Besides the squawks of a handful of mischievous cockatoos pecking around the river’s edge, the morning was quiet. New South Wales’ Clyde River estuary system was glassy as our kayaks slid into the water. The riverbanks were dotted with ramshackle oyster
sheds, where old boats began sputtering to life as their owners headed toward the oyster farms for a day’s work.
Ninety-eight percent of the Clyde River, which spills into the Tasman Sea, is surrounded by state forests and national parks, making it one of Australia’s cleanest rivers. So clean, in fact, that the Sydney Rock
Oysters that have made the river famous can be sold straight to the public upon harvesting, without purification. On either side of my kayak were hefty jellyfish; although daunting to a novice, they signify a healthy, happy river.
The day’s journey was with Region X
www.regionx.com.au, a kayak and adventure company that hosts oyster farm tours. After a quick overview of farming mechanics, we paddled upriver through a working
farm and visited The Oyster Shed on Wray Street — a fourth-generation operation from the Ralston family. The open-air, bohemian, riverfront eatery is part restaurant and part market, selling not only Sydney Rock oysters but also smokehouse mussels,
salmon, smoked trout and prawns. Granddaughter Jade Norris offered us a plate of oysters with a side of lemon before we set off in our kayaks toward Moonlight Flat, one of the major oyster harvesting areas. I’m not usually a “mollusk in the morning”
kind of guy, but for these tasty little Sydney Rock oysters, I made an exception.
My morning, much like my entire journey through southern New South Wales — roughly three hours south of Sydney — was equal parts adventurous and delicious. With more than 100 white-sand beaches, impossibly blue water, diverse wildlife and 35 national
parks, southern New South Wales, unlike the more popular Byron Bay to the north, continues to be largely underexplored. To experience everything would take some driving, but it would be well worth the effort.
After our oyster excursion, we made our way to the beach town of Huskisson on Jervis Bay. Huskisson swells with quaint surf shops, fit locals and healthy eateries. While the oysters from Wray Street were tasty, I needed something a bit more substantive
to make it through the day. After a cold-pressed juice and a halloumi-cheese stack at popular vegetarian eatery Pilgrim’s, we made our way to Dolphin Watch Cruises
www.dolphinwatch.com.au. It was May, and whale migration had just begun, so we hoped to get lucky. Within minutes, we encountered a trio of humpbacks
making their way across the bay.
Next, we headed to Pebbly Beach in Murramarang National Park. There, enormous spotted gum trees reach all the way to its spectacular coast, which spans 27 miles and is a haven for surfing, swimming and camping. What separates this particular stretch of
powdery sand are the resident kangaroos scattered about. As we approached the relatively empty beach near dusk, mama ’roos lounged in the setting sun, watching adorable joeys as they bounced curiously in our direction, hoping for a snack.
That night, we stayed at The Woods Farm
www.thewoodsfarm.com.au. A 10-minute drive from Huskisson, it was as much an experience as it was a place to rest. The owner’s original intention for
the 40-acre property was to create a magical world.
The quirky destination features eight, three-bedroom cottages as well as 10 glamping tents, but the magic is in the surroundings. First, there is a herd of hilarious goats with names such as Vincent van Goat and Billy the Kid. Next to the goats are alpacas,
and next to the alpacas is a garden as well as a chicken coop. Guests are encouraged to harvest eggs for breakfast and pick vegetables and herbs.
Birdfeeders provided sustenance for more than 50 species of wild birds, including explosively colorful cockatoos, parrots and lorikeets. At night, fairy lights illuminate the entire property.
That night, we ate at The Quarters, located off of Huskisson’s lively main street. On the deck, over salt-and-pepper shrimp, we discussed the adventure that awaited us: a catered beach picnic provided by Hyams Beach Hampers on Greenfield Beach, consistently
voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Farther north, we would pay a visit to Kiama, home to the famous Kiama Blowhole and coastal walk, and famed sunset spot Cathedral Rock at Jones Beach. Then, I would have a chance to get up close and personal with a koala at Symbio Wildlife Park.
When we headed back to Sydney, we would round out the trip with a drive across the famed Sea Cliff Bridge along Australia’s Grand Pacific Drive.
For the night, though, I went to bed happy. Happy as a clam or, in this case, an oyster — a Sydney Rock oyster.