When Irish backpacker Peter Bacon arrived in the town of Mollymook on the south coast of NSW, he realised he’s discovered the real Australia. “The tradies surfed before work in the morning,” he says. “It was all about lifestyle.”
Eight years later, Bacon, the now-busy General Manager of Bannisters by the Sea and the newly-opened Bannisters Pavilion still finds the time to kite surf most days. And while there’s more to Mollymook and its hinterland than beaches – bushwalking, hiking up Pigeon House Mountain, visiting inland wineries and restaurants – those swathes of white sand and blue sea are the primary drawcard for visitors to this region. But according to locals, some of the best beaches have yet to be discovered by out-of-towners.
“There’d be twelve beaches you could go to at Bawley Point [south of Ulladulla],” says Gary Brill, who runs Bunyas Organics and Antiques in Milton. “Racecourse Beach, Merry Beach, Pebbly Beach with its kangaroos.”
Michelle Naylor-Clark, who practically grew up on Rennies Beach, agrees. “They’re just so secluded, and no-one has ever been there,” she says. “There’s so many beaches tourists don’t know about – you just have to go exploring.”
But not everyone is up for adventure. For those keen to stay within the Mollymook limits, here are our top picks.
This is Mollymook’s centrepiece, a languid stretch of sand cupped by the protective Bannisters Headland to the north and Mollymook’s favourite coffee hangout, The Mollymook Beach Hut (75 Ocean Street, Mollymook; 02 4455 1758) to the south. In the middle is a reef that yields good waves. There’s space here for everyone: surfers who favour the northern end and young families who tend to congregate in the south.
Not a beach in the traditional sense, this rocky little shore is accessed via a magnificent coastal gum forest that abuts the public carpark at the north side of Bannisters by the Sea and is a good spot for quiet contemplation.
If you want to be completely alone, this is the place to go. But there’s a catch: Buckleys Beach, lodged between Buckleys Point and Narrawallee Inlet, is accessible only via a walking track from Lake Conjola, north of Mollymook, or by boat across the inlet. Or you could do like Peter Bacon, and kite surf there.
Dog-loving locals were thrilled that a section of the elongated Narrawallee Beach was trialled as an off-leash area in late 2015. Here you’ll find beloved pooches frolicking in the surf after 4pm, and locals walking, paddle boarding and swimming at all times of day.
Located between south Mollymook and Collers Beach, the Bogey Hole is a tidal rock pool where a group of local women swim in summer, bobbing about and infusing themselves so thoroughly they’ve dubbed themselves The Teabags. One of the world’s few night surfing competitions – the inaugural Nocturnal Night Surf Tag – was held this year just down the beach at Golf Course Reef, beneath an enchanting, Easter full moon.
Photography: Nikki To