Holidaying down South has always helped clear my head. It could be for a week or just a weekend, but it’s usually exactly what I need. Now the South Coast needs our help.
It’s on the front pages of newspapers worldwide. Fires tore through taking lives, homes and what was for most businesses, their busiest months. The highway is lined with blackened trunks, the occasional standing house a symbol of the fire fighters death-defying dedication. Signs fixed to fences thanking the firies for staying after families have fled send chills.
So come the long weekend, we headed down to fill our #emptyesky and hopefully the empty pockets of some local small businesses.
This is where we went.
Normally the bustling streets of Berry are a bother, but this time there was something beautiful about them. Travellers with arms filled with bags flowed from boutiques, cafes had queues and it took the usual half an hour to find a park. The first thing we grabbed was a lamb and pinenut sausage roll from Milkwood Bakery (which didn’t last long enough to put in an esky), before stopping by Justin Lill Wines which, if you pick your drinks for the label like I do, is somewhat of an art gallery. A quick stroll through the likes of Few & Far, Most Nest, and AMARA Home made my wallet feel a little lighter, and Queen Street Eatery was added to the to-do list before it was time to hit the road again.
Known for it’s big potato and a famous cheese factory, the true highlight for this highway town has got to be our AirBnb. A converted studio in the old church, posting one photo had my phone pinging with questions of its whereabouts. And rightfully so, I mean look at it. While Robertson was never in danger of a direct fire, our host told us that their enemy was embers. “We’d fill socks with sand to stuff in our gutters, and had buckets of water sitting around in case anything caught.”
Dinner that night was at the renovated Robertson Public House where I teared up over a wedding reception of two people I didn’t know and he ate a schnitty the size of his head. For breakfast, we meandered down to Moonacres, a paddock to plate style eatery that sources ingredients from its nearby farm. Ingredients which also happen to find themselves in the kitchens of Sydney’s Firedoor, Bacco, Ester and Fred’s from time to time.
Lake Conjola //
This one hurt the most. A trip down to Lake Conjola has been a family tradition of his since he was five. Four years ago I was welcomed into it. The second week of January was and always will be reserved for long walks across the softest sand, wading through waves, patiently waiting for the prawn man and planning nothing but puzzles in Lake Conjola.
This year we couldn’t go. The small community was confronted with one of the toughest challenges, as an 1000-degree firestorm swept through the town, taking with it endless memories and three precious lives.
We couldn’t bring ourselves to properly document the wreckage. Holes where houses once stood. Metal that had got so hot it had melted. The ground blistered and blackened, and for as far as you could see, forests of trees like used matchsticks. We thought of the frightened families, huddled on the beach that night. The burnt leaves still scattered across the white sand a stark reminder.
We will be back to help you bounce back, Lake Conjola. Time and time again. And a few more times after that.
Milton has so many places to visit it can hardly be classified as just a stop over. You’ve got Harvest Bar for a tipple or two, and if that doesn’t topple you, there’s Peach Coffee (where you actually need to get an almond croissant), because Smalltown is where you get the peach (paired with prosciutto and basil). Still following?
If you need to walk off your latest meal, I’d recommend walking through Spaces and if you’re really in need of a walk (I’m totally exaggerating, you need to drive), head out to Woodstock to visit Milk Haus, even if it’s just to stock up on their homemade magnesium bath salts, turmeric dukka, black lime salt, pickled purple cauliflower, or fresh produce pinched straight from their patch.
I must admit Ulladulla was not as dull as popular opinion would have me believe. The major south coast hub is home to neat eats like The Ruse (which was closed so we have to go back *feigns disappointment*) and Maverick Coffee. You can make your house a dwelling at Dwell, a calming concept store that makes supporting the south coast very easy. Speaking to the shop owner, once again we heard those stories. “I have a friend who’s a firie and he’s been fighting on the front line for fifty-seven days straight. Who knows what’s going to happen when he stops.” And who does know.
Nearby, they’ve got Tallwood Eatery in Mollymook, where you’ll also find the beautiful and boujee Bannisters. Meander a bit further and you can set up camp at Cupitts – a winery come brewery come fromagerie come restaurant and wedding venue. Needless to say, it’s worth a visit.
That’s just the beginning, and there plenty more towns in need of help. So, grab your esky and head on down. This year, we’re holidaying here.