Shoalhaven Heads is a little-known gem located in the mid-South Coast within easy reach of Canberra and Sydney. This quiet coastal town is perfect for those who want to chill out, families looking for some adventure, fishing by the river, riding some bumpy waves along Seven Mile Beach, a unique shopping experience, hiking, wining, and dining. You can do all this and moreover a lazy long weekend and if you have longer, I highly recommend extending your stay at Jervis Bay.
Shoalhaven Heads has a choice of budget and boutique accommodation options ranging from camping sites to luxury Airbnb options. Don’t expect any five-star hotels here – it would ruin its typically Australian charm. It’s not completely bush and beach either, having all the conveniences you’ll need to enjoy your stay – two small grocery stores, a newsagent, hairdressers, a café, a butcher, a bakery a pharmacy, a pizza shop, a burger, Chinese takeaway, and recreation club with a bistro. This place seems like an ideal place to retire if you can afford exuberant house prices thanks to our beloved Sydney siders.
Here are some tips to make your lazy weekend to Shoalhaven Heads an easy and memorable one.
1. Time your trip during February or March
February and March is the best time to secure a good deal to Shoalhaven Heads in my opinion. It’s after the school holiday rush, less crowded, cheaper and you give get warm temperatures. Book early as possible to secure the best deals via Airbnb or other accommodation options.
2. Stay next to the Shoalhaven River Inlet
I feel that we got lucky and found the best Airbnb accommodation in Shoalhaven Heads. The Beach House is a cozy 3 bedroom home (suitable for up 8 people) located directly on the Shoalhaven River with stunning views of both the river and Seven Mile Beach. It has all the amenities you’ll need for a comfortable stay, with a BBQ outside and a large deck to enjoy a beverage or two and take in all the views. If you’re into fishing this place is convenient to take a few beers down to the river right in front of the house and try your luck. I didn’t catch anything but it was fun nonetheless.
3. Hire a paddle board or swim across to the island
The best thing about staying next to the Shoalhaven river inlet is the little island with quiet sandy beach areas where you can just be lazy and enjoy some serenity. You can hire a paddleboard (from Perfect Paddles) or swim across to the island and spend some quiet time there. It’s only a 50-meter swim and the rest of the way is only knee-deep you can walk it over. It’s perfectly suited to a family with kids with calm and clear water with lots of fish. I recommend taking a floatable seat with a drinks holder to just lie around in the calm water and take it all in.
4. Visit Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach is a long picturesque stretch of coastline located between the Shoalhaven Heads and Gerrora. This beach is apparently not what it used to be with sand erosion affecting most parts of the beach, however, it’s still a beautiful place to surf, chill out or enjoy the sunrise.
It’s probably best to stay within close proximity to Shoalhaven Surf Life Saving Club located at… I felt safer boogie boarding and swimming under a close watch of the life guards between the flags. I noticed there was a strong undercurrent and it gets deep very quickly especially at high tide. The wind is quite strong so take a good strong beach tent and park it close as possible to sand dunes as the waves do come a fair bit.
The waves come right up close to your tent and sand dunes so you may a bit claustrophobic. It’s probably worthwhile driving up north for a more open spot if you want to play beach cricket or feel a sense of more space. For you thrill-seekers, apparently, Seven Mile Beach is also a great place to try out kite surfing but I didn’t anyone crazy enough to do it.
5. Get takeaway from the local
Feeling hungry after your Shoalhaven adventures? Try out the burgers or fish and chips from the local takeaway grocery joint at 141 Shoalhaven Heads Rd – I cannot remember the name of it as we stumbled upon it late in the afternoon after our sunshine activities. For some reason though Google hasn’t updated its permanently closed status (it’s not permanently closed Google!). It’s cheap and the food is fresh and delicious.
6. Buy your groceries and alcohol at Nowra
The local grocery store and bottle shop only stock the basics and are a bit pricey. The closest supermarkets are located 15 minutes on either side of Shoalhaven Heads in the towns of Nowra and Berry. To save time and effort, buy all your groceries and alcohol at the Nowra Shopping Centre before making the trip up to Shoalhaven Heads.
7. Try out the wineries
As you make your way to Shoalhaven Heads, you will notice an array of small and medium-sized wineries scattered across the hillside worth visiting. During the busy summer months, these wineries may need you to book ahead for wine tastings due to the increased demand. Click here to check out the current top 5 wineries.
8. Check out the town of Berry
Berry is a historic town located approximately 15 minutes’ drive north of Shoalhaven Heads. This charming town is a foodie’s paradise, has character written over it with a unique mix of boutique clothing and household good shops, cool cafes and award-winning restaurants.
If you have kids, you cannot go past The Treat Factory which has a large selection of handcrafted old-fashioned confectionaries and chocolates. The oldies will also be happy with their range of converses, condiments, pickles, chutneys, and sauces.
Whatever the time of day, I recommend a takeaway coffee and a croissant from the Milkwood Bakery. There was a long line at this café and I can see why – a true country style service with a smile, the coffee was the awesome and authentic croissant.
Finally, you cannot leave Berry and without having a meal and a yarn at its local pub – The Berry Hotel. This local pub is full of charm and has a modern vibe with TVs all around, which breaks up the conversations nicely (perfect for introverts like me!). I highly recommend the fish and chips – close to the coast so you can’t wrong!