NSW South Coast isn't just about the whitest sand

Local history: The Lady Denman comes back to where she was made.
Local history: The Lady Denman comes back to where she was made.

Those who venture along the NSW South Coast seeking beachy activities shouldn't waste too much time battling for a spot on Hyams Beach just because it's rated to have the whitest sand in the country.

Firstly because it's often spoken of as a locally created and perpetuated myth, and secondly because there are a dozen or so very-nearly-as-white, and quite deserted, reaches of sand along the Jervis Bay foreshore between Huskisson and Hyams.

But that stretch down to the water along Huskisson's main thoroughfare, Owen Street, is probably as close as the NSW South Coast comes to the likes of Sydney's Manly or Bondi if that's what you're after.

And Huskisson has its arty side as well as its beachy aspect, and those seeking it are probably wise to begin at the waterfront Jervis Bay Maritime Museum (cnr Woollamia Rd and Dent St, Huskisson; phone 02 4441 5675; visit www.jervisbaymaritimemuseum.asn.au) where visitors will find a wealth of local nautical memorabilia as well as the Lady Denman, an historic Sydney ferry which has found a comfortable resting spot just a few hundred metres from where it was built by Joseph Dent in 1911.

And make sure that you drop in and say hello to Paula Nudd at Huskisson Framing and Gallery (Shop 3, 70 Owen St, Huskisson; phone 02 4441 5399) where a bevy of local artists and craftspeople have chosen to show off and sell their precious wares.

You'll be almost certain of purchasing quality and uniqueness, something that isn't always the case in gift shops oriented to a mass market.

Foodwise, Owen St and the associated waterfront offer a broad selection, made heaps easier by such excellent establishments as 5 Little Pigs (64-66 Owen St, Huskisson; phone 02 4441 7056; visit www.5littlepigs.com.au), a haunt where obviously local women gather to show off their kids.

Plenty of choices: The Huskisson river front is probably as close as the NSW South Coast comes to the likes of Sydney's Manly or Bondi.

Plenty of choices: The Huskisson river front is probably as close as the NSW South Coast comes to the likes of Sydney's Manly or Bondi.

It's open daily for breakfast and lunch, with the latter varying menuwise according to the season. When I visited a few months ago I loved the chilli-salt squid served with lime and a selection of salad and pickled accompaniments. The chunks of squid were fresh, largish and perfectly cooked.

On the way out, and a little off the beaten track, I was surprised by the quality of both food and wine offered by Cupitt Winery (58 Washburton Rd, Ulladulla; phone 02 4455 7888; visit www.cupitt.com.au), which turned out to be the real find of the trip.

As well as the winery, where Wally and Tom Cupitt have done wonders realising their mother Rosie's vision, the complex which visitors meet at the end of what seems a dirt track also houses a restaurant, fromagerie and brewery.

Cupitt Winery: Wal Cupitt: has taken winemaking in his stride.

Cupitt Winery: Wal Cupitt: has taken winemaking in his stride.

Grapes come from diverse regions - Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Orange and Canberra among them - as well as the estate, and the winemaking styles are very much old world.

How I wish that I'd had more time to spend chatting with young Wally - and to meet Rosie and Tom - and taste much more of the family's produce.

Through their TV sets, many Australian will be familiar with the cooking of chef Rick Stein. Fewer, though, will realise the extent to which he's hung his shingle on the South Coast of NSW, by giving his name to at least one restaurant at Mollymook.

I can certainly vouch for the standard of food at both the Rick Stein restaurant at Bannisters by the Sea (191 Mitchell Pde, Mollymook; phone 02 4455 3044; visit www.bannisters.com.au), and at Bannisters Rooftop Bar & Grill, located in the very much related property just up the road a bit, and for the quality of digs at Bannisters by the Sea.

At the former I shared a very pleasant meal and chat with Rupert Sakora, general manager of Bannisters, and thoroughly enjoyed the coconut chilli prawns with cumin, and chef Ryan Smith's deft touch with curry. It certainly belonged to the littlest bear - not so strong that it was overpowering and not washed out so that appealed mostly to insensitive western palates.

Bannisters Pavilion is a much more laid-back animal than Bannisters by the Sea, and its restaurant, the Rooftop Bar & Grill, is spot on in style. And its food quality is excellent as well.

Start with some fresh local oysters, served with horseradish-and-eschallot dressing if you must, move on to prawn-and-crab bruschetta and then finish with a delicious chunk of rare char-grilled sirloin. You're in heaven, but you have to move back for the night to Bannisters by the Sea.

There you're greeted by the familiar - a delightful, comfortable room with coastal outlook to match, a range of classy amenities, and absolutely first-rate service. Ah, and next morning, a coast-hugging drive that's a real pleasure to negotiate rather than putting up with the drudgery of the motorway.

For further information about the South Coast of NSW, visit www.destinationnsw.com.au.