Adventure therapy through travel
Endorphins with a side serving of emotional connection could be just what the doctor ordered for your next vacation — and Shoalhaven is the perfect place for it.
A wellness-themed vacation can be all about days by the pool, sunrise yoga and hours whiled away in an eco-resort. Those sorts of holidays are undoubtedly good for the soul — but just as healing is a dose of adventure, and the Shoalhaven region is the perfect place to experience these two elements in tandem. Stay in one of the many local hotels, resorts or guesthouses and enjoy some of the adventures this locale has to offer at the same time.
An adventure vacation is good for your wellbeing in many ways. It offers the feel-good rush of endorphins that only adrenaline can bring. It also prioritises movement and, with many of us living sedentary lifestyles where we’re stuck behind a desk, a vacation that involves some degree of physicality is good for our bodies.
The benefits continue; many studies have proven that being outdoors promotes better immunity, again suggesting that an adventure vacation may indeed be just what the doctor ordered. And if that’s not reason enough to look into an adventure vacation, surely the old recipe for a good night’s sleep — a large serving of fresh air and exercise — will do it.
Yet the physical benefits don’t hold all the appeal. This kind of experience can also add to your emotional wellness. The Shoalhaven region boasts many forms of guided tours, which allow you to exercise not only your body but your mind too. Enrich your soul with new cultural experiences and form an emotional connection to the locations you visit. Focus on your breathing and your body as you explore these new surroundings and truly connect to the world around you for an all-over dose of wellbeing your body, mind and soul will thank you for.
The City of Shoalhaven is a short two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Sydney (approximately 200 kilometres). It’s also accessible by train, with the South Coast railway line terminating just shy of Nowra at Bomaderry.
Whichever way you get there, once you arrive you’ll feel at peace. The region stretches along the coast from Berry and Kangaroo Valley right through to the Clyde River, encompassing a rich variety of natural wonders. Gorgeous native trees tower over roads that lead toward Shoalhaven’s series of coastal towns and beaches. Nature is at her finest here — and with 70 per cent of the area made up of national parks and forests, and 100 beaches for the traveller to enjoy, she’s certainly on display. This is a region that is no stranger to hardship. The 2019–20 summer saw bushfires ravage this corner of the world, followed by a quieter tourist season than the area was used to, thanks to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic.
Yet new growth has sprouted from the ashes. The Shoalhaven tourism operators have more unique experiences for visitors to enjoy. Outside, majestic old trees tower over a thicket of fresh young greenery, resulting in the sort of natural beauty that is uniquely Australian and much like the people of Shoalhaven themselves — resilient, resourceful and ready for the future.
By visiting Shoalhaven and engaging in one of the adventure tours, enriching your mind with a cultural experience or simply connecting with the local people, you’re also supporting a community that has endured incredibly trying times in recent years — one that has a lot to offer in the future.
Shoalhaven is home to some of the country’s most impressive natural wonders, with much of it accessible on foot. Escape the city and connect with yourself, Country and the locals via one of these wellness experiences.
The Booderee National Park is the perfect place to begin your journey. Take a casual stroll through the gorgeous Booderee Botanic Gardens and enrich your mind by learning about bush tucker, the medicinal uses of plants and the rich history of the Indigenous people of this corner of Australia. Spring is a gorgeous time to visit this park, with new blooms opening to the sun and the heady scents of nature’s perfume just waiting to entice you.
Guided walks and even bespoke tours that focus on connecting to Country are also available from Djiriba Waagura, where you can visit some of the lesser-known gems the Shoalhaven area has to offer while learning about Indigenous culture within the region at the same time. Big Nature Adventures and Region X both also offer guided bushwalks. These are perfect to undertake during the cooler months of the year, with autumn and winter being prime times to visit. For the independent traveller, there are self-guided walks available at shoalhaven.com/walks.
If your brand of adventure features a little more adrenaline, you can’t go wrong with rock climbing. Rock climbing offers a natural hit of endorphins while offering other benefits including increased coordination and improved flexibility.
It’s also very low impact, making it a great option for those with joint sensitivity.
Yet one of the key benefits of this sport is the scenery. The Shoalhaven area has many spectacular places to climb, with the majestic rocks and cliffs falling away to a stunning carpet of verdant green below.
Guided tours are available for all skill levels, with Climb Nowra and Big Nature Adventures offering fabulous options, and Outdoor Raw even offering a unique “cliffnic” experience, where you can dine on local produce while suspended from the edge of a cliff.
For those looking to move fast and sweat away some of the drawbacks of a sedentary lifestyle, there are many mountain bike tracks and bicycle paths that will see you flying through the forest or meandering through quaint towns that simply ooze charm, such as Milton.
An ocean high
The wellness benefits of water are not to be underestimated. Negative ions are abundant at the beach, resulting in a natural high with health benefits that your entire body can profit from.
Getting wet in the Shoalhaven region is all too easy, with a plethora of local experiences on offer. The area is renowned for its gorgeous surfing beaches and unspoiled coastline.
Mollymook Beach is a great spot for those looking to learn to surf and ride the natural high that comes along with riding a wave in to shore. Look for classes at the Mollymook Beach Surf School or try your hand at surfing and stand-up paddle-boarding with Aussie surf legend Pam Burridge.
Another must-visit location is Jervis Bay. Here, you can enjoy more guided stand-up paddle-boarding with companies including Jervis Bay Stand Up Paddle, or move your body and take the path less trodden with a kayak tour from Jervis Bay Kayak and Paddlesports. These are both great ways to experience the therapeutic benefits of water, even during the cooler months of the year, with warm layers able to be worn to keep the chill at bay.
Another unique water-based experience that focuses on your core and your centre is SUPfit and SUPilates run by Sussex Inlet Stand Up Paddle, where you can challenge your body with a fitness class in some of the country’s most beautiful surrounds.
Wellness from within
Shoalhaven isn’t just home to natural beauty. Some amazing produce is found in this region, with something to suit every palate. Seafood is of course a natural local specialty, with oysters from Greenwell Point and fresh fish from Ulladulla not to be missed.
This region is also renowned for its cool-climate wines, with popular grapes including chambourcin, chardonnay and verdelho, as well as cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. Cupitt’s Estate is a popular destination for visitors to the region, a boutique establishment that overachieves by being a winery, cellar door, restaurant, bar, microbrewery and fromagerie all in the one location.
There are many places to dine in the area, from high-end restaurants such as Rick Stein at Bannisters to casual cafés and coffee shops that produce quality simpler fare.
Shoalhaven is bountiful when it comes to conscious eating too. A vegetarian, vegan and raw food trail is detailed on the Shoalhaven website, ensuring that you can nourish your body and feel well from the inside out.
Get to know the locals
Many visitors flock to the Shoalhaven region to meet the locals — and not just the ones you find on land. Jervis Bay is home to more than 120 bottlenose dolphins, with Dolphin Watch Cruises Jervis Bay offering accredited dolphin-watching tours available all year round with a 99 per cent sighting success rate. Time your visit from mid-May through to late November for your chance to spot humpback, southern right and minke whales too as they undertake their annual migration.
To book one or more of these great experiences, visit shoalhaven.com.