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Mid-week escape: Merimbula Magic

Annika Dash

The sun is setting in brilliant shades of pink over the water, fishermen are trying their luck off the wharf and a lone Kite-surfer dances with the waves in the distance. I take a sip of wine and sit back feeling satisfied and tired after a day filled with sun and surfing.

The Wharf

The Wharf

We are at the Merimbula Aquarium and Wharf restaurant enjoying a lovely meal of freshly caught fish and a decadent chocolate dessert.

Merimbula is on the Sapphire Coast and is not far from Tathra and Eden. It has become somewhat of a second home to my partner Tim and I, as we are lucky enough to have extremely generous family friends who own a house here.

Merimbula Wharf and Aquarium

Merimbula Wharf and Aquarium

Although Merimbula is a further drive from Canberra than Batemans Bay (just over three hours) through Cooma and down Brown Mountain, it offers plenty to see and do and is definitely worth the extra effort.

Being further away from Batemans Bay we are also more of a novelty here than in Batemans, which swarms with Canberrans in summer or any long weekend.

We have been welcomed here with open arms by the locals and this is why we have come to see Merimbula as a home away from home. When we arrive at the Aquarium and Wharf Restaurant for dinner Anthony, the owner, greets us like old friends and even remembers that our last visit was at Easter time.

The Merimbula Aquarium and Wharf Restaurant provides delicious meals throughout the year for lunch and is open for dinner from November to April. The emphasis is on fish and seafood but there are also other options and the chocolate dessert is to die for. During winter the restaurant is sometimes open for dégustation dinners.

The view is just spectacular, overlooking the sea and wharf. Once, a couple of years ago, when Tim and I were seated inside eating lunch here around October we saw a small humpback whale swim past the wharf, right in front of our window.

Downstairs from the restaurant there is also an interesting aquarium filled with an array of sea life. Originally the wharf and warehouse were used as a commercial port and whaling station, and it has been here since the 1890s. It was rebuilt as an aquarium in the 1980s. There are 27 different tanks in the aquarium plus an ocean tank and fish feeding can be observed at certain times.

At the moment you can see ‘Diamond’, a green sea turtle who is at the Merimbula Aquarium for rehabilitation until she can be released back to sea when the water warms up. There are also shark eggs soon to hatch which are pretty cool to look at as you can see the shape of the tiny sharks moving about inside the eggs.

People fish at the wharf or dive, spear fish and snorkel around the area. One of the unique things about Merimbula is the variety of areas to enjoy the water. Even on a windy day you can usually find a sheltered spot to play, surf, fish, paddle or swim.

Short Point

Short Point

Short Point and Main Beach are good spots to surf or swim, between them is Bar Beach; a snug, quiet little beach at the entrance to Merimbula Lake. World renowned surf can sometimes be found off the spit at Main Beach, if the conditions are right. Usually it is reasonably calm and filled with picnicking families and stand-up paddle boarders.

Bar Beach at the river mouth

Bar Beach at the river mouth

 

On a windy day, kite-surfers and windsurfers take to the water to make the most of the conditions. Bar Beach also has a little beach kiosk serving drinks and light meals for breakfast and lunch.

Bar Beach Kiosk

Feeling peckish after a swim in the surf? Bar Beach Kiosk is perfect for that tide-me-over.

Mitchies Jetty and Spencer Park are both on the lake foreshore and are great places for families with small children. My nephew enjoys swimming and building sandcastles here.

Mitchies Jetty

Mitchies Jetty

Merimbula also has many walks. There is a beautiful walk from Spencer Park to Bar Beach winding through the trees with the view of the water peeking through the leaves. There is also the famous Merimbula boardwalk which winds from the main bridge to Top Lake for around two kilometres running adjacent to the many oyster leases. Situated along the boardwalk are information boards about the local marine life and vegetation, and you can often spot various birds and crabs scuttling about the mangroves. An interesting sight at low tide is the vast swathes of soldier crabs looking for food on the sand.

At the end of the boardwalk is Top Lake Boat Hire and Sunset Kiosk. Tim and I have spent many a still morning kayaking on the lake with kayaks we hired from here. It is a truly relaxing and beautiful experience. They also hire out motor boats, canoes, pedal boats and sell bait for those who like to fish.

Top Lake Boat Hire & Sunset Kiosk

Top Lake Boat Hire & Sunset Kiosk

It is owned by friends Pete and Robby who bought it just over a year ago after deciding on a sea change. They are currently in the throes of renovations to the kitchen and inside area, and have all sorts of plans to improve the kiosk.

Currently you can sit on the deck with a cold drink or coffee (they are known for their good coffee) or enjoy breakfast or a light meal whilst watching people kayaking and boating nearby.

There is also lots to do in the town of Merimbula. It has a supermarket, a few bakeries, a cinema, Top Fun for the kids, a couple of fishing and surf shops, a good newsagent and the Booktique, which is a lovely bookshop where you can browse and enjoy a hot drink and some cake at the same time. Merimbula even has a small airport with regular flights to Sydney and Melbourne, and local leisure flights if you fancy joining a beach patrol.

Surprisingly, Merimbula is also known for its dining scene with so many great places to eat that I can’t possibly mention them all so I will just mention a few of our favourites.

Santa Fe Restaurant serves Mexican food and we’ve discovered that it’s almost always open even when everyone else is closed. The Waterfront situated right in town which is as the name suggests on the Waterfront. This is only open for breakfast and lunch but when it is open, does great meals. Cranky’s Café over near Main Beach offers delicious fish and chips, pizzas and burgers.

And then there’s Wheelers Seafood Restaurant, halfway between Merimbula and Pambula offering Modern Australian Cuisine. It is a great place especially if you like seafood and you can even tour the Oyster farm which is adjacent to the restaurant. There are also a number of clubs including Club Sapphire and the RSL, both in the main town.

Nearby Merimbula is the Pambula–Merimbula golf course—the only 27 hole golf course on the Sapphire coast—and Magic Mountain, a fun park featuring a new tree climb challenge.

Merimbula

Find everything you need in Merimbula.

Merimbula is a great place to visit all year round and we have often enjoyed visiting in the off season without the hordes. In June, Merimbula holds a Jazz festival while September through to November is the best time to whale watch when the whales are on their way to the feeding grounds of the Antarctic.

The Kite-surfer is packing up for the day. One of the fishermen on the wharf has caught a Port Jackson shark. It’s about to be released as they aren’t palatable. Anthony says he will sometimes accept these for the aquarium. This is our last dinner here are we are preparing to leave soon. Ten days of fun and sun has been so relaxing that we wish we didn’t have to go. We hope to return soon and look forward to planning our next visit. I urge you to do the same.

The essentials

The place: Merimbula, Sapphire Coast
How far: 3 hours south just near Eden
Directions: Follow the Monaro Highway south to Cooma before making your way down Brown Mountain to the coast.

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