The name Shoalhaven conjures up gentle breezes and a safe and cosy place to escape the rigors of everyday life – and a haven it has long been, for multi-generational or multi-family vacations, romantic getaways and weekend breaks.
Shoalhaven in New South Wales promises variety, and it delivers generously. The familiar, kid-friendly coastal vibe – complete with white sand ringed bays and secluded bush tracks – blends comfortably with the region’s hipster microbreweries, innovative art galleries, and sustainable paddock-to-plate foodie culture.
Only a 2-hour drive from both Sydney and Canberra, Shoalhaven spans 170-kilometres of coast that is home to 49 towns and villages, including Ulladulla, Nowra, Huskisson and Vincentia. Better yet, the region has worked extensively on ensuring their offerings are accessible, partnering with the folks from It’s Heaven.
Shoalhaven’s Best Beaches
With this much coastline, it is unsurprising that Shoalhaven is best loved for its beaches. Indeed, Hyams Beach has become a global name thanks to its pristine white sands. Shoalhaven also happens to have an excellent free beach wheelchair program. You’ll find beach wheelchairs available at the surf clubs at Shoalhaven Heads, Culburra Beach, Sussex Inlet Beach and Mollymook Beach, as well as the holiday parks of Holiday Haven Huskisson Beach and Holiday Haven Lake Tabourie.
Bringing your own beach wheelchair opens up further possibilities. Greenfield Beach in Jervis Bay National Park has level paths and a small bridge from the car park and picnic area to the beach, which then has soft sand down to the shoreline. Note that there is no unisex, stand-alone accessible bathroom, but rather larger stalls within the toilet block. Another favourite worth exploring is Green Patch in Booderee National Park.
Want to cool down away from the salt and sun? Shoalhaven Swim Centre venues are dotted throughout the region, providing inclusive access of varying degrees. Nowra Aquatic Park has a pool ramp, aquatic wheelchair and accessible change room with an adult change table suitable for wheelchair or hoist transfers. Ulladulla Leisure Centre also has an aquatic wheelchair and accessible change room, as well as a moveable hoist for pool entry. Bomaderry Aquatic Centre, Shoalhaven Indoor Sports Centre and Bay & Basin Leisure Centre also feature accessible facilities. We recommend calling your chosen location in advance to confirm what is available onsite.
Boat cruises and seaside fun in Shoalhaven
Jervis Bay Wild offers a dolphin-watching cruise year-round aboard the accessible Port Venture vessel, with a level ramp for embarkation and a typically gentle cruise experience. Spotting bottlenose dolphins from the deck is exhilarating, in summer there is also the option to use the hoist to access the boom net to get you wildly wet. While the Port Venture has an accessible bathroom larger than your average seafaring loo, don’t expect the spaciousness of standard accessible bathrooms on land, which you will find once you disembark at the Jervis Bay Wild ticket office inside Portside Cafe. Call in advance about departures and to request the hoist be brought on board.
You might not spot a dolphin, but the wheelchair-friendly Husky Ferry on Currambene Creek is just as delightful an outing. Catch the 10-minute transfer between Myola and Huskisson, or book a family fun boat ride, sunset cruise or private charter. The Myola site is currently being upgraded, but the captain can arrange pick-up and drop-off alternatives if you give them a call.
Haven’t got your sea legs yet? Travelling with little ones in tow? Livvi’s Playspace on Mollymook Beach is a great inclusive playground complete with ocean views and a play pirate ship. It boasts a wheelchair carousel, Liberty swing, Jenn swing for reclining, tandem swing, step-free slippery dip and raised tables for sand play. Onsite is a unisex accessible toilet and an adult change facility.
Wheel-friendly nature walks in Shoalhaven
The Mangrove Boardwalk track stretches roughly 1.4 kilometres between Currambene Creek and the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum which houses accessible toilets. The mangroves are teeming with bird life and crabs, and word on the street is that the track is soon to receive an upgrade.
We recommend approaching the picturesque White Sands Walk in sections, as there is the odd step along the way. You may enjoy short stretches launching off from Greenfields Beach, or the opening section from Holden Street boat ramp to Blenheim Beach. Keep an eye out for whales, dolphins or even seals, and listen out for the scrabbling sounds of echidnas in the undergrowth.
The fully paved Round the Bay shared path is another accessible option. Tackle it in sections of the track or go for gold and complete the full length which starts at Callala Bay, finishes at Vincentia and includes a ride on the Husky Ferry. Along the way, you’ll pass many a boat ramp, and beautiful carved poles by local Jerrinja elder, Noel Wellington.
Rainy Day Activities
- Vincentia Shopping Centre – enjoy a spot of retail therapy at this venue which hosts a Changing Places facility.
- Fleet Air Arm Museum – located at the HMAS Albatross in Nowra, this museum features Navy memorabilia, history and an airfield viewing platform.
- Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, Nowra – view the collection of maritime artefacts, including a wooden Sydney Harbour ferry built in 1911, with flat and short car park access.
- Van Rensburg Galleries – situated in Milton, the eclectic mix of contemporary Australian and international art makes for an interesting visit.
- Shoalhaven Regional Gallery Nowra – with an oft-rotating exhibition schedule and four gallery spaces, you can see both community-based showings and touring exhibitions such as the Archibald Prize.
Where to stay in Shoalhaven
Shoalhaven accommodation options vary depending on your accessibility requirements and desired level of luxury. Holiday Haven White Sands is a holiday park located right on the point in Huskisson, with a shared path heading into town where you’ll find a great gourmet pub feed, plenty of cafes and whale and dolphin-watching cruises. Among their accessible cabins, the six-person Beecroft Cabin is the best for wheelchair users with its large car park, ramp to the door, accessible bathroom and deck fitted with outdoor furniture and a barbecue.
Located on a 5 acre farm 5 minutes drive from the quaint town of Berry, Back 2 Earth Health Retreat, B&B and farm stay offers guests accessible accommodation, which can sleep seven people. Organic fruit and vegetables, raw vegan food, a float tank and psychotherapy are just some of the health benefits on offer to guests. The Noah’s ark of farm animals is sure to keep any visiting children entertained.
Bonus tip: To make your stay more comfortable, accessible equipment is available for hire from Nowra Independent Living Supplies. Be sure to book in advance.
Where to eat in Shoalhaven
- World Famous Fish & Chips, Huskisson – dine in or takeaway at this renowned eatery selling delicious battered, crumbed or grilled local seafood.
- Huskisson Bakery & Cafe – whether it’s a coffee and cake or panini and salad, this venue is something of a Husky institution. You can even order a pre-packaged picnic hamper complete with blanket, utensils and picnic lunch!
- Salty Joe’s – from smoothies and brekkie bowls to a burger and beer, tap into the Southern Californian atmosphere of breakfast or lunch at Salty Joe’s in Huskisson.
- Tuna Tail – fresh fare meets funky vibes at Tuna Tail in Husky, where you can customise your own poké bowl, including options catering to dietary requirements.
- Ponte Bar & Dining – enjoy a lazy lunch or dinner on the bank of the Shoalhaven River in Nowra, with wine and a shared plate among friends.
- Jervis Bay Brewing Co, Huskisson – make the most of accessible outdoor seating, great beer, trivia nights and live gigs.
- Flamin Galah, Huskisson – is owned by Jervis Bay locals who pride themselves on producing craft beers. The brewery offers live music on Saturdays and Sundays, and is family and pet friendly.
This feature first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.