It was with a great deal of excitement that I said "YES, please", when the folks at Shoalhaven Tourism extended an invitation to experience the Shoalhaven Foodie Trail.
With the offer of a specially-tailored adventure, I mentioned that I was keen to visit Jervis Bay. Actually, it was the area's coastline that I had been longing to see.
In the 90s, I worked with the PR team at the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, and one of the highlights of my job was editing the organisation's publications before they went to print. I can remember marvelling at the brochure about Jervis Bay and Booderee National Park... especially the magnificent beaches with their pure-white sand and crystal-clear water. Wow!
Shoalhaven Tourism kindly granted my wish and advised that we'd be based at Huskisson in the heart of Jervis Bay. I could barely wait. I had read about the township, and knew of its history as a fishing port and centre for wooden shipbuilding, but had no idea what to expect... particularly as images from our trip to Whitby, Scarborough and Robin Hood's Bay were still fresh in my mind.
The seaside town of Ulladulla was the first stop on our Foodie Trail, so we travelled from Canberra via the Kings Highway across Clyde Mountain, then headed north on the Princes Highway. It's a scenic drive, with the landscape shifting from rural villages to dense woodlands, temperate rainforest to coastal ranges and undulating grasslands dotted with dairy cows and farms.
We arrived in Ulladulla in time for lunch, but first stopped by the Visitor Information Centre to grab a map and a handful of brochures. Peter was hoping to poke his head into a couple of the surf shops, but the rumbling sound coming from my belly told me it was time for nourishment. "Shopping can wait," I suggested, gently.
Native Cafe (pictured above) is perched on a plaza overlooking the harbour at Ulladulla. Its menu lists a selection of healthy and wholesome dishes. As a little bird looked on from the balustrade, I tucked into a salad bowl piled with sumptuous slow-cooked lamb, quinoa, roasted pumpkin and baby beets, and finished with currants and pomegranate dressing. It was very good.
After satisfying my hunger, and Peter's whim to visit a few of the stores, we strolled down to the wharf and back, stopping to admire numerous fishing and pleasure boats, and the vibrantly-coloured native flora lining the footpaths. And then it was time to get back on the road.
It was mid-afternoon when we arrived in Huskisson, with the GPS guiding us direct to the centre of town. We parked by the wharf and stepped out briefly to have a look around. Oh, my word! Huskisson is completely charming. Our kind of place. Why in heaven's name had it taken us so long to visit?! (Yep, I'm using multiple exclamation marks here... for good reason).
Checking in to our accommodation at Studio 26 Huskisson brought yet another pleasant surprise. We had very much liked the look of the property on Stayz, but you can never quite tell what a place is like from photographs online. In fact, Studio 26 is modern, comfortable and (ultra) clean... with a delicious king-sized bed, crisp hotel-quality linen, and furnishings in harmonious colours that lend themselves to the ambience of a cosy beachside cottage. The studio is tucked into the back garden of a house at the quiet end of Owen Street. It's a tranquil setting, with abundant greenery and birdlife, meaning that we would sleep peacefully and awake to the sound of birdsong. Blissful, no?
My curiosity piqued when I read that Kierrin McKnight, chef/owner of wildginger, had worked for David Thompson at the much-lauded Darley Street Thai and "2-hatted" Sailors Thai Restaurant in Sydney during the 90s. Chef Kierrin's philosophy at wildginger is to use the freshest local produce to create a blend of cultural dishes from South East Asia.
For dinner, we enjoyed a flavourful banquet (pictured above) featuring entrees of crisp pork belly on betel leaf with almonds and chilli jam (His); and smoked trout with Thai basil mayonnaise with trout roe on betel leaf (Hers). For mains, steamed ocean perch with yellow curry and rice (Hers) and free-range chicken pieces with a spicy green curry, holy basil and rice (His). For dessert, we shared a sublime coconut panna cotta with poached pear, toasted hazelnuts and a slice of frozen pine-splice.
After a restful night's sleep, we walked to 5 Little Pigs cafe for breakfast. In the photo bottom right of the collage (above), you'll see the hands of "Himself" (a.k.a. Saint Peter), waiting patiently while I took a snapshot of his breakfast. A moment later, he dived in to the beautifully-presented bowl of porridge topped with caramelised figs, honeycomb, a dollop of cream and micro herbs. It was as tasty as it looked. Meanwhile, I could barely get through my giant-sized serving of Bircher muesli (top right).
Post-breakfast, we walked the length and breadth of the main street and surrounds, browsing in each of the specialty stores along the way. Peter chatted about monoculars with Nature Lodge Optics shop owner, Danny, a fellow Englishman; while I bought myself a straw hat and some funky handmade wooden sunnies. At Jay on the Bay, Peter treated himself to a pair of super-comfy bamboo fibre shorts. Colourful bamboo kitchenware, and the fun wooden clothing rack with thongs (hanging on the wall of the change room), caught my eye.
Afterwards, we followed our noses to the exquisite aromas wafting from the doorway of Fudge Addiction. There we met owner, Di, who was cooking a batch of creamy salted caramel fudge. After sampling a few of her fudge varieties, we bought a selection as a gift for my son.
Bellies full, we took the long way back to Studio 26, walking briskly to the top end of Owen Street, up around White Sands Park, along the path leading down to the Sea Pool (above) and Voyager Memorial Park, past the wharves and playground overlooking Currambene Creek. The 50-metre Sea Pool, which is in a spectacular spot overlooking the Bay, was closed and will reopen for the swimming season on 5 November. Lap-swimming in the Sea Pool is on the must-do list for next time.
We sat for a while on the front deck back at the Studio, admiring the garden and flipping through the Shoalhaven visitor guide and a pile of Coast Style magazines. "I believe we've found the perfect coastal holiday destination here in Huskisson," Peter said with a grin. "I believe you might be right," I nodded in agreement. Just quietly, I was already planning our next visit.
The morning had somehow slipped by and we were ready for more grazing. We headed back to the wharf to Portside Cafe, for some freshly-cooked fish and chips served with a spectacular view. I can still taste that crisp, light batter and the sumptuous flesh of the fish. And lordy, that vista!
At Portside, we met Elizabeth Abood and Ernie Musgrove, from Jervis Bay Wild, a company that offers dolphin and whale eco tours daily throughout the season. Ernie and Elizabeth told us about "Port Venture", Jervis Bay Wild's boom netting boat, which gives punters the opportunity to experience pods of dolphins in a most unique fashion. Another on the list for next time.
The temperature had hit 30 degrees C plus and the pièce de résistance of our trip beckoned. As I wriggled into my swimsuit, I was beyond excited at the thought that I was actually about to set foot onto the world-famous white sands of Hyams Beach and, maybe, dip my toes into the calm, clear water. Eeek!
We spent three hours or so simply basking in the pleasure of the beach. Sunbathing, lolling about in the gentle "waves", and running our fingers and toes through the powdery sand over and over again.
Let me tell you, the beaches at Jervis Bay are more beautiful than I had imagined. The water is turquoise-coloured and as clear as glass; and the sand is finer and whiter than any photograph could possibly depict. That afternoon on Hyams Beach was just like a holiday within a holiday.
Feeling refreshed after our swim, and having showered and dressed for dinner, we were ready to eat. Just as the sun was beginning to set, we walked to Kanpai Japanese restaurant via White Sands Park.
At Kanpai, acclaimed Japanese-born chef, Yoshi Tanimo, presents an innovative menu featuring Japanese dishes with a contemporary twist. For dinner, we sampled a range of dishes, including steamed soy beans with seven spice and sea salt; melt-in-the-mouth fresh sashimi; crisp and flavoursome duck spring rolls; and tender teriyaki eye fillet with seasonal greens. This was washed down with Asahi beer, and finished with a bowl of creamy matcha ice cream (perfectly small, at my request). Portions are generous, so wear a loose-fitting number... and go with an appetite.
For breakfast the following morning, we shared a stack of pancakes piled with bananas, organic maple syrup, ricotta and cinnamon at Pilgrims vegetarian/vegan cafe overlooking the wharf.
By now you're probably thinking: "How can they still be hungry?" Or perhaps: "I hope she packed her stretchy pants". Actually, I did, and it was just as well. Time for another long, long walk by the water's edge after breakfast, lunch AND dinner.
Nutmeg Cafe in Huskisson makes a cracker of an open-faced steak sandwich (above). Tender Scotch fillet cooked perfectly, served on toasted Turkish bread slathered with butter, a side of fresh greens and lightly roasted tomato. Peter mirrored my words about his burger and fries.
There are numerous eateries in Huskisson that we hadn't yet tried, one of them being The Huskisson Hotel (above), renowned for serving great pub food. Peter chose pizza, while I tucked in to a (huge!) serving of slow-cooked lamb with mash. You'll note there were no complaints from either of us.
Our final stop was the Huskisson Bakery for breakfast, where we enjoyed coffee, and an awesome bacon and egg roll. We also grabbed a loaf of freshly baked bread, and a fruit cake for Peter's elderly mam, Joan, who lives in Warilla and travelled back to Canberra with us for a short break.
During our stay, we enjoyed many of the good things that Huskisson has on offer; but there's so much more we'd like to see and do, that we're already planning a second (longer) stay. Just recapping the highlights of our visit:
The list of stuff we plan to see and do on our next Jervis Bay adventure:
Love the sound of all this? Pop into the Shoalhaven Tourism website and plan your itinerary.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The Good Things team enjoyed a two-night adventure* (meals included) in the Huskisson district thanks to the generosity of Shoalhaven Tourism and its associates. At our own expense, we stayed a third night and covered the cost of breakfast, lunch and dinner. All photographs are my own, unless noted otherwise.
Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy missive, dear readers. I know it's loaded with images and words, but there was so much to show and tell.
Now, tell me, have you been to the Shoalhaven district? Does it look and sound like a destination you'd love to visit sometime?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.