I had a whale of a time at NSW’s Sapphire Coast

27 Apr

I HAD A WHALE OF A TIME AT NSW’S SAPPHIRE COAST  I usually retreat north on long weekends and holidays to seek warmer water and sunshine. But I spent the ANZAC long weekend at the Sapphire Coast in southern NSW and feel like I have been missing out on one of the state’s greatest treasures. It has seductive turquoise water and towns with much more character and charm than most on the north coast.

It’s a long drive from Sydney but the scenery makes the journey a treat. The coastal highway winds right and left and up and down which feels similar to driving around New Zealand’s mountainous landscape but, thankfully, its not plagued with winnebagos (which, on New Zealand’s single-lane highways, make the calmest person curse like a drunken pirate).

Eden was our main destination which is marked on the map with a deceptively large title. The town is actually very small. I assume the large title remains on the map from the early 1900’s when Eden had a flourishing population and a successful local economy that was heavily reliant on whaling. Today the town maintains remnants of the old whaling industry, with a charming old harbour full of fishing trawlers, quaint lighthouses and the best part: the killer whale museum.

Killer whales hunt baleen whales (humpback, fin and blue whales) all over the world. But what’s special about the killer whale story in Eden is that it’s the only reported place where killer whales and humans have hunted together. For more than a century three pods of killer whales would lead a local family, the Davidsons, out to sea to join their hunts for baleen whales that were traveling past on journeys up and down the Australian east coast. The museum says a few members of the pod of orcas would even swim right into the mouth of the river where the Davidsons lived and they would thrash their tails to encourage the whalers to join them. When the prey was dead, the Davidsons would leave the carcass for the killers to eat the tongue and lips as payment and then the remainder of the whale was taken to shore. You can read more about the killers of Eden at www.killersofeden.com

Merimbula is another popular destination on the Sapphire Coast. It’s slightly bigger than Eden and is located about 20 minutes north. Merimbula operates one of few dive shops in the region and they often lead dives on wrecks scattered along the coast, including the Tasman Hauler (you know the famous picture of a scuba diver hovering over a huge propellor?). There are also many popular shore dives. I dove underneath the Tathra historic wharf and along the reef nearby and highly recommend it. The dive is scattered with colourful fans, starfish, moray eels and a huge bull ray that made his presence known under the wharf. There’s something transcendent about gliding through rows of pylons that I just love. You can contact Merimbula Divers Lodge at www.merimbuladiverslodge.com.au

Unfortunately a long weekend wasn’t enough to uncover more secrets of the Sapphire Coast but I’m certain there’s more gems to find. I’m planning another trip there shortly, to dive with seals at Montague Island near Narooma. Can we have another long weekend soon, please?

By Marissa Toohey

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