The whitest sand in the world: it's a claim to fame Hyams Beach on the NSW South Coast has enjoyed for years, even securing it a place in the Guinness World Records. But of course, having the whitest or the brightest or the tallest or the shortest anything can set visitors up for disappointment. Luckily, even the most nitpicking visitor to Hyams cannot complain – the sand is indeed whiter than white and the only problem you may encounter is in the "on season" when you might have to head to the far end of the beach to spot enough patches of the famous grains between the bods on the shore.
We have no such problems finding our own patch, arriving midweek in spring when our tans match the sand. Our footsteps are the only ones on the beach yet we are not alone – a pod of dolphins joins us momentarily and we watch transfixed as seabirds dive for lunch.
At just three hours south of Sydney on the southern shores of Jervis Bay Marine Park, Hyams is a pristine easy escape from the city grind and still retains something stripped from too many NSW coastal towns – charm. Only one road leads to the village and there is also only one shop, the Hyams Beach Store & Cafe, though everything you could possibly need is a 10-minute drive away in Vincentia or Huskisson.
But once here, we don't want to leave. A walk from the shore to the naval base and back takes under an hour and we take our host's advice and catch the sunrise on the beach the next morning – dolphins included.
The sea temperature can be brisk in the off season – it's fine once you get in, but you might prefer to be on top – on a stand-up paddle board or in a kayak – rather than in the water. The calm waters of the bay are perfect for this and much warmer in summer and you can even book sunset or night board tours.
We are staying at the two-bedroom Blue Whaler Cottage, one of a cluster of pastel-coloured historic cottages in a prized location smack bang across from the main beach, down the road from Chinaman's Beach and a two-minute walk to the all-important shop. These cottages used to house whalers and their families, who once used Hyams as a base to hunt outside Jervis Bay. The cute shack next door, Minke Cottage, is let by the same owner as ours.
Our cottage is light and airy. An upstairs bedroom comes with a balcony among the birds. The only things that jar slightly are a few extras (two wooden lighthouses, jars of shells, piles of starfish, jars of buttons, jars of cotton reels, a Paddington Bear). There's a big-screen TV in the lounge and a good choice of DVDs. The kitchen is spacious, modern and light. We decide the absence of a supermarket and restaurants is a plus: it means meal choices are made simple. The mere thought of making do with what we have and not facing a supermarket car park or a checkout for a couple of days is supremely relaxing. Besides, the store sells basics and you can grab breakfast, lunch or dinner there – depending on the season. They also sell home-made cakes, tarts, chutneys and frozen home-made meals and we can vouch for the lamb ragu.
FIVE MORE THINGS TO DO AT HYAMS
1. Drive north to Huskisson, and then head straight to the famous Husky Pub for a beer, a counter meal, and a water view.
2. Visit the tamest wild kangaroos and king parrots you are ever likely to meet at the picturesque camping nirvana of Green Patch.
3. A five-minute drive from Hyams will land you in Booderee National Park with stunning beaches and bushland to explore on foot. Make sure you visit the spooky ruins of St George's lighthouse.
4. Sick of the great outdoors? Head to the great indoors by catching a movie at Huskisson Pictures.
5. Appreciate the sunset by becoming part of it with a sunset paddle board tour or lesson with Jervis Bay Stand Up Paddle Hire. A private lesson is $80 for one hour; 90-minute lessons and tours are also available. Phone 0403 354 716 or see jervisbaystanduppaddle.com.au
Hyams Beach is three hours south of Sydney. Stop at Berry on the way for beautiful cafes, homewares and the famous Donut Van.
The Blue Whaler and Minke cottages are in Cyrus Street, across from the beach. From $250 a night. See stayz.com.au/167169. There is no Wi-Fi.
Jane Richards stayed as a guest of the Blue Whalers Cottage.
See also: Former nude beach named Australia's best