A few months ago, I asked the question: where do you go on holiday when you’ve just moved to your dream destination?
Several readers posted great suggestions and a few weeks ago, we had a long weekend away to check out a place that probably outscored other recommendations by about three to one – Merimbula.
We actually tried to book it as our main summer holiday, for January, but even in September, it was already booked out for the school holidays. So we went a little out of season, before all the crowds arrive, to see if it’s worth a return visit.
Merimbula lies on the far southern coast of New South Wales, just north of the border with Victoria. It’s a relatively easy trip from Canberra too – you head south for the Snowy Mountains and turn left instead of right at Cooma, then stop when you get to the coast. It’s about a three-to-four hour trip, depending on traffic, how fast you drive and how often you stop, and about two-thirds of the way into the journey, the straight roads and open countryside are broken up by a twisty traversing of the Great Dividing Range that would give many a Swiss mountain pass a run for its money.
Being a bit further south than Batemans Bay – the go to coastal resort for most Canberrans – it may be that Merimbula benefits from being a little too far for many capital weekenders when Batemans is so much closer, but the extra distance rewards those willing to suffer it.
Now, we’re new to this, and hail from a place where one beach usually serves millions of people for miles around, but Australia seems to have a number of resorts where there are several beaches on offer to a relatively small population and here Merimbula excels. There are wild surf beaches – open to the Pacific Ocean where the next landfall over the horizon is Chile, there are sheltered beaches where the kids can play and splash without too much peril, and there are narrow bottle-neck inlets that give way to broad tidal lakes with shallow waters and calm currents — perfect for messing about with boats and floats.
We counted at least five beaches in Merimbula itself, with more on offer if you want to drive a few kilometres. We didn’t need to, we went to three of them and counted fewer than three or four other families on any one of them.
We stayed at the NRMA holiday park, which is perched on a ridge overlooking three beaches, and has facilities that had the kids bouncing up and down in the car as we drove to our cabin. Now, if you’d told me a few years ago that we’d be staying in a cabin on a holiday park, I’d have probably had a face of horror, but these parks are big business here, offering smart, air-conditioned cabins at one end of the market and cheap camping pitches at the other. But, this being Australia, everyone rubs along together pretty well, making use of communal facilities such as barbecues, swimming pool, tennis courts, café/bar and more, then disappearing into their accommodation for more barbecuing, drinking and chilling out.
Despite my initial reticence, we received the warmest of welcomes, our cabin was top-notch, and within 30 minutes of arrival, I could feel the sea air and the kids’ faces all conspiring to make me feel the most relaxed I’ve felt in ages.
Town was a short walk from the holiday park or, if visiting one of the town’s clubs for dinner and drinks, there was the offer of shuttle buses to ferry you to and fro. Highlights in the area were the Potoroo Palace native wildlife park, which also has a café and barbecues for those in need of an emergency sausage sizzle. The kids also loved the mini golf course in Merimbula itself. But in truth, we didn’t wander far. With all the facilities of the park and a glorious weekend of weather, we pretty much stayed put and enjoyed the stunning setting while the boys ran themselves into magnificent holiday exhaustion.
To all those who recommended Merimbula, thank you. We’ll definitely be returning. To all those who recommended other places, we’ll get there, we’ll get there. There’s talk in the CBRbound household of buying a camper trailer at the moment, and if that becomes a reality, there’ll be many more weekend jaunts to look forward to.