Far South Coast Road Trip
It’s the winter school holidays here and my family and I decided to take a bit of time-out in one of our neighbouring regions. I’ve explored a fair bit of Far South Coast NSW, but only on day trips and it’s of course a lot easier to photograph sunrises and sunsets when you don’t face a three hour journey there and back.
We stayed in Narooma which is about in the middle of Far South Coast NSW and also happens to be the prettiest of the towns on that stretch of coast. We spent three nights in the Amooran Oceanside Apartments & Motel and, if you’re ever down that way, I can highly recommend them (not a paid-for recommendation incidentally, it’s just a good hotel).
Alright, so our first port of call was Tilba. There’s actually two Tilbas – Central Tilba (the main village with the shops) and Tilba Tilba which is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hamlet with a petrol station and two shops in it. You can take a little walk up into the hills about Central Tilba and it’s well worth it because the scenery is stunning.
The village of Central Tilba is of course a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s a very pretty one and I reckon we can forgive it when the place looks like this in the middle of winter. Pretty much all the shops in the village are touristy – the usual collection of arts and crafts, cafes and clothes stores. We had lunch at the Tilba Teapot Cafe which was awesome.
Just outside Tilba you can find Corunna Lake. We were whizzing past in the car when I caught it out of the corner of my eye and we stopped and took some photos. There’s a boat ramp here but I found the best viewpoint was next to the small bridge that goes over the creek flowing into the lake.
After Tilba we headed further south down to Bermagui. Wasn’t that taken with the town itself but the beach and the famous local landmark Camel Rock were looking good. Had a slight mishap on the rocks here and fell against a rock with camera on my shoulder causing the focus ring to pop. Thought I’d broken it, but a slight twist and it all popped back into place. I was a bit more careful after that.
On our second day we decided to do something adventurous and after a bit of lively debate settled on a scenic flight from Moruya Airport. It was a perfect day for it and we flew north from Moruya up over Batemans Bay and then back along the coastline to the airport.
The views up and down the coast were really awesome. Our pilot Sheldon had great information about all the various landmarks we flew over and we got a great view of the Toll Gate islands which sit right in the middle of the Clyde River at Batemans Bay.
I was particularly interested in seeing Guerilla Bay from the air because this is one of our favourite spots in the warmer months. You can see the bay in the middle-left of the photo above with the awesome headland leading off to the left.
Even the view on the final stretch as we were coming in to land at Moruya was great. Check out all the pristine national park that surrounds the place.
Glasshouse Rocks is one of the most famous landmarks on this whole stretch of coast, the Far South equivalent of Cathedral Rocks here in South Coast NSW. However I will confess that of the two, Glasshouse is far and away the nicest. This is primarily because Glasshouse Rocks is far more extensive than Cathedral Rocks and is in a far nicer setting. There are simply more photographic possibilities at Glasshouse and the rocks themselves are much more interesting looking than their northern counterparts.
At the north end of Surf Beach there are some great rock formations under the cliffs. You can also photograph these from the 18th tee on the golf course which is on the headland you can see in the background here.
The other famous landmark in Narooma is Australia Rock (or Aussie Rock if you prefer). This is located down on the inlet and I’m told by the locals that it used to look a lot more like an outline map of Australia until newly-wed couples started posing in it and wearing away the rocks! I took the photograph above at sunrise and was lucky enough to have a colourful sky to contrast with the dark volcanic rocks.
Glasshouse Rocks is an awesome and a very photographed location and as we were staying in Narooma it was the perfect opportunity to do a sunrise shoot down at the rocks. So I set the alarm early on the first morning and headed down there at 6am. Unfortunately I hadn’t had time to recce the area and so had to rely on online information and Google Maps.
You get to Glasshouse Rocks down Glasshouse Rocks Road (the clue’s in the name). I followed the road down and ended up at the town cemetery. Acknowledging to myself the fact that photographers are a bit nutty to be wandering around graveyards at silly hours of the day particularly when there’s a full moon, I had a good look around but couldn’t find any path down to the beach and the locals weren’t saying anything. So I had another look on Google Maps and saw that there was a Glasshouse Rocks lookout just down the track a bit. When I arrived it turned out it was up a very rutted dirt track that my Golf would have struggled with, so I parked up and walked to the top and it turned out to be only about 500m. Unfortunately the marked ‘lookout’ was all overgrown with scrubby bushes, but I spotted a well-trodden track leading off to the north which I followed. Now with higher hopes, I followed the path in the dark looking for a way down. As I rounded a clump of trees, sure I’d located the way down, I found myself back in, yes you’ve guessed it, the cemetery. Deciding to cut my losses for the morning, I got back in the car and drove back around to Surf Beach.
On the last day of our trip I decided to try again. Having spent more time researching it online many photographers mentioned a path near the cemetery so I parked up again. The conditions were fairly lousy and I could see it wasn’t going to be the most colourful of sunrises but I set off around the back of the cemetery with a more powerful torch. I followed the path behind a white fence and then, after about 20m in the bush I saw a track on my left. I investigated it and as I walked to it saw another track leading down! Hallelujah!
I walked down the track and finally found myself on the right beach. It was at that moment that it started to rain. That’d be fine if I had a posh camera but I use a little old Canon 550D which is not weatherproof. So I stuffed the camera down my fleece and walked up the beach hoping that it didn’t start raining too hard. I set up and took my first shot, just as it started raining hard. I stowed the camera again hoping it would ease off and it did. I was a bit wet but the camera was fine. I managed to get about 30 minutes on the beach before the rain got too heavy and I had to beat my retreat. Given the circumstances I’m happy with the shots I got.
On my way back home through the cemetery I stopped for one last shot down onto the rocks and found this single red flower growing on the cliff-face.
On our last day we decided to take the long way home and my wife Catherine and son Josh went to Mogo Zoo while I went to check out a unique location that I’d been meaning to visit for some time.
I headed into the Murramurang National Park and paid a visit to Myrtle Beach. This is where the sandstone cliffs of the Sydney Basin come to an end and meet the much older Wagonga Ordovician rocks of the Lachlan Fold Belt, which continue south. The point where two major geological units meet is called an unconformity and this unconformity can be seen in the cliff face at the northern to middle section of the beach. Just to put this in perspective, the sedimentary rock that forms the Sydney Basin stretches all the way from Newcastle in the north to the beaches just south of Durras and inland to take in the Blue Mountains. So in the photo below you can see the very beginning of the old rocks laid down 150 million years before those of the Sydney basin were even formed.