Destination: NSW South Coast
Bob Couper finds a gem among gems when he stops for a break on the east-coast trek north from Victoria.
If you're cruising along the southeast coast of Australia or towing the trailer-sailer up its roads, there can come a time when you want to hide for the night from an endless southern swell or give the family a short break from endless road travel. Well if you're anywhere near Tathra on the south coast of NSW, you're in luck. It's a gem.
For the weary ocean traveller it offers a quiet corner to anchor from southerlies without the trauma of having to cross an ocean bar. And for skippers travelling the Princes Highway with their TS, there's a sheltered estuary or choice of caravan parks to hole up in. When the locals and regular visitors ask you to keep its pleasures a secret, you know you have to be onto a good thing.
The yacht Wilhelm heads north again after a night’s rest from the southern swells anchored off Tathra wharf.
James Cook made the first known European sighting of the Tathra headland in 1770. It then slipped off the radar until 1797 when a group of shipwrecked sailors from the ship Sydney Cove passed through on what became known as the “Long Walk” – an eAs a result of the reports by the three survivors out of the original 17 that started off, George Bass called in at the Bega River mouth to investigate further. But it took many years before the Tathra was surveyed and the first European residents established themselves.
With the subsequent settlement of the Bega valley and the construction of the Tathra wharf in 1862, the coastal village quickly became an important landing place for steamers bringing in supplies and taking out farm produce.
Today, Tathra has mostly avoided the destructive actions of developers that have wrecked so many other coastal towns in Australia. Apart from Xmas time, it remains a quiet sleepy little coastal village with a dedicated band of frequent visitors.
The sheltered waters in the many inlets surrounding Tathra can provide a great mix of water sports for the whole family.
Avoiding the ocean swells
Tathra's three-kilometre-long sweeping ocean beach stretches between two rocky headlands. Beyond both of these is national park. The township with its historic pier and hotel sits on the southern headland while Mogareeka Inlet and the ocean outlet of the Bega River nestle against the northern one. A dangerous shallow bar prevents access to the river from the open ocean but helps form the extensive tidal inlet stretching upstream from the mouth.
Strong southwesters and southerlies can create large uncomfortable swells that roll up the coast past Tathra. Despite the poor conditions offshore, the bight adjacent to the historic Tathra wharf can remain protected from wind and swell. Under these conditions, yachts can safely anchor on a firm sand bottom while the skipper and crew rest-up or go ashore in the tender utilising the flat water close to the southern headland. However, this anchorage becomes dangerous and should be avoided if the wind has a northerly aspect, particularly the sector between east and north.
Nelson Lagoon just to the north of Tathra makes a wonderful day picnic spot with the family.
Kincanny Bay, a very small protected inlet on the southern outskirts of the town, is the location of the launching ramp and jetty for powerboats wishing to proceed to the open sea. Being ringed by rocky formations, it provides shelter from almost all wind directions. Unfortunately its depth at low tide and difficult entrance make it unsuitable for all but small yachts. Depth at the jetty at low tide is just under a metre.
Mogareeka Inlet is a wonderful place to dangle a line or let the kids loose on the sand flats next to the Bermagui Tathra Road bridge. An excellent ramp with pontoon jetty is located next to the bridge. Here you can launch and anchor the boat, with onshore lawns, shade trees to relax under, toilet facilities, barbecues and even showers to add to the pleasure.
Upstream of the bridge there's the river estuary to explore. Past Blackfellows Lagoon it tends to become choked with sand and unsuitable for passage, but that still gives a TS skipper around five kilometres of good water lined by national park to explore. Cast a bait into one of its channels and you are likely to be rewarded with a bream, flathead or whiting. Some of the flathead caught here are stuff of legends with shovel-head flathead more than 10kg being boated.
When I walked to the Bega River entrance bar, huge mullet shot across the shallows on my approach while a white-bellied sea eagle soared over the rocky headland that cascaded in jagged leaps down to the water's edge that marked the start of the Mimosa Rocks National Park. All together it makes a great place to relax and recharge the batteries.
Facts & further info
Charts and guides
Chart: AUS 806
Area map: Land and Property Information NSW
Topographic & Orthophoto 1:25000 series
Map Number 8824-1S
The average tidal range is around two metres. Time of high and low tide roughly coincides with those at Fort Denison (eg 10 minutes earlier). The restricted water flows in and out of the inlet results in lower differences and a delay from the ocean times.
There's the usual wide range of accommodation. For a cabin or caravan/tent site, my Cabins $40-$65 off-season, $67-$95 high season
Campsite $18 off-season, $32 Xmas holidays
* Tathra Hotel Bistro ph (02) 6494 1101: Excellent local seafood at reasonable prices. Get the kids to look out for Winkey the mechanical whale (appears 1pm and 7pm) whilst you devour one of the best fisherman's baskets on the south coast.
* The bowling club (02) 6494 1280 and Tathra Beach Country Club ph (02) 6494 1220: Good mid-priced menus and food.
* Take morning coffee at the historic Tathra Wharf Restaurant ph (02) 6494 4062 to checkout who's catching what fish and how.
* Mimosa Rocks Restaurant: Excellent wood-fired pizzas, but expensive and be prepared for a long wait.