Shoalhaven and the Illawarra

After four days at work I decided I’d had enough and joined most of the team in an extended Australia/Invasion Day long weekend. Alex was too restless to stay at home, so we went on a drive down south to the village of Berry. It was already bustling when we arrived, but not so much as on our last visit and the wait for hot doughnuts wasn’t too long.

We wandered the homewares shops and again I wished they’d make beautiful things I actually want to buy.

The others suggested returning via Kiama for lunch, but I was worried that it would be impossible to find parking, so I made the decision to turn off to Gerringong. And then just continue off down the road to Shoalhaven Heads. We’ve never been there, so why not look?

The tunnel of trees through the National Park was very attractive. Shoalhaven Heads itself was a sleepy riverside village at the mouth of the Shoalhaven River. They decided they didn’t want lunch at the bistro, the only place open, so we turned back, but not before taking a side trip to Seven Mile Beach.

The waves and parallel rip were strong off the long stretch of sand and I watched the other two get pushed south even though they were only up to their knees. 

Also south were scattered cumulus with a backdrop of silvery high stratus cloud. I saw myself looking down upon them from high above on one of our flights north of the equator, imagined that this beach was an exotic tropical locale, missed flying.

As we passed through Gerroa I make the snap decision to turn right to the Kingsford Smith lookout, where the famous aviator set off on the first trans-Tasman flight across to New Zealand. 

The grassy headland descends into a rocky peninsula separated from Seven Mile Beach to the south by the Crooked River. I watched the waves pulse and surge in every which direction, smashing against the rocks in a mesmerising sequence.

When we drove back Alex saw the families playing in the Crooked River inlet and the kite surfers off Seven Mile Beach and wanted to join them.

We eventually continued on to Kiama, found parking and had a very late lunch from Cargo Fish and Chips by the harbour, then headed back to Sydney along the motorway.

Sunday was another scorcher. We tried driving through the Royal National Park to Wattamolla Beach, but it was predictably full. So Alex demanded that we return to Gerroa. Hoping to avoid the inevitable traffic jam around Albion Park I diverted us through Port Kembla and past the steelworks. Crossing the bridge over the inlet to Lake Illawarra we could see families crowded along the parks on either side and decided to take a closer look.

After parking in a backstreet we lugged the sun shelter and beach goods down to the sand along the inlet. A swift stream of outflowing water divided the beach from a sandbank and, beyond that, the main channel to the sea. Families paddled open kayaks, boogie boards and inflatables, while further out jet skis raced.

The water was chilly at first, but the stiff breeze cooled further, despite the scorching day. It was a challenge to swim against the flow, but good exercise, and there wasn’t any real danger from the shallow water. Alex agreed that this was a suitable replacement for Gerroa.