*Today I reveal my top 10 hidden gems of the Clyde River both up and downstream of the town's iconic bridge. How many of them have you checked-out?
1. Contraband Cave
On the north-eastern side of Snapper Island is a cave which was used to smuggle contraband for the hundreds of timber cutters who worked the bay's thirteen timber mills in the late 1800s. Passing steamships would throw their illegal goods overboard to be picked up by local boys and stored in the cave. When the coast was clear, (usually in the dead of the night) the contraband, would then be rowed ashore to nearby Corrigans Beach.
While landing on islands in the Batemans Bay Marine Park is now prohibited due to shore bird habitat, you can still paddle right up to the infamous cave entrance.
Snapper Island is located about a kilometre off Corrigans Beach, Batehaven. If you don't have your own kayak, book a tour with local guide Josh Waterson who, like me, believes "the best secrets of the bay are water-access only." Half day kayak tours to Snapper Island and beyond from $95. Ph: 1300 001 060 or www.regionx.com.au
2. Elevated Eyrie
Just upstream from the Bay's iconic bridge is Budd Island. Not only is this small island home to a number of historic oyster sheds where generations of oyster farmers have processed the much-sought after Pacific and Sydney Rock oysters, but if you look closely on the northern side of the island in the top of dead tree you can see the imposing nest of an Eastern Osprey.
"Every spring I see the bird arrive to the nest with a new stick and it's quite frightening paddling underneath as the stick is often over a metre long," says kayaker Josh Waterson who adds, "nesting of this species south of Sydney is unusual."
However, for many locals, including Stephen Dunne, the island will "always be known as Barclays Island" in recogntion of his forebears, including great grandparents Teresa and James Barclay who lived on the island in the late 1880s. One of Dunne's treasured items is a photo of his grandparents dressed to the nines celebrating their Golden Anniversary at a dinner party on the island in 1919.
These days you don't need to be dressed-up to visit the island – slip into your boardies for Region X's Clyde River Oyster Tasting Kayak tour. From $65. Ph: 1300 001 060 or www.regionx.com.au
3. Stunning Stroll
The boardwalks at Narooma and Merimbula are well-trodden by Canberrans but the bay's boardwalk at Cullendulla is surprisingly little-known, possibly due to being poorly signposted.
The 2 km loop, part of which is raised above the mangrove wetlands is suitable for the whole family. From several vantage spots you can watch for small fish, rays and even young grey nurse sharks. Watch out for kangaroos grazing behind the series of seven 'cheniers' (ridges of sand and shell material deposited on mud flats) which some scientists believe could be the result of a series of Tsunamis.
Growing in dense stands, just inland from the mangroves are swamp oaks which protect the creek banks where the brackish and freshwater meet. If you listen closely you may hear a haunting sound coming from these trees - this is caused by wind blowing over the joints and grooves of their branchlets (needles).
The Cullendulla Boardwalk is best accessed via the car park at the end of Myamba Parade, Surfside.
4. Yikes, it's a Yowie!
If you prefer your spooky sounds to be of the mysterious kind then head upriver to Big Island which is about mid-way between the Batemans Bay Bridge and Nelligen.
While camping on the island with his wife in 2000, long-time local and outdoorsman Andy Crole encountered what he claims "can only be described as a yowie."
"I'd been sceptical of the existence of yowies [the Australian bigfoot] but that all changed that one night," recalls Crole who along with his wife were "kept awake at night by something large and on two legs rampaging through their bush camp."
"Every time it approached, the whole ground shook," recalls Crole who admits to being "terrified," revealing, "we both crapped ourselves."
Crole is skipper of the cruise vessel MV Merinda and his yowie encounter features on his commentary during the 2.5 hour lunchtime cruise from the Innes' Boatshed at Batemans Bay. $44 per adult and $22 per child. Ph: 44724052. (Note: until January 8 the to maintain holiday traffic flows the Batemans Bay Bridge won't be opening for the MV Merinda, meaning the lunchtime cruise is will be restricted to the ocean side of the bridge)
5. Invasion of the Jellyfish
While not everyone is (un)lucky enough to see the infamous Clyde River yowie, one creature you are guaranteed to see on the MV Merinda Cruise or any watercraft for that matter are the ubiquitous jellyfish. But do you know where they originate from?
"They begin life just above Shallow Crossing [upriver of Nelligen] as a microscopic organism and then as they continue to grow they drift down river, getting bigger as they make their way to head of the river," explains local fishing tsar Steve Innes.
"They continue to move on the tide until a flood washes them out into the ocean," explains Innes, adding "then the fisherman have a terrible job sifting them out of their nets"
You don't need to be on the water to see the jellyfish, you can see them in floating past in their hundreds by standing just about anywhere on the shore. Andy Crole says on several cruises he's actually seen "sea turtles feast on them". I'd like to see that!
6. Bushranger vestige
The turn-around point for the MV Merinda is the charming riverside hamlet of Nelligen, where in the riverside park is a tall tree stump. According to local folklore, following their capture, it was this very tree that in 1867 the notorious bushrangers, Thomas and John Clarke, were chained to prior to transport to Sydney for trial. The dastardly duo who had forged a reign of terror on the region were subsequently sentenced to death and hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 25 June 1867.
The historic stump is located on corner of Braidwood and Wharf Streets, Nelligen.
7. Rusting relic
European heritage of a less macabre kind can be found on the rocky shoreline of an almost always deserted beach, located toward North Head, where, in the late 1940s a substantial concrete sea pool was constructed for businessman Claude Kellion who owned the adjoining land.
The pool was later demolished due to failure of the structure under prevailing seas but there are still reminders of its grandiose scale including giant rusting gate valves and crumbling concrete walls.
Unless you have a kayak or are prepared for a long bushwalk east from Maloneys Beach, the best way to access the un-named beach (sometimes referred to as "The Judges") is to rent Yellow Rock Beach House, Kellion's old seaside cottage which is now owned by NSW national parks. Two bedrooms, maximum six guests. Bookings via NSW National Parks. From $1250 a week. Ph: (02) 4478 6582.
8. Reflective Pools
If you prefer your pools to be natural then beat a path to the rock pools at North Head which, at low tide, of are arguably the most photogenic on the south coast.
Sure, you have an adventurous beachcomb to reach it, but once there you will be mesmerised by the clarity of the water. Be sure to check the tide chart before venturing here – you don't want to be stranded by a rising tide.
North Head is a 20 km drive from Batemans Bay via North Head Road (dirt) and the reflective pools are accessed by walking 500 metres east along North Head Beach.
9. Singing Stones
If you trudge through the sand in opposite direction along North Head Beach (towards Batemans Bay Bridge) you will eventually reach a small cave of singing stones.
The cave is a favourite spot for regular contributor to these pages Erwin Feeken of Bywong, who explains "with each wave motion pebbles are forced up to the edge of a rock shelf, and as the water recedes and the mass of pebbles slide down again, they make a chorus of singing sounds."
The singing stones are accessed by walking around 500 metres west along North Head Beach.
10. Boulder Beach
A picture-perfect crescent of golden sand Quiriga Beach (Reef Point) lies just east of Maloneys Beach and west of North Head on the northern side of the Bay. It's in the Murramarang National Park and you'll know you've found it when you see the three-metre tall yellow boulder smack bang in the middle of the sandy beach. According to local Kerrie Anne Benton "both immediately north and south of here are loads of nooks and crannies to snorkel, and on some days you may even be lucky enough to spot schools of prawns."
Quiriga Beach is best reached via kayak or a bush-bash from Maloneys Beach.