Rural Australia has a habit of surprising you with wonderful places to eat. The South Coast of NSW has a lion’s share of great eateries and fine restaurants. So if you’re on the road exploring this beautiful part of the country, here’s a hit list of places to have your fill.
The South Coast of NSW might boast some of the whitest sandy beaches in the world and some of the most beautiful little towns in the country, but when you’re done swimming, exploring and relaxing, you’ve got to eat.
The good news is there’s plenty to choose from. And only 3 hours south of Sydney and under 2 hours from Canberra, this part of the South Coast is worth the drive for the food alone!
Of course, taking your time and staying for a few nights in the South Coast will give you the chance to really get to know the area (and all its foodie phenomena). Here’s a review of our favourite place to stay.
To help you on your food safari, we’ve put together a list of our favourite places to eat in the Southern Shoalhaven.
Where to eat in the South Coast, NSW
Just outside Ulladulla, tucked into the pretty coastal countryside of the southern Shoalhaven sits this surprising winery, brewery and fromagerie. It not only offers an excellent tasting at its intimate cellar door, the food it serves in its restaurant is not to be missed.
Cupitt’s cheese is a take-home must. If nothing else, pick up some Tomme goat’s cheese. Even better, get the cheese plate and sit on the balcony overlooking the vines and hills. And their West Coast style IPA is one of the only things tasty enough to stop your wine quaffing.
By the way, their wine club is well worth joining. It’s free, you get 20% off the six bottles you receive three times a year and you also get 10% off food at the winery restaurant.
Harvest Bar is young, fun venue tucked away off the main road of Milton. It’s well-crafted rustic, craft vibe follows its eclectic menu of tacos, calamari, flat breads made in house, sliders and generous ploughman’s boards.
The cocktails here are well-made and presented too. It’s an ideal place for an afternoon relaxing with friends or an evening of fun and (on Fridays and Saturdays) live music.
The restaurant that’s put Mollymook on the map, this restaurant, owned by celebrity chef Rick Stein, is a destination in itself. Part of Bannisters by the Sea hotel and spa, Rick Stein’s is a seafood masterpiece.
Revelling in the quality of the fish and shellfish coming out of local waters, Rick Stein’s puts exquisite dinners in front of people every evening of the week. You can also come here for lunch Friday to Sunday.
‘Masterfully simple’ is the key to the food here. The kitchen balances the fewest ingredients with the most flavour with incredible skill. Servings are generous too, which is the opposite of we’ve come to expect from such household-name restaurants.
Highly recommended is the grilled scallop entrée and the Sri Lankan fish curry main, though the fish pie is something everyone should try too… to be honest, you won’t find a bad dish here.
Bannisters by the Sea is a wonderful, romantic, retreat-style hotel on its own peninsula overlooking Mollymook Beach. On its northern side is the hotel’s pool bar, which guests can access from midday.
The view down to the ocean from the bar is stupendous, especially when you’re treated to pods of dolphins fishing and playing. At the right time of year, you can also see whales on their annual migration while you enjoy one of the bar’s delicious pizzas or their spicy fresh calamari.
If you’re not staying here, you’re welcome to come for dinner or just drinks (their negroni is superb) after 6pm.
Known for its clean, modern food, bright, relaxed vibe and environmentally responsible, locally-sourced ingredients, Tallwood is the perfect breakfast or dinner spot.
Highly recommended by the team at Bannisters by the Sea, this hatted eatery is a worthy epitome of fine dining on the South Coast.
This vegetarian café also came highly recommended to us. Just round the corner from Harvest Bar, Pilgrims Café offers a wonderful array of veggie options. And with as much of a lean towards organic produce as they can, the quality of the food here is excellent.
Breakfast options only run until 12pm, but the rest of the menu is more interesting anyway. Pies, salads, wraps and toasties abound, but it’s the burgers we love. Mixed grain, lentil or marinated tofu patties make the building block for some sensational sounding sandwiches, but the Bliss Burger is our go-to.
Its mixed grain patty comes with fried onion, avocado, cheese, tabouli, sprouts, special sauce and peanut sauce on a rather flat toasted wholemeal roll. Mouth-watering and very filling.
Keep an eye open for the regular Mexican nights they have at Pilgrims too. The menu sounds amazing.
Pilgrims Cafés are slowly making their way north from Milton to Sydney. There are three others so far in Huskisson, Corrimal and Cronulla. Hopefully there’ll be one in the city soon for us to enjoy.
This plant-based (though not vegetarian) café focuses on local wholefood produce, that’s not only good for your appetite and soul, but also for your health too.
It’s not a big menu, but with offerings like crispy zucchini pancakes with fried egg and mango, garlic fried eggs with turmeric za’atar and flatbread and corned beef with gruyere fritters and pickles, there’s enough here to keep you interested.
This little gem is so well-hidden it’s amazing people know about it. Right down the end of Matron Porter Drive at the inlet of Narrawallee Creek, this is a general store with a difference.
As well as all the victuals and provisions it stocks, Playgrounds General Store also serves a great looking range of burgers, sandwiches and seafood, and the prices are astonishingly reasonable.
There’s a lovely local feel to this place – it’s as if you’ve been coming here for years after your first visit. Once you’ve finished your meal or your coffee, there’s a little walk down to the rocky shore of the inlet and beach that’s well worth a look too.
Further north from the Ulladulla area and a recommendation from the lovely Gen from Cupitt’s Winery is Albert ‘n’ Miso in Vincentia.
Named after the owners’ dogs, this café/bar/restaurant has offerings from morning coffee and breakfast and lunch to a separate burger menu and night-time tapas.
Another recommendation from Gen and in the same area as Albert ‘n’ Miso, Salty Joe’s is a taste of SoCal in the Shoalhaven.
Juices, grain bowls, burgers and that beachy vibe of Southern California with an hola to Mexico.
Also in this part of the South Coast is the Pelican Rocks chippy. Voted People’s Choice Best Fish and Chips 2017 & 2018, surely this deserves a mention on a foodie list of the area.
The awards are organised by the Fisheries Research and Development Corp in partnership with state and territory fishing industry councils, so it’s a pretty big deal.
Not knowing where your next meal will be is an ongoing challenge for travellers. We hope this list makes it easier to pick where to go on your journey through one of New South Wales’ most beautiful and yet still quite underrated regions.
Let us know if you think there’s another venue in the southern part of the Shoalhaven area that you think deserves a mention. We’d love to hear your hot tips.