Given the opportunity to travel to the South Coast after bush fires ravaged and continue to affect the region, I wanted to create a guide to that not only shared the best spots to go but shared some of the locals stories & experiences too.
With less than 24 hours for the trip (it's surprisingly achievable and possible to feel relaxed in that time if you commit to the break!) I had to lean partly on my knowledge of the area from previous trips as well as my childhood memories. I travelled to Mollymook almost every Summer in my early childhood and the region continues to hold a special part of my heart.
1 | Take The Long Drive
If you don't have small children or deadlines, I recommend mapping out a more exploratory route down to Milton, Mollymook & Ulladulla. We drove from Sydney - Camden - Goulburn - Milton and were blown away by the changing landscapes of Australia. From the rolling green pastures of Camden (having just received rain), through dry & drought-affected Goulburn, past pastel-toned squiggly gums aglow in the afternoon light and into fire-ravaged Morton National Park, this journey set the tone for our trip. It was both sobering to see homes that had been lost & forests devoid of life and heart-warming to see the community spirit and bush regeneration pervading through the bleak landscape.
2 | Support the Local Farmers & Stalls
On the drive down, you'll come across local fruit stalls - particularly along the Princess Highway. Pull over & purchase delicious produce - with peaches, nectarines and mangoes in season - and talk to the owners. Empty Esky recently featured Graham who sells fresh fruit on the side of the Princess Highway towards Batemans Bay and who sadly lost his home in the fires at Picton. It's these locals that need our support and money!
3 | Stay at The Old Schoolhouse Milton or With Locals
There are so many wonderful places to stay in the region but I had to tick off a bucket list moment and stay at The Old Schoolhouse Milton. Jenny who owns The Old Schoolhouse Milton is amongst many local accommodation owners who are grateful to still have their home but have experienced a drop in business during their peak period. Visiting and staying with them will keep their businesses going until next Summer. Jenny has not only styled The Stables & Loft to perfection but the grounds offer a warm introduction to the surrounding countryside. With a brood of beautiful hens, fresh eggs and produce available from Jenny's well-kept orchard and a gorgeous garden to explore, The Old Schoolhouse Milton is an absolute-must on your accommodation list!
4 | Enjoy local wine & food
Staying with Jenny meant we got a local's insight on where to wine & dine. With a plethora of options, I'm just going to highlight a few of my favourites. You can't go past Cupitt's Winery in the afternoon for views, wine and grazing boards. The pizza is sensational at The Guild and offers you a great opportunity to peruse the small shops in Milton. Tallwood offers delicious & original tapas plates that are sure to excite and delight (Their potato dish is to die for!) whilst Milk Haus must not be missed - the food, the Allpress coffee, the brood of hens and the vegetable garden all make for a wonderful way to start the day! (Milk Haus pictured below)
5 | Swim
There are a huge array of beaches to choose from on the South Coast with crystal blue waters and white sand; often with a glorious bush backdrop. Wake up in the morning and go for a walk & dip at Narrawallee Beach, stopping at Pilgrims for a coffee on the way back to your accommodation. Take a drive down to Kioloa Beach through Bawley Point for a more secluded beach experience! This area was affected badly by the bush fires so returning to their caravan / camp site is another great way to explore the area!
6 | Hear The Stories
One of the greatest privileges of this trip was hearing the locals' stories. We were particularly moved by our waitress at Tallwood's harrowing story about what it was like to be in the region over December and January and how the fires affected their community and wildlife first hand. We were inspired by her story of how Tallwood allowed locals, displaced from their homes, to cook in their kitchen for their families. I've learnt so much more from being in the region than from reading or listening to the news. It's given me an even greater appreciation for our land, where our food comes from, and how we should be more mindful of it whilst living in the cities.
The problem with an overnight road trip is that it don't leave much time to explore. However, having been to the region a plethora of times, this is a list of my favourites across the trips! Just remember, that you can support businesses & stores from afar by shopping online with them too! Here is my cheat sheet to the area -
Is it safe to go?
Absolutely! But also make sure that you're properly equipped with GPS (some road signs have melted so it pays to have GPS if you're unfamiliar with the region) and check the RFS Website before booking to ensure that you're aware of all relevant fire activity & road closures.
Is it worth visiting in the aftermath of the bushfires?
ABSOLUTELY! Without belittling the great devastation of the bush, wildfire and loss of homes, it's still an incredibly beautiful region. It was humbling and sobering to drive through fire - ravaged areas like Morton National Park and Lake Conjola - and to hear the locals stories of how it all unfolded and how it continues to affect them. And most importantly, the communities & local businesses need your patronage with most of the business owners we spoke to citing a loss of 2/3 of their December and January trade.
Best Beaches for a Dip
I'm completely biased, as this beach holds a plethora of childhood memories for me but I always find myself drawn back to it's waves. I love doing a morning run up and down the length of the beach in the mornings and exploring the rock pools at dusk.
A little further afield, Kioloa Beach has a beautiful rock pool area where the rocks are smooth enough to soak up some sun on. Not to mention the giant stretch of crystal clear water, scenic views and white sand to be experienced at Kioloa beach.
To Graze & Sip
(I've highlighted my recommended must-visits with **)
Milk Haus, Woodstock **
Cupitt's Winery, Milton **
Tallwood, Mollymook **
The Guild, Milton **
The Ruse, Ulladulla
The Milton Hotel Bistro, Milton
Pilgrims, Milton **
Small Town, Milton
Our top pick
We chose to stay at The Stables in Milton with Jenny and I cannot recommend The Stables or The Loft enough! With beautiful views, chickens & a gorgeous orchard and grounds to explore, you'll be absolutely charmed by The Old Schoolhouse Milton and Jenny's warm hospitality. Wake up at dawn, collect some eggs and enjoy the vista views that surround The Old School House Milton.
Going with a group of friends or family? Stay at these beautiful homes!
Mollymook has a plethora of beautiful airbnbs. Lose yourself in the huge array of beach homes and shacks to suit every budget and need!