The stretch of coastline that runs between Nowra in the north and Durras in the south is home to some of Australia's best surf beaches. Whether you're a pro, like world number one Tyler Wright, who hails from Culburra, or a weekend warrior, or even a beginner who has never been on a board before there is a wave to suit everyone.
And away from the sand, the Shoalhaven offers up plenty of surprises. From world-class dining experiences, to laid back cafes, and accommodation suitable for couples and families, Here's some ideas for hanging out or hanging 10.
Learn to surf
There are a number of schools along the coast, but at Mollymook two of the best are on offer. Geoff Hansen from Mollymook Beach Surf School is calm and patient, able to structure his classes for all levels. The school's Bush Safaris throw in 4WD experiences through the hinterland where you'll chase the best breaks and learn about the environment at the same time. Highly recommended, see mollymookbeachsurfschool.com Or check out the Pam Burridge Surf School, run by Burridge herself, Australia's first female professional surfer. As well as catering for all ages and levels Burridge offers a Surf Retreat package for small groups which includes accommodation, meals and lessons with Burridge herself, see pamburridge.com
When you've had enough of doing all the work yourself, let Simon Twitchen and his team at Walking on Water do it for you as they drag you along behind their speedboat. Try wakeboarding, kneeboarding, or hang out on the big inflatable with a few of your mates. If you're game try the boogie slide, the sheer unadulterated fun of being whipped around on a boogie board behind the boat is exhilarating. WOW also offers surf, stand-up paddleboard and water-skiing lessons and can cater packages for groups which include a variety of activities, see wow-watersports.com.au
Take to the skies
If you're looking to get some air head to Husky Kite School where qualified instructors will cater their lessons for all abilities. The most consistent spot in summer is Moona Moona Creek near Huskisson, a safe beach suitable for beginners. More experienced kite surfers can take advantage of the blustery southerly winds during the colder months. See, huskykiteschool.com.au
The Big 4 Tourist Park at Lake Conjola is the perfect spot for families. From unpowered sites to self-contained luxury cabins, there is a range of accommodation to suit all groups. There's a large pool area and water park for the kids, a golf course, tennis courts and playgrounds. The two-bedroom Lagoon Lodges are great value, sleeping six, the deck a perfect place to retreat at the end of a long day. See, big4.com.au
Glamping Out is a mobile luxury camping company offering unique glamping out experiences. You can choose your own glampsite location in the unspoilt Shoalhaven and Glamping Out will set up the retro caravan or one of our styled bell tents on your glampsite before you arrive. You just have to turn up and enjoy your stay. Canvas has never been so cool. See, glampingoutcaravans.com.au
Room with a view
Run by local surfers, Surf House Narrawallee, in the Ulladulla region, is a unique beach house that combines the best of B&B hospitality and both relaxation and activity. The Surf House is only 150m off Narrawallee Beach and the back deck offers magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean. Owners Jen and Steve can arrange surfing lessons and line up bushwalks, biking or fishing. And the hot breakfasts are to die for. See surfhousenarrawallee.com
Don't miss a stop, perhaps breakfast after an early morning surf, at Woodstock's Milk Haus. A wholefoods cafe with a focus on sustainable fare, with much of the produce grown on site and much else sourced from local producers. Try the bircher-style muesli with fresh apple, activated walnuts, raw seeds, honey and natural yoghurt or fried eggs with toasted sourdough and butter and a side of chorizo to start the day. See, milkhaus.com.au
New and old
Bannisters has expanded recently with a new site in the middle of Mollymook. Bannisters Pavilion is the trendier younger sister of the famed Bannisters, where old-school style and opulence reign. Try the Pavilion's Rooftop Bar & Grill where the menu is inspired by Mediterranean, Southern Californian and Mexican cuisines, complemented by seasonal cocktails, craft beers and an Antipodean-focused wine list. See, bannisters.com.au
The Gunyah at Paperbark Camp is a unique space, built high off the ground to enjoy the sea breeze and a wonderful position among the tree tops. Over the years the various talented chefs have left their individual mark, and in the process have helped to grow its reputation as a place for good food, something that has been recognised in various publication over the years including the Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller. In keeping with its sustainable philosophy, they focus on local produce and where possible grow their own. See, paperbarkcamp.com.au
When you're searching for a cheap dinner to satisfy the kids after a day on the water head to Lake Conjola Post Office Store, tucked away down some side streets on the lake's edge. The pizzas are to die for. Sit outside on a wooden bench. Nothing pretentious, a Paddle Pop for dessert. Pick up some general supplies if you need them. During the day you can also hire canoes or kayaks, even a little tinny to try your hand at catching tomorrow's dinner. 41 Carroll Avenue, Lake Conjola, 02 44561163.
Best beaches for beginners
Cave Beach (Booderee)
Conneelys (Sussex Surf Club)
Best beaches for the pros
Taboo (Sussex Inlet Point)
The Shoalhaven is bordered by the mountains, coastal plains and 109 magnificent beaches, and includes 49 towns and villages. From Sydney, it's an easy two hours' drive 160km south on the Princes Highway. And from Canberra, it's a two and a half hour's drive east of around 200km via the Kings Highway and the Princes Highway.