Senses of the South: an exploration of the South Coast and female friendships.

When women hit a certain age, maybe between 40 to 50 years old, and certainly around about the time the kids start high school, we start to think about what positive things we can now do with our lives.

We’ve manage to keep the kids alive through their early years, survived threats like SIDS, chickenpox, peanut allergies and falling out of trees, and they no longer need us to read them bedtime stories or kiss grazed knees.

And actually it’s not always just about the kids. This is an age when you start thinking seriously about your career and whether you really want one. Is it really worth climbing up the next step of that corporate ladder?

So we start looking for a new project. All of a sudden I seem to be surrounded by women with a newfound love for dogs. Or a newfound passion for running marathons, playing football or doing Oxfam hikes and climbing mountains.

Whatever the newfound passion/project – it’s usually always POSITIVE.


My friend Tina noticed that lots of her friends were getting together and going on tours of South America or wildlife safaris in Africa. Which is great, if you can afford it.

But what if you can’t afford a 14-day luxury wilderness tour every year with your mates? And what about exploring the delights a bit closer to home?

Having long enjoyed weekend visits to the NSW South Coast, and a budget that put Kenya slightly out of reach, Tina decided to put together a collection of tours of her beloved South Coast, designed just for women.

“Something wonderful happens when women get together. No matter their background, their culture, whatever their walk in life, when women get together they find a point of connection. They inspire each other and nurture each other.”


And so I joined Tina and a group of six women, most of whom I have never met before, on one of her first guided tours to test this theory, and attempt to stimulate all five senses along the way.

We head south in relative comfort in the Senses of the South minibus, supplied with a bag of edible goodies and a drink to keep us going on the journey south.

By the time we reach our first stop, we’ve all shared stories about our children, our relationships and other miscellaneous challenges, and we’ve all empathized with a few issues at one point or another.


Our first stop Two Figs Winery in Berry, and although the sun isn’t quite yet over the yard arm, I figure we’re on holiday so it’s acceptable to sample a few wines, especially if we start with something sparkling.

We’re also treated with a delicious selection of cheese, olives and assorted pickles, all sourced locally, while our host implores us not to eat too much as our next stop is lunch at St Isadores.


St Isadores is an organic restaurant a little further south in Milton. On their menu is a little introduction that claims:

“We use and support happy farmers, happy free-ranging animals and produce grown with a little bit o’ love.”

And in the process, manage to produce happy customers. Our little feast today starts with antipasti followed by sea mullet escabeche and delicious tiger prawn salad, and a main course of slow cooked lamb shoulder served with beetroot, feta, pinenuts and nasturtiums, as well as roasted free-range chicken with broccolini, new asparagus and almonds.


Lunch takes a good couple of hours and we extend the experience with a wander around the gardens looking at the herb gardens, vegetable plots and orchards.


A few kilometres further south we then get to work off some of those well-applied carbs with a sunset kayak.


Our guide Phil MacDonnell of Bay and Beyond Kayak Tours takes us on a guided tour of Durras Lake, giving us a potted history of the area’s indigenous and European history along the way as light and sound gradually fade until finally all there is to hear is the distant surf and our own paddles hitting the water.

We finally reach our digs for the night, the rather luxurious Number 10 Bannister in Mollymook, at around 8pm where we find a roaring fire, cheese platter and a nice little local red. And of course, good company.


The next day we’re up bright and early. We gobble down the world’s best bircher muesli, pack our lunches from a selection of wraps, cold meat, cheese, dips and salad and head off to the Budawang Ranges.


The trek to our lunch spot takes longer than expected because of the heavy rainfall that’s preceded our trip, (and we’re all a bit crap) but the view from Mt Bushwalker is worth wet boots and odd accidental tumble as we take in the spectacular view of the Budawang Ranges while munching on our wraps.

We return to Mollymook a little bit wet and bedraggled, in time for a yoga class, followed by guided meditation (in which at least two of us snore).


This evening we’re in for a real treat. Chef Matt Upton, from nearby restaurant Tallwood, is bringing his kitchen to us. So we can lounge around in our pajamas should we choose, while dining on five star cuisine.

A selection of hors d’oeuvres are served as we lounge around the roaring fire indulging in a lovely red from nearby Cuppitts winery, before we slope across to the dining room for dinner.


A big steaming plate of paella is presented to us along with slow cooked lamb shoulder served with broad beans and Persian feta.

Just as well I didn’t come on this trip to lose weight…


The following morning we’re off bright and early again, this time for a coastal walk with a local indigenous guide, Noel Butler, who teaches us a few things about bush tucker, the surrounding natural environment and its biodiversity, as well as the area’s indigenous heritage.


The lagoon behind us is an important habitat for migrating wetland birds including graceful black swans and herons and as we wander along the beach we can see large flocks of them occupying various parts of the lake, taking an occasional synchronized loop around it before settling again on the surface.

From here we take a little detour to a nearby apiarist and sample some honey before our final treat for the weekend; lunch at Cupitt Winery.


Lunch is another celebration of slow food with local organic produce accompanied by a selection of fine Cupitt’s wines, overlooking a sweeping green valley of grape vines.


And so we return to Sydney thoroughly relaxed having explored all senses and found new friends. The weekend has been therapeutic in more ways than one.

Author was hosted by Senses of the South.

Have you hit this stage in life yet? What’s your new project?

About Author


Mother, travel blogger, social media diva, scuba girl and passionate eco-warrior, on a mission to remove plastic from my life. I also blog here about diving:


  1. Seana Reply

    This looks divine and I can totally imagine why it would work so well. The combination of fresh air, physical activity and a bit of luxury too is ideal. Would be a great way to celebrate special occasions. Great for mothers groups escapes too.

    • Deborah Reply

      It’s a great combination isn’t it? The yoga class following the long hike made perfect sense – everything was beautifully balanced. And I just like the way it’s all organised for you – no thinking involved, just relaxing.

  2. What a wonderful trip: great company, great food and some exercise, and in a wonderful part of the country too. Love it 🙂

    • Deborah Reply

      It was so well balanced! Moving swiftly through a pattern of food – hike – yoga – meditation – food – wine… Each meal I felt I deserved (and worked up an appetite for as my granny would say!) and the yoga and relaxation balanced the hiking and kayaking perfectly.

  3. I totally get what you mean about the next step on the career ladder – sometimes it seems all too hard, especially when the other option is wine, cheese and walking with great girlie mates.
    This trip sounds right up my street 🙂

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