Of the Sea
Tathra was ravaged by bushfires in March, however the places that make this region so appealing were thankfully left undamaged.
True Blue Magazine - August/September 2018
Words by: Helen Hayes
It looks like art. A piece of demonic abstract art in canary yellow that is actually the lid of the council recycling bin about 10 metres from my brother’s unit in Tathra. It shows just how close we came to losing the family photo albums and the garden that our late mother so painstakingly established.
I am in Tathra two weeks after 65 houses and 35 cabins and caravans were destroyed and 48 houses damaged, my heart breaking as I hear stories from friends and family who either fought the fire, lost their home or were fortunate and came back to a house still standing.
It could have been much worse. No infrastructure was damaged, no restaurants or businesses were lost – apart from Tathra Beach Motor Village – and, most importantly, not one life was lost. The community is strong and is doing what people in this little town of around 1,600 people do: helping each other. And help didn’t just come from these parts. It came from everywhere, and it is still coming. The Hoodoo Gurus, 1927 and the Badloves headlined the sold-out Band Together fundraising concert on May 26, with all acts performing free.
As Kristy McBain, the Mayor of Bega Valley Shire Council, told True Blue, Tathra’s residents have been overwhelmed by the wonderful support. “The collective embrace that has come from right across the country has provided a much-needed boost, especially to those directly impacted by the fire. With tourism playing such a key role in the local economy, it is absolutely vital for the Tathra community that visitors return and enjoy the town and surrounds as they always have. We are fortunate to be able to call such a pristine and picturesque corner of the world home, and we are very keen to be able to share it with as many people as possible,” concluded Ms McBain.
Beach, bike and beauty
Tathra has fantastic mountain bike tracks for people of all skill levels, as well as spectacular hikes such as the Kangarutha walk between Wallagoot Lake and Kianinny Bay.
Go fishing from the historic Tathra Wharf and check out the museum and café on site. The surf in this area is excellent, too – just ask my sons, with their favourite breaks in Mimosa Rocks National Park north of town. Nelson’s, Middle Beach and beautiful Aragunnu are their picks, and Short Point and Bar Beach in Merimbula also rate. Another favourite place for our family is the Mumbulla Creek waterfall, where you can slip down a natural slide into a pool of water fresh from the mountain top.
For a caffeine hit go to The Gap Espresso, with owner Mark Whitbread winning hearts in the days following the fire by giving away hundreds of free coffees to locals and emergency workers. Also try HoWeRoll for great bacon and egg rolls, or new café Wild Orchid for great avocado toast.
The newly refurbished Tathra Hotel, dating back to 1888, reopened last November with an edgy new interior and live music every Sunday during winter. Next November, the Hotel’s Humpback Brewery will also be open. For dinner, try Fat Tony’s Bar & Grill, in the historic 1905 Harbourmaster’s Cottage. When not at the restaurant, owner Anthony ‘Ant’ Little can be found deep-sea fishing or paddleboarding.
Ant told True Blue, “Tathra is a perfect base for stand-up paddleboarding with great flat water at the mouth of Bega River for beginners, while more advanced paddlers can chase the surf at Tathra Beach. I often see bottlenose dolphins, local bull rays around Tathra Wharf, seals, and I even had a close encounter with a humpback whale.”
Lovers of Sydney rock oysters are in for a treat as Tathra Oysters, run by Gary and Jo-Anne Rodely, sells these beauties from a shed behind their house.
Gary says, “We feel a special responsibility and honour to be growing what many believe is the world’s finest-flavoured oyster, the Sydney rock oyster. This rare oyster grows predominantly in estuaries on the Eastern Seaboard of Australia, mainly in NSW, and nowhere else in the world. The Far South Coast of NSW is now regarded as ‘the’ spot for cultivating this oyster, and Nelson Lake, where we grow ours, seems to be at the heart of this spot.”
Take off to Merimbula
Flying into Merimbula with Regional Express delivers postcard views over the beaches and lakes, and with Tathra just 20 minutes’ drive away, its many attractions are easy to access.
Go on a whale watching cruise with Merimbula Marina. Humpbacks and other whale species cruise past when they migrate north from May to July, but the best time is when they head south with their babies, between August and November. You are also likely to see dolphins, fur seals, penguins and turtles.
Stroll the trail to Top Lake, ride the bike track past the airport to Pambula, do an oyster tour at Wheelers Oyster Farm and then have lunch at the excellent on-site restaurant. Merimbula also boasts great surf, golf, scenic flight tours and so much more.
So what is it about this part of the world that makes it so special? It is the pristine natural beauty of its rural landscape, rivers and beaches. It is the range of fresh produce from Bega Cheese to oysters and other seafood. But mainly it is the people: friendly, salt-of-the-earth locals who would give you the shirt off their back.
“A community forever strengthened through overcoming significant adversity awaits with open arms and renowned country hospitality,” says Mayor Kristy McBain.
And what could be better than that?
Rex Airlines flies to Merimbula from Sydney several times a day.
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