South east Australia is home to some of the most captivating coastline in the world. One of its famed beaches even made it to the Guinness Book of Records for boasting the whitest sand in the world
This is not simply another review about a road trip, but an adventure and quest to find the most beautiful beach in South East Australia. For beach lovers like us, this was the ultimate challenge, but a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack in the vast expanse of enthralling coastline from Melbourne to Sydney.
Ninety Mile Wonder
We started our search close to Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland, Victoria, about 300km east of Melbourne. Well with a name like this, this beach could simply not be ignored. Stretching from the tiny inlet town of Seaspray to Lakes Entrance in the north, this narrow strip of land boasts one of the longest beaches in Australia, and is a national park. Totally uninhabited, deserted, and home to kangaroos and wallabies, this striking landscape is difficult to get to, but definitely worth the adventurous side trip.
At the most northern tip of the national park we came across the sleepy coastal town of Lakes Entrance. First impressions can lead you to think that this is simply another seaside tourist hot spot, but take a stroll over the white bridge spanning the inlet and you will be amazed, as we were, by the expanse of golden sand that unfolds before your eyes. Alluring wide, glorious beach stretching for endless miles in both directions. Great for watersports and surfing. Only overlooked by rolling sand dunes, and watched over by the greedy seagulls.
There is not much to the town, but for dinner, bypass the fancier spots running along the main street, and head to the Ferrymans Seafood café (Middle Harbour, The Esplanade; 5155 3000; www.ferrymans.com.au). A great spot sitting out on the dock, serving fresh seafood. Ask for the specials and a seat on the northern deck and time it just as the sun disappears over the masts of the boats in the dock. We feasted on the fish of the day, Bass Strait Rockling, lightly served with an avocado salsa, bouillabaisse risotto, and sardines tempura. Stylish, simple fare but truly memorable. Mains around AUS$22.
We stayed at the Esplanade Resort and Spa (1 The Esplanade, Lakes Entrance). Really smart four-star contemporary accommodation in a fabulous location right on the main street. We stayed in a two-bedroomed family suite. Rates for about AUS$180 (per night) for an executive family suite.
Driving distance from Melbourne to Lakes Entrance (Ninety Mile beach) - 310km.
The next part of out journey headed north along the striking coast, weaving through tiny coastal towns and over the border into New South Wales. Our next stop was Narooma, on the Sapphire Coast in New South Wales. A tiny one street town, but picture-perfect pretty, situated on a hill overlooking an enchanting sheltered bay beach, and just over the rocks the break was visible crushing onto the rocks on the wild rugged back beach. A vista that’s visible from almost anywhere in the town. Visit the rock formation 'Australia Rock' that's said to represent the map of Australia just beside the wild surf beach. Pretty and scenic, but feeling sure there was even better to come, we settle into the restaurant with the best undisputed view in town.
Sorriso (107 Campbell Street; 02 4476 3362) was a tiny Italian, family-run restaurant popular with the locals. Arrive early and ask to be seated on the terrace, which has amazing views across the back beach and out across the Pacific Ocean. Pasta marinara accompanied by a glass of Pinot Noir was the perfect end to the day. Mains are about AUS$18-20, but stick to entrées as the portions are huge.
The Whale and Motor Inn (104 Wagonga Street, Narooma). Recently renovated, and in an unrivalled position on the hilly main street, we stayed in a family executive room. Ask for room 10, an executive suite with a separate bedroom, which has the best balcony, spacious and with amazing views over the ocean. Room rate from about AUS$180.
Driving distance from Lakes Entrance to Narooma - 350km
Continuing further north, we had high expectations. Upon reaching the infamous alluring Jervis Bay area, we headed straight for the famed Hyams Beach. Cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the beach with the whitest sand in the world, we just had to see it for ourselves to make up our own minds. Well, upon rounding the last corner of the path leading onto the beach, we were simply blown away. Pure white soft sand for miles and miles, with crashing white tipped waves rolling in from the azure ocean onto the beach carrying surfers galore. An amazing beach, but obviously not a well kept secret, as this beach was packed with tourists, locals and those like ourselves who were just plain curious. Stunning? Yes. But deserving of its world wide recognition? We simply had to keep going. Before we moved on, we stopped for a coffee and stayed for lunch at the quaint and quirky Hyams Beach Café (76 Cyrus Street), a nautical themed smart café in the main street once the main general store. Lunch about AUS$12-14.
On the narrow road leading back to the attractive seaside resort of Vincentia, we came across a sign for Greenfields Beach. Deciding to check it out, we discovered a cove that, in my opinion, had even whiter sand. Smaller, but perfectly formed, and framed with rocky cliffs and huge luscious palm trees, this was indeed truly enchanting. But we were still not entirely convinced. Continuing along the coast road, we stopped to take a photograph, when I spotted a tiny glimpse of white through the trees. Exploring further, and descending down about 100 steps through thick foliage, we at last found what we had been searching for. An immaculate deserted sheltered cove with glistening , almost sparkling snow white sand. Awash with dazzling turquoise waters gently rolling along the shoreline, crowned with dancing crystal-like waves that seemed to be alive. Both beguiling and bewitching, this was almost hypnotic. Convincing ourselves that this was our discovery with the only evidence of any other life here the odd footprint in the sand, we settled for the day in our own private slice of paradise, shared only with the dolphins that could be glimpsed from time to time. We snoozed and dreamed of writing to the Guinness Book of Records to advise them that Blenheim Beach was indeed the most beautiful beach in South East Australia with the whitest sand in the world.
Driving distance form Narooma to Jervis Bay – 180km
Book a table on the expansive deck of the stylish Seagrass Brasserie in the neighbouring village of Huskisson (13 Currambene St, Huskisson, 2540; 02 4441 6124; www.seagrass.net.au). Indulge in the comforting seafood chowder, or delight in the crispy whitebait and lime and dill aioli with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Mains about AUS$26-30.
A must is a nightcap at the affectionately known Husky Pub (www.thehuskypub.com.au) - Literally the only pub in the village - also in Huskisson. Great deck out the back overlooking the long golden beach.
We stayed for a night at the aptly named Dolphin Shores (53 Beach Street, Vincentia). Basic but good value motel style accommodation, we stayed in a family spa suite. Stay here just to meet the owner Andrew, who is very knowledgeable and passionate about the area, and keen to impart his detailed knowledge and love of the beaches and the ocean. Rooms start from AUS$120.