I would say my style of travel involves finding hidden gems and smaller cities that people might not have heard of! When I was planning my trip to Sydney, one thing I really wanted to do was experience the amazing Australian beaches. What caught my eye was Hyams Beach, voted the whitest beach in the world. It’s only about a 3 hour drive from Sydney so I thought it was worth the road trip for a few days and also check out the Shoalhaven area which includes Hyams Beach and Jervis Bay.
I’m going to share with you my top picks for things to do along the way as well as attractions that I thought were over rated. Also, I’ll list out some of my favorite restaurants/cafes on the trip. Lastly, I have a Google Map pinned with all the attractions so you can use it for your trip planning!
What to Do:
The good thing about the drive to Hyams Beach is that it’s away from the city so you are less likely to get caught up in traffic. I encountered traffic for the first 20 minutes or so after leaving the airport. But from then on, it was pretty smooth driving, although “Princess Motorway” is not like the highways here in Canada. There are stop lights and roundabouts throughout.
Just under an hour south of the airport is Bald Hill Lookout. I was blown away by the views! The photos don’t do it enough justice. You are staring out into the Ocean and you also see a stretch of golden beach with a cute town.
Originally I was looking for Stanwell Tops but I think you access that by hiking up a trail. If you are driving, Bald Hill was really easy to pull over, there was a parking lot and not that many people!
Just up the hill from Bald Hill Lookout is Symbio Wildlife Park. One of my must dos when in Australia was to play with koalas and kangaroos! I was debating between Symbio Wildlife Park and Shoalhaven Zoo but the location of this one was better logistically.
I spotted 4 koalas when I was there and also joined in the ranger on a special talk. Then there’s an opportunity to take a photo with the koala if you pay an extra $10 per person. I gladly paid the fee and got to take a photo and be really up and close with the koala. You can’t hold them unfortunately but I did pet it!
For kangaroos, there was a whole section of the park that was grassy and free for the kangaroos the roam. You can buy feed from the park for around $2 a pack and it was tons of fun feeding the kangaroos. The experience was pretty similar to what I had in the Okanagan this summer but it was still fun and the difference was that the kangaroos in Symbio were more active and even were hopping around!
My main destination for the drive was Hyams Beach. If you haven’t heard about it, I’m not surprised as it’s such a hidden gem! The closest town is Vicentia where I stayed at Dolphin Shores. But the closest town with restaurants/cafes is Huskisson. They are all within a 15 minute drive though so it’s not a big hassle.
The nice beaches I’ve been to in SE Asia could not be more different than Hyams Beach. I was used to businesses selling drinks, or hustlers trying to braid your hair. But there was nothing commerical about Hyams Beach and it’s just pure white sand. There is a parking lot but I didn’t find it and ended up just parking on the street and walking down.
The sand was so soft and white but it unfortunately wasn’t warm enough to lie around. I guess the fact it’s not commercialized also makes it hard to spend all day there as there’s no food or drinks for sale, and no washroom facilities. The beach started to get crowded in the afternoon but only around the “entrance”, if you just keep walking down the beach, the sand is just as nice but there will be way less people around!
$65 Adult Admission
Later that day, I had signed up for a Dolphin Cruise as many dolphins make Jervis Bay their home! I selected Jervis Bay Wild and the Eco Adventure Tour which is about 2 hours departing twice a day from Huskisson. I did not expect the boat to go so fast but for the first 20 minutes it was like a rollercoaster ride while we skipped and sped through the ocean. Everyone on the boat was having a great time and super entertained by the thrilling ride.
Then we began searching for dolphins! Unfortunately on the day we went, we were in the middle of a few rain storms. It was sunny when we left from the dock but halfway through we were caught up in a rain storm. I would warn that the cruise is really cold even in the summer so make sure you bring a warm sweater! I was really sad that we never found any dolphins but the captain did his best. In Vancouver, a lot of whale watching companies invite you back for free if you don’t see any whales but they did not have a similar policy or else I would have wanted to come back the next day!
I would probably recommend the Dolphin Eco Tour which is only $35 per person instead of $65 and it’s about 1.5 hours long. I actually found 2 hours to be a bit long as there’s not really a washroom on the vessel and in our case since we found no dolphins we spent a long time just circling around in the water.
It’s not a vacation without wine! There are a few wineries in the region but we settled on going to Two Figs winery. There wasn’t a tasting room outdoors (which is what I prefer), but it was okay because it was rainy anyways! There is a tasting fee of $5 per person which is waived if you buy a bottle. The tasting fee is really cheap even if you don’t buy a bottle as it allows you to try 12 wines! We enjoyed quite a few but finally decided on the Fizzante Dolce to bring home back to Vancouver.
If you are looking for a hotel to stay in, I researched a ton of options so you can take a look at hotels in Jervis Bay to find one that works for you.
What to Eat
If you know me, you know that I love to scarf down oysters by the dozen! I talked about oysters at the Sydney fish market, but I also scouted out a great place in the Shoalhaven area by Perfect Catch Seafood. The oyster platter was $20 and it was delicious! You can also order fish and chips. I also meant to visit Jim’s Wild Oyster Service but it was more out of the way and I didn’t have time.
Now that we are talking about food, I wanted to share some of the food options. The closest Woolworth (large chain grocery store) was in Vincentia. I went there to get some snacks and also ate at Opporto once and Salty Crab another time. Opporto is similar to Nando’s and features Portuguese chicken in fast food form! I really liked the food and thought the eating area was clean. The next day I went to Salty Crab but was a bit disappointed with their items. It was a bit too fried and bland for my liking.
Some of the best breakfast of the trip I had were in Shoalhaven including 5 Little Pigs in Huskisson and Hungry Monkey in Kiama. The coffees were also really good and I ordered a flat white almost every breakfast I had! If you like coffee, Albert n Miso was a pretty cool local coffee shop that I visited. I didn’t have any main dinners as I was jet lagged and my daily waking hours were 6am-7pm haha. But I did list out some good dinner options in the map based on my research!
A couple things I checked out but were disappointed in were the Sea Cliff Bridge, Kiama Blowhole, and walking around the towns of Berry and Nowra. Sea Cliff Bridge is so nice to look at especially the photos taken by a drone. However, if you drive, where you can park the car is quite a walk away from the sea cliff bridge and you can’t get the gorgeous S curve view when you are walking in it.
A couple places I wish I went but didn’t have time are Jim’s Oysters, and the White Sands Walk. Also while driving I saw that the towns of Bulli and Thirroul looked like they had lots of hipster and modern shops which would be fun to stop at. Both towns also had golden beaches!
Shoalhaven Road Trip – Google Maps Guide
I book marked all the spots I talked about in this post in this Google Map! The places I visited are in pink while the places I want to go to are in grey! I always use My Maps now whenever I go traveling as it helps to visually map out where all the attractions are! If you don’t already use it, try it for your next vacation!
I’m so glad I made the road trip to visit areas outside of Sydney even though I was only in Australia for 6 days in total. I loved finding some gems and beautiful views that just can’t be possible in a big city! Let me know which of the attractions you’d be most interested in!
I received complimentary admission to Symbio Wildlife Park courtesy of Destination NSW. I also received complimentary tour on the Dolphin cruise.