A three-hour drive from Sydney and home to some of the whitest sand beaches in Australia, Jervis Bay is a 102-square-kilometre (39-square-mile) Pacific Ocean bay and what’s said to be the deepest sheltered harbour in Australia. With a lighthouse at each end offering unbeatable views of the surrounding waters, the bay is ringed by a collection of sleepy seaside towns, Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay Marine Park and the Royal Australian Navy. There are enough outdoor activities and enviable eateries to keep visitors busy for days; nevertheless, the best of Jervis Bay can be enjoyed in just 48 hours.
When it comes to the natural environment, Jervis Bay has it all: mangroves, swamps, sand dunes, grassland and eucalyptus forests. It’s home to bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, penguins, sea dragons, humpback whales and kangaroos aplenty. However, its key draw is, arguably, its beaches and marine life. Jervis Bay Wild is one of the area’s premier cruise and outdoor water activity operators. The company is committed to promoting sustainable tourism in the area to protect the mammals that reside within its pristine waters.
“Jervis Bay is home the second largest sea grass meadows in the country, which is what makes the surrounding waters so crystal clear. Also, every 4-6 weeks the bay flushes out into the ocean which contributes to healthier mammals and other marine life in the area,” a spokesperson for Jervis Bay Wild explains.
There are plenty of accommodation options on offer from hotels and beachside motels, to guest houses and Airbnbs. The centrally located towns of Huskisson, Vincentia, Hyams Beach and Callala Bay serve as links to Jervis Bay’s endless attractions. Getting there is best done by car. However, those without a set of wheels can hop on a South Coast Line train from Sydney’s Central Station to Kiama. From there, it’s another train ride to Bomaderry and bus to Huskisson.
Start the day early with a coffee at one of Huskisson’s many quaint cafés. With its first iteration opening in 1917, the Huskisson Bakery & Café located on Owen Street is a quintessential, old-timey seaside café famous for its pies. Alternatively, 5 Little Pigs, Pilgrim’s and Nutmeg all deliver great tasting coffees and varied breakfast menus paired with sea views.
All of these venues are a short walk away from Jervis Bay Wild headquarters where visitors can sign up for whale watching, dolphin cruises, or can hire equipment for kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding.
If visiting the area between mid-May and mid-November, sign up for a two-hour whale-watching cruise for AU$65 per person (£34). Humpback, southern right, false killer whales, orcas, minke whales and one time, a blue whale, have all passed through the entrance to the bay. The sheltered water offers these giants a place to rest during their migrations.
Alternatively, dolphin tours are on offer all year round and cost AU$35 for a 90-minute tour (£18.50). Spot the one hundred-plus bottlenose dolphins that live in the clean, clear waters of the Jervis Bay Marine Park.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, a water bottle, a hat and a long-sleeved top for the cruise, as the Australian sun in summer can be unforgiving and the winds chilly.
A morning spent cruising can work up an appetite that only a beachside café can cure. Head to Hyams Beach Store and Cafe, a 13-minute drive from Huskisson. The open-plan café is nestled between pastel-coloured cottages and serves delicious home-cooked food right next to Jervis Bay’s most famous beach. There are plenty of vegetarian options on offer, and takeaways for picnics on the beach are also available.
The path down to ‘the best white sand beach in Australia’ (a myth but who cares) is a two-minute stroll from the café. Upon entering, it may seem rather small; however, scramble over the rocks to the right (essentially directly behind the café) and the real Hyams stretches out for miles. The sand is composed of pure quartz, which gives it its pure white colour. It’s also powder soft and squeaks underfoot. The turquoise water is clear and warm, and the currents aren’t too strong, making it a big draw for tourists. So, for those seeking more peace and quiet, head over to neighbouring Chinaman’s Beach to the left of Hyams Beach, which is just as beautiful.
Pro tip: There is a bus that travels between the key towns or Jervis Bay; however, these are few and far between and can take around 45 minutes to get to Hyams Beach. Fret not, though, as Uber works just fine for those travelling without a car.
After lazing on the beach all afternoon catching some rays, it’s time to head back into town. As a beachside town, a vibrant nightlife isn’t what Jervis Bay is known for. That being said, there are a few venues that keep locals and visitors entertained late into the night. The Huskisson Hotel is a stalwart of the Jervis Bay food and drink scene, serving patrons for almost a century. With an enclosed veranda perched right on the water, it’s a beautiful spot for a sundowner, even if the sun isn’t out. ‘The Huski’ offers an extensive wine, beer and cocktail list as well as seafood, burgers and pizza. The calamari is a must-try.
Pro Tip: The Huskisson Hotel has a constant calendar of events from trivia on Thursdays to live entertainment every Friday and Saturday. Check out what’s on their website to see an up-to-date gig guide.
There is no weekend away in Jervis Bay without a generous brunch at Pilgrim’s. A vegetarian café, Pilgrim’s serves some of the best food around – picking just one thing off the menu will prove difficult, so it’s probably best to settle on a few things to share and sacrifice lunch. Buttermilk pancakes, corn fritters, smashed avo on sourdough, fresh juices and smoothies are just some of their offerings. All delicious, all healthy, all surf-inspired and all served with a magnificent view. Pilgrim’s is well known all along the New South Wales Coast and shouldn’t be missed.
Pro Tip: Pilgrim’s also serves a mean Mexican dinner on Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30pm on.
The afternoon is reserved for working off brunch. Powered by a strong coffee, it’s time to for some ‘bush-bashing’. Head to Booderee National Park, or Walawaani Njindjiwan Njin Booderee as it’s known to the Aboriginal people of Wreck Bay who are guardians of the land and waters.
This much-loved national park features pristine beaches, a botanical garden, cliff walks, historic landmarks and rare birdlife. From the Visitors Centre, it’s a five-minute drive to the botanical gardens, the only Aboriginal-owned botanical gardens in Australia, and which offers a clearly marked, 1.3km (0.8mi) walking trail surrounded by Australia’s incredible native flora. From here, head through to Green Patch for swimming, snorkelling, cycling and undisturbed views of the whole bay. There are free barbecue amenities available as well as a medium-level hiking trail to Bristol Point walk-in campsite and beach.
Green Patch is the best place to find wallabies and kangaroos sunning themselves next to visitors. It’s also great for birdwatching. Spot the rainbow lorikeet, crimson rosellas, kookaburras, king parrots and wood ducks.
Pro Tip: Purchase a park pass ahead of time for quicker entry; however, if entering on foot or by bike, entry is free. For those interested in camping, bookings are essential and can be made up to four months in advance.
For such a small area, it does well to represent the cuisines of the world, offering Thai (Nana on the Bay), Japanese (Kanpai), Mexican (3Gringos), Chinese (Bamboo River), Indian (Taj) and South-East Asian (Wild Ginger). However, for contemporary Australian fare with a Mediterranean twist, head to The Quarters back in Huskisson. Operating out of a century-old fisherman’s cottage, The Quarters sources all its produce locally – try the freshly caught kingfish with leeks and fennel and reminisce.