Giant oysters, friendly stingrays, and a whole lot of fun: Batemans Bay, NSW
By the Places We Go team
The NSW South Coast sure is stunning. And if you are a sucker for fresh seafood, amazing beaches, and passionate locals like we are, this is your ideal destination.
Particularly a visit to Batemans Bay.
Located on the shores of an estuary formed where the South Pacific Ocean meets the mouth of the Clyde River, Batemans Bay is blessed with a bounty of beaches and surrounding national park.
In addition, it has all the gems that come with having one of the cleanest rivers on the east coast; namely world-class oysters.
One of the best ways to get a lay of the land when we arrived was by kayak. We joined up with Region X adventures, and from the harbour to the river we paddled leisurely on the calm waters taking in the marina then paddling under the iconic lifting-span bridge and up the river.
It was morning and we hadn’t yet had a coffee, but that was easily fixed. Our kayak guide, Warwick, directed us to the Innes Boat Shed café on the banks of the river where, incredibly, Jenny was waiting to pass over our takeaway lattes.
This was not the only highlight of our pitstop. As we sipped our coffee and let the caffeine fuel us, we were suddenly surrounded by giant stingrays that apparently made their way to the boat shed pier every morning to be fed like pets.
Jenny reached down to hand-feed scraps to the amazing creatures, even giving them a pat on the head afterwards. While they are quite harmless, it was still good to feel the safety of my kayak as we watched the giant rays glide underneath us. It certainly was a kayak tour with a difference.
Another way of exploring the Clyde River, and the amazing environment that surrounds it, is on board the MV Merinda. Three-hour cruises depart daily from the Innes Boat Shed up to historic Nelligen and back, and the tour includes amazing fish and chips from the boatshed and commentary from the passionate captain.
We learned how Batemans Bay was almost the port of Sydney when Captain James Cook dropped anchor here in 1770. However, deciding the harbour wasn’t deep enough, he eventually moved on to Botany Bay.
But since 1821, the river did become a busy thoroughfare when Nelligen, 10km upstream from Batemans Bay, was a major sea port with a major shipping company stationed there, as well as a thriving timber industry and a few thousand residents.
Today, it is a shadow of its former self, with just a few hundred people, but historic buildings and sites remain to tell its story.
We disembarked for a wander around, visiting the quaint museum and even discovering a historic ‘bushranger’ tree where, in 1867, the infamous Clarke brothers were captured and tied to before being transported to Sydney for execution.
Back on the river, the scenery we passed on the cruise back to Batemans Bay was pristine. With national park on each shore, and the protection of marine reserve zoning on the water, it was an idyllic environment to sit back and take in as we glided by.
On dry land, life was good at BIG4 Batemans Bay Beach Resort, too. Kids of all ages were loving the pools, jumping pillow, tennis courts, mini-golf, and more while adults simply sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the natural location on the water, with sounds of bird life around us.
The lure of the environment around us quickly drew me back out to explore, and I couldn’t forget that this stretch was known as the ‘Oyster Coast’. I was told to drop into The Oyster Shed on Wray Street where we could find some of the best local Sydney rock oysters available.
We were greeted at the ‘oyster farm gate’ – a charming blue shed on the banks of the Clyde River – by two generations of the Rossiter family who have owned the farm for 60-odd years. I was soon invited by Jade, daughter of current owners Enola and Mark, to their oyster lease to see where their produce was grown and harvested.
"The lure of the environment around us quickly drew me back out to explore, and I couldn’t forget that this stretch was known as the ‘Oyster Coast’."
As we skimmed across the water in their motorboat, Jade told us how her grandfather built the blue shed 60 years ago, and the only real modern upgrade they have added is the picturesque deck on the river where visitors can sit and enjoy the freshest of oysters virtually direct from the water.
At the oyster lease, I was hoping for a taste of these much-revered treats, but Jade had a little surprise up her sleeve. Retrieving a two-year old Pacific oyster from the water, the challenge was on for me to eat it.
Being an oyster lover, usually anything presented in the shell before me is quickly ‘down the hatch’. But this shell was as big as my hand, and when Jade levered it open, careful not to spill any of the saltwater juice inside, I felt like I was out of my depth.
It was literally the biggest oyster I had ever seen. I didn’t even know they existed at this size and under the instruction to first drink the sea water and then pop the whole oyster into my mouth, it was a few scary seconds of contemplation that it was even possible.
Finally, with a deep breath, I popped the oyster in my mouth – it filled every bit of space and it was clear this was going to be a ‘chewing’ effort. Nevertheless, the oyster tasted as it should: Creamy with a zing of salt water. After a few minutes, I managed to swallow the last morsel. This was clearly the biggest oyster challenge I might ever have!
Back on the deck of the Oyster Shed, we were able to enjoy a platter of Sydney rock oysters at a size we were much more accustomed to. And they were nicely paired with the family’s very own wasabi and white balsamic dressing.
It’s fair to say, it was a brilliant way to spend the rest of the afternoon.
Have you been to Bateman’s Bay and surrounds? If so, what are your memories of the area?
With ample BIG4 accommodation in the Batemans Bay region, isn’t it time you booked your next South Coast NSW break?