By Anna Warwick
Shell Harbour village is a lovely coastal town, nestled in the heart of the Illawarra, just north of Woollongong. It’s a sleepy and charming village, that is at once quaint and sophisticated – packed with great little boutique shops and cafes… but still unspoiled by tourist mania. Shell Harbour is perfect for a family holiday, and the ideal spot to camp while you explore the Illawara region. You may just want to lie on the beach or sit at the local pub in the beer garden (or shop)… but if you feel like an adventure, here are my tips!
Shell Harbour Adventure 1. Up and Away in my Flying Machine…
Taking the controls of a plane – what a rush – it is the sexiest, most terrifying adventure ever! Before you die, get on down to Shell Harbour NSW and visit NSW Air for a half hour flying lesson. It’s 80 bucks for the ride of your life. The plane was as old as me – circa 1975 I’m guessing – but apparently the oil on a plane is checked every fifty hours so they can last forever. It was also tiny – a mere box in the sky as my super cute young pilot suggested… before I asked him whether the plane had autopilot (no – he didn’t get it).
Yes ok, it was a dual control cockpit, but it was fascinating to learn the principles of flying – you did the steering “wheel” to the left or right… like turning a door handle, and the nose of the plane dips as well. But so that you don’t turn right over you have controls at your feet as well – peddles, these twist the plane like you are turning your head from left to right… so you combine the two and you can stay level while you turn. Then if the plane dips down you pull the handles up and it starts to climb again – easy! Right up to the sky… woohooo!
Coming down is the hardest thing, literally… I mean there’s nothing quite as hard as the ground when it’s coming at you at 200 kilometers per hour. But I “landed” the plane, with a little help, and survived! So addictive – but yes, it costs around $10 000 to get your light aircraft license. Contact Harry Mitchell at NSW Air 02 4256 1001.
Shell Harbour Adventure 2. Get Your Motor RUNNING…
Another TOPS adventure I had while down in Shell Harbour was jumping on the back of a Harley and purring around the Illawarra with Dark Cycle Harley Davidson Tours. The guys pick you and your pals up and lend you some leathers and a helmet, then on you get and away you go… This adventure is for everyone – young and old. There’s plenty of room on the back of the bike and you can grab the handles behind your bum or clutch onto your rider.
My guy – Roy – had grown up in the Illawarra, and been obsessed with motorbikes since childhood. He told me “a motorbike isn’t a toy”… which he knew firsthand having lost a friend to the road and almost having died himself. But a Harley is a pretty safe bike – beautiful and safe. You only wear an open faced helmet, it’s tradition, but after an hour of cheek wobbling and a few dead insects on the sunnies I would take the pansy full face option next time. Wow, what a feeling – there’s no better way to experience the country air – the smell of gumtrees as we went up the Macquarie pass into the mountains is so fresh it wakes you right up.
We made a few stops to take in breathtaking scenery – so expansive and green and lush… and we stopped at the fantastic Jamberoo pub owned by famous soccer player Johnny Warren’s nephew Jamie Warren – the pub is covered in posters from floor to ceiling and there’s a great beer garden out the back. We came down Jamberoo pass and into Kiama and stopped at the blowhole to check out the gorgeous ocean vista. Being on a bike gives you such a 360 degree, full on experience of nature. Being on the back of a Harley with a trustworthy driver is just pure luxury. I’m taking my family next time – dad would love it!
MORE Illawarra Attractions
There’s Jamberoo Recreation Park, the amazing Grand Pacific Drive which juts right out over the ocean, the Illawarra Light Rail Museum, the Crooked River Vineyard… and more.
She said Pick: Enjoy a round of golf at The Links Shell Cove Golf Course. Opened in January 2004, this par 71 links golf course covers 63 hectares with an additional 20 hectares of wetlands. The course was built with a view to preserving and enhancing the precious wetlands and was fully organic by reducing reliance on pesticides and fertilisers. www.linksshellcove.com.au
AND DON’T MISS! Feast on classic cuisine in an intimate setting reminiscent of a small French chateau at Ravensthorpe Guesthouse & Restaurant. This grand 19th century home has been purposely restored and converted into a restaurant by elegant couple Jim & Deborah McCallum. The McCallums were musicians in their past life, then they became restauranters in Albion. Their new venture evoked images of the Great Gatsby – the house is open and gloriously decadent – with a tennis court and pool, beautifully manicured gardens, a huge Marquis and pretty gazebo. The house is just ideal for a wedding/reception combo, but book early. www.ravensthorpe.com.au