Bordered by Queensland and Victoria, New South Wales is situated on Australia's glorious east coast. Originally home to Aborginal tribes, its population today stands at around eight million, making it the country's most populous state. Though it's best known for the breathtaking Bondi Beach and the sparkling capital of Sydney, we suggest skipping past the tourist hotspots and heading for one of its most magical towns, Merimbula.
Water babies will love this southern end of the sapphire coast, and the pristine Merimbula Lake. While tiny, it's the town's sense of community and busy calendar of local events that have allowed it to flourish. Its windsurfing and kiteboarding festival and the Pambula Merimbula Golf Club's legendary annual competition have caught the attention of cool creatives. With a fresh breed of beach shacks and design-driven restaurants cropping up at every turn, this has fast become a go-to holiday destination for laid-back Aussies.
Australia is home to some of the world's most treasured wildlife. Animal lovers should carve out time to visit Bega Valley sanctuary Potoroo Palace. Just a 10-minute drive from Merimbula, the centre cares for animals who have been injured and are no longer able to live in the wild. We're talking everything from kangaroos and lizards to dingoes and wombats.
Those looking to cool off will enjoy an evening dip in the tranquil waters of Bar Beach, while hikers will want to explore the Pambula-Haycock area of Ben Boyd National Park. Follow winding trails through secluded coves and past Aboriginal shell middens - the remains of shellfish meals once gathered and eaten on these shores.
Hillcrest Motel Merimbula | Image credit: David Rogers
Where to stay?
Open since 1974, Hillcrest Merimbula has long served as everyone's favourite beachside motel. New owner Caspar Tresidder has overseen a recent wholesale makeover, which has transformed the 30 bedrooms into contemporary, cosy hideaways. Interiors, courtesy of architects Atelier Chardon and stylists Miranda O'Rourke and Harrison Balodis, marry traditional features with modern detailing: think exposed brickwork, burnished wooden cabinets, whitewashed walls and rattan and walnut-timber furnishings. The best bit? The authentic 1970s clay tennis court is available for guests' use, if you fancy a match. Be sure to pack your whites.
Where to go for dinner?
Merimbula Gourmet Oysters. Located on the western edge of Merimbula Lake, this family-owned oyster farm is known for serving some of the best seafood Australia has to offer. With sharing platters jam-packed with fresh crayfish, prawns and scallops it's borderline impossible to leave without having overdone it. The angasi oysters, in particular, are sensational.
And for a drink…
It's got to be Dulcie's. A white weatherboard cottage built by couple Arthur and Dulcie Goodsill in 1925, this much-loved spot offers family-style feasting in its outdoor courtyard. With oak barrels for tables and a retro caravan rustling up build-your-own burgers, it's the perfect place to spend an evening with an Aperol spritz or two.
Who to take with you
Take that friend who always knows the best place in town for a nibble and a tipple. They'll delight in Merimbula's buzzy beachside bars.
When to go
When not to go? We've waited long enough for borders to reopen and can't wait another moment for our big return down under. But, weather-wise, December to February is the best time to enjoy Australia in all its sun-drenched glory.
Essentials to pack
Fed up of your phone overheating? This Sacai rattan cross-body basket bag is the perfect partner for keeping you and your possessions feeling and looking cool.
How to get there
No airline flies direct from the UK to Merimbula. We suggest flying from London Heathrow to Dubai with Emirates. From there, jump on a connecting flight to Merimbula Airport, which is just a five-minute drive from the town's bustling Market Street.