The Shellharbour region stretches from the entrance of the magnificent Lake Illawarra to the surf of the Tasman Sea. With a backbone of state parks and forest reserves, the region’s scenery is superbly diverse. Shellharbour is approximately an hour from Sydney and within two and a half hours from Canberra, making it an easy day trip from the nation’s capital cities.
Guest post by Michael Adams
a Few Facts about Shellharbour
Even with a population nearing 70,000 residents, Shellharbour’s natural beauty has remained largely unspoilt by tourism. The friendly townspeople, smorgasbord of activities, easy accessibility and elixir of natural lustre all make Shellharbour one of the largest tourist destinations along NSW Central Coast.
What’s the best time to visit?
Of course, like anywhere along the coast, it is best to visit during the warmer months – from September to early April. The climate is typical of a coastal town, warm with a light sea breeze and a little humidity in the midst of summer. Winter is cooler, but pleasant by most standards. Temperatures are less overwhelming during spring. Check out the weather before you head to the area, since a coastal storm may mitigate your exploration opportunities.
One Day in Shellharbour Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Shellharbour.
Kick of your day with a magnificent harbourside walk. The pristine waters lining the unoccupied sandy beaches are simply stunning. They say the early bird catches the worm, so get up early and take your camera down to witness a gorgeous sunrise – a sure-fire Kodak moment.
Feeling peckish? Head to Shellharbour Village and stroll along Addison Street to weigh up which quaint outdoor café best suits your needs. There is a fabulous variety of cuisines to satisfy all of your cravings! But for a local favourite, head to Green Poppy for a unique culinary experience. With live music, a small in-café store and all day breakfast! Try the ricotta, prosciutto and basil baked eggs for a wholesome and delicious start to the morning.
If you’re a die-hard beach goer, you must head to the unpatrolled waters of Killalea State Park, affectionately known to locals as the Farm.
Here, you’ll find rolling waves at the foothills of an opulent forest with well-kept amenities and facilities. Grab a surfboard and try your luck in one of the best surfing beaches in NSW, or take a picnic down to the exquisitely landscaped barbecue area. In reality, you could spend your whole day here exploring the nature trails, watching the talented surfers and soaking up the sunshine. If you plan on doing so, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy!
After checking out the beach, go for a walk to Minnamurra Falls – a sensational natural wonder hidden amidst The Minnamurra Rainforest. There’s ample wildlife to spot including wallabies, water dragons and the majestic lyrebird.
Once again, head to the gourmet hub of Addison Street. Check out the Andaman Thai Restaurant, known as the best in the region with its generous servings and deliciously authentic flavours, with a little American flair. Spring for the tofu Kra-Pow or the Hotpot Seafood. Both combine fresh local produce with unique flavours and delectable textures.
If you fancy staying in the great outdoors, pack a picnic and head over to the Bass Point Reserve. This charmingly historic site holds great significance for the Indigenous people of Shell Harbour, as one of very few littoral rainforests in the region. It is also a renowned diving area, with shipwrecks to explore!
For the fishermen of the region, this is the best time of day to launch the boat at Lake Illawarra, or cast a line from the rocks. The main catches include bream, flathead and mullet. In the summertime, wade in the waters of Lake Illawarra’s lagoon and try your luck at some prawning.
If fishing doesn’t tickle your fancy, head over to the Links Golf Course in Shell Cove. Despite being dubbed the “Beast of the East” due to the challenging nature of the course, you shouldn’t be put off, as the friendly staff and stunningly preserved greens create a comfortable and sociable atmosphere. Kick back at the Tavern, the course’s clubhouse, for some live entertainment and a cold beer.
Head to the local gem, the Ocean Beach Hotel for an impeccable seafood dinner you will never forget. This award-winning restaurant is perched over the Pacific Ocean, offering unobstructed, panoramic ocean views. Be sure to book a table out on the deck in the early evening, to witness a sensational sky of pink and orange encroaching upon the waterfront at sunset.
Where to Stay in Shellharbour?
The Dream Catcher Beach House offers cosy feels with stylish looks. The Beach House is a super modern 3 bedroom house overlooking the ocean. Equipped with all the mod cons including spa, this chic beach stay is sure to impress. The hosts are lovely and attentive, and more than willing to help you find your way around beautiful Shellharbour.
For a larger group, the Shellharbour Resort and Conference Centre is ideal. The location is absolutely supreme, near the beach, the Links Shell Cove Golf Course, and the main shopping mall, Stocklands. There’s also a tennis court and a pool to entertain the kids!
Extra Tips for Visiting Shellharbour
– The sun is harsh in the land down under, so be sure to practice sun safety, as a nasty sunburn could ruin your holiday. You can buy sunscreen and hats around the Shellharbour region at any service station or general store.
– If you are staying in Brisbane or Melbourne, you can now fly regionally to Illawarra Regional Airport. And Shellharbour has a free public transport system, namely by bus, so you can transfer from the airport to your hotel quite easily. Look up the timetables here to navigate the region with ease. And if you get stuck, Uber does operate within this region, although it might cost a little more than normal because the drivers have to come from Wollongong.
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