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In part three of our series, we test the waters of Batemans Bay to discover what’s on offer for boaties around this idyllic holiday destination.


_R9A6082a_North Head offers terrific views of the Murramarang Coast north of the Bay.jpg


The bustling coastal town of Batemans Bay straddles the Clyde River estuary, 300 km south of Sydney. Its close proximity to the nation’s capital (only 150km) and popularity as a holiday destination for residents of that city lend Batemans Bay the sobriquet of "Canberra by the Sea". While it is an important service centre for a commercial and agricultural region specialising in sawmilling, dairying, cattle, fishing and oyster-farming, its economy is primarily driven by tourism.

Strictly speaking, the expansive geographic feature we call Batemans Bay is actually a broad southeast-facing inlet, where the Clyde River debouches into the Tasman Sea. The river rises in the rugged Budawang Range and is joined by nine tributaries as it flows 125km through 3 national parks and 10 state forests, earning the reputation of being one of the cleanest and most pristine rivers in eastern Australia.

_R9A6038_Panorama1_View of the Clyde River from Holmes Lookout.jpg

The waters of the bay lie entirely within the Batemans Marine Park and are zoned for "general use", which allows for all forms of recreational fishing and most forms of commercial fishing (except trawling, dredging and long lining). Bag limits, size limits, seasonal closures and licence requirements continue to apply.

Within the bay, the Tollgate Islands provide a fair-weather anchorage or temporary shelter while awaiting a flood tide to cross the bar. Chain Bay, under the lee of Reef Point on the bay’s northern shore, provides shelter from strong northerly winds, with good holding in clean ground and a launching ramp ashore. An alternative northerly anchorage can be found outside the moored craft west of Square Head.

_R9A6109a_The Tollgate Islands are a signature feature of Batemans Bay.jpg

Approaching the inlet from the east, the entry to Batemans Bay tracks generally to the northwest, either side of the Tollgate Islands and towards the white sector light on Square Head. Lead lights mark the bar crossing, but the bar is a dynamic structure and shifting shoals may demand a different course. For the latest information, call Marine Rescue Batemans Bay. Bar depths at MHW vary between 2.4m (Neaps) to about 2.7m (Springs), and at LWS from 0.7m to 1.7m. It’s recommended to enter on a rising tide, preferably no less than three hours old.

Once across the bar, turn off the leads when close to the training wall and either steer southeast through the channel towards the Boat Harbour (Batemans Bay Marina) and Hanging Rock launching ramp, or northwest towards the bridge, avoiding breaking water off the sandbanks to starboard.

Beyond the shoals, there is limited mooring and anchorage space east of the bridge. On the southern shore, the public jetty/pontoon at Fishermans Wharf is mostly occupied by a ferry, charter boats and fishing vessels. It’s in poor condition and has no provision for water and electricity to vessels. The number and size of berths at the marina have been expanded under a recent redevelopment but demand still outstrips availability. Along the northern (Wharf Road) shoreline, swing moorings can be made off the riverside caravan park opposite the town, but these may be imperilled during major river floods or in danger of being dragged back onto the bridge by a strong onshore wind with an incoming tidal stream.

_R9A5926a_The Princes Highway crosses the Clyde River over the iconic Batemans Bay Bridge.jpg

The iconic Batemans Bay Bridge was opened in 1956 to replace a ferry service that had operated since 1871. It is comprised of nine fixed and one vertical-lift spans, with head room under the fixed spans and lift-span when closed of 3.6m and open up to 22.8m HWS. Horizontal distance between fenders is also 22.8m. The bridge will open with fair notice by calling a number posted on a board downstream of the marina when entering the harbour. Otherwise call Batemans Bay Power and Sail (02 4472 7263); when manned the bridge operator is on 27MHz channel 94.

Vessels capable of passing beyond the bridge can find good-holding, swell-free anchorage off Budd Island. For ready access to the town’s facilities, a dinghy can be landed at the old punt ramp on the southwest side of the bridge. On the northern shore, the old punt approach (known as Jamiesons Ramp) is prone to constant sand build-up, which limits its use to 4WD vehicles over most of the year.

_R9A6001a_Batemans Bay Marina is home port to a variety of recreational vessels.jpg

On his 1821 exploration, Lieutenant Robert Johnston accurately described the Clyde River as "fine, clear and capacious". It is mostly free of isolated reefs and shoals (except for Razorback Rock, which is avoided by using leads and lateral marks) and the bottom is mostly clean with a little mud. The channel is well-marked by a set of day leads and lit beacons from the bridge all the way to Nelligen. The shoreline is mostly rocky with a few small sand and gravel beaches where landing may be made. Basic riverside camping is available at Beach Camp, within the Clyde River NP, near Big Island. Overall, the river offers a wealth of possible anchorages, depending on tidal stream and wind direction.

The absolute limit for masted vessels is Nelligen Bridge with a fixed headway of 3.6m HWS. Upstream of this bridge, limited navigation is possible by small boats for many kilometres on a rising tide, exercising careful lookout for unmarked shoals and snags. At Nelligen, the four old ferry approaches on both eastern and western shores are used as launching ramps.

_R9A5965a_A fishing vessel moored at Fishermans Wharf.jpg

A private facility at the Nelligen Van Park is a good quality ramp favoured by park users and water-skiers. It is available for public use for a small fee. Nelligen Wharf is of historical interest and is used by tourist ferries as a stopover. Nelligen has a park with toilets, a general store, fuel, a café and crafts. A range of accommodation is also available, ranging from camping to more upmarket accommodation at the well-known Steampacket Hotel or at some of the renovated, historic guesthouses.



Batemans Bay Marina
27 Beach Road, Batemans Bay
P: (02) 4472 9853

Batemans Marine Park
P: (02) 4476 0800

Batemans Bay Visitor Information Centre
Princes Highway, Batemans Bay
P: (02) 4472 6900 or 1800 802 528.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries)
P: 1300 550 474

NSW Department of Transport
Roads and Maritime Services (Batemans Bay)
P: (02) 4472 8376

NSW Marine Rescue (Batemans Bay)
P: (02) 4472 3060
27MHz - Channel 88
VHF - Channel 16
UHF - Channel 27


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