While Sydney might be the gateway to cruise in New South Wales, soon there will be other ports along our stunning coastline which the cruise industry are eyeing.
Ports such as Newcastle, Port Kembla and Eden are bursting at the seams with news of the expansion and works are underway to accommodate for their influx of cruise tourism. The focus is turning to a handful of smaller ports along the NSW coastline that can potentially cater for large passenger cruise ships also. The towns of Coffs Harbour, Yamba, Bateman’s Bay, Trial Bay and Kiama are all putting their best foot forward.
Destination NSW has been hard at work studying key areas along the state’s coast that could receive ships in the growing climate of cruise.
In a recent report called ‘Cruise Sydney & NSW along the Blue Highway’, these five coastal towns have been proposed as key destinations for the next stage of ‘mini ports’ to help ease the strain on the Sydney region and spread the wealth to other regions.
The report claims to have studied the hydrographics, parameters, anchorages, maximum vessel lengths, pilotage and tides of each region, as well as consulting with representatives from each in order to identify them as prime candidates.
So, we ask, what do these five coastal towns have to offer that would make them ideal as our new mini ports of NSW?
Imagine arriving at the crack of dawn to diamonds sparkling over the Clyde River. ‘The Bay’ as Batemans is affectionately referred to, hugs the entrance of this pristine waterway, and as such, is thriving with activity based on all things water.
The locals are big fans of water sports and tour activities. And there are lots of access points along the coast for diving, fishing, kayaking and surfing.
The area boasts a picturesque setting for walks, photography and ocean strolls with the mountain backdrops and stunning beaches.
The Eurobodalla region is proud of its local seafood industry, known as the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast, officially awarded the world’s best.
The dining options available cater specifically to this natural cuisine. Especially in the warmer months, alfresco dining is popular right along the waterfront.
What’s hot in Batemans Bay
Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens has several kilometres of walking tracks, native wildlife, picnic and barbecue areas, playground and café where visitors can meet native Australian animals, birds and reptiles at the Birdland Animal Park.
The Batemans Bay Visitors Centre Art Gallery showcases Eurobodalla’s artisans and has a wide array of gifts and souvenirs for you to take home to remember your trip.
As the South Coast is known for its seafood, the Clyde River oysters are well known in the region, and visitors can sample them at the Pearly Oyster Bar and Farm and the Oyster Shed on Wray Street or on a kayaking tour to the oyster farms.
Cullendulla Creek offers waterways or bushland popular for kayaking or on foot.
The Original Gold Rush Colony is a re-created 1850’s gold rush town and theme park. This award-winning tourism attraction is an educational, historical and cultural venue.
Mogo Zoo is the lifelong passion of Sally Padey to preserve the bloodlines of endangered species from all over the globe. See zebras, white rhinos and giraffes wander the ‘Savannah Plains’ or get up close to meerkats, red pandas or feed a big cat.
What they say
Mayor, Cr Liz Innes says “We’ve already dipped our toe in the water, so to speak, with two cruise ship visits so far and from that, we’ve had fantastic feedback from the cruise visitors. Our point of difference is that passengers can disembark off their tender right into the town of Batemans Bay. And, there are lots of options to explore.
“From here, people can go up to Canberra, the nation’s Capital, by bus it’s about 2 hours, which is a major selling point,” Cr. Innes said.
“Our community is excited about the opportunities that might come. We believe these ships would be more adventure based, as smaller vessels. Any opportunity on south coast for extra tourism is adding a string to our bow.
“We have such a beautiful natural environment already – so we would always ensure we minimise any environmental impact.
So, what’s the next step from here? Cr. Innes says “We now have another three ships booked. The next arrival is due in October. And our experience with the previous two ships was brilliant. The visitors were raving about it, and said that the highlight was how hospitable the local community was.”
The foundations of the blowholes were formed from volcanic lava flows about 260 million years ago. Next to the lighthouse on the point, the larger blowhole is just over two metres wide and draws crowds of tourists who watch in awe as the water explodes more than 30 metres up into the air, mirroring a whale’s magnificent spout. Set amongst a backdrop of rolling green hills and magnificent coastline, Kiama’s appeal is diverse — golf courses in breathtaking locations, great surf breaks and charming neighbouring towns such as Gerroa and Gerringong. The lively café culture and other delicious food and beverage experiences, from wine tasting to beachside markets are enticing too.
What’s hot in Kiama
The National Trust-classified Historic Terrace Houses, built in 1886 for quarry workers.
Kiama’s two impressive blowholes, natural sea-cliff caverns that spout seawater. It’s a fabulous photo opportunity and a great way to see the natural wonders of the south coast.
Local first-class golf courses – Kiama Golf Club, Gerringong Golf Club or Jamberoo Golf Club, where the greens are lush and the climate is perfect year round.
The Kiama Coast Walk, a 22km trail which is divided into three sections and lines headlands, rivers and beaches.
Seven Mile Beach, once used as a runway in 1933 when aviator Charles Kingsford Smith made the first commercial flight from Australia to New Zealand.
Minnamurra Rainforest, from its sub-tropical to dry areas along the Falls Walk. Listen for lyrebirds, picnic next to waterfalls, and watch for colourful bird life in the canopy.
Australia’s highest zip line at the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures.
The tallest, longest, fastest water ride ever built at Jamberoo Action Park, a water theme park amongst 40 hectares of landscaped gardens
Kiama’s markets, popular for its many eclectic fashion and gift boutiques.
What they say
Mayor Cr. Mark Honey says “at this stage we don’t have the capabilities – we are still very much in the early days discussions about this proposal, but we are very positive about it at the same time. We are happy to say that our pontoon is in centre of town, which is a huge advantage, about 100m from the first café. In fact there’s a café about 10m away from where they’d be coming in, so they’ll be happy about that!
“It’s all very early days for us. But our tourist office is very excited about it. Particularly for the off-season boost we may gain. In mid summer the town of Kiama is already quite full. For the shoulder and winter periods, these are the exact sorts of things we are aiming to attract for the town. We want to spread the dollar through the year,” Cr Honey said.
“The majority of people visiting would have a spending budget. We would certainly be excited about it. We have a lot to offer. We have many points of difference. We are a coastal town but within 2kms of town we have the beautiful rolling hills and farming country that most people don’t see from the highway. We believe we have some of the best beaches in Australia. We’ve got two blowholes. And quite a lot of heritage listed buildings in the town that’s something to take in and absorb – not to mention a very welcoming community.”
Trial Bay is a stunning bay located on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales in the South West Rocks region. The area has innumerable shades of the colour blue and is ideal for aquatic experiences including snorkelling, swimming, fishing, diving and surfing.
Just two kilometres off the coast is Australia’s best ocean cave dive, Fish Rock. This underwater paradise is a haven for Grey Nurse sharks, manta rays, turtles and brightly coloured fish, allowing divers to get up close with the spectacular marine life.
Trial Bay has one of the oldest lighthouses in Australia and the most elevated lighthouse in NSW, Smoky Cape, which is a beautiful vantage point for whale watching between May and November. Close by are two National Parks – Hat Head National Park and Arakoon National Park – offering visitors gorgeous walking trails that hug the coastline.
Recognised for its rich history too, this area is home to Trial Bay Gaol, which opened in 1886. Prison labourers were sent there to construct a breakwater to make Trial Bay a safe harbour between Sydney and Brisbane. During World War I, people of German descent were held captive here because they were feared to have an affinity with the enemy. Today, this picturesque historic ruin stands as a testament to those who were imprisoned here, with a museum and memorial for visitors.
What’s hot in Trial Bay
Captain Cook’s lookout at the base of Smoky Cape Lighthouse is an ideal spot for whale watching, birdwatching and picnics. The Trial Bay Gaol is now a museum where guests can learn about what life was like for prisoners back in the 1800s.
Trail Bay also boasts remarkable underwater caves. One to note is Fish Rock, which is teeming with Grey Nurse sharks, manta rays, turtles and different species of fish
Arakoon National Park is home to beaches and picnic spots and it offers vantage points to catch a glimpse of whales.
There are walking trails across the headlands through national parks, and the coastal walkways that showcase native flora and wildlife.
For the fishermen, Little Bay is a secluded beach which is nestled between impressive granite cliffs.
What they say
Mayor Cr. Liz Campbell says “Four years ago, council started discussions with the NSW Port Authority and the Roads and Maritime Services on the possibility of attracting cruise vessels to the coastline of South West Rocks. When it was announced that the Caledonian Sky would be including Trial Bay on its itinerary, it was big news and council staff immediately went into action to ensure the maiden voyage was a successful and memorable one.
“I was so proud to be part of the welcome party as we exchanged commemorative plaques, and local Aboriginal Elders performed a Welcome to Country and shared their stories of growing up in the Macleay Valley,” Cr. Campbell added.
“Passengers to our area can experience guided tours of local attractions, including Smoky Cape Lighthouse and a walk down to the beach and Trial Bay Gaol, then on to Monument Hill walk to Little Bay. The whole Rocks community is very supportive of the idea of passengers who can lunch at local restaurants and cafes and make time for a spot of shopping.
“We look forward to welcoming more cruise ships to visit our shores, so people from around the globe can enjoy a taste of our beautiful valley and have a first-hand experience of “Aussie Country on the Coast”.”
Midway between Sydney and Brisbane, Coffs Harbour is a friendly beachside city on the NSW North Coast. The idyllic Coffs Coast is wonderfully diverse and packed with great attractions, uncrowded beaches and mountain escarpments. Visitors can explore the natural splendour on coastal or ancient rainforest walks, the iconic Big Banana, the bustling Harbourside Market every Sunday and the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden. Coffs Harbour is among only a handful of places in Australia where you can swim alongside humpback whales, and in the waters off the marina is the Solitary Islands Marine Park, home to coral reefs and a diverse population of marine life. It is the third largest marine protected area in NSW and an oasis for dolphins, turtles, tropical fish and migrating whales. Alfresco dining spots are in abundance at the bottom strip of Harbour Drive, along with hip cafés and lively bars, making the area a delight for food lovers. Coffs Harbour also has nine amazing golf courses, including Australia’s best voted golf resort — Bonville Golf Course — so avid golfers will be keen to hit a round on the beautiful and challenging fairways.
What’s hot in Coffs Harbour
Something not to miss is the iconic Big Banana, Australia’s original ‘big thing’. It’s home to the biggest slide in the country, with the toboggan ride. Also there, visitors can find a 36-hole mini-golf course and ice-skating rink.
The Coffs Coast along the Solitary Islands coastal walk, a trail that links local beaches and an emerald rainforest.
The Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout offers views 310 metres above Coffs Harbour, a short drive from the city through hillside banana plantations.
Coffs Harbour has some fabulous local beaches like Park Beach, Sawtell Beach or Jetty Beach.
Take an Aboriginal cultural tour with Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours on a stand-up paddle boarding expedition. The tour includes learning about seasonal bush foods, swimming and snorkelling in marine parks. And the guides also tell ancient stories of the Gumbaynggirr Nation
For arts and crafts lovers, the local art galleries include Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, Bunker Cartoon Gallery Coffs Harbour, Jeffrey Baker, Coffs Harbour or Woolgoolga Art & Craft Gallery.
What they say
Mayor Cr. Denise Knight says “It’s fabulous that Destination NSW is showcasing the potential opportunities and tourism value offered by the wonderful regional towns and cities along the east coast. We always pride ourselves in Coffs Harbour on the very warm welcome we provide to all visitors – whether they arrive by air, rail, road or sea.”
“Coffs Harbour has so much to offer any visitor. We’ve recently been voted the top school holiday destination for NSW and won the global International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) World Festival and Event City Award – for the fifth year in a row. Every year we welcome nearly two million tourists to the Coffs Coast where they enjoy great attractions such as the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, Big Banana Fun Park, Dolphin Marine Conservation Park and The Forest Sky Pier at Orara East State Forest,” Cr. Knight added.
“Our pristine beaches are also great places to enjoy surf lessons or to just chill out with family and friends. The more adventurous get to see the spectacular underwater world of the Solitary Islands Marine Park or get close up with the magnificent humpback whales that migrate along our shores every year. We also have a rural hinterland and the forest-covered hills that shelter unique villages and townships with diverse and fascinating histories. As I’m fond of saying – there’s something for everyone in Coffs Harbour and on the Coffs Coast.”
Located at the mouth of the Clarence River in Northern New South Wales, Yamba is Australia’s easternmost sea port.
Celebrated for world-class surf breaks, beautiful beaches, impressive national parks and succulent prawns, it’s a popular destination for travellers.
Just south of Yamba is Angourie, one of Australia’s National Surfing Reserves, where surfers assemble to ride the famous right-hand point break.
With its relaxed coastal vibe, charming cafés and quality restaurants, Yamba is an enticing seaside holiday town. The area boasts stunning scenery, with 11 beaches tucked into the coastline, along with picturesque parks and rivers. It’s also recognised for having some of the country’s best fishing and is the home port of the State’s second largest fishing fleet. Anglers are reeled in by beach, estuary and rock fishing, while others hire boats and special fishing kayaks to hook the ‘catch of the day’. The Port of Yamba serves the entire Northern Rivers and New England regions including the towns of Grafton, Maclean, Ballina, Lismore and Casino.
What’s hot in Yamba
Angourie Point is a small, steep sandy bay with a world-famous right-hand point break is a popular surfing spot.
And for the hikers, there are ancient emu trails on the Yuraygir coastal walk to Red Rock in the Yuraygir National Park.
The view on top of Yamba’s highest hill where the Yamba Lighthouse sits – the original building was built in 1880.
To see some of the stunning marine life, kayaking tours with Yamba Kayaks is a great opportunity to see dolphins in the estuary.
Deep sea fishing with Reel Time Charters or Yamba Fishing and Charter, both of which offer fishing expeditions in the Pacific Ocean.
And when you’re feeling hungry, the freshly caught seafood in the region is world renowned. This includes the famous Yamba prawns that are on the menu at the many local fish shops.
What they say
Mayor Cr. Jim Simmons says “We can see a lot of economic benefits for the area…but so far we have had some community angst around the idea and that stems from our experience with large ships in the past. Our concerns are purely environmental concerns, but if that’s all covered, then the community may be very positive.
“Many years ago we had the big timber ships and large vessels coming into the sugar mill – but so far we haven’t had large passenger cruise ships,” Cr. Simmons added.
“If the ships are moored offshore, with passengers tendered in on smaller boats and all of the measures are put in place to protect the ocean environment then this would be something great for Yamba.”