The diverse coastline of New South Wales is studded with geographical gems. You could easily spend weeks cruising from one campground, township or national park to the next without ever feeling jaded. If you're after a quick hit of seaside perfection, Jervis Bay delivers.
Just 200km south of Sydney, the magnificent natural harbour of Jervis Bay is a renowned playground for surfers, swimmers and divers. But even those of the landlubber persuasion are bound to be seduced by the region's pristine beaches and gorgeous national parks.
A Short History
The first European eyes to sight Jervis Bay were those of a young(ish) James Cook, who referred to it as Cape St. George in 1770. Although Cook made the first known written account of the area, the indigenous Kiri people were deeply connected to the land through their 20,000-years as residents and caretakers.
In 1791 the Third Fleet passed into the bay and Richard Bowen gave it its current name in honour of Admiral John Jervis. In the early 19th-century, merchant, explorer and all-round less-than-savoury character Alexander Berry convinced Governor Brisbane to grant him 10,000 acres of land in the Shoalhaven area. He arrived with 100 convict 'servants' and promptly cleared the land of its indigenous population, who were displaced to Wreck Bay.
However, in 1987, the land that makes up the Booderee National Park was handed back to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal community, at the time the third Australian national park to be returned to its traditional owners (after Uluru and Kakadu national parks).
Sweeping across the northern side of the harbour is the Beecroft Peninsula. A large chunk of this dramatic coastline is used by the military for live-fire exercises, so be sure to check the area will be open before setting out to explore it.
The weapons range itself has 60 camp sites at Honeymoon Bay, with access to several walking tracks and a boat ramp, but camping here is is allowed only on Friday and Saturday nights, and school holidays. Otherwise, Holiday Haven Currawong, on the peninsula's northern edge, has plenty of space for caravans all year round, with powered sites, family-friendly facilities and – here's the clincher — amazing fish and chips.
The best way to explore the peninsula is to set out on one of its many walking trails. Longer tracks such as those to Silica Cove and Boat Harbour treat the more energetic to spectacular views of the steep southern coast, while short walks link roads and car parks to beautiful beaches such as Figtree Inlet.
There's bountiful fishing in the surrounding waters but if you do plan to wet a line be sure that you're not in one of the protected Marine Park Sanctuary Zones.
For something more adventurous, Point Perpendicular's steep sandstone cliffs offer some of the country's most exposed rock climbing. Scaling the sea cliffs is an exhilarating experience, but should be attempted only by experienced climbers.Those not quite up to the challenge should keep an eye out for climbers clinging to the rock faces of the southern and eastern coasts.
As you leave the peninsula you'll pass through the Jervis Bay National Park heading south along the coast. From Callala Bay to Jervis Bay Village, the stretch of east-facing beaches, estuaries and rivulets is punctuated by a string of townships and plenty of spots to set up camp.
There are several non-nature based experiences, including the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum and the Husky Carnival permanent fun fair. For something more physical you can learn the ropes at the Vincenita Sailing Club, wander the White Sands Walk between Greenfield Beach and Chinaman Beach or rent a bike for a ride to the seemingly endless Hyams Beach.
At the southern end of Jervis Bay you'll find the ACT-governed Jervis Bay Territory, home of the HMAS Creswell Naval College and the beautiful Booderee National Park, which covers around 80 per cent of the Territory. As well as abundant flora and fauna, Booderee has more than 100 recorded historical Aboriginal sites dating back as far as 20,000 years, including shell middens, axe grinding and stone flaking sites, rock shelters and burial sites.
Jervis Bay Territory is fringed by beautiful beaches and remarkable rocky outcrops. Many of the calm northern-facing beaches are easy to access for a day relaxing on the pristine sand. The secluded Bristol Point is perhaps the calmest and most family-friendly stretch, while the tidal platform at the Scottish Rocks — where you'll find the much photographed Hole in the Wall — are great for swimming and snorkelling.
There are three beach-side camping areas within Booderee NP, but only Green Patch caters to RVs, offering limited drive-in sites for both vans and camper trailers. A short drive from the park's northern boundary, the Palm Beach Caravan Park has several powered sites and ample facilities. Just be sure to book well ahead.
The Territory's exposed southern aspect offers some excellent surf breaks as well as beaches with a fearsome reputation — thanks to their rough waters, relative inaccessibility and marine wildlife — namely sharks. Cave Beach, named for the gaping natural tunnel at its western side, is tamer than many of its neighbours, although it can still generate some monster swells.
Kittys and Whiting beaches are secluded coves on the southern tip that are well worth the walk, but are much easier to get to if you have a water-borne vessel.
There are boat ramps at Murrays Beach on the northern point and near Wreck Bay Village in the south. Anglers can test their mettle against feisty flathead, large-lipped groper, mackerel or Australian Salmon. If crustaceans are more to your liking, there's seasonal prawning in St Georges Basin.
As with the waters on the northern side of the bay, there are protected areas and various restrictions in place, so be sure to do your research before casting off.
If you don't fancy hitting the beach or traversing the coastline, the park offers more than 30km of fire trails and walking tracks to explore. From jovial jaunts to day-long treks, the clearly signposted trails offer something for everyone. A short stroll out to Governor Head leads to a stunning vantage point with views of the bay and Bowen Island then, if you're feeling limber, you can step onto the 5.5km Munyunga Warage Dhugan loop. You want more? Fit folk can link several tracks to form a 20km circuit.
At the heart of the park lies the Booderee Botanic Gardens, the only Aboriginal-owned botanical gardens in Australia. If you book ahead you can join a guided walk with one of the park's rangers to learn about the native plants and their use by the Koori people. Alternatively, stroll the many assisted-wheelchair and pram accessible paths and trails at your own pace and soak in the sights and sounds of the rainforest, heath, forest and other cultivated areas.
Jervis Bay is easily one of Australia's most compelling coastal destinations. Singles, grey nomads, young families; the rugged east coast beckons. If you don't feel like you've arrived in paradise, best check the sat-nav, it sounds like you're lost.
This story was originally published in Caravan World #582