White Sands and Blue Skies: Jervis Bay

You know those pictures of the Caribbean or Thailand with those incredibly white beaches and crystal waters?  Well, Australia has them too, and the most beautiful of all of them (in my humble opinion) are in Jervis Bay.

Situated on the NSW Coast about 3 hours south of Sydney, Jervis Bay is a large natural harbour of stunning beauty.  I’ve been there three times, and I’m just going to have to reassure you that the above photo from Visit NSW is entirely and 100% accurate.  The sand really is that white and powdery soft, and the water really is that amazing blue.

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Photo by my parents, Blenheim Beach in Jervis Bay

Guarded by Point Perpendicular (with sheer cliffs and a historic lighthouse) in the north and Bowen Island (an out-of-bounds island home to little penguins) in the south, Jervis Bay is a natural harbour.

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Map by http://www.realcamping.com.au/location.html

That’s why the ACT actually has a territory here (apparently you need a port to be a capital city around here).  The Canberran naval base is just inside the bay, on the northern edge of Booderee National Park (a great area to see lots of lovely birds).

With just a few tiny suburbs and no heavy industry, the waters of the bay are crystal clear and unpolluted, making it a diving, snorkelling and dolphin-watching hotspot.  Even in the (relatively) busy harbour at Huskisson, the water is so clean that you can see fish and stingrays moving lazily through the water beneath the pier and boats.  At dusk, the harbour is the place to be as the dolphins pass through there regularly.

Further south you’ll find Hyam’s Beach.  Hyam’s Beach itself is relatively unpopulated by fish, but if you go to the smaller, less picturesque beach just to its north you’ll find a riot of fishy life.  The surf is a little rougher so I’d recommend it for good swimmers only.  Swimming in these waters I’ve seen multitudes of fish, including puffer fish, a turtle, several octopi, and a nurse shark.  That was a fairly disconcerting experience, but nurse sharks are relatively lazy and generally won’t bother humans.  In fact, you’re most likely to find them just chilling out on the bottom, which was what mine was doing on both occasions that I saw it.  That being said, they are still sharks and curiosity may lead them to have a nibble (with several rows of jagged, protruding teeth) so don’t go poking them or irritating them.

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A nurse shark relaxing on the sand, which was exactly what mine did.  See the video for this still at https://www.videoblocks.com/video/nurse-shark-resting-on-sandy-shallows-h55-ss4imqrssau.

Further out into the bay you are pretty much guaranteed a dolphin sighting.  Near Bowen Island you might spot a penguin, and in the turbulent waters around Point Perpendicular you will almost certainly see seals.  If you leave the bay and head out into deeper waters during whale season, you might have the good fortune to spot a humpback (on my second visit I saw a mother and baby).

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I’ve seen dolphins on every single visit.  Photo by my parents.

There is a PAADI diving shop in town, so you can do a “try it out” dive if you aren’t licensed.  If SCUBA isn’t your thing, there are plenty of places to snorkel, and even snorkelling classes and tours.  It’s different from tropical waters like the Great Barrier Reef, with its rainbow-hued fish and twisting coral.  In the temperate waters of the Bay, you’re more likely to see more subdued, silvery fish and long waving seaweed, but it is fascinating and beautiful in its own, different way.  Also, dolphins.  We saw a sea turtle on one visit, too.  Given how clear the water is, if you really hate getting wet, you will probably still see plenty of sealife from the deck of a boat, the pier at Huskisson or even climbing the rocks on the beaches.

Further out of town you also have the historic, convict-built Coolangatta Winery, with tours up Mount Coolangatta.  You’ve also got the whole of beautiful Shoalhaven on your doorstep.

Being primarily a tourist town, there are plenty of accommodation options.  Huskisson is the main tourist suburb due to the proximity to the harbour (all the water tours leave from Huskisson).  There’s also a great burger joint with vegan options there.  Vincentia has quieter beaches and a small shopping centre.  Hyam’s beach is smallest but I think has the nicest accommodation and the best beaches.  Unfortunately, it is the furthest from the main tourist sites.

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Hyam’s Beach Seaside Cottages.  They are truly picturesque and are nestled in amongst the trees the shortest possible distance from the beach.  Book here: http://www.hyamsbeachseasidecottages.com.au/cottages/

If you don’t have the gear you need (swimmers, sunscreen, surfboards, snorkelling kit etc), worry not – Jervis Bay does a thriving trade in such things.

I love the weather at Jervis.  Is it hot (I mean, it’s Australia) but generally not very humid, and by the water there is usually a cooler breeze.

For people with endo, I think this is a good holiday if you can deal with the journey there.  If you have a car I’d recommend taking it – yes, you can catch a bus or train in from Woolongong, Nowra and Sydney, but transport options within the Bay itself are fairly limited.  However, once you are there most things are a short drive or walk from where you are, and the main activities are very endometriosis-friendly.  Swimming?  Check.  Relaxing on beaches?  Check.  Sitting on a boat and watching dolphins?  Check, unless you are prone to seasickness.

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A Dolphinwatch boat passes the sheer cliffs at Point Perpendicular.  Dolphinwatch do a huge variety of water tours to suit most interest levels.  It’s well worth taking one if you love dolphins.

There are also some gentle walks available around areas like Booderee National Park, but some of them are a bit steeper.  Check the trail guide and choose wisely, or ask one of the guides.  The road to Point Perpendicular is very, VERY bumpy and requires a little walk at the end, so if a car bouncing up and down is going to cause pain for a touch-sensitive stomach, give the lighthouse a miss.

If you need a wheelchair, the streets of Huskinsson aren’t too bad, but Vincentia and Hyam’s Beach are a bit hilly.  Mostly, the little shopfronts along Huskisson’s main street aren’t built to accommodate wheelchairs.  More popular resorts such as Mollymook may be a better option for the wheelchair bound, although with support and determination I think Jervis Bay would be doable.

Jervis Bay is a destination that always makes me happy.  It is so incredibly beautiful.  I would really love to be able to spend a full week there some time and explore every beach and back road.  I’m always amazed that more people have never been.  I know that the South Coast is huge and has a million beautiful beaches to offer, but Jervis Bay is such a rich, unspoilt paradise that I wonder how long the secret can be kept.  Do yourself a favour – if you’re on the south-east coast, take a trip there.

 

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