A Meandering Loop through the Sapphire Coast Hinterland

04 June 2016 / Ken Keeling

Friday 20th through Sunday 22nd May 2016

Notwithstanding a forecast for a cold morning with showers to follow, 12 Canberra cars plus one from Bathurst (RPM) departed Queanbeyan in cool but reasonable weather for Braidwood and a coffee fix. The forecast rain was obligingly confined to a squall line that wet the roads (but not us) and which we passed through before reaching Braidwood, where we met up with another of our run participants.

With caffeine levels restored at a quaint rustic (& organic) Provedore, our little convoy headed off to the coast through a number of roadworks (with related delays) down The Clyde to Batemans Bay and then on to Narooma Golf Club for lunch and to meet our 15th car and make up our complement of 29 people.

@ Narooma Golf Club

How lucky we are to have facilities that provide good food at reasonable prices with fantastic coastal views – for something similar in Europe, one would have to mortgage the home! After a pleasant luncheon sojourn, it was off to Central Tilba to sample the ice-cream, stock up on cheese and browse the interesting shops.

We’re @ Central Tilba. Now where’s the cheese? (BJ)

Armed with enough cheese to complement the evening wine it was a short hop to Bermagui for coffee overlooking the Fishermen’s Wharf area, an idyllic setting with views that, again, would cost a mint if overseas. On the move once again we travelled the coast road to Tathra, passing along the picturesque Cuttagee Beach before venturing into the more winding sections of road to the Bega River Bridge and along the beach dune to our overnight accommodation at Tathra Big 4 Tourist Park. Unfortunately, my plan to stop at Mimosa Winery (to sample some reds suitable to go with our Tilba Tilba Cheese) had to be cancelled as they were closed for the winter – but, of course, that provides a reasonable excuse to have another run to the Sapphire Coast sometime in the future. 

A group gathering in the early evening made serious inroads into the cheese and wine stocks, so much so that several of the group declined to venture forth with the rest in a perambulating search of an evening meal close to our accommodation.  Some found sustenance at the Beach Café with reports that the meal was fine, when it finally arrived, but the wait to place orders and the time taken to present the meals was considered excessive.  It seems the café staff may have been somewhat overwhelmed by the influx of our MX5ers on a normally quite autumn evening.

A good night’s rest ensured all were ready for departure at a civilised 9.30am for our loop around the Sapphire Coast hinterland. Heading south, we skirted the centre of Merimbula and headed up the highway before diverging at Wolumla westwards onto scenic rural roads that ultimately lead us to coffee at Candelo - and one quite dusty local MX5 NB, rather well endowed with cobwebs! We never found the owner of the MX5, but somewhat surprisingly, we did find several sources of good coffee. There was general consensus that another “refreshments” stop at Candelo would be well merited next time we were passing that way – especially to sample some of the father & son team’s offerings at “Two Blokes Food Cafe and Deli”.

Cars @ Candelo 

Departing Candelo, we headed up to the Myrtle Mountain Lookout to take in the views to the coast.

Gathered @ Myrtle Mtn Lookout 

The group was re-briefed and broken up into several groups before departing to continue down Myrtle Mtn. toward Wyndham for the turn east onto the Mt Darragh Rd.  At this point things became a little less organised. Some of the more enthusiastic drivers had gone ahead in a lead group but I dropped out of the mid-group Mt Darragh Rd to stop & wait to ensure the last group of cars also correctly made the turn eastwards.  When they arrived, I dropped in behind and we headed east toward our next turn – Back Creek Rd that should have taken everyone to Nethercote and thence on to again join the highway south of Eden. Alas - as Robert Burns so presciently put it: “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley.”  And quite a few of the faster cars followed their noses (rather than the briefing) and didn’t turn south until they met the highway at South Pambula.  Some did manage to follow the brief and enjoyed the scheduled scenic drive via Nethercote.  Despite one dedicated person parking his car at the designated Back Creek Rd junction and waiting patiently for them to make the turn toward Nethercote, the tailenders also managed to miss that turn and continued on toward South Pambula.  With unfounded faith, I stopped and joined my waiting friend at the corner with some confidence that they would soon realise that I was no longer following.  But then again, maybe not??

Oh Joy! Oh! Joy!  One had turned back and joined us waiting at the corner and, after a brief discussion, it was decided that the other two cars now with me would go on via Nethercote to Boydtown whilst I would follow the “lost” cars.  Of course that allowed me a perfectly reasonable opportunity to pursue them - only in order to save those poor wandering souls lost in the wilderness.  Well maybe not really lost, but whatever….   Catch them up I did and the three cars turned around, briskly retraced about 10kms to the Back Creek Rd corner and then enjoyed a pleasant drive via the designated Nethercote route to arrive at Boydtown before the others had finished ordering lunch.  And what a very pleasant lunch it was - followed by the Seahorse Inn management happily giving us permission for a “photo opportunity” on the lawns by the shoreline. 

The invitation by the hotel staff was seized upon enthusiastically, but some found the instructions of how to get around the hotels out-buildings and gardens a little less than easy to follow… especially when asked to assemble them in a particular position and grouping for the photo.

We think the cars were left somewhere around here... 

Ah! There they are – at the Seahorse Inn, Boydtown

Fortune had favoured us - we found the appropriately assembled cars and, when the mandatory photos were taken, it was time for us to say farewell to this particular “jewel of the Sapphire Coast” and people left for their individual activities of choice in Eden, only a short run away, with instructions to re-group at the Eden Wharf mid-afternoon for our run back to Tathra.

The next several hours were spent exploring Eden and its attractions, including more good coffee down at the harbour-side cafés.  A run up the highway, almost to Bega and thence by link roads across to the coast had us all happily back at our Tathra digs in good time for après drive drinks – and more cheese! 

Unfortunately, my prior (and very tentative) plans for a group evening meal failed at the first hurdle (the Tathra Hotel was undergoing renovations and both “Fat Tony’s” & “the Pizza place” were closed for winter) so I was left with no clear plan for a group evening meal, other than a long walk to one of the several clubs.  But all was not lost, our Canberra Chapter is very supportive and not short of innovative souls, quite a few of whom promptly rallied around and organised the makings for a group barbeque at the excellent Big 4 facilities.  Needless to say a seriously good evening was enjoyed by all.  

Party time @ Tathra (JH) 

Happily (undoubtedly in deference for their Leader’s advancing age), our revellers broke up in excellent spirits and before the Park’s 10pm noise curfew and we retired to the sounds of distant surf.

Tovarishchi! There is the path… (KS) 

Our final morning was yet another “office hours” start – which seemed to suit most people.  After some final “collection of cars” photos and a very complicated briefing – “start here, via Pambula to our coffee stop at Bombala, thence Cooma for lunch" – my “sputniki” headed off on the home run.

Once on the road, the delays of traffic lights and roadworks in Merimbula didn’t faze us too much, although a “regroup stop” was required, but with all the little ducks in a row once again it was off to South Pambula to leave the main roads and head via Wyndham to Bombala.  On the run up the mountain between Wyndham and Cathcart, some took the only real opportunity of the day for some fun in our little “corner king cars” before our stop to top up the caffeine levels at Bombala. 

After coffee, the byways of the Monaro High Country took us toward Dalgety, before diverting north toward Cooma and an encounter with some mobile (and pretty stupid) rural road hazards….

Lamb chops for lunch anyone? (KS) 

Speaking of lunch, our final group activity for this run was lunch at Cooma – at The Lott … and a good lot of lunch it was too.  Lunch enjoyed and farewells said we broke up and individually headed homewards on the well-made - and very well policed Monaro Highway.  I believe everyone made it home without an involuntary contribution to the State Revenue offices in either NSW or the ACT.

By all accounts, from the feedback received,  it was a good outing well enjoyed by all participants, including our RPM visitors who have indicated they will certainly again join the Canberra MX5ers on another of our “longer weekends away”

Home again and refuelled indicted 859kms on the odometer and a run organiser pretty satisfied that all had gone well for a previously untried format for my runs – that of staying in carapark cabins rather than motels.  The new format promoted group dynamics that were certainly different and very convivial, which is a pleasing outcome for a new concept - at least for me.  And I think the Big 4 Tathra provide both good service and an excellent facility that merits another visit by us sometime in the future. 


My thanks to all those who organised and provided for Saturday evening’s barbeque and also to those who provided additional photos for me to choose from – your help is much appreciated. And I need to learn to take more photos of people and places – not just cars!

Photos: Ken Keeling unless accredited otherwise: viz.

  • (BJ) Bob Judd
  • (JH) Jane Hick
  • (KS) Kerry Shepherdson