Sailing south from Sydney on our way to Tasmania (the island to the south that is actually a state of Australia) we stopped in Batemans Bay (population 17,500) on the South Pacific Ocean coast. Batemans Bay is a gateway to the region’s historic villages, stunning beaches and forested parklands. We spent the day exploring the area south of Batemans Bay, centered on the Tilba Valley.
On our hour-long drive to the Tilba Valley, we stopped half way at the Moruya Heads to see the beautiful coast line there. Our first stop in the Tilba Valley was a visit to Tilba Valley Wines, the first (and thus far only) commercial winery on the Far South Coast opened in 1983. The winery produces about 700 cases annually, including Shiraz, Cabernet, Semillion, Chardonnay and Rose. We were met by the winemaker who explained their production as we tasted the recent vintages of his varietals. Production is quite limited as the weather is a major challenge (being so close to the ocean) and the birds and animals enjoy eating the ripening grapes. Our light lunch was accompanied by a local pianist and we finished with a glass of Tilba’s Tawny Port-style wine.
After lunch we drove across the valley to the tiny town of Central Tilba, a nicely restored heritage village protected by its National Heritage status. Set against the backdrop of Mt. Dromedary, the village grew around a cheese factory built here in 1891. The tradition is carried on at Tilba Real Dairy, whose owners operate the ABC Cheese Factory in town. We met with the cheese maker for a tasting of some of their award-winning products and an explanation of their cheese production process. Afterwards we bought excellent fresh whole milk for subsequent breakfasts on board the ship and some of their delicious smoked garlic cheese.