Sapphire Coast, NSW travel guide: Things to do in this gem of a region

The soft white sand tickles my feet as I stroll along the foreshore. Boydtown Beach stretches for seven kilometres and apart from a couple in the distance out for a morning jog, it's just my husband, daughter and me soaking up the scenery on this sunny winter's day. Behind us, gumtrees and the occasional casuarina hide a holiday park, and in front tiny waves nip at our toes when we venture too close.

We make our way to the town of Merimbula for another waterside stroll. This time we follow a wooden boardwalk, passing mangroves swarming with birdlife as we weave our way around Merimbula Lake. 

The beachside town is busy, but this makes for interesting people-watching. Couples cradle coffees and push prams, retirees stroll hand in hand and cheery dog-walkers zoom past. A delicious lunch of Sydney rock oysters feels well deserved. 

Oysters are a big deal here – both Merimbula and the next-door town of Pambula are renowned for them. We're keen to learn about the farming process and sign up for a two-hour Magical Oyster Tour on Pambula Lake with Brett Weingarth, aka "Captain Sponge". Brett backs the boat out into the pancake-flat lake as the sun's rays begin to play hopscotch on its surface. Occasionally, when we pass an oyster farm, the sunlight catches an oyster shell peeping out of the water, like a jewel of the sea. And they are prized – local farmers export their harvests to some of the finest restaurants around the country.

Back on dry land, we head south to Eden, about a 25-minute drive away. We spend a few hours milling around the Eden Killer Whale Museum. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whaling was a thriving industry in Australia, with whalers primarily pursuing humpbacks and southern right whales for their baleen (which was used to make items such as umbrellas and corsets) and blubber (which was melted down and turned into oil, candles and soap). 

The killer whales of Eden, which were regularly seen near the port between 1840 and 1930, would help the hunters with their work, marshalling the target whales, alerting the hunters to their location, and sometimes even helping with the kill. 

Keen to also explore inland, we hire bikes in Tathra after brunch at the Wild Orchid cafe. Cycling is the way to go here and my husband and I are astounded at how many people are cruising around town on electric bikes.

We eventually veer off the main road to tackle some of the trails within the Bundadung Mountain Biking Network. The zigzagging bush tracks have been carved out by Tathra Beach and Bike staff, volunteers from Bega Local Aboriginal Land Council and Tathra locals over many years, and riders come from far and wide. 

Out here, eucalyptus trees can be seen in every direction and the stark contrast between the blackened stumps and the sprouting leaves – which look like green velvet from a distance – remind us of the recent bushfires that shook the nation. 

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My husband wants to cycle to Bega, but my legs are not up for the challenge. Instead we stop in on our way back to Sydney. the next day 

The Bega Cheese Heritage Centre is a big drawcard, but there's plenty more to do: take a wander through the town to see the various historic buildings; have lunch (undoubtedly with a serve of cheese) at one of the town's many cafes; pop into the Bega Valley Regional Gallery; and perhaps find time for another bicycle ride through beautiful bushland. 

WHAT TO READ: Set in Eden during the 1908 whaling season, Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett follows the story of a family of whalers and their extraordinary friendship with a pod of killer whales. 

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This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale August 30.

The writer travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.

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