From Gerroa, we made a beeline down the coast to Jervis Bay. We were excited to see Booderee National Park (technically in the ACT, so we crossed state lines!) but our first stop was the whitest beach in the world – Hyams Beach.
Hyams Beach carpark is tiny, only around 10 cars, which I am sure gets completely full in the Summer! We took only one of two spare spots and chatted to a newly-local older couple, who pointed out a few birds, to our delight.
As we walked through the small bush corridor, the beach opened up in front of us and to put it simply, it looked like paradise.
We had a quick swim (it was absolutely freezing!); Lib duck diving, and me walking in up to my waist. The water is so clear you can see toadfish swimming around the shoreline, and every bit of shell or seaweed beams through to the surface. It drops off after a few metres and our imaginations ran wild with thoughts of sharks (although there is no lasting warning) or dolphins.
We walked towards this little hurtling shape on the beach edge and sure enough, here in the middle of Hyams Beach, was one of Australia’s favourite critters – an echnida! Now, neither of us have ever seen one on the beach before (I’ve never seen one in the wild) so we were quite snap happy.
Here he stopped and had a very long drink, even having a quick swim in the water. A foreign tourist couple were quite bewildered – “What is it?” they asked. Clearly the crowd of a few camera heavy Aussies had drawn them over. We tried to teach them the word “Echidna” and they marvelled at its oddness. We couldn’t believe our luck!
Quite hungry at this point, we headed into the little towns of Jervis Bay and ended up at the Info Centre and Maritime Museum. An older fellow by the name of Morrie happily “drew all over maps for us” recommending we spend two nights at least camping at Booderee National Park, particularly at a spot called Green Patch, and he asterisked a few “must-see” spots like Murrays Beach and the lighthouse ruins.
We stopped at Huskisson (recommended by our neighbours) to have lunch at the pub overlooking the harbour. Although the view was amazing, the prices were a little too high (one meal = one night accom for us camping) so instead we got a burger and snitzel from a takeaway shop just behind the hotel. We looked over our tourist paraphernalia while we ate and after some deliberation (I was keen for a ‘fancy night’ at a cheap cabin) we decided to stay the two nights at the National Park.
We raced out to get to the park gates before the visitor centre closed, so we could have assistance to pick the best camp site. Although we made it with ten mins to spare, they were inexplicably closed early. We noticed in the car park, if you booked online on a tablet or desktop you could choose your site (and, for our safety, see how busy it was) so we loaded up the laptop. Now cellular service so far has been really good or really bad. This seemed like a pretty bad spot. Lib drove out of the park again, and the further away we got, the better the signal was. We pulled over on the side of the road to book in, happy to see that most spots were taken.
With our booking now secure, we drove the ten mins back into the park and straight into our designated campsite. When we arrived, the camp site was deserted. Green Patch is a large camp ground by national parks standards, and we drove past empty plot after empty plot. Feeling a bit concerned, we continued to circle the sites, looking for signs of life. Nothing. Oh – a campervan – and just two young guys. Then – another car and two swags – and two guys I had earlier described as “Hoons”. Hmm. Neither of us were getting a good vibe from the campsite. It was largely empty and we had yet to see another female. We had said before we left to trust our instinct and even though we had already paid, both of us decided against camping in there tonight.
I jumped on WikiCamps and found a close caravan park – Bream Beach Holiday Park – where we were greeted by a lovely family who ran the park. We were given a spot with a tiny view – but it was an odd park. Mostly made up of exisiting cabins with powered sites scattered throughout. We saw many a solo older man residing in the cabins which gave it a “retirement village” feel. On top of this, we had extremely fericous winds, making it difficult to talk outside of the car, and shaking the car wildly.
We went for a quick walk down to the water, and Lib was delighted to come across the resident roos, taking shelter from the wind amongst the cabins.
We settled in for the night, having buttered bread and jam for dinner. Fortunately the wind died down, and we were able to sleep relatively well. I actually felt cosy and comfy as I fell asleep.
Morning came, and we repacked the car after a slow start. We decided to have a breakfast picnic in Boderee National Park. We headed straight to Murrays Beach, with the potential of good snorkelling and an epic view. On the map, there were picnic tables, so we went in search of them. We walked from the Murrays Beach carpark to the beach – no tables. We walked back and decided to take a look at the boat ramp.
The wind was strong as we noticed one single picnic table in the carpark (“Surely not!”) and we walked out and around the boat ramp looking for a breakfast spot and the sting rays that sometimes eat here. We found neither ! On the way back to the car though, we did spot a massive eagle which flew over us on its way to hunt.
There was also a massive fire on the horizon. We had been told yesterday that it was contained and we couldn’t enter just that part of the park. It sure looked larger today, but we went on our way. Finally, we stopped in back where it all began, at Green Patch. We drove past the Y camp sites and found a beautiful picnic area overlooking a beach.
Before we knew it, we were surrounded by colourful birds – all hungry to get a piece of our food. They were incredibly tame and we valiantly resisted the urge to feed them. As we neared the end of the meal, they encroached on the table, one even pecking through our bread bag at the bread. Lib gave one the leftover crumb and it snatched the food from her fingers. The following photos are all iPhone only – testament to the closeness of the birds and the quality of the iPhone camera.
Around this time, a couple walked past and told us the park was being evacuated due to the fire. Their English wasn’t great, but we were beginning to see that our visit would be quite short. Sure enough just as we finished our food, a few rangers came around, telling us we had half an hour before the fire hit, and to evacuate immediately. Well – there went our day in Booderee National Park! As fate would have it, at least we got in a magical picnic!
We drove towards our next location – Ulladulla – but swung by Mollymook (dream location for me to stay) to perve at Rick Steins restaurant. In a moment of hilarious truth, as we drove up past the fancy hotel, there was a couple of scruffy guys sitting on a picnic bench opposite munching down some takeaway burgers. They had the same view as the hotel, but clearly ate for much cheaper. “That’s us!” quipped Lib. She has never been more right.
Pulling into Ulladulla Headland Holiday Park was a relief for us both. The beautiful camp site gave us some time to do our washing at the laundry, air out the mattress and car and unwind. The facilities were by far the best so far, with clean, hot showers (although old fashioned), camp kitchens everywhere (equipped with a kettle, fridge and sink) and amazing kids activities (mini-golf, jumping cushion, playground).
Tomorrow, we plan to explore Ulladulla and surrounds, before making our way down to the infomous Pebbly Beach – where kangaroos play in the surf.