Words and Photos: Tim Robson | February 2018
It’s true: the best things in life are free, as intrepid travel blogger Tim Robson and his brood (and a Tiguan Adventure) discover for one sunny week.
Remember that family that I left to their own devices a few months back and took off by myself for a couple of days? Well, I decided I’d make it up to them by taking them all to a no-expense-spared VIP holiday!
To be clear… it’s a cabin at a caravan park. But it’s definitely not expensive. And they are VIPs.
It’s not any old caravan park, though. Lake Tabourie nestles just south of the fishing village of Ulladulla (not Narooma – more on that in a sec), and echoes the rest of NSW’s south coast by being almost completely immune to the incursion of the 21st century.
A week had conveniently opened up in all of our ever-conflicting schedules, so I jumped online and secured a two-bedroom cabin at the kinda unimaginatively named Lake Tabourie Holiday Park.
The price was relatively paltry, especially for a family of four, and it’s barely a three-hour drive from Sydney to get there on increasingly improving roads.
A staple of any south coast holiday trip is the bicycle – I remember with great fondness charging around various caravan parks as a youngster, free from the tyranny and oppression of Year Six – and fortunately we’ve got a couple of roof racks aboard the Tiguan that are pressed into duty.
Modern bike racks are far removed from the old bike beak that used to dangle at exactly shin-ruining height from the rear of the car. A simple ratcheting locking device holds the frame, while a pair of straps secure the wheels. They can even be locked into position, allowing you to leave them on the car when you go for a meal.
As for the rest of the stuff… the instruction is ‘pack light’. It’s theoretically possible to live in boardshorts for a week, for example, providing you shower in them, so the menfolk stashed virtually nothing in the back of the Tiguan – and even the Robson ladies restrained themselves admirably
The road down the south coast now bypasses the southern village of Berry, once an overly busy little tourist trap that slowed the trip south to a irritating crawl. Now, it’s a much less crowded little tourist trap for those with a penchant for household knick-knacks and sugary treats.
Our kids aren’t little any more, so the excuse of stopping to give them a break is kinda redundant now. And when it comes to diet, both the 11-year old and the 15-year-old are surprisingly – and pleasingly - immune to the lure of lollies. Mum and dad, on the other hand…
» A staple of any south coast holiday trip is the bicycle – and fortunately we’ve got a couple of roof racks aboard the Tiguan that are pressed into duty. «
An old tourist sign that pointed to something known as the Treat Factory had piqued our interest more than once over the years, and so it came to pass that we finally followed the sign to what once was a dairy farm but is now a haven for decadence like few others we’ve ever seen.
Filling a large barn, the Treat Factory is exactly that. Not only are there about a million types of sweet on sale, but treats like Grandpa’s Beer Chutney and chocolate chai tea somehow found their way into our basket.
Our trip south continues, the Tiguan’s boot more heavily laden than previously. We make Lake Tabourie in time to take in the first of a couple of spectacular sunsets, and straight away we know that this is going to be a pretty good week.
Honestly, this place has not changed in the last 40 or more years, aside from the addition of a garishly coloured kid’s plastic water park that no one seems to use. If you have any memory of hot, sandy thongs, the sweet tang of sunblock and sweat, shimmering heat bouncing off white sand and the cool, salty chaos of a popping shore break, that’s Lake Tabourie in a salt-scented nutshell.
Its main beach stretches north as far as the eye can see, and south around to the headland at Meroo Head, while Crampton Island keeps a watching brief next to the park.
A summer’s day crowd at Bondi wouldn’t touch the sides of the smaller side of the stretch. It is truly one of the more astonishing things about the coastline stretching from Sydney to Eden – there is nothing like it anywhere, and we mostly ignore it.
Long dawdles on the beach – which is intersected by a paddle-able Tabourie Creek – are supplemented by piles of home-made sandwiches on the balcony at lunchtime, board games of an afternoon and barbeque dinners under long sunsets.
And it costs almost nothing to do! Ever holidayed at Port Stephens, north of Sydney? This is the exact opposite of that.
In fact, it pays us back in spades. Removing ourselves from the daily loop of family crazy took a couple of days to get used to, but once we slowed down a bit, we look at each other a little bit differently. More tolerantly.
This tolerance is no more evident when I manage to confuse the town of Ulladulla (10 minutes north) with the town of Narooma (two hours south) when I book us a whale watching trip. Thankfully, Wazza from Montagu Island Discovery Tours is a patient fella, and switched us to a later tour.
And what a day! Six hundred horsepowers of boat engine is guaranteed to get you cracking along, while schools of dolphin, islands packed with the smelliest seals you can imagine and the amazing sight of a humpback whale just tops it off.
We road-trip back home the long way, a bit sad to be heading back to civilisation, but glad that we made the time to go. We can’t recommend the south coast enough, either. Development is still a dirty word down there, and you don’t need Trip Advisor to find your way into an awesome escape.
We’re going to do it again and more often, my family and I. Watch this space.
After a 20-year career in consumer magazines, Tim has moved into the online space, where he's found his happy place combining his two passions - cars and bicycles - to create 032media. Happily married with three kids, he's based in Wollongong on the NSW south coast.