Postcard from Merimbula

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.

Two children run along a deserted beach at Merimbula.

Australia seems like it can offer everyone their own private beach.

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.

A panoramic shot of Middle Beach in Merimbula.

Views like this still leave us breathless.

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.

A view of Bar Beach in Merimbula.

Behind a narrow inlet, Bar Beach is calm, sandy and when the tide goes out, it extends for hundreds of metres.

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.

A family with surfboards staring at a beach.

The CBRbound family discuss which beach to try today.

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.

A balcony view of holiday cabins overlooking a beach.

The view from our cabin.

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.

Mini-CBRbound collects his ball from a mini-golf hole.

Mini-golf is always highly competitive in the CBRbound family.

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.

A kangaroo sniffs the lens of the camera.

A warm welcome from a curious roo at Potoroo Palace.

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.

8 thoughts on “Postcard from Merimbula

  1. Me, me, me, I was one! I’m thrilled to bits that you chose Merimbula. It’s a fantastic place for families – with such variety. Looks like you had perfect weather too. Did you turn off and drive through Candelo, or go straight down the main highway to the coast. I love that trip through Candelo. Anyhow, thanks for writing this up. Took me back. We went annually for years, but then circumstances changed, but I’m hankering to return.

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    • Yes you were, and we thank you for it because it helped us to make a decision rather than looking in awe at the vast map of Australia. We took the direct route via Cooma but we did come back via Bega so we could stop at the cheese factory museum (and eat another little-needed meal). We’ll definitely be back. That sea air and the feeling of being so far away from the cities definitely helped us to unwind more in three days than we sometimes do in a fortnight sat other places. We’ll do the Candelo detour next time — it’s always good to have things up your sleeve for a return visit eh? Thanks again for the recommendation, we toasted our thanks with a crisp white wine while listening to the waves crash down on the beach below.

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      • It sure is … there are many reasons to visit again – besides doing again what you did. Plenty more opportunities for drinking crisp white wines while overlooking the beach I reckon.

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  2. So glad you made the trip. It can sometimes be hard to come back from there I find…especially when I make the mistake of visiting Bar beach kiosk just before driving home. And so glad you feel it’s worthy of more visits. And it’s not a bad drive either…lots of nice little stops along the way. Last time we were all down together we got stuck at the bottom of Brown Mountain due to a truck rollover so we backtracked to Bemboka to wait it out and have a spot of lunch. Whilst we were there we took a walk around the park which has a history trail you can follow and read about the original settlers in the area. Amazing what you find out when forced to take a minute.

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    • It definitely took us a few days to get back into the swing of Canberra life after our break, and it’s not hard to see why the place was already fully booked for January. I’m glad we took the time to grab a weekend there and check it out though because it confirmed the place is worth getting organised for and booking early next year. Next time we can explore a little more. By chance, I happened across the ABC TV show Back Roads last night which offers all sorts of inspiration for those ‘off the beaten track’ places that you might not think to visit otherwise. Last night they visited Winton, north-west of Longreach. Those places are so far removed from city life and offer a different kind of getaway altogether.

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      • yes, I saw that program too. Took me back to a Christmas holiday in my childhood. We lived in Mt Isa at the time and were driving down to Brisbane to have Xmas with one set of grandparents, and then onto Sydney to see the others. Except, we had a small accident on the outskirts of Winton when bulldust got into the brakes and when my mother put on the brakes to go over a single lane wooden bridge only one side of the brakes worked and the car swerved into a big post on the bridge. That was the end of the car for the rest of the holidays. So, it was a night in Winton, and then on the train to Brisbane, to Sydney and then back to Brisbane where we picked up the car for the trip home. Very exciting for us kids. Not so for the parents. My mum learnt a lesson from that. Never just stuff things into the car when you are travelling. May sure everything is packed in cases! I think she had all sorts of things like Xmas gifts packed into little corners of the boot. It was not fun getting all that stuff organised for the rest of the trip.

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      • There are so many exciting places to visit. Yesterday I drove too and from Wagga for work, and came back through Junee and Harden (only because the Long Track Pantry at Jugiong was not open, but that’s another matter). Anyhow, it reminded me how nice the little towns are to drive through. There is a small town out that way called Wombat. That’s probably my favourite after the shire of Banana in QLD!

        I’m going to add Temora aviation museum to my list of early new year trips. Always thought about doing that one but for whatever reason have never gotten round to it. It’s all on our doorstep and I vow to do much more.

        Last word from me…try places like Tumut for a weekend away in Autumn when it’s cooler. Glorious river walks to do and scenery to take in.

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      • Oh no, WORKING IT ALL OUT IN CANBERRA, you should have asked me. I could have told you the LTP isn’t open on Tuesdays. We try not to return from our Melbourne trips on a Tuesday!

        You are right Tumut is beautiful. And, Mark, Cowra with its Japanese Gardens there can be enjoyed by kids – at least we took kids there.

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