A great job involving a road trip down the coast of Australia fell through last minute this week so instead of sitting at home disappointed I decided to embark on the first leg I had planned out anyway. Although bovine dense topography is abundant there are plenty of gems to be uncovered in NSW’s small coastal towns – however things close early and don’t always trade everyday (which I learnt the hard way), google might be your best friend when planning a drive a few hours south. This post only skims the surface.
The first stop, excluding a perverse intermission at a Gerringong lookout, is to Berry to visit the relentlessly instagrammed Famous Berry Doughnut Van. Entering venues with zero expectations is my default setting yet somehow this van in shining armour was everything I had hoped for and more. The warm pillowy fried-to-order donuts laced with cinnamon sugar were the epitome of what I loved about growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, the alluring scent of Donut King in a local Westfield is one of my earliest and fondest memories – except these were tremendously better with no Quake Shake in sight. The humble cinnamon donut has finally been elevated to what it should be. Mangos, cherries and plums being were sold by the box across the short fence next door.
Back into the car and after fields and paddocks of cows and corn I arrive at Greenwell Point, home of possibly Australia’s most awesome mate, Jim of Jim Wild’s Oyster Service, discovered via Sophie. I could dedicate an entire post to his operation: loud shirt, huge mo’ and shucking oysters to order by the dozen from his teal shack, insisting I take a photo with him, not of him. Order a plate and take a seat by the Crookhaven River with a view of the serene oyster farms. The area is incredible, the bone dry ruins of shellfish of the past lying in shackling buckets amongst faded machinery and creaky palettes. Turn left at the Greens Road fork to find him.
After some more cow spotting my next destination is HopDog Beerworks. At their brewery and cellar door you can enjoy a chalice of their latest and freshest offerings amongst fermenters and barrel-ageing brews. The brewers are more than happy to provide live tasting notes, their paddle a very reasonable $9.
I drive toward Sydney via Berry again and visit Milkwood Bakery, the busiest cafe on the street, their shelves dotted with sourdough and quaint cakes. I grab a watermelon juice after feeling particularly, ah, “dehydrated” from my HopDog experience and head to The Berry Bottle Shop / Justin Lill Wines, a store heaving with tipples and highly rated rare beers, both international and local. Another purchase, another Queen Street stroll and sadly things are closing shop – a nearby deli denies the privilege of a sandwich for the day but Milkwood is on the way to the car and I find solace in a lamington to share, soft and generous with chocolate. I spy a traditional takeaway flaunting “GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS” amongst the usual Coca-Cola paraphernalia – a sad sign of the times. The drive home turns wet and I park at Bombo Beach for a break, watching surfers amongst a bleak horizon, my shoes becoming matted with damp sand as I awkwardly clomp by the water.
Getting peckish I detour to Bulli for a beachside burger but unfortunately, again, the “grills have been switched off” at only 5:30, another early closer in the area. Undeterred and by the power of the internet I lay internet eyes upon Bergie’s Fish Cafe in Thirroul (who knew UrbanSpoon would be useful for something?), a venue divided: a casual restaurant and takeaway, the former being closed for Valentines Day only reservations. Two burgers and some fantastic chips are ordered instead and are enjoyed amongst the facade of the takeaway area, barely avoiding the rain. The “gourmet” flour dusted bun reminds me of a simpler time before the Great Sydney Burger Wars of 2014-present.
Driving across the Sea Cliff Bridge is an undeniably breathtaking route back to Sydney, boasting one of the widest views of the edge of the country in NSW, but good luck trying to take photos from a fast moving car. In fact ditch the camera entirely and enjoy the day, embracing it with your eyes and everything, not through a lousy lens. Do as I say, not as I do.