The pristine beaches and fresh food of the NSW South Coast have been drawing visitors here for decades. But that’s not all the region has to offer – its small towns and coastal hangs are also home to a bubbling arts and creative scene, which you can explore on just a short drive from Sydney. One weekend here and you’ll see why the region’s natural beauty has inspired so many to pick up the paintbrush.
Catch an exhibition at the Art Bar
Kiama’s Little Blowhole Art Bar is more than a place to enjoy a glass of King Valley prosecco and a few plates of tapas (though it’s great for that, too). As part of their mission to support homegrown creators, the Art Bar stage a regular rotation of exhibitions and decorate their walls with work from local artists, like March’s mixed media group show Strong Women. Stick around on Sunday afternoons to catch live music in the bar.
Trip through Berry’s galleries
The small town of Berry, population 3000, punches well above its weight in the art stakes. Three different galleries and museums can be found here, all set within easy walking distance from each other. View contemporary Australian art and sculpture at the Precinct Galleries, learn about the history of the town at the Berry Museum and catch displays from local artists at the Historical Muir House Gallery – you can even stop in at the Berry Community Cottage to browse the arts and crafts for sale or pick up some locally jarred jams and pickles.
Get inspired at Bundanon Homestead
Stop off in Illaroo, 20 minutes drive west of Nowra by the Shoalhaven River, and you can see where one of Australia’s greatest artists lived and worked. Bundanon Homestead, former home of painter Arthur Boyd who created the Bride series, offers guided tours of the 110-hectare homestead on Sundays. Visitors can also view Bundanon’s extensive art collection – which includes 1300 pieces by Boyd himself – and enjoy a picnic on the property’s extensive gardens, which serve as a native wildlife refuge.
Take a silversmithing class
Sign up for a class with The Artisan Collective, the Schofields Lane store in Nowra that sells creations from a number of local traders and artists, and you’ll leave with your own handmade rings, earrings and pendants. The one-day sessions, led by South Coast jewellery maker Naomi Dootson, take you through traditional silversmithing techniques like soldering and mill rolling in a relaxed environment suitable for beginners. Want more? They also offer resin art and macrame workshops.
Hit the artists trail
The 44-kilometre stretch of road between Tathra and Bermagui, on the region’s Sapphire Coast, is dubbed the “Coast Road Art Trail” for the boutique galleries along the way. Start by visiting the studio gallery of artist David Mills just south of Tathra before hopping over to Essential Object, at the Tathra Wharf, where South Coast creator Poppy Benton exhibits paintings, sculpture, ceramics and more.
From there you can stop off at Ivy Hill Gallery, set on a farm with views over Mumbulla Mountain, before finishing up at Narek Galleries in Bermagui. The drive will take only an hour and you’ll pass unspoiled beaches and estuaries along the way.