Bermagui, NSW

By: John Willis, Photography by: John Willis, Alison Kuiter

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  • Trade-A-Boat

Surrounded by the rich indigo waters of NSW's surreal Sapphire Coast, beautiful Bermagui has retained its fishing village atmosphere.

Bermagui -boats -heading -to -sea -with -Mt -Dromondary -in -background

Bermagui is situated on the Sapphire Coast of the Far South Coast of NSW just 400km from Sydney, 280km from Canberra and 680km from Melbourne. The name Sapphire Coast reflects the beautiful deep-blue colour of the Pacific Ocean where the rich indigo current brings warm water, abundant food closely followed by the pelagic tuna, marlin, whales and a huge variety of marine life.

Bermagui marks the closest point to the Continental Shelf (around 13 miles) from the east coast mainland, and the beautiful Montague Island is just 22km north and a few kilometres seaward. Here the rich waters well up with heaps of baitfish bringing in the predators. Game fishing is big business in Bermagui, yet gone are the days of massive amounts of carcasses scattered throughout the harbour with most catches nowadays being tagged and released. The marlin, sharks and tuna that are captured are proudly displayed and photographed and then stripped to the bone with lucky onlookers often scoring a free bag of fillets. If you are an onlooker it is always worth having a placky bag handy at the cleaning tables just in case of the offer of free fish fillets, if you don’t catch your own of course.

Mako -sharks -at -Bermagui -NSW

For newcomers to any location the local tackle shop is a ‘must stop’ for all the local info on what’s going on. The boys at Bermagui Bait and Tackle are always on hand for advice, plus they have breakfasts and lunches packed for early departures and fuel to get you on your way. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the local newspaper as there is always a fishing column with someone bragging about their catch and where they got it or make ‘Friends’ by liking the ‘Trapman Bermagui’ site on Facebook for regular updates.


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Bermagui has a well-serviced deep-water harbour for the larger game fishing fleet, professional fishing fleet (or what’s left of them!), yachties and seafarers. Each year some Sydney to Hobart yachts struggle into the safe port when heading south, whilst others enjoy their leisurely trip homeward bound stopping off for a few days of R&R.

There are way too many fishing charters to list, but there is something for everyone and every budget, including half-day and full-day charters. There are any number of large flybridge cruisers heading out to the shelf for the large pelagics, or perhaps you would prefer a ‘bottom bouncing’ session on the inshore grounds for succulent table fish like snapper, mowies, flathead and maybe even a yellowtail kingfish.

There are even estuary charters available on the Bermagui River or nearby Wallaga Lake where you can target the wily bream, whiting, luderick or that elusive humungous dusky flathead in and out of tree-lined estuaries and their sandy deltas. Boat hire, canoes and kayaks are available both on the river or at Wallaga Lake for those wanting to captain their own vessel.

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There is some terrific land-based fishing around Bermi where you will always find a spot on one of the two breakwalls, the end of several jetties, lots of productive surf beaches and some great rock outcrops. There are lots of tranquil spots along the Bermagui River or on Wallaga Lake for the kids to chuck in a line, and who knows what you will catch. I particularly love throwing soft plastics around the sandy channels at the bottom of the systems, mainly for flathead but don’t be surprised if an XOS bream takes a liking. There are whiting and luderick in these same reaches with weed baits, sand or beach worm being terrific bait or perhaps small surface poppers for the ’tings.

The estuaries and beaches are also terrific spots to try for that elusive mulloway, and don’t forget the gummy sharks, Australian salmon and tailor from the beaches. There is a huge range of species available on the rock ledges including luderick, drummer, sweep, snapper and mowies, or some coastal pelagics such as bonito and kingfish. Be warned, safety is imperative when fishing the rocks. There have been numerous deaths in the area for those surprised by that irregular large swell or the so-called rogue wave.


Well don’t worry as there are plenty of other attractions at beautiful Bermagui. Bermagui has some of the best beaches in the state. There’s simply miles of great surf beaches at Beares Beach, Cuttagee and Camel Rock as well as the patrolled (summer) beach in Horseshoe Bay in the middle of town.

Boats -in -Bermagui -NSW

The Blue Pool is a natural saltwater swimming hole in the rocky seaward platforms where the rock enclosures have been permanently enclosed by concrete barriers forming both a toddler and seniors pool. It simply never seems to get warm even in the heat of summer, and the steep staircase down the hill is a popular exercise destination for walkers and joggers alike. The Bruce Steer Pool is encased beside the main harbour for those who need close and easy access to the water and it’s a great spot for kids attempting their first snorkel. There is almost always a protected beach either in the ocean or estuaries around Bermagui, even if you have to drive the 8km out to Wallaga Lake.

Bermagui has its own market on the last Sunday of the month where you can buy anything from fresh vegies to second-hand goods. There is usually a carnival in town over summer and Tilba holds its Easter festival every year in its main street. During late summer there are the Seaside Fair, Sculpture on the Edge, the CRAB’s Motorcycle Show and every even numbered year the Four Winds Music Festival.

Camel -Rock -at -the -entrance -to -Wallaga -lake -Bermagui -NSW

For a small town Bermagui offers a lot of art shows, handcrafted goodies, musical events and fine dining. You could eat out every night for nearly two weeks and not visit the same restaurant. It has its own 18-hole golf course and bowling club and a myriad of walking and cycling paths around the area. If the weather sets in and you feel the need for shopping there is everything from great little clothing boutiques, gifts and speciality shops to a well-equipped hardware store. The locally made chocolates, wines, cheeses and ice-cream should all be sampled and shared around, they are truly yummy.

Stop into the harbour when the trawlers unload their catch of reef fish or tuna and marlin, it truly is a sight to behold. If you’re not into fishing but love seafood stop at the co-op or Smithies Oysters shop, or if laziness takes over drop into one of the fresh seafood cafés.


Bermagui -Blue -Pools -NSW

There are four main parks available for camping – one in Bermi and three on Wallaga Lake. The Bermagui Holiday Park (ex Zane Gray) is situated on the main Bermagui township headland with all of the local facilities on hand. The other three offer a quiet relaxed atmosphere only a few kilometres away on peaceful Wallaga Lake where there are opportunities for lots of walks, lakeside fishing and you can moor your boat right on the safe swimming beaches in front of your campsite. The calm waters of Wallaga Lake are popular with wakeboarders and skiers and offer an abundance of bird and animal life plus the full range of tree-lined estuary fishing, or maybe wander across to the beautiful surf beach of Camel Rock.

All caravan parks have laundry facilities, powered or unpowered sites, cabins, units, boat launching facilities, great kids’ playgrounds, corner shop facilities, and most allow pets at certain times of the year. Best check when dogs are allowed in the parks.

You can hire a simple cottage or spoil yourself rotten in Bermagui. There are plenty of units, Airbnb’s and holiday houses available offering a broad range of styles and prices. We often see the same people coming back to the same accommodation for decades. Why wouldn’t you – Bermagui, you’re a beaut!

Check out the full feature in issue #502 of Trade-A-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest boating news, reviews and travel inspiration. 


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