Halfway between Sydney and Melbourne and framed by sun-speckled lakes, golden beaches and emerald rainforests, Merimbula is the Sapphire Coast’s glittering centrepiece. Taste oysters at their briny source, clink glasses with friendly locals, be energised by new adventures on land and sea, and recharge in laidback luxury – this coastal playground has it all and more. Here, how to make the most of your visit to this unforgettable South Coast gem.
GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY
With a name meaning “two lakes” in the local Aboriginal language, it’s no surprise water stars in every Merimbula escape. When you’re not rolling out your towel on the 6km Main Beach, snorkelling at Bar Beach or paddling with the family at Spencer Park Beach, jump on your surfboard at Short Point or learn with Amped Surf School. Visiting in winter? Brace yourself for a frosty dip as the annual WinterSun Festival dares you to try cold-water swims, wharf-to-wharf walks, and more.
Renew your sense of adventure on the water – at Sunny’s Kiosk you can hire a boat, SUP or kayak to explore Merimbula’s famous 5.6km lake, and book a daytrip with Headland Fishing Charters to land your catch of the day. Or, be awed by the giants of the deep with Sapphire Coastal Adventures, who run whale-watching cruises from August to November.
The natural wonders continue around the town. Take a leisurely meander through the mangroves on the 3.4km Merimbula Boardwalk, where handy signposts highlight the rich marine life, step into the cool temperate rainforest on the Goodenia Walking Track, or hotfoot it to Beowa National Park where the Pinnacles Walk leads to 65 million-year-old formations backed by turquoise seas.
For a truly energising experience in these wild surrounds, eco-friendly outdoor specialists Navigate Expeditions offer bushwalking, kayaking, glamping, e-biking and speciality tours with transfers from Merimbula, including the famous Light to Light Walking Holiday and the five-night Sea to Mountain Conservation Tour.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERI
Merimbula’s sparkling waterways are so revered for their delicious Sydney rock oysters that they’re a key stop on the Sapphire Coast Oyster Trail and their banks host the Eat Merimbula festival, bringing together the region’s best growers, chefs and hungry gourmands for an annual epicurean extravaganza.
For a shuckin’ fun day combining sightseeing and taste-testing, join Captain Sponge’s Magical Oyster Tours for a guided experience with a local oyster farmer. And nearby at Broadwater Oysters, sign up for Tide-to-Table Gourmet Oyster School, and learn everything there is to know about these prized bivalves while slurping them at the water’s edge.
Prefer to leave the hard work to the experts? Tuck into a lakeside spread at The Oyster Barn, try the Vietnamese-style oysters at Wheeler’s Seafood Restaurant, or treat yourself to fresh Broadwater Oysters at Merimbula Aquarium & Wharf Restaurant, served with spectacular 180-degree ocean views.
Merimbula’s eateries offer feasts to suit every palate. At Valentina, Mediterranean flavours sing in standout dishes like Octopus with Nduja, while Tidal Restaurant & Wine Bar’s Executive Chef Gavin Swalwell highlights ethically sourced local produce like succulent pork, duck and beef.
Craving a takeaway beachside picnic? Just opposite Main Beach, the legendary Cranky Café is famous for its corn fritters and lemon meringue donuts, while Mitchie’s Jetty and the Bar Beach Kiosk offer excellent espressos at the water’s edge.
When it’s time to wet your whistle, pull up a stool amongst the friendly locals at one of Merimbula’s vibrant waterholes. Set in a reimagined 1920s cottage, Dulcie’s is legendary thanks to its laidback atmosphere, live music, standout burgers, and extensive cocktail list showcasing local gin distilleries such as Nine Circles and North of Eden. Nearby, Kitty’s Bar offers entertainment, classic cocktails and an Asian-fusion menu that emphasises fresh local fare. And just down the road in Pambula, family- and pet-friendly Longstocking Brewery serves a rotating selection of craft beer, cider, oysters and woodfired pizza.
Merimbula has accommodation for every style, from chic remixed motels to child-friendly stays steps from the beach. Get a taste of the suite life at the sea-facing Hillcrest Motel, where contemporary luxe amenities like a resort-style pool and bar, tennis court, firepit and playground are paired with retro-chic flourishes in a stylish nod to the hotel’s 1969 origins.
In the foreshore area locals call The Fishpen, you’ll find a host of family holiday apartments, including the Grandeur, Bayview and Lakeside Merimbula. For a luxurious stay in a place to call your own, Coast Resort Merimbula is set amongst two garden-filled hectares stretching from Merimbula Lake to Main Beach, with architecturally designed penthouses and apartments, pools, tennis court and a barbecue area for a plush take on self-catering. Or, book into the ADS on Collins, where you can hit refresh in split-level comfort and be energised by the soaring views across the beach.
Merimbula is just under six hours’ drive from Sydney, 7hr 30min from Melbourne and three hours from Canberra. You can also fly into Merimbula Airport – both Rex Airlines and Qantas fly direct from Sydney in 70 minutes.