Travel Editor Susie Boswell goes bush and enjoys a Berry relaxing weekend.
The countryside around is as easy on the eye as anywhere in the world – all graduating shades of green, from the lightest of lime-tinted roadside tufts of grass to a deep green forested mountain escarpment soaring high above my valley.
I’m at Jaspers Brush, next door to Berry, on the upper South Coast of NSW. The area’s part of the Shoalhaven region less than 150km from Sydney. Berry itself is next to coastal Gerroa and Gerringong, and east of Kangaroo Valley, just below Kiama and a whisker above Nowra, a short drive from Seven Mile Beach.
To our north-west lie the Southern Highlands settlements of Mittagong, Moss Vale and Bowral, long popular as chi-chi weekend getaways for wealthy Sydneysiders. But now the profile of Berry and its neighbouring hamlets is starting to eclipse the long-standing highlands as magnets for those from further afield. Guest houses, boutique hotels, B&Bs, cabins and cottages, caravan and camping parks, houseboats, eco resorts and health retreats, and backpackers dorms offer every accommodation style to welcome visitors across a wide range of wallets.
Your own vehicle is indispensable for getting around such a vast area with diverse attractions from bush to beach, but the region can easily be reached by rail from the Mid-North Coast and a car hired locally. This evening, we’ve a designated driver to cover the 10-minute drive back to our digs from Silos Estate Winery. These vineyards, winery, art gallery, restaurant and accommodation cottages are set in beautifully picturesque surroundings among lush former diary pastures, first farmed in 1870. The cellar door leading to the oak cask room features original sandstone flagstone floors and roof beams so low you can knock your head on them – fortunately, the roof’s been raised and the heritage beams have become a charming architectural feature. It’s in this cool interior at a polished hardwood bar that our host Rajarshi Ray offers us tastings of the full range of his wines from a delightful methode champenoise (“sparkling”, we’re supposed to say) through whites and reds to some terrific dessert wines. Normally I eschew sickly dessert styles, but these are en entirely different and delightful experience.
We move on to the adjacent restaurant through the property’s magnificent restored grain-feed silos where restaurateur-chef Rob Salmon sets out a superb feast that includes sensational olive bread and dips, a vodka-cured salmon gravlax/capaccio, Viet duck rolls, slow-cooked beef and lamb, and Turkish delight crème brulee with dark chocolate ice cream. The view across the undulating paddocks and over the rows of vines is superb and we watch the sun go down behind the Great Dividing Range across the way and a new moon rise into the starry sky. We regret we haven’t booked into one of Silos’ cottages or its farmhouse just steps away … but we take home a bottle of deep mulberry estate shiraz to enjoy later as a consolation.
A lot of the Berry experience is about food. Another spot we visited and enjoyed immensely was the popular Sourdough Bakery with its organic and wood-fired breads, pizzas, pastries and cakes, a great spot for a light breakfast, lunch or brunch. And, these smart venues aside, I hear the local bowling club does a terrific roast for $15.
The bakery is adjacent to Berry’s main street – which is in fact, the highway, yet hosts a charming enclave of shops featuring unusual homewares, gifts, fashion, trinkets, antiques and collectibles … a good opportunity to while away a few hours, browsing or buying, chatting to shopkeepers and strangers, and fitting in a coffee or a snack. There are flea markets and village markets, lovely trees, parks and gardens, pretty traditional architecture to admire, as well as fishing, bushwalking, rural drives and more than 100 beaches within easy reach.
Story by Susie Boswell.