Halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, Merimbula is a thriving holiday community along New South Wales’ Sapphire Coast, with enough going on to warrant more than just a pit stop on your way to Australia’s biggest cities. A lake, beaches, national parks and manmade attractions are all set against a mountainous backdrop. Stay the night, the weekend or for the holidays: this town of 7000 boasts a number of self-contained holiday rentals, great for families, couples and groups of friends.
Merimbula is home to five beautiful beaches. The town’s Main Beach stretches on for 5km and is the best spot to surf or fish, as it is patrolled throughout summer. Public BBQs can be found onsite and the town’s cafes provide easy access to much needed refreshments throughout the day. If you’re looking to snorkel, head over to Bar Beach, which includes a food and drinks stand. At low tide, you can swim across to Main Beach or family-friendly Spencer Park, a beach protected from strong winds and boasting a playground. Another family favourite not to be missed is Mitchies Jetty, a smaller beach where you can relax and build sandcastles, or jump off the jetty at high tide.
Merimbula is a family-oriented holiday destination. Youngsters can enjoy a trip to the aquarium at the Merimbula Wharf. Facing the ocean, this close-up encounter with marine life is fun for all, with over 27 tanks of local and tropical species. Throughout January, children can even hold certain sea creatures under supervision as part of the Aquarium Kids Club and year-round, visitors can watch feedings.
Potoroo Palace is an open air sanctuary 10km from Merimbula, where you can get close to kangaroos, emus and koalas as well as pet snakes and feed a number of these animals, who run freely around the park. Potoroo Palace is a not-for-profit organisation which tends to wounded, orphaned and endangered animals, so the entry fee goes directly to caring for species in need. Visitors can also participate in a close-up encounter with the species of their choice, at an added cost. To learn more about the park and the animals within, take part in one of the twice-daily guided tours.
Once you’ve gotten acquainted with Australian wildlife, visit Magic Mountain, an award-winning theme park with waterslides, a rollercoaster and the ever-popular Jumping Castle. Magic Mountain’s atmosphere is more that of a carnival or school fair than of a traditional modern-day theme park. But of course, the Diamond Python Roller Coaster is there for thrill seekers! From the top, take in views over Lake Merimbula and Bar Beach. Last but not least, entry is free for tiny tots under four.
National Parks woven with trails wrap around Merimbula. North of town is Bournda National Park, where visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls along rugged beaches and through lush forests populated by creeks and lagoons. South East Forest National Park offers tall trees, gorges, valleys, peaks, swamps and waterfalls, making for a peaceful escape from the beachfront. Closer to town, travellers can enjoy a lakeside venture along the Merimbula Boardwalk. The 3.6km walk takes around three hours if you go both ways.
Visitors wishing to participate in quieter activities in and around town can spend their afternoons at one of Merimbula’s golf courses or lawn bowl clubs. The Pambula-Merimbula Golf Club features a 27-hole course. While you’re playing, you might even spot a wild kangaroo or two hopping around! Alternately, head over to Tura Beach Country Club, one of the Top 100 public golf courses in Australia, where you can play golf while admiring panoramic ocean views. Lawn bowling is another favourite local pastime, so you can join Merimbula residents at Club Sapphire, open six days a week and late into the evening.
Merimbula is known for its rock oyster production, so if you enjoy seafood, you must visit Wheeler’s Oyster Farm and Seafood Restaurant; not only can you try a local delicacy, you can also go for a tour of the farm for a behind-the-scenes experience. Of course, seafood isn’t the only option in Merimbula, with Thai, Chinese and modern Australian restaurants throughout town. Visitors can dine on the Esplanade overlooking the water or explore the town’s quiet laneways, populated by an array of delicious eateries.
Merimbula boasts a convenient location, 5 hours from Sydney and Melbourne and 3 hours from Canberra. Attesting to the town’s importance, the coastal community has its own passenger airport, with planes to and from Melbourne and Sydney. It’s an easy ride and a short flight, so Merimbula is always a good idea for a holiday along the Sapphire Coast.