Many Victorians believe a visit to south east of New South Wales is about the coast but a quick glance at a map will reveal its a full of national parks and nature reserves.
Within a few hours drive from Eden, Bega or Merimbula, there are several national parks to satisfy all your outdoor urges.
Ben Boyd National Park
To the north and south of Eden is Ben Boyd National Park, a 10,407 hectare park which takes in a 45 km stretch of amazing coastline. The park is named after the 19th century pastoralist and whaler Benjamin Boyd, who built Boydtown on the southern side of Twofold Bay. At the southern most point is the Green Cape Lightstation, commissioned in 1883 and built with materials shipped into Bittangabee Bay. Tours of the old lighthouse and grounds are available, along with heritage accommodation in the restored assistant keeper's residence.
The other historic 'lighthouse' in the park is Boyd's Tower, built between 1846 and 1848 as a landmark to indicate the entrance to Twofold Bay in daylight, and as a lighthouse at night. The government of the time refused to allow its use as a lighthouse, however, so the tower was instead used as a whale lookout. There is no access to the top of the tower but a lookout platform at the cliff edge still gives you a good view.
The 'Light to Light Walk', between Green Cape and Boyds Tower, is the only long distance walking track in the park. It is 30 km one way and can be completed with camping stops in three to four days.
Head to the Disaster Bay lookout for stunning views towards Nadgee Nature Reserve.
In the northern section of Ben Boyd, the Pinnacles is a colourful earth formation behind Long Beach. The Pinnacles walk is an easy one kilometre loop track that passes through forest, woodland and heath.
The latest additions to the northern side are the Pambula River foreshores and wetland areas.
You can swim, barbecue or picnic along the calm waters of the Pambula River. A short walk starts on the north side of the Pambula River mouth and heads 600m upriver with stunning views of the river and across to the Haycock Point.
Camping is permitted only in the southern section, at Saltwater Creek and Bittangabee Bay, where you'll also find picnic facilities. In the north, picnic facilities are available at Haycock Point and the Pinnacles.
Bournda National Park
About 70 km north of Eden, on the coast between Merimbula and Tathra, is the Bournda National Park, covering 2, 590 hectares.
This park is significant for its wetlands, which provides homes for some threatened species of migratory water birds, like the little tern, the hooded plover and the pied oystercatcher. The freshwater Bondi Lake, which sits very close to the ocean, also supports plants and animals different to those in a saltwater environment.
Boaties will enjoy seeing the park from Wallagoot Lake, which has a boat ramp at the boat club. Smaller craft can launch from Scotts Bay. Canoeing is the other boating alternative here, on Wallagoot Lake or Bournda Lagoon. The NPWS offers ranger-guided canoe activities, or you can bring your own canoe.
There are a range of walking trails to suit all fitness levels, the toughest one being the nine-kilometre day hike from the north side of Wallagoot Lake to Kianinny Bay. The shorter walks all provide some wonderful coastal views.
The piece of history in this park is a three room slab hut at Scott's Bay. Constructed in 1890 by Thomas Scott, it was originally one of two buildings and was used as a kitchen, dining and storage area.
Hobart Beach is the place to camp, between the ocean and the lake. Remember that swimming is not permitted in Bondi Lake.
Mount Imlay National Park
Mount Imlay National Park, 35 km southwest of Eden, does not take campers but is open to walkers and picnickers. The three-kilometre rough and steep summit walk starts at the picnic area, and takes three hours round trip.
Nadgee Nature Reserve
Boasting the only coastal wilderness in NSW is the Nadgee Nature Reserve, a 20,671 hectare area located 35 km south of Eden. The coastline includes sandy beaches, rocky headlands and coastal heath, and there's great beach fishing here. Permits are required for bushwalking or camping, owing to the scientific importance of the reserve as a natural, undeveloped area.
NSW National Parks can be closed at times of bushfire and bushfire danger. It is advisable to check with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service before you set off. Either phone 1300 361 967 (within NSW) or (02) 9253 4600.
This was first published by NRMA. All information was correct at the time of writing but may change without notice.