If only everywhere was so naturally beautiful. Jervis Bay is a spectacular stretch of water, with the Beecroft Peninsula (part of which is actually in the ACT) in the north Booderee National Park to the south. The waters here are crystal-clear, attracting divers from Sydney every weekend, who are often treated to sightings of pods of dolphins and even the occasional whale.
It's all about the water for most visitors here, although a little way inland is Morton National Park with wildflower walks and some beautiful waterfalls. It's a top spot to indulge your outdoorsy nature with fishing, surfing, snorkelling, kayaking and dolphin watching all high on any list of things to do, along with enjoying some of the local restaurants, cafes and pubs.
Jervis Bay is a two- to three-hour drive south of Sydney
When you get there
The contemporary menu at Seagrass Brasserie
has some Asian overtones and features local seafood. The restaurant has won lots of local awards and the owners, chef Kierrin McKnight and host Nathan Fey, have worked in renowned establishments all over the world.
Kick off the weekend on the verandah at Hyams Beach Cafe
, just across the road from the water in this small village. Footy fans might be interested to know its run by former Sydney Swan Brad Seymour and his wife Melissa. The attached store stocks gourmet products from the likes of Maggie Beer and Simon Johnson if you feel like stocking up on some yummy fare.
Everyone who comes here takes some time to go on a dolphin-watching tour on the water. There are many operators but Dolphin Watch Cruises, which has two tours each day, guarantees you'll see Flipper's distant cousin otherwise they'll take you out again. If you're around between May and November, the company also has three-hour whale-watching tours, also with a guarantee of a return cruise if you don't catch a glimpse of one of the big fellas.
You won't be able to resist a walk along Hyams Beach with its stunning pure-white sand. Pack your swimmers, sunnies, a book and a bottle of sunscreen and take a stroll, stopping for a dip along the way. Venture to Booderee National Park (if you're driving, it costs $5 to enter) and discover the sheltered beach at Green Patch with hundreds of tame rosellas.
Travel to Murrays Beach at the end of Jervis Bay Road and take the 1.5km walk past the boat ramp. There are snorkelling spots everywhere with reefs, seagrass meadows, rock platforms and caves. There are good barbecues at Green Patch, too, so pack a picnic and make the most of them.
In the evening, keep the relaxed vibe going by heading to the old-school Husky Pub , where you can have a meal of fish and chips, burgers and steaks in the beer garden. The Bayview Bistro at the Huskisson RSL also has some pretty spesh views and popular bistro fare.
A new favourite in town is Locavore
(phone (02) 4441 5464), formerly the Jervis Bay Kiosk. Owners Belinda Jenkins and Barbara Farrelly have taken the principles of the 100 Mile Diet and use produce that comes from the South Coast wherever possible. If it's not local, they say, it will be organic or Fairtrade. The space doubles as an art gallery, too.
The waters around Jervis Bay are so clear and they're teeming with sea life that it's the perfect spot to sample scuba-diving. Deep 6 has a full-day introductory program which includes a test dive in the pool and then one out in the bay; depending on the conditions, you can expect visibility of up to almost 20m (believe us, that is amazing).
If it seems like too much commitment for a weekend, the company has shorter snorkelling trips. Small boats take participants out to some great spots and even help to identify any fish you might see. Perhaps, save breakfast 'til afterwards, though: the morning trips leave at 8.45am or 9am, depending on the time of year, although there are afternoon options as well.
Spending time in the salty air always works up a hunger, so luckily the Husky Bakery (phone (02) 4441 5015) is famous for its pies. Just a tip: order two because you're always going to want more.
Surprisingly, the Shoalhaven district, of which Jervis Bay is a part, has a small, blossoming wine industry. As you're heading back to Sydney, drop in for tastings at Jasper Valley (phone (02) 4464 1596), just south of Berry, The Silos Estate and Coolangatta Estate, which is also the site of the first European settlement on the South Coast. The cellar door is housed in a convict-built dwelling.
What to bring home
Bring along an enduring sense of calm, and a few good ideas about where you can pitch a tent on a weekend in the future. Hint: Green Patch
has some pretty good camping facilities.
Where to stay
Huskisson Bed & Breakfast
has elegant, comfortable rooms decorated in white. The owners have some cute pets and there's a lovely verandah around the weatherboard cottage. From $390 for two nights.
With simple units and cabins located right on the water, Bay of Plenty Lodges is a great spot for families. Located just south of Jervis Bay proper, it's extremely peaceful and private. From $125 per night.
Even if you baulk at the thought of camping, you'll love the low-key luxury of Paperbark Camp. All the tents have hardwood floors, private ensuites and bush surrounds. Its restaurant, The Gunyah, is one of the area's best and has a spectacular setting high in the trees. Prices start at $340 per night including breakfast.
Many people choose to unpack their bags in a holiday house and there are many in this part of the world. The Tourism Jervis Bay website has a long list of options.
Got any other suggestions? Share your insight below.