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My 48 Hours of Food and Culture in Shoalhaven

My 48 Hours of Food and Culture in Shoalhaven

Starting two hours south of Sydney, Shoalhaven is 4,567 square kms of lush green bush lands, eco-rich marine parks, adorable small towns, and air so fresh capitalists will one day try and sell it.

To the Dharawal, Wodi-Wodi, Gurandada, and Tharumba people, Shoalhaven has been their home for at least 40,000 years, meaning the area is steeped in Indigenous Australian culture. Amongst both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Shoalhaven locals there is a strong sense that they couldn’t live anywhere else which is perhaps why the area inspires much of their artistic and gastronomical culture.

Having extensively travelled the NSW South Coast, I was well prepared to take in the delights of this relaxing and rejuvenating region. Here are my 48 hours of food and culture in Shoalhaven.

Shopping In Berry – 12pm, Thursday

About as quiet as Berry gets.

Berry is one of the most precious little towns in Australia. When driving from Sydney, Berry is the first Shoalhaven town you will likely stop in; two hours out of Sydney it is the perfect spot for a driver reviver, especially on less busy weekdays.

Sourdough and other artisanal breads put Berry on the map meaning you can’t really go wrong stopping in for a bite at any of the local bakeries. Load up on treats at Flavours Shoalhaven or if you’re looking for a longer stop, The Garden Cafe does a nice lunch with matching local wines.

Berry gets absolutely hectic on the weekends so be patient when looking for a parking spot.

Donuts By The Sea – 3:30pm, Thursday

Image description: God.

Immediately after checking into my accomodation in Huskisson, I found myself at the first place I always go when I am in Jervis Bay – Huskisson Ice Cream Parlour.

But it’s not the ice cream that I rush back for, it is the crispy, fluffy, hotter than a hug cinnamon donuts. They don’t have donuts lying around, they make them fresh for you at only $1 a pop. Add a coffee and an ocean vista and you’ve got quite the afternoon tea going.

Yes, I am aware Berry has a very famous donut truck with a similar fresh and simple offering. I tried both within hours of each other, and in my honest opinion Huskisson Ice Cream Parlour comes out on top and is less than half the price.

Brewery Hop In Huskisson – 5:30pm, Thursday

All core range beers at Jervis Bay Brewing are tied to a local legend. Discuss them (and which Big Day Out was the best) with locals in the courtyard.

Just three years ago, it would have been an easy task to pick the best brewery on the South Coast. Now, thanks to the South Coast Brewery Boom you’ll have a hard time simply picking the best brewery in Huskisson: Flamin’ Galah or Jervis Bay Brewing.

My advice? Visit both.

Pretty in pink, Flamin’ Galah is not your dad’s brewery (they don’t even do a lager!) boasting a slider and taco packed food van, and fun cocktail menu. Family friendly and just friendly in general, Jervis Bay Brewing produces beer in a variety of styles and colours. They have a rotating group of local food trucks and events every Thursday, as well as trivia with a random group of locals the night I was there.

Breakfast At 5 Little Pigs – 8:30am, Friday

Image description: Also God.

I’ll keep this quick because there are a lot of great breakie spots in Huskisson but you’re missing out if you’ve never been to 5 Little Pigs.

They also do a great lunch, but their salt and vinegar hash brown is both a stunning side dish and a meal unto itself: a tangy, crispy, fluffy parcel of hot joy that will smile at you in your dreams.

Wine & Dine At Cuppitt’s Estate – 11am, Friday

Only follow Cuppitt’s Estate on Insta if your phone can handle the odd bit of drool.

All Sydneysiders doing an Insta-friendly weekend on the coast are stopping in at Cuppitt’s Estate. This charming restored vineyard seats you before a yawning green vista of South Coast tranquility, just half an hour from Huskisson.

The family run estate lives up to the South Coast ethos of ‘why import when we can make it ourselves?’ As a result, Cuppitt’s produces some of the best cheese, beer, and wine anywhere in NSW. Taking in the fine dining menu with matching wines makes a great marker of a special occasion, but the patio with outdoor seating provide equally good views for a drink and a little something to eat.

Pop into the cellar door and ask Steve for a wine tasting so you can take some of the good stuff home with you.

Danger At Milton Hotel – 3pm, Friday

Ah whoops, how did I end up here?

On my way back towards Huskisson, I stopped in at the old Milton Holtel, Milton, for a place to answer some emails and do some *ahem* research.

In 2019, Milton local Damien “Dangerous Damo” Martin purchased the old watering hole and ambitiously replaced the pub beer and food menu with booze and food made on the premises. At first, it took the locals some getting used to but three years later people come from all ’round to sample Damo’s brick oven food menu and house made beers.

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The lagers are some of the best in Australia and the back veranda view of the local mountains and sea are the best chasers there are.

Sample Wild Ginger – 7pm, Friday

Day trippers delight, Wild Ginger also have a Kiama venue.

After a (well earned?) nap, rally your mates and head down to Wild Ginger on the main street of Huskisson. They offer an inexpensive Chef’s Menu ($58 pp) which provides you with some of the best dishes on their SE Asian menu including betel leaf starters and some curries that will compete for dominance in your mouth.

Wake Up With Salty Joe – 8am, Saturday

Healthy bowl of green stuff to undo a day of full-fat everything and a brekkie toastie because it’s the best.

With a great drinks and lunch menu, there really isn’t a bad time of day to visit Salty Joe’s. However, the earlier you can get there (open from 6:30am) the better chance you have of scoring a window seat where you can watch the town wake up.

As the sun peeks up over the water, the active locals begin congregating out the front, catching up on the week and ensuring each others’ dogs are sufficiently patted before they go about their day cycling, surfing, and loving life on this most amazing coast.

Art & Local History – 11am, Saturday

So amazing I forgot to take my poor attention span with me. Beautiful.

After all that food for the mouth it’s not such a bad idea to get some food for the soul. Take the winding bush drive out to Bundanon, an architecture fan’s delight in a tremendous valley of green where all manner of wildlife run free.

Until November 6, 2022, the gallery is hosting Parallel Landscapes, an exhibition that showcases the human relationship with the Shoalhaven area through both Indigenous and European lenses. Included in your ticket price is a 30 minute tour which takes you through the meaning of the pieces and the lives of their creators.

To a lover of food and culture, Shoalhaven is a sprawling lolly shop full of art and produce created amongst the fresh sea air by relatable individuals with unique perspectives. Yes, there is a bucket list worth of amazing outdoor activities (the whale swims and free diving is life changing) but there are also plenty of things to do for those who’d rather enjoy the coast from a comfy chair, collecting a new view with a drink — there’s no doubt you’ll be spoiled for choice in Shoalhaven.

The writer travelled as a guest of Visit Shoalhaven.

Lead image: Jack Rowley

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