What comes to your mind when I say “The Shoalhaven”? Is it sun-drenched beaches, crisp white sand and ragged lookin’ beachy dudes? Not surprising, the region roughly 200km (only 2 hours!) South of Sydney is famous for its coastline. But what if I told you that the Shoalhaven has a wilderness?

The Shoalhaven has 165km of coastline, from just south of Gerroa to just north of Durras. But it also extends to the West, up the wild escarpment of the Budawang, Morton and Budderoo National Parks.

With so much terrestrial goodness, from waterfalls and rainforests to rocky plateaus and the stunning lakeside, the Shoalhaven is an explorer’s dream.

Here are our top picks:

Climb Didthul (Pigeon House Mountain)

Fix your altitude! At 720m this hike isn’t for the faint-hearted. Expect to take up to 4 hours to complete the 5km return track that transitions from forest to steep ladders as it ascends to a prominent rocky peak to the west of Ulladulla.

On top you’ll have views to the ocean and maybe as far as Jervis Bay. To the west you’ll see the Castle and the Budawangs wilderness, click through if you’re after a more challenging hike.

Captain Cook censoriously named Pigeon House mountain as he floated past in 1770 but the Aboriginal people called it as they saw it. Didthul translates to “a woman’s breast” in the Yuin language.

jake anderson adventure photography Pigeon House vert

Byangee Walls with Didthul (Pigeon House Mountain) in the background
Photo by Jake Anderson | @jakeandersonphotography

Hike the Budawang Wilderness

I didn’t bend the truth when I titled this article “Wait, The Shoalhaven Has A Wilderness?” To the west of Didthul (Pigeon House) and The Castle, the Budawang range stretches out towards the Great Dividing Range, its mumma.

Stunning, rounded rock formations are reminiscent of ancient outback Australia and the hiking is tough with rough, barely signposted tracks and scarce water. You’ll want to be an experienced hiker before setting off on an epic multi-day traverse such as Wog-Wog to the Castle.

Tough weekend warriors can climb The Castle in one very long day but an overnighter is the best way to soak up the views of Didthul and beyond from Cooyoyo campground. Likewise the spectacular Corang Arch can be done in a weekend, you might just need a weekender extender to fit it all in.

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Climbing The Castle in the fog
Photo by Tim Clark | @timclark1

Check Out The Three Views Track

Get a feel for the awe inspiring Kangaroo Valley with this trifecta of cliff-top lookouts. The relatively flat track takes the form of a trident that splits off to the cliff edge above Lake Yarrunga, the Shoalhaven River and Tallowa Dam itself. You might even see where you’ll camp later that day! (see below)

The heathland environment is perfect for spotting wildflowers and birdlife in the latter part of the year. Fast walkers might knock over the 9.5km return track in a morning but with three incredible views to soak up, I reckon you’d be mental to not have a picnic at at least one of them.

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Looking out over Tallowa Dam
Photo from Shoalhaven Tourism

Swim at Flat Rock

Right in the heart of the Upper Kangaroo valley is a spot where the Kangaroo River runs thinly over a wide, rocky expanse, forming natural swimming holes and waterslides as it goes. There’s a deeper pool, small natural (cold water) spas and perfect flat areas where you can sit nice and dry on the waters edge and have a feed. Framed by typical Australian bushland and grasses, Flat Rock is the perfect swimming hole for an afternoon of switching off.

It’s about a 20 minute walk to the swimming hole from a locked gate and sign (don’t worry about the residents only sign, it’s referring to cars!). Park respectfully in the cleared area to the east of the gate, huck your backpack and enjoy the walk. It’s more than worth the effort!

There are no facilities at Flat Rock so go to the bathroom before you arrive and bring a bag to carry your rubbish out with you.

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Flat Rock Swimming Hole
Photo by Andy Lewis | Wild Swimming Australia

Camp On Lake Yarrunga

Tallowa Dam was built in 1976 as a water supply for the Shoalhaven – but it also created Lake Yarrunga. There are heaps of spots around the edge of the lake to camp, swim, paddle and generally kick it, all whilst somehow forgetting you’re on the coast. The dam also has a nifty “fish elevator” that allows fishies to make their way over the dam.

Acacia Flat and Beehive Point are both stunning lakeside spots that require a walk in (1.6km and 160m respectively) but if you’d prefer to camp de-luxe out the back of your car check out Bendeela Recreation Area.

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Post-swim on Lake Yarrunga
Photo by Tim Clark | @timclark1

Ticked all these off? Grab a map or check out this page to plan your next adventure into the Shoalhaven Wilderness!

 


Even More Shoalhaven Goodness

Road Trippin’ the Shoalhaven (NSW)

Multi-Day Canoeing Trip in Lake Yarrunga // Kangaroo Valley (NSW)

6 NSW Wild Swimming Paradises

Mountain to Sea // Is this a Perfect Day on the South Coast? (NSW)