It’s fair to say that there are lots of wonderful perks to running a travel site. We get to see and do some amazing things all in the name of ‘work’.
But when we were asked to be ambassadors for South Coast Experiences—an excellent company that curates some of the best things to do on the beautiful South Coast region of NSW, we were stoked.
South Coast Experiences has access to local producers and companies, and can create stand-alone experiences or whole itineraries, as well as ideas for accommodation and local events.
Check out our video of our time on the beautiful South Coast:
In our new ambassadorial capacity, we travelled down to Kiama, Gerringong and the Shoalhaven for a couple of nights to check out some of the things visitors can get up to in this lovely part of the state.
Here’s what we found.
Our first port of call—just past Kiama—is to Two Figs Winery that sits high on the hills with unbelievable views out across the waterways of the Shoalhaven.
We didn’t realise that there was such a thriving wine region here on the coast so close to Sydney (we’re only a couple of hours south of Sydney), but Two Figs has been making wine since 2003. And there are quite a few other wineries dotted around the region.
We find our table looking out at the amazing views that Two Figs’ cellar door has. We’re next to the open fire, which cuts through the chilly air of late June and adds that extra level of comfort to the place.
This cellar door, with its stunning high ceilings and flooding natural light, used to be the wine-making shed.
We work our way through the Premium Wine tasting menu with the help of our new friend David, who explains all the details of the wines we’re trying.
The wines are all dangerously drinkable, in particular the sparking NV Brut Cuvee that’s full of apple and citrus notes, the Chardonnay, which is flinty and lightly oaked, and the well-rounded and balanced Sienna Cabernet Shiraz, named after the owners’ daughter.
David’s good enough to let us have a try of the Two Figs Shiraz to show us the difference between it and their Syrah, ostensibly the same grape but very different wines; fruit-forward vs more savoury, peppery and dry.
The tasting officially finishes with a taste of the excellent Barrel Select, which changes from vintage to vintage depending on what grapes have grown the best that season. The winemaker chooses the best parcels of fruit to go into French and American oak barrels for up to two years.
While we work our way through a bit more of the generous cheese platter before us, David also offers us a taste of some of the fortified wines they make here.
As a result, we walk away from the beautiful Two Figs Winery with bottles of Chardonnay, Sienna and the White Fort sticky.
Our next task is to check into our accommodation, not far from Two Figs Winery.
The Lilypad is a brilliantly designed tiny house set overlooking a small pond on Willow Springs Farm just outside Broughton Village.
Tiny but perfectly formed, the Lilypad has everything you need for a short stay on the South Coast.
Two stories—with a mezzanine reading nook—big windows and trifold doors allow plenty of light and scenery into the tiny house.
Inside is the comfy lounge with a big smart TV mounted above the kitchen, which has gas hobs, a microwave and fridge, and outside on the deck is a small gas barbecue if you want to cook more.
The kitchen leads through a hidden sliding door to the bathroom with its large shower. The toilet is a composting toilet, which requires sawdust and enzyme treatment and does take a bit of getting used to.
Through another sliding door is the bedroom at the back. It’s small, but that’s the idea, and it’s still big enough to house a comfy queen-size bed.
Completely off the grid, the Lilypad uses solar power and battery storage. However, there’s still reverse-cycle air-con, good wifi and more power points than you could possibly need and even usb points either side of the bed.
In the garden outside is also a fire pit that’s well-stocked and easy to use. Owners Sam and Charlie kindly build the fire pit for you to use on the first day too, so all you have to do is light it.
Although you’re on a farm, off the grid and surrounded by green hills, trees and water, you’re still quite close to everything.
In fact, you’re within eyeshot (and occasionally earshot of the main road as it peeps through across a far opening in the hillside you’re tucked into.
But once you’re ensconced in the tiny house and its beautiful surroundings, it’s the only reminder that you’re not in the middle of a beautiful nowhere that’s surrounded by nature, calm ponds and the chirp of frogs and birdlife.
Once we’re checked in, we hop back in the car and five minutes down the road to Gerringong to Soul Clay Studios.
We’re learning how to use a potter’s wheel!
Marcus and Zeynep Testoni started Soul Clay Studios in 2021 when they decided to turn Zeynep’s pottery hobby into something much more.
After making a tree change to Gerroa from Sydney (Marcus used to teach Tourism and Events at TAFE and Zeynep was a deputy principal at a school), then being forced to upsize from their garage to this space, the Testonis have created not only a place for visitors to come and learn pottery but also for local artists to work, display and sell their craft.
After our teacher Jemma gives us a quick demo, we’re let loose on our own wheels.
It’s not only much harder than it looks, it’s also so much more fun that you’d ever expect—even if you thought it was going to be fun to begin with.
Jemma and Marcus guide us through the process (and occasionally get us out of trouble) until we’ve made six ‘pots’ each. We then get to choose three each that we want to keep and we get to squish the others.
The squished ones are recycled for use in future classes and the waste sludge we’ve created while we’ve worked the clay go into a clever reabsorption process so that there’s as little waste as possible.
In fact, the only plumbed-in water here is in the bathrooms. All the water used with the clay is recycled.
Our pots will go through a three-to-four-week kilning and glazing process, and they’ll be ready for us to collect.
We’ve loved having opportunity to get our hands on clay and try using the wheel. We both had a couple of reasonably successful results—thanks to Jemma and Marcus!
This is so much fun and definitely a thing to do as a couple, but also with friends and family—it’s also popular with hens’ nights too!
We arrive back at our Lilypad looking forward to some dinner (even though we’ve enjoyed the cheese board laid on for us at Soul Clay Studios).
Waiting for us is a package from The Valley Table—a home-delivery service for freshly-cooked gourmet meals.
Owner-chef Angie cooks a range of sumptuous meals and delivers them to your door ready to be reheated or finished.
In our box is also tomorrow’s breakfast hamper, but for this evening we tuck into a huge portion of chicken maryland slow-cooked in a tagine with chunky vegetables and olives, steamed rice and a salad with a dressing Angie also makes.
Although we’re tired from the day’s fun, we can’t leave the fire pit untested. We’re so glad it’s easy to light because the evening’s drawn up quite cold and windy.
We hunker down around the bright flames and watch the embers spark into the air and land with a sizzle on the quiet surface of the pond.
We’re up early this morning—not only to enjoy the amazing breakfast spread that Angie has sent us, but also for a bit of pampering.
Breakfast, by the way, includes some delicious home-roasted granola and wonderfully rich local honey yoghurt, chia pudding with fruit and shaved coconut, sourdough and Angie’s lime marmalade.
This should keep us going.
Soon there’s a knock at the door and our next experience is ready: Jodie from South Coast Mobile Massage is here!
Bringing her expertise—as well as her enormous comfy portable massage table—over the pond from SoCal, Jodie puts together soothing therapeutic massage programmes for us in our own tiny home.
In fact there’s only space for one massage table here at the Lilypad. But Jodie works on both of us separately, bringing all her equipment with her including a hot towel steamer and zen bell chimes.
We’ve never had an at-home massage treatment before, but this has shown us the light. It’s so good to be able to relax in the comfort of your place before, during and after your massage rather than having all that good work ruined by stress of getting to and from a spa.
You also don’t have to worry about having going-out clothes messed up by massage oils!
We spend a luxurious hour each under the firm yet soothing hands of Jodie and she removes all the tight muscle knots and stiff joints from our bodies.
All too soon, we shake ourselves from our reverie and hop back in the car. We’re off to a brewery!
Back in Gerringong—not far from Soul Clay Studios in fact—is Stoic Brewery.
Started in 2018 by father-and-son duo Steve and Andrew Prosser, Stoic has quickly developed into a superb brewery that the whole Prosser clan is now involved with.
In fact, as we approach the front door, we’re greeted by the effervescent Ashley—‘the daughter’ as she explains, though she’s in fact in charge of marketing.
We also meet Stoic’s head brewer, the charming Jono Beazley, and before we know it, we’re heading into the heart of the brewery for a tour of the whole facility.
Jono takes us to the grain store and explains about the four essential ingredients of beer: grain, water, yeast and hops.
It’s a real peep-behind-the-curtain tour with no process left unexamined and it’s so interesting. We even get to see a demo of the brewery’s new favourite toy: the canning machine. If you haven’t seen one in action, take it from us, it’s satisfying to watch!
Once we’ve seen all the aspects of the brewery (including the new cafe and espresso machine offering coffee service seven days a week), Jono and Ash take us to the beer fridge and ask us to choose four beers to taste.
Upstairs in the brand new mezzanine with big windows looking west at the escarpment and the sunset, the four of us sit down to explore the brews we’ve picked.
As we drink, Jono guides us through the beers, from their conception, brewing process and flavours to the artwork on the labels.
Ash also gives us more fascinating insights into how the brewery works and how her family have all become so embroiled in the business—even her mum, who doesn’t really drink beer (she does like the Imperial Stout though).
During the week, things are pretty quiet here, which makes it a better time for guided tours, but over the weekend, things really kick off at Stoic and from Thursday to Sunday, the kitchen opens running out world-beating burgers and fried chicken to make Kentucky locals cry.
You can book a range of tasting experiences, from a basic tasting paddle of four beers at the bar to the tour of the brewery and in-depth guided tasting we’ve done, but it’s a good idea to book ahead if you want to do this.
They cater to small private tours (like our two-person one) right up to large corporate groups.
As for the beers, they’re all excellent.
We tried the Straight from the Bine 2023 fresh hop pale ale, American IPA, Imperial Lemon Meringue Tart Sour and the 9.9% monster that is the Imperial Stout, and I’d choose them all again in a heartbeat.
It’s a grey rainy day we walk back into from the cosiness and beeriness of the brewery, and we’re hungry for a bite to eat.
On a tip-off from Jodie earlier today, which is also confirmed by Ash and Jono, we’re heading to Kiama to check out the farmers’ market on the beach.
Every Wednesday between 3-6pm, on Coronation Park, virtually on the sand of Kiama Surf Beach, is what must be the best view a market can have.
Top tips from our new local friends: keep an eye out for Yulli, a local legend selling great fruit and veg, The Pines Kiama for sensational gelato (they also have a bricks-and-mortar shop in town too) and most importantly, the Ola Chola food truck.
As you can see, Ola Chola does a few things including empanadas and paella, but it’s the smash burgers they do that we’re interested in. Christina’s happy with her cheese burger but my Viking burger wins for me with its rich and spicy sauce.
They don’t last long!
Again, this evening, we come back to the Lilypad to find our dinner delivery (as well as tomorrow’s breakfast) waiting for us. This time it’s from Dine In By Brooke.
Running her Wollongong-based mobile private chef business, Brooke Silk’s delicious food turns our beautiful tiny house in the South Coast into our own personal restaurant for the evening.
We have a two-course dinner starting with a plateful of delicate fresh kingfish sashimi with a light Thai-style green curry sauce and zingy chilli jam.
Our main is an enormous amount of rich tender lamb shoulder (we even have left-overs for tomorrows dinner!), which has been cooked for 18 hours. This comes with a red wine jus, a creamy truffled potato mash, smokey carrots, broccolini and a roasted heirloom beetroot salad.
We settle in and watch the rain pepper the pond, glad to be cosy in our tiny house on such a blustery wet night.
We’re up early again this morning to enjoy breakfast before our last experience begins and to enjoy the breakfast hamper that Brooke also sent.
We enjoy rich blueberry and chocolate chip muffins, fresh fruit and croissants filled with thick slices of crumbly mature cheddar that melts to a satisfying puddle in the microwave. What a way to start our last day here.
Soon after breakfast, we have another visitor. This time it’s Jess, our private yoga instructor from Hope Springs Yoga based in Gerringong.
I say ‘our instructor’—I mean Christina’s instructor.
Sadly, due to the space, I be able to take part this time and although it’s not raining anymore, it’s still to cold to do yoga outside by the pond. I’m ok though, thanks.
Jess leads Christina through her gentle yet therapeutic stretching form of yoga, using of straps to extend and maximise stretches and a series of achievable yet effective poses.
They’re using the reading nook upstairs as the studio, which works well with its elevated views over the nearby lake.
What a way to end the trip!
Thankfully, we don’t just have memories to remind us of this time away though. As well as all these amazing experiences, South Coast Experiences have worked with the generous craftspeople and producers of the area and have put together a goodie bag for us.
These tributes showcase some of the other things here in the South Coast that we didn’t have time to explore this trip.
– A selection of candles and bath oils by Willowvale Road to enhance a romantic stay. Made in Gerringong in a purpose-built barn overlooking the hills to the sea. This beautiful range offers a selection of products that are found online.
Willowvale Road also run successful workshops to enjoy in the barn.
– A selection of treats that are delicious and good for you from Mindful Treats. Made by local Gerringong wellness coach, these boxes of tasty morsels are perfect as a decadent snack filled with goodness to sustain you.
You can see here: peanut butter and caramel slices, peppermint and chia seed slices, coconut rough slices and bliss balls.
– A bag of delicious locally blended looseleaf breakfast tea from The Berry Tea Shop, a wonderful shop to visit in the beautiful town of Berry and enjoy a range of satisfying teas.
All too soon it’s time to leave and we trundle down the Princes Highway north to Sydney. But not before we pop into Gerringong and check out the beach. The tide’s out and sea pool here is easy to get to. We poke around in a few rock pools and enjoy the sea air for a while.
We’re both feeling so fulfilled and relaxed after our wonderful time in the South Coast.
I suppose the only question now is: have you finished packing yet?