Choosing the best place to visit on the south coast of New South Wales is not an easy task. There are so many beautiful towns dotted along the coast that you are spoiled for choice. But if you’re a big fan of wildlife then Narooma is one town you should visit.
Narooma was the first stop in New South Wales on our road trip from Melbourne up to Brisbane. A friend who has visited this stunning region many times recommended Narooma to me and she wasn’t wrong. Narooma is truly a great spot that is perfect for nature and wildlife lovers such as us, even though the weather while we were there was far from perfect.
Where is Narooma?
Narooma is about 350 kilometres south of Sydney, a four and a half-hour drive. From Canberra, it’s an easy 220 kilometres (3 hours) and for Melburnians, it’s a much longer, 680 kilometres, drive. However, it is doable with a stop along the way or by sharing the driving.
What to do in Narooma?
1- Swim with the seals at Montague Island
If you do just one thing in Narooma, this should be it! We had the most amazing morning with Underwater Safaris on their snorkelling with the seals trip to Montague Island.
Montague Island is a fifteen-minute boat ride off the coast of Narooma. It has a large population of Australian and New Zealand fur seals just hanging around, sunning themselves on the rocks and chilling in the crystal clear water. The water is so inviting and was surprisingly warm the day we visited (in fact, warmer than the outside temperature).
While the seals like to rest on the rocks and soak up the sun, if you enter the water you will very likely experience the swim of your life. These guys aren’t shy and were quite happy to go about their business right next to us.
Of course, be smart and don’t touch them; they are wild animals after all! But you can gently swim alongside them. They are curious and will come and check you out. The younger, bolder ones will play nearby and show their acrobatic skills. It’s a truly incredible experience.
We visited the Galapagos last year and had an amazing time swimming with sea lions. This reminded us so much of our time there, except that it was a lot easier to get to and so much cheaper!
Montague Island is also home to Australia’s largest colonies of little penguins and over ninety species of birdlife. If the thought of swimming with seals is too scary for you, you can visit the island instead. Visit with a licensed tour operator and you can explore the historic lighthouse and check out the local wildlife up close on dry land.
For a preview of our swim with the seals, check out the video below.
2- Walk along the Mill Bay boardwalk
On your way back from your seal trip, take a walk along the Mill Bay Boardwalk and keep your eyes peeled for stingrays and schools of fish. The water is once again incredibly clear and we saw so many stingrays during this walk that we lost count! Some of them were huge and we also saw some cute baby rays! Take your time and keep your eyes on the water. You will also see a lot of sea birds, including cheeky pelicans who like to hang around the area.
The entire walk is four kilometres long, from Apex Park to Rotary Park near Narooma public wharf. You can do the return trip all in one go, or explore a different part each day.
Just a few minutes past the first small stretch of the boardwalk (starting from Apex Park) you will spot a yellow hut marked “Montague Adventure Island”. Right next to this hut is a fish cleaning station. If you visit at the right time, when fishermen have just returned with a good catch, you will spot some cheeky wildlife waiting for scraps as the fishermen gut their fish. We saw a couple of huge rays, pelicans and even a seal waiting to be fed. Lazy buggers who know it’s a good spot to score free food!
3- Take a trip to the beach
Narooma is also home to some fantastic beaches so if you happen to visit on a nice day, head to the beach! Bar Beach is a good one for families. It’s the safest place to swim around Narooma as it is protected by large sea walls. It’s perfect for both swimming and snorkelling.
If you are more into surfing, Surf Beach (as its name indicates) is Narooma’s prime surfing beach.
4- Visit Bar Rock Lookout and the iconic Australia Rock
Follow the path at the end of Bar Rock Road and walk uphill to the lookout for a beautiful view of Bar Beach and the sea walls. After taking a few photos, head down the stairs and turn right to see Australia Rock, a funny shaped rock with a large hole in the middle that (somewhat) resembles the outline of Australia.
If you keep walking along the sea wall past the rock, you may find a few seals sunbathing or feeding along the wall. The first time we visited we didn’t see any but the next morning there were a few sleeping on the rocks and some playing in the water.
5- Visit the Narooma Town’s Wharf
The wharf is where you’ll find all the local fishing charters and some of the boat trips to Montague Island. It’s also a great place to, yet again, spot wildlife! Pelicans, stingrays, cormorants, schools of fish, blowfish and even seals hang around there.
6- Go whale watching
Narooma is one of the best places on the New South Wales east coast to see migrating whales. If you visit at the right time of the year, you can take a boat trip out to see them. From July to November, Southern Right and Humpback whales visit Narooma during their annual migration. You will likely see them near Montague Island and Underwater Safaris offer whale watching trips as well. Sadly, we didn’t visit at the right time but we do love whale watching. We would definitely take one of their whale watching tours if we went back at the right time.
7- Take a short road trip to Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba
After you’re done checking out Narooma, spend some time visiting the two small villages of Central Tilba and the smaller Tilba Tilba. They are only a couple of kilometres apart from each other so, if you have time, try and visit both.
Central Tilba is a quaint little village with a small population of 80. The village seems to have gotten stuck in the 1800s, during the gold rush. The main street is lined with very well preserved heritage cottages, which have now been turned into artisan shops and cafes. Take a visit to the ABC Cheese Factory and grab some cheese to take home. Some of their cheeses are pretty good. French person talking here!
Tilba Tilba is tiny but it has a lovely French creperie “La Galette” which is worth a stop for some nice crepes or galettes. Yum!
If you only have time to see one village, head to Central Tilba; it has more to offer.
8- Go wine or beer tasting at the Tilba Valley Winery & Ale House
No cheese should be eaten without wine, so head to the Tilba Valley Winery & Ale House to grab a bottle to go with your cheese. If beer is more your thing, they also have an extensive selection of quality, local beers.
Where to stay in Narooma?
Horizon Apartments is located just a few minutes walk from Surf Beach and the town centre. The ocean view apartments have spectacular views of Montague Island and the ocean from the living area, bedroom and balcony. The apartments are close to the Golf Course, the Wagonga Inlet, and the lake. Click here to check their prices.
Surf Beach Narooma Holiday Park
Surf Beach Narooma Holiday Park is located just 200 metres from Surf Beach and features accommodation with a balcony offering beach and sea views. The cabins have a kitchen, living area, air conditioning, flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Click here to check their prices.
BIG4 Narooma Easts Holiday Park
If you prefer a caravan park, BIG4 Narooma Easts Holiday Park is ideally positioned on the banks of the spectacular Wagonga Inlet. This resort-style caravan park has a big range of accommodation choices from fully self-contained luxury villas to caravans and camping sites. Click here to check their prices.
If none of those are suitable, use HotelsCombined to search across all the major accommodation websites for somewhere to stay.
Where to eat?
As the name says, it has a fabulous view and some great coffees and cakes!
Nice food, great cocktails (try a Mai Tai), very friendly service, and beautiful water views.
For great seafood and take away fish and chips.