Sapphire Coast of NSW is a Real Gem!

Words by Dorian Mode and photography by Lydia Thorpe

Merimbula Beach is an endless ribbon of sand...

Merimbula is a word I can never say after three glasses of wine. But what an enjoyable seaside getaway. Derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning ‘two lakes’, a reference to Merimbula Lake on the southern side of the town and the smaller Back Lake on the northern side, this sleepy seaside hamlet and an ideal town for seniors to visit.

For this jaunt, we stay in a luxury apartment. Coast Resort is a selection of privately owned apartments between Merimbula Lake and Merimbula Beach. We like Merimbula Beach. It’s an endless ribbon of sand, screened by pretty tea-trees and nodding banksias. As we shuffle along the soft sand, small birds dart in and out of the tea-trees.

Coast Resort is a selection of privately owned apartments between Merimbula Lake and Merimbula Beach

We always favour an apartment, rather than a hotel. Why? This means you save money by cooking in your kitchen on your holiday, which we never do (a thrifty plan that goes out the window after the aforementioned three wines). Our apartment is luxurious and spacious. Psst! if you need to schlep the grandkids with you, there’s an enormous park and playground across the road where you can watch your vociferous progeny armed with said glass of wine from the safety of your balcony, should you jag an ocean-facing apartment. There’s also a resort style swimming pool, lap pool and a terrific fish and chip shop and alfresco cafe on the flanking block. Moreover, it’s only a brisk 10 min walk into town, proper. Indeed, we really enjoyed our morning ambles into town along the lakefront, overlooking the picturesque fish pens. Commercial fishing took place in Merimbula the 1920s and these unusual pens were built by fisher-folk in order to keep their catch alive until transport could be arranged to the Melbourne fish markets. Originally home to the Yuin people, fishing and collecting oysters has been an integral part of Merimbula for thousands of years. Needless to say, it’s a fabulous place to enjoy the best local seafood money can buy.

The senior's lake walk - with sweeping views of the lake

The best spot for a cold one in my book is the LakeView Hotel – a 7 min walk from Coast Resort – with its sweeping views of the lake, and drinks at pub prices. But there are loads of great eateries, cafes and activities for seniors in Merimbula. As we wander into town for supplies to cook in our apartment (yeah, as if), we happen across a local orchid display, with prizes for best flowers etc. The room is buzzing with excited green-fingered seniors. Indeed, we notice a lot of retirees in Merimbula, in general.
That evening we walk into town to dine at Club Sapphire. This is the best club in the Sapphire Coast, with the ubiquitous pokies, good food and live entertainment. Club Sapphire has your usual auditorium-style tribute shows – Ed Sheeran, Pink, The Eagles, etc., but do look out for the little jazz presentations by the Down South Jazz Club on the club’s website. These are really fun and run by kindly local jazz enthusiasts.
As Mrs Pictures secures a table, I stall at the menu counter, deciding what to order, biting my bottom lip. The cashier points to the menu above us. ‘Why not have the Chicken Parmigiana?’ she says. ‘We donate $5 to the drought relief with every parmy sold!’
‘That’s nice but I prefer the fish. What’s the catch of the day?’
‘Carn, feel good about yerself. Helping our farmers an’ that.’
‘I’m sure they’d rather I have the grilled fish,’ I smile, scanning the menu.
‘Carn, the parmy is what yer want,’ she winks.
‘This is a fishing town. Aren’t I supporting the local fishing industry by eating seafood? I’ll have the catch of the day, thanks.’
She scowls, takes my cash, and drops my change into the charity tin on the counter without asking me. I shrug. As I look around the club, serenaded by the sour melodies of the cavernous gambling rooms, I think, perhaps these clubs could donate a portion of poker machine revenue to the farmers, instead? I’m sure the chickens would agree.

Covingtons House at Pambula, is a lazy 15 min drive away from Merimbula

The following day we visit sister town, Pambula – a lazy 15 min drive away from Merimbula. Derived from the Yuin Aboriginal word meaning “Two Waters”, Pambula is a pretty village with a town clock and an interesting miscellany of quaint shops, with their bull-nose verandas and artisan aesthetic. For lunch, we enjoy a thrifty $10 Thai meal at historic Covingtons House. The building is gorgeous, the food generous, and we are stunned by the value.

Bushfires fill the town of Bega with smoke

The following day we drive to the nearby town of Bega (25 mins away from Merimbula). They are experiencing bushfires in the region so while not threatened directly, the entire town is blue with smoke. Indeed, we find it hard to breathe in town. I suddenly crave a Marlborough Light. That evening we drive to Tathra to dine at the historic Tathra Hotel. Originally dubbed the Ocean View Hotel, the first schooner was drained here in 1888. Rebranded the Tathra Hotel, this heritage-listed pub is a treasure. Nesting on the headland, it has sweeping views of the ocean and surrounding environs. Here we enjoy a plate of local oysters – de rigueur for any Sapphire Coast sojourn – and then dine on seared tuna, matched with local wines. They also have live jazz here from time to time so Google your way to the pub’s website for details.
The following evening we decide to cook in our suite to save money. After three wines I turn to my wife and say, ‘forget cooking. Let’s go and eat in “Muroomboollia.”’

Tathra Hotel, originally dubbed the Ocean View Hotel, as it looked in 1888

At Ford Park (over the road from Coast Resort), Merimbula Seaside Market is held on the third Sunday of the month from 8am-12.30pm. There are loads of stalls to explore and choose from including local produce, plants, clothing, craft and food.
Each January, Pambula hosts its annual country show with an oyster shucking competition, a dog high jump and chook washing along with a petting farm, wood chopping, children’s entertainment, exhibitions and equine and stock competitions in the arena.
And on the second Sunday of each month, a long local market is held with everything from homemade treats, plants, collectables, second-hand goods, clothing even dog jackets. And being an all-weather outdoors market just off the beach so bring a jacket with you.


Coast Resort’s Two Bedroom “Beachside” Apartments are located at ground level of the beachside building and close to the Lap Pool with lift access to all apartments for the ‘dodgy hip brigade’. The beachside building is opposite the aforementioned Ford Park, which runs onto Merimbula’s main beach. All apartments feature spacious living and entertaining areas plus covered balconies and a fenced front yard. They are fully furnished, including designer kitchens with quality appliances and internal laundry facilities. Other features are:

  • • 2 bathrooms including ensuite to the Master Bedroom.
    • Split system heating & air conditioning to kitchen & living areas.
    • Secure under building parking with lockable storage area.
    • 2 Television Sets. One in the lounge area the other in the master bedroom.
    • Foxtel Premium including Movies, Fox Sports (NRL, AFL & Soccer), Lifestyle channels as well as channels for child viewing (e.g. Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network etc)
    • Free Unlimited Wi-Fi

For more info call them on (02) 6495 4930 or email at