Travellers flood to NSW South Coast as COVID lurks

Holidaymakers have been back in the Shoalhaven in droves this month even though COVID-19's heavy hand still touches all the businesses in the region on the NSW South Coast and the recent outbreak in Sydney has the mayor concerned.

QR code scans – and, to a lesser extent, paper sign-ins ­– are de rigueur whether you are dining out or taking a cruise or visiting a gallery.

While residents from Sydney's northern beaches are not allowed to venture outside their areas, those from Greater Sydney are not limited in being able to travel to the state's regions.

However, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a news conference on Thursday  that people should not move around unless they have to.

She urged people to visit the NSW Health website for new venues coming online and, if they have been exposed to those venues, they need to get tested and stay at home for 14 days.

"We know how hard it is over Christmas … but please don't visit anybody who is in isolation and if you are in isolation, don't have contact with anybody outside of your household," she said.

Shoalhaven mayor Amanda Findley told the ABC on Wednesday that most accommodation in the region was booked out, although there would be slightly less camping, resulting in some under capacity.

She said the permanent population was concerned about the influx of tourists but there was not much she, as mayor of a regional town, could do.

NSW Health felt it had a handle on its contact tracing, she said, and if it had issued an order restricting travel from Greater Sydney that would have had the effect of collapsing the economy again.

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She said she had heard of northern beaches residents boasting of escaping to the regions, and warned that they were putting locals at risk and were not welcome.

If you go

The Holiday Haven accommodation park at Huskisson – one of a dozen in the Shoalhaven – was booked out. Staff told us it was like Christmas – and that was in the first week of December.

Such is the pent-up need to get out and explore the beautiful countryside and relax on some of the whitest beaches you'll ever see, some families drove from Sydney just for the day – almost three hours each way.

Families barbecued while their children cycled and skated around the caravans and tents, and swam in the pool, and swung and bounced and slippery dipped in the playground.

Late into the night a guitar player filled the park with not-too-bad renditions of Santana and the Rolling Stones.

Out of the park, you can choose your own adventure.

The Cape St George Lighthouse is a six-kilometre drive from the tarmac running through Jervis Bay village along a gravel road through the Booderee National Park. The park is owned by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal community, who live nearby, although entry to their village is not allowed.

The lighthouse was built in 1860 in a bid to prevent shipwrecks but, sadly, in the wrong spot where its light was barely visible to the ships it was meant to save. So it was destroyed following an inquiry by the NSW government. (Anyone remember the Sydney stadiums debacle?)

The ruined building sits atop the jagged cliffs that overlook the Tasman Sea. The trip is worth it for the history of the place and the spectacular views but be prepared to clean a coating of dust from your car.  

And no trip to Basin View would be complete without a drive along No Name Road, which is so secretive you won't find it on Google Maps (hint: it runs between Tallyan Point Road and Beacon View Parade).

The road itself is nondescript - and the little towns along St Georges Basin could do with a charm makeover - but the views of the visually stunning lake are the main game.  

Further south, on the way to Ulladulla, Lake Conjola, which was so badly affected by last summer's bushfires, is recovering, although forests of blackened trees stretch like burnt matchsticks across the hillsides.

The Holiday Haven park overlooking the picturesque lake looked pretty full as well. A charged tree stump right outside a garden fence showed how close the fires came to that house.

A cruise on Jervis Bay is one of the highlights of a visit to the Shoalhaven. Whale migration season is from May to November so the mighty mammals have already passed Australia with their new calves on their way back to Antarctica. But don't let that put you off.

The Explorer is an 18-metre jet boat, open to the elements. We hugged the coast looking at the campers on the white beaches, some of which are closed at times because the navy uses the areas as a weapons range (which seems quite strange in a part of the world that prides itself on its tourism).

There were no whales, but a pod of dolphins followed the boat, diving under it only to pop up on the other side with wide grins.

And then we arrived at the jagged 90-metre high cliffs of Point Perpendicular, the headland at the northern entrance to Jervis Bay. Astonishingly, those dots on top were people climbing down the rock face.

The skipper pointed out how the sea had carved a "map" of the east coat of the continent out of the sandstone.

And around the corner, as the wind was picking up and the spray started to drench us, was the open ocean. If you sailed in a straight line, you'd hit New Zealand.

You'd have to go into quarantine on entry, though - that's if they'll still let us in at all as the new Sydney outbreak closes in.

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