Sydney Film Festival’s roving arm, the Travelling Film Festival, provides the perfect opportunity to combine a visit to a regional area with some culture. In destinations like Ulladulla, you can fill your days with sun, sand, swimming, markets, cafes, restaurants, shopping and surf; while at night you can take in a foreign film at the local Arcadia Twin Cinemas.
Nothing cools you off more after a day at the beach than an air conditioned cinema, a choc top, and a film like Jennifer Peedom’s Sherpa (2015) which captures the struggles faced by the Sherpa people as they risk their lives to realise rich Westerners’ climbing goals on Chomolungma (Mount Everest). Lively post-film discussion saw locals stick around long after the question and answer session with Producer Bridget Ikin concluded, affording visitors like myself, the chance to interact and learn more about the people who inhabit this sunny South Coast locale.
For daytime fun, you’ll find Mollymook offers up your classic Australian surf beach with pale sand, rolling waves and beautiful blue water.
Located on either side of it, Narrawallee, and the tidal Bogey Hole (tucked away on the other side of the golf course), are more child-friendly options.
About 8km south of Ulladulla you’ll also find Burrill Beach (pronounce it ‘Boorrill’ if you want to avoid looking like a tourist), which has a lovely cooling inlet you can swim in. Do keep an eye on the tides though, as the outgoing tide will create a considerable rip in this outlet flowing to the sea.
If you’re planning to take in both an afternoon and an evening Travelling Film Festival flick, you’ll likely want to fit dinner in between, especially because not much stays open late in Ulladulla (even on a Friday or Saturday night). Within an easy walk of the cinema is the Ulladulla Oyster Bar offering up a wide range of hot and cold oyster toppings on bivalves sourced from up and down the South Coast.
Directly upstairs, Ulladulla Indian Restaurant belies the unimaginative naming with a great menu of North Indian curries. With fresh, local goat arriving on the day I dined, their tender Goat Curry ($18.50) was an absolute standout, necessitating a Naan Makhani ($3.95) to ensure we mopped up every drop of the excellent gravy.
If fine dining is more your scene, the big name in this neck of the woods is Rick Stein at Bannisters in Mollymook. It’s certainly a fancy spot; with the view making lunchtime visits particularly compelling.
A better option to my palate, and also according to the locals I spoke to, is St. Isidore in Milton. This farm-to-table restaurant experience swaps out the water views for a picturesque country setting.
Great service in a relaxed and beautiful dining room, combined with dishes that ooze honesty and integrity, make it very hard to beat, especially seeing as much of what’s on the plate comes directly from their own garden and orchard. (Full reviews for both of these restaurants will be going up later in the week.)
With Ulladulla being under four hours drive from Sydney, be sure to load up the car with eskies to stock up on local produce while you’re there. The main produce market, Gaia Farmers Market, takes place on a Thursday afternoon at the remodelled Ulladulla Civic Centre (located in town, right on the highway). Failing that, there are plenty of other places to visit, from roadside stalls to permanent shops in Ulladulla and neighbouring Milton.
On the way down from Sydney, keep your eyes peeled for The Olive Farm run by the Contadino family. When we stopped in for wonderful heirloom tomatoes and the best kalamata olives I’ve had in ages, they were busy working up a sweat over ‘the sauce’; pushing crates of bright red tomatoes through a shiny metal press. Their well-stocked family store is located at Falls Creek, just after Jervis Bay Road branches off to Huskisson.
Head slightly south from Ulladulla towards Bateman’s Bay and you’ll stumble upon the Tabourie Tuckerbox, a general store hosting one of the best market stalls I’ve seen. The van is there three days a week, stocked entirely with produce grown on one farm, bar for a box of bananas. The fruit and vegetables are reasonably priced, and the quality is sensational.
Don’t miss this farmer’s thirty-month matured pumpkins with their incredible deep orange hue; small but tasty avocados; and underpriced passionfruit ($6/20) that proved to be juicy and sweet. You’ll even find bags of garlic cloves peeled on a chicken plucking machine the farmer picked up from his neighbour for five hundred bucks. He advises to keep the cloves in the freezer and just shake out what you need that day, in order to retain their volatility.
On the way back into town, pick up some seafood at The Fish Shop in Burrill Lake. They’re the fish shop that gets the local seal of approval, easily edging out Fishermans Wharf Seafood on Ulladulla Harbour (though Lucky’s Seafood also has fans). Locals coo over their cooked baby prawns, and advise getting takeaway fish and chips to consume on nearby Burrill Beach. Their fresh fish counter is full of yesterday’s catch – mahi mahi and bigeye tuna – as the shop’s trawler is still out reeling today’s catch in. You’ll also find mussels from Eden, and bags of Sydney rock oysters from Batemans Bay.
The locals are also adamant about pies, warning me off Milton’s gorgeous Heritage Bakery located in one of the oldest buildings in the region, in favour of Hayden’s Pies, that's set rather inauspiciously in a light industrial strip mall.
To be honest, I would have probably driven right by Hayden’s and thus missed out on the best Emu and Bush Tomato Pie ($5.90) I’ve ever eaten.
Well to be fair, it is the only emu pie I’ve had, but it certainly will ensure that I stop in for another one, next time I’m in this region.
Neighbouring Milton is also well worth exploring, not least of which for the quaint historic buildings. The highway (which is also the main street) morphs into a sprawling market on the first Saturday of the month.
For a great permanent Milton produce stop, check out Merry Maidens’ Veggies tucked behind The Coffee Guild (who incidentally do a very decent cup). The lovely proprietor Louise Tucker has been cultivating her biodynamic market garden in the area for seven years, supplying many of the store’s fresh vegetables, as well as clever products like wild-fermented sauerkraut that she makes herself. She’s easy to talk to, and willingly shares tales of working in a biodynamic way in what is a very traditional farming area: "I'm out there at night - my neighbours think I'm a witch."
Wherever Louise’s magic comes from, it shines brightly in vibrant green basil, crisp silverbeet and figs that are so fresh, they spurt juice down our chins as we eat them.
While you are in Milton you can solve your sourdough needs at Flour Water Salt, and pick up some Croakers pre-mixed cocktails at the Milton IGA plus Liquor. Modeled on 1920s doctors’ alcoholic tonics, Croakers are locally made (well, they’re from Nowra) and surprisingly delicious, edging out a fairly pedestrian collection of locally made wine.
Full of fresh juices, vitamins and folate, they’re perfect for consuming in the beautifully landscaped pool at the Ulladulla Guest House.
Set a block back from the main drag, this ten-room property feels a bit like a 1940s Swiss chalet.
Boasting its own library, restaurant and extensive local art collection, it’s a great spot to unwind.
It's also got a very surprising (and award-winning) wine list that’ll encourage you to eat inhouse at Elizans Wine & Mezze Bar if you do stay.
A hearty cooked breakfast is also included with your room rate, which sits in the vicinity of $160- $240 per night, depending on the room type and what night of the week you stay.
The Travelling Film Festival really does provide a great way to combine a dose of foreign culture with a visit to regional NSW; complete with plentiful opportunities stock up your fridge, and make the most of what seems to be an endless Australian summer this year. They next visit Wagga Wagga on the 11-13 March and Tamworth on 20-22 May if you're keen to devise your own road-trip-meets-film adventure.
NOTE: Full reviews of Ulladulla Oyster Bar HERE, St. Isidore HERE & Rick Stein at Bannister's HERE.
Ulladulla Indian Restaurant
Shop 22 (Upstairs), Ulladulla Plaza, 107 Princes Highway, Ulladulla
Ph: (02) 4455 4829