up and down the coastline. They take in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven river mouth where many a drunk fisherman were rescued from their oarless dingies before they were washed out to sea. Climb down to walk along the river edge to the fisherman's wharf, where the cleaning tables sit by the jetty to prepare their catch. The area is also popular with scuba divers, boaties and fisherman.
Looking out you can easily see Comerong Island which is now a nature reserve of the Shoalhaven Estuary. From there, you can also spot the First Australians settlement at Orient Point. Most of this land, especially the caravan park, is sacred land for them.
The commercial fishing trawlers park further down the river at Greenwell Point, another quaint scenic village to visit with the best fresh seafood restaurant. The pelicans perch on the fluorescent lights waiting for their share of the catch. The beauty of all this is (unless it's peak holiday season or the surf is up) is I usually get to do this and maybe see three or four other people usually walking their dogs. So off-season, it's a quiet paradise. And did I mention the amazing light shows as storms roll in over the ocean! Or watching the war games played out as training takes place as HMAS Albatross, naval base, is nearby.