The lovely community of people at my favourite mobile phone network, giffgaff, have launched an International Campaign to find out more about the best places to visit when you set off on an overseas adventure. And they’ve asked a selection of international bloggers in the UK to divulge the hidden gems of their hometowns.
Well, my hometown just happens to be a little valley of rolling green dairy farming heaven in Australia called Jamberoo (yep, a place name doesn’t get much more Aussie than that – although when I was at school, most people called it ‘Cowshit Canyon’).
It’s on the South Coast of New South Wales (NSW), about 1.5 hours south of Sydney, past Wollongong (or Woollabullabingbong as my British friend Pip calls it) and near the beautiful beachside town of Kiama (where I went to high school).
Here are my top five best bits about Jamberoo:
Quite simply, this is where I learnt to drink. If it hadn’t been for this legendary place, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with a decade’s worth of excessive client entertaining, working in the ad industry. So Jamber Pub – I salute you! It’s also owned by Ross Warren, the brother of Aussie soccer (football) legend and media commentator Johnny Warren (known as Captain Socceroo), who sadly passed away in 2004, and the bistro room features memorabilia dedicated to his amazing life.
I used to work here when I was at uni, although it was called Jamberoo Recreation Park back then. This is probably the most famous thing about Jambers, especially given the fact that they paid for Sydney advertising airtime, so pretty much everyone in NSW knows this is the place ‘…where you control the action!’ It’s a fun park with water rides, swimming pools, water slides, toboggans… you get the picture. When I worked there in the height of summer, I used to come home every day smelling of chlorine, diesel, sweat and sunscreen. Good practice for having children really!
When I grew up, there was a choice of two corner stores to buy your 20 cents worth of mixed lollies from: ‘Frederick’s’ (Freddo’s) or ‘Nolan’s’. You’d get a huge bag of Choc Buds, Caramel Whirls, Freckles, Spearmint Leaves, Cobbers, Milk Bottles, Bananas, and Bullets back then with the coins you’d collected by diving to the bottom of the Jamberoo Swimming Pool – they must’ve fallen out of blokes’ board shorts pockets. Nolan’s closed, but Freddo’s remained the heart and soul of Jamber. That was, until it was tragically destroyed by fire in December 2012. But last month it reopened, complete with a re-enactment of Ned Kelly and his gang of bushrangers holding up the store! I wonder how many Milkos you get for 20 cents these days?
These used to be called Minnamurra Falls when I was a kid and you used to walk directly on the rainforest floor to get to the waterfalls, but they’ve since developed it into a network of elevated walkways as a way of preserving the rainforest (and not getting as many leeches feasting on you, I expect!). At times you walk on paved paths with ferns, moss-covered rocks, and trickling streams before climbing the platforms and wandering amongst the lianas and giant trees of the rainforest canopy. Keep your eyes out for creepy crawlies, butterflies, water dragons and even lyrebirds if you’re lucky!
This is a relatively new attraction that didn’t exist when I was growing up in Jambers, but it’s up the top of the escarpment on the way to the NSW Southern Highlands and I visited it last time I was back home (Christmas 2012). The only walk of its kind in NSW, you’re raised above the rainforest, in the tops of the trees, on a steel walkway with viewing towers. It differs from Minnamurra Falls where you’re actually in the rainforest itself. This is more centred on being super high up and soaking up the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Probably not great if you’re scared of heights!
So, for anyone wishing to make their way south of Sydney – do. It’s an often overlooked area of NSW (most visitors go north west to the Blue Mountains or north to Queensland), but is full of stunning national parks, quaint coastal towns and deserted golden and white sand beaches. Miss them at your peril!
*Disclaimer: The lovely people at giffgaff have said they’ll send me a selection of goodies from Australia that I can’t get hold of here in the UK in return for writing this post. What a lovely, thoughtful idea, don’t you think?