The hardest thing about getting to Jervis Bay is … well, getting to Jervis Bay. Especially if you take the coast road from Sydney and include the Royal National Park to the south of Sydney in your itinerary. As an out-of-towner, I thought we’d take the scenic route in our brand-new Toyota HiLux SR5 dual-cab ute as we headed south out of the city.
With me was my photographer son Jack, and his eye for a shot meant that we were stopping at pretty much each and every coastal viewing spot, river crossing, or anywhere else that looked remotely like it might be worth a pic or several.
This meant that what would normally take a bit over two hours down the Princes Highway and M1 freeway, took most of our first day as we meandered through the national park and called in at the many scenic coastal stopovers and lookouts along the way.
It was well worth the extra time, though, as the coastline between Sydney and Jervis Bay is spectacular, with many points of interest to occupy travelers who have the time to spare.
We, nevertheless, arrived in plenty of time at our HQ for our four-day Trailer Trips excursion, the Jervis Bay Caravan Park, which is perched handily on the shore of Currambene Creek, just a couple of minutes cruising from Jervis Bay proper. The park is also only five minutes by road from the township of Huskisson and is located in the middle of pristine bushland, overlooking the creek. Our hosts, Helen and Scott Ball, arranged a modern waterfront cabin overlooking the park’s well-maintained boat ramp and floating pontoon, with a view across to the mangroves on the opposite side of the creek.
The creek is a protected waterway that includes numerous moorings on the five-minute run down to the entrance to Jervis Bay. Having its own ramp makes the caravan park a convenient starting point for any voyage out into the bay.
The park also offers plenty of powered camp sites and cabins, and guests can relax in the pool and spa.
When I told good buddy and Club Marine’s resident fishing guru Al McGlashan that I was Jervis-bound, he couldn’t jump aboard quick enough.
“JB is my favourite fishing spot, without a doubt,” said Al emphatically. “The thing with Jervis Bay and the south coast is that you can catch pretty much everything, from squid and giant flatheads, through to marlin and everything in between. Count me in, buddy!”
Al wasn’t on his Pat Malone either, enlisting the expert services of local Craig ‘Rush’ Rushby, who just happens to own the Compleat Angler Illawarra store at Windang just a few kays up the road from Jervis Bay. We had the added advantage of Rush’s well set-up Bar Crusher 670HT, so there was plenty to look forward to for my first visit to the southern NSW fishing hotspot.
The weather was the only aspect of our trip that didn’t go entirely according to plan. For the majority of our four-day Jervis adventure we had to contend with blustery south-easterly winds that blew up to 30 knots at times, which meant we spent our time on the water hugging the southern coastline of the bay for the most part.
The rest of the time was spent getting to know the HiLux, with daily excursions taking in the many scenic and natural features of the surrounding countryside and coastline.
Purely from an activities point of view, Jervis literally does offer something for everyone. From bushwalkers to sportsfishers, scuba divers to snorkelers, there are so many options that you’re unlikely to tick all the boxes on a typical visit. And if you’d rather let someone else do the driving, you can explore local waters on dolphin- and whale-watching cruises.
Surrounded on three sides, Jervis is actually a relatively sheltered waterway, its eastern entrance opening out to the Tasman Sea. The entrance is bordered by the majestic and aptly named Point Perpendicular to the north and Bowen Island and adjacent Governor Head to the south.
From our base at Huskisson on the western shore, we spent our first full day on a southern safari, taking in the nearby towns of Vincentia and Jervis Bay on the way to Booderee National Park, which takes up much of the southern flank of the bay. Along the way, we explored some of the coastal points of interest, including the famous Hyams Beach, which boasts brilliant white sands with the silky consistency of talcum powder.
St Georges Basin, just inland from Jervis Bay township, is a large protected tidal waterway that, apart from offering good light-tackle bream, tailor and flathead fishing, is also ideal for towsports activities.
A 48-hour pass to the Booderee National Park costs a mere $11. There are plenty of bush tracks, beaches and coastal outlooks to explore and lots of wildlife to delight visitors, including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, seals, penguins and more than enough reptiles of various sizes and species.
The park is also home to the Royal Australian Navy base HMAS Creswell, and the coastline is littered with dozens of shipwrecks, including the Corangamite, Hive and Merimbula.
There’s a well-protected and maintained boat ramp at Murrays Beach, just on the inside of the headland that overlooks nearby Bowen Island. The ramp is an ideal jumping-off point for anyone wanting to head out into the Tasman in search of a good selection of gamefish, including marlin, blue and yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi and kingfish. With the continental shelf a mere 14km or so from the ramp, there are plenty of options for hardcore fishos.
MARLIN ON THE ROCKS
And, if you’d rather give the boat a rest, it’s worth noting that Jervis Bay is world famous for its land-based marlin fishing, with some decent-sized black marlin of more than 150kg and tuna taken off the rocks during peak seasons.
Live baiting is the best option, especially during the summer and autumn months, when the warm currents are pushing hard down the coast. Alternatively, spinning with metal slices and poppers can also be a lot of fun on bonito and smaller kings.
With the prevailing south-easterlies doing their best to keep us inside the bay during our stay, we were restricted to the inner southern end of the bay, although we did have a great day on the calamari with Al and Rush in the Bar Crusher 670HT.
Rush’s boat is set up as a serious fishing platform, equally at home on inner coastal waterways or out wide where the big fish roam. With a drawer full of squid rigs, we spent a few hours casting over the southern seagrass flats in and around Murray’s Beach. It was a productive session, with a livebait tank full of squid for the barbie at the end of a very enjoyable day on the water.
It was only a 20-minute run back to Currambene Creek and the caravan park’s boat ramp, which has its own fish-cleaning facilities and boat washdown, making for a fuss-free end to the day.
As far as other angling options go, both Al McGlashan and Craig Rushby have fished Jervis Bay for virtually every local species, including whiting, tailor, salmon, bonito, trevally, drummer and snapper.
However, as Al pointed out at the start of our expedition, visitors need to be aware of the locations of the various marine parks in the area. Fines are steep and Fisheries officers are a regular sight on the bay.
For those with a taste for sportsfishing, you can target kingfish inside and outside the bay, with Longnose Point, Bowen Island and the Middle Ground producing larger than average fish.
Al’s advice is to troll lures like Laser Pros, but for larger fish you’ll need to drift or slow troll with livebaits. A decent fishfinder is essential and will help to show up the schools of kings holding deeper over the reef.
For those with bigger trailerboats, the options offshore are literally unlimited. The cliffs of the Beecroft Peninsula to the north are home to some heavyweight kingfish, along with snapper, bonito, sharks and even marlin at times.
Al’s favourite strategy for hooking up to heavyweight kings is to downrig livebaits, especially squid, although he reckons you can have your work cut out landing them against the nearby jagged cliff edges.
“My best advice is to fish heavy tackle and take no prisoners,” advises Al. “As soon as you hook up, load right up on the drag and hang on. You’ll either win it or lose it in a matter of minutes.”
Jutting northeast from Beecroft Peninsula is the famous Sir John Young Banks. A rugged bit of bottom that rises up out of 30 fathoms right up to the surface, the area is a haven for yellowtail and black marlin. Although lures produce a few fish, livebaits are usually the best option.
Just 15 km offshore is a series of underwater canyons that offer great marlin fishing during the summer months and big tuna in the winter.
“Being so close to shore means that it is one of the few places you can easily access the grounds and have a crack at a marlin without a big fancy boat,” says Al. “The best technique is to slow troll livebaits around the extensive bait schools right on the edge of the continental shelf.”
From a boating perspective, there are many first-class ramps dotted around Jervis Bay, and a few smaller ones of varying quality, including some beach-launching options. The main thing is that even when the wind’s not cooperating, there’s normally somewhere to put in and a headland to shelter behind.
Visitors are well catered for throughout the area in terms of accommodation and dining options. We spent most of our evenings overlooking the bay at The Bayview restaurant at Club Jervis Bay, formerly known as the Huskisson RSL. It offers an extensive club-style menu at reasonable prices and the terrace outlook overlooking the entrance to Currambene Creek is worth the visit on its own.
One interesting aspect of Jervis Bay, especially if you’re from Canberra, is that you’re still actually in the ACT when you visit Booderee National Park. Turns out that, in a curious geographical anomaly, the park is part of the ACT. Apparently, it was declared ACT territory back in 1915 when the capital had plans for a sea port, linked by a railway line to Canberra. More recently, there have been discussions about deeding the park and surrounds back to the state of NSW but, for the time being, it remains the property of the Feds.
Another interesting historical point is that the area around Murrays Beach was set aside in 1969 by the government of Prime Minister John Gorton for the site of Australia’s first nuclear power station. A study was launched and initial earthworks were undertaken before the project was shelved due to public disquiet, and the idea was eventually dumped when Gough Whitlam came to power in 1972.
For trailerboaters, Jervis Bay has it all. Whether you’re chasing fish, looking for some towsports thrills or just looking to relax and enjoy the pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, it’s a destination that really does offer an option for every occasion.
Find out more at: JervisBayTourism.com.au or visitNSW.com.