Travel Journal: Have We Found Utopia in Merimbula?

Have I Found Utopia Already- (1)

Merimbula, N.S.W.

 

I feel like I’ve found Utopia. As soon as we headed south, past Tilba, another beautiful world appeared before us. Gently rolling hills. Cows grazing. Then we took the turn to Merimbula and it was like Mother Nature announced: “ta da!”

 

I’m sitting in an AirBnb overlooking the town and beyond that, the bay and the ocean. The water is such a deep cobalt blue that it looks like a postcard. It’s chilly here today, but the sun is warming everything nicely, with a slight seabreeze reminding you that you are at the beach. It’s a magnificent view.

When I say I’ve found Utopia, I’ve always told Rich that I want to settle in a place where there’s water. But the country girl in me appreciates those gently rolling hills and grazing cows too. It makes me feel relaxed. All of it. The combination of it is… Utopia.

 

***

After a good night’s rest and a quick dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches (we were in dairy land you know), we woke before sunrise and headed toward the ocean. Not many were up at that hour, only a few fishermen. Camera always at the ready, I found a nice shot, but nothing breath taking. Not like other sunrises we’ve seen to date.

Not that I’m complaining, it was still nice to be up at that hour with camera in hand.

We ventured around a little further and people were now starting to venture out. The oyster farms dominated much of the area we were in, but there were still boats heading out. As we walker, people were jogging, another doing her own cross-fit program on a small boat dock overlooking the water. It was holiday town but I would venture to say that a handful of people out were locals.

By the time the sun had well and truly risen, we headed back to our AirBnb. This AirBnb was one of the best ones we’ve stayed in. The shower alone was amazing. I love rainshower heads. We also had a pod coffee maker, which we’ve come to appreciate since traveling full time.  The Woolworths ones are the best, we’ve determined.  Even better than the more expensive De Longhi.  (I need to still convince Rich that this would be a good investment for the $60 they cost to buy – on sale of course.)

The best part though was being able to be in the space and enjoy the views. We could watch the tide go out and see the sand bar appear in the bay. We could watch the colour of the water intensify when the tide returned. We could work from the patio, letting the breeze keep things cool and enjoy the views when we needed a break.

I have to say, I really love it when AirBnb hosts care about their guests. That is, when they’re not just out to make money. I much prefer the ones who provide a comfortable space, offer good provisions for breakfast and then leave you to it, but at least come and say hello if they live upstairs/nearby. I always want to know more about my homeowners, but I don’t want them hovering either. A good chat is all that’s needed I think.  This homeowner was that way.  She was lovely.  She had decided to return to her childhood home of Merimbula after travelling the world, realizing that it truly was an amazing place to live.  I have to agree.

Merimbula was – is – pretty amazing…

After we had breakfast and showered, we headed out to see what else Merimbula had to offer. I had checked out TripAdvisor to see what was listed and had those places tagged. So we started there.

We started out just driving around, finding an amazing spot at Short Point. Not only was the colour of the water a deep turquoise blue, but it was so clear. We were wishing it wasn’t so cold so we could snorkel. We decided to focus on the nearby trail instead, but not until after I took a mass of photos of the views first.

Following the trail, we found the headland and below – rock pools! I’m a sucker for rockpools. I could explore them for hours. We had time, so we ventured down and at one point, sat just to admire the tide rushing the rocks. Bliss.

Eventually we headed back to the car and followed the shoreline, coming across a jetty. This one was pretty high up, while below, schools upon schools of fish swam in the crystal clear water.

There was a family fishing. Two young ones with “Dad” and “Pa”. It was so lovely to see how excited these kids were fishing and everytime they felt a tug, they’d call out to Pa. It seemed obvious that Pa was the one teaching them and Dad was just along for the ride. We stayed for awhile, engrossed in how they engaged, excited when the young pup caught a yellow tail calling out “Pa! Pa!” And Pa rushing over to see what he’d caught.  Sadly, the yellow tail was thrown back.  It was too small, but the pup was eager to keep trying, “to catch a big one Pa!”

We continued onwards…with a craving now for fish and chips. And why not? We were at the beach! We found a likely spot.

OH my god was it good. We ordered takeaway and found a park bench and when the ants started crawling up Rich’s back (!!), we moved to another bench. This time we were entertained by stupid tourists. Somehow they thought it was cute to feed the birds their chips.

If you’ve ever seen “The Birds”, you’ll know what that invasion looks like. Rich sat shaking his head, but the dumb tourist just kept on going.

In typical Rich fashion, as soon as he finished, he announced “Time for Ice Cream”. We blow our budget all the time because of two things: coffee and ice cream.  And now we’re on a mission to find the best ice cream in the world.  Rich has made it his primary mission.

Before we headed toward the shopping area for ice cream, we checked out the boardwalk.  It was a wooden boardwalk, meaning through an estuary. Part of it went over the water, making it feel like you were walking on water.  It was so peaceful and even though people were fishing off of it, everyone said hello as we walked by or gave a happy nod. It was … delightful.

A good hour later, we were well and truly ready for that ice cream and after a good walk around the shops of Merimbula, poking into this place and that (including a great used book store) we finally found an ice cream shop.

I have to say, I was let down.

Despite the ice cream claiming to be homemade, it just wasn’t good homemade. It won’t be going on any recommendation post from us!  Rich enjoyed his, but mind was … meh.  So the search continues…

We headed back to the AirBnb for the rest of the night. Stormy clouds rolled in and the rain began again. Still, it was amazing to watch the weather change from our vantage point on the hill.

Seriously, this place rocks.

The following day, we skipped our sunrise exploration.  When the alarm went off, I lifted my head from the pillow, looked out the windows at the base of the bed, saw that it was completely cloudy, and made the decision to go back to sleep. There would be no amazing sunrise and thankfully I could assess that easily from the amazing views from the bedroom without having to set food out of bed.

Later, we ventured out to explore Eden and beyond. We wanted to see what the “Whale Trail” was about.

Eden is known for whaling back in the day, but it’s interesting how they did it. They had a pod of killer whales helping them. Yes, the killer whales and the whalers worked together to bring in the humpbacks and southern whales to the bay. To reward the whales, they received the tongue and other entails that the whalers couldn’t use. It’s an interesting history. The whales would notify the whalers by flipping tales and making a commotion in the water which told the whalers to get ready: There were whales in the area. The whalers would then row out to the mouth of the bay while the killer whales would literally ’round up’ the humpbacks and bring them directly into the hands of the whalers. No where else has there been such clear evidence of nature helping humans. It’s amazing really.

The area is full of whaling history and while I strongly disagree of the practice today, I understand and appreciate the history.

We spent the day driving, starting out on the whale trail but found by the second site, it was repeating the same information and not really giving us anything more.  And we wanted to know more!

For example, we stopped at the Seaforth Inn in Boydtown. This was an Inn built by Ben Boyd with the bigger plan to build a town around it. The plan never came to fruition. It’s hard to understand, because this is an amazing area. Beachfront with calm waters. Great hikes around. Close to amenities and more so, an opportunity to invite business to invest there. It’s such a beautiful spot.

Even today though, as our Airbnb host told us, they’ve had blocks of land for sale “for years” around the Inn and still there have been no buyers.

My theory is it’s haunted. Or cursed maybe. There’s no other explanation for why people don’t want to move there. It’s beautiful. Remote yes, but the nearby town of Eden is suffering (the post office is even for sale!) while Merimbula, only a little ways away, is bustling. This could be a great opportunity for a nearby community to add to the joy of Merimbula. But it’s a failed venture and a hard one to understand.  Cursed I say.

One of things Rich and I love doing is finding a spot on the map and saying “let’s see what that’s about”. Or, “where does this road go?”.

We’ve driven on dirt roads more times than I can count with this kind of plan.

We probably SHOULD have a 4WD but our trusty Kuga is up to the task. It curtainly helps that we invested in some all terrain tires for this road trip!

After checking out Boydtown, we ventured down to Green Cape Lighthouse. It was 22km down a dirt road that, thankfully, had just been graded. Or, as we discovered, in the middle of being graded and rolled. (We came across the massive grader face to face on our way back and had to quickly put it in reverse so he could get to his next runoff. Nothing like a quick ‘oh shit’ before whipping the car into to reverse when you realize he has nowhere to go and you have more agility!)

Green Cape was amazing. The views of Disaster Bay were breathtaking. The only disappointing part was the fact that we were visiting on the windiest day we’d had in weeks. We could have walked down to the beach, to the rocks, but the wind was ferocious. There’s no other word for it.

Reportedly there are seals that sunbath on the rocks, but on this day, they would have been swept off in the first wave. We were bundled up and it was still freezing cold. The wind whipped us to the core.

We looked, we saw, we photographed and pursued as much as we could before we headed back to the car to get out of the wind. We started back and stopped to look at another “where does this go” and found, out of the wind, an amazing rock formation made of salt and rock. The Pinacles they are called and with the sun setting, they looked incredibly statuesque (?). Rich described it as ‘a surprising discoloration of white against the red’. It was definitely worth the detour.

With the sun starting the set behind the hills, we knew it was time to get the hell out of ‘roo land. If you’ve ever driven in rural areas in Australia, especially surrounded by National Parks, you know that kangaroos, wallabies and wombats all come out to play around twilight and beyond and it’s best to get off the roads and give them free reign to roam.

We were smack bang in the middle of that and even though it was only 3.30pm., it was time to ‘get the hell outta dodge’ as they say.

We headed back to Merimbula.

We ended our explorations there, putting Merimbula on our list of places to settle.  It had everything we needed:  Beach, snorkeling, shops to keep us interested, a local airport, and spectacular views.

But we had to leave, as much as we hated to.  The following day we were heading west, into the Snowy Mountains.

Merimbula

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