A photographer’s guide to Eden, Sapphire Coast, NSW, Australia.
The far south coast of New South Wales continues to buck the trend of high-rise development and retains the appearance of a pristine environment. With its scenic coastline, and densely forested areas providing a real sense of wilderness, landscape and nature photographers can immerse themselves in a region which offers endless photographic opportunities. For lovers of seascapes, landscapes, flora, fauna and photojournalism styles, you’ll be spoiled for opportunities within a laid-back and easily accessed area. When the weather is fine, and with some cloud rolling by, the coastal area is at its finest for photography. If the weather is overcast and gloomy, consider heading to the national parks where the forest areas are evenly lit and without harsh shadows.
Haycock Beach, Ben Boyd National Park – Photo: Darren Stones
Eden, population about 3000, could be regarded as a working class town with the main industries being fishing, logging and tourism. During peak vacation times, holiday-makers from Victoria and New South Wales visit the sapphire blue waters of the coast and Twofold Bay for swimming, surfing, fishing and bushwalking. Visitors also explore the national parks, sail and cruise on the lakes bays and ocean, and undertake challenging forest drives.
Eden Wharf – Photo: Darren Stones
Eden’s climate is temperate, however strong winds and rough seas can spring up quickly. Over the years, the Eden Wharf has been a refuge for stricken yachts involved in the annual Sydney-Hobart yacht race and this can provide good photojournalism opportunities during late December.
Eden Wharf at Snug Cove is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in NSW and the best days to witness activity are Monday-Friday when the trawlers return with their catch. You can get close to the action here and photograph the fishermen unloading the fish, however be mindful to keep a safe distance. The fishermen are friendly and willing to chat about their fishing experiences, so my advice is to engage with those who have time to spare. I highly recommend at least one visit to the wharf to photograph the action and see freshly caught fish being unloaded and taken to the fisherman’s cooperative.
Unloading the catch at Eden Wharf – Photo: Darren Stones
The fishermen have a tough-as-nails look about them and they are excellent subjects for environmental portraits. I suggest photographing with wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses as it will allow you to create a good mix of images. After photographing the action, consider taking a breather and visit the café adjacent the wharf.
Drive past the wharf along Imlay Street and up the hill to the Rotary Park lookout for a panoramic view over Twofold Bay. There’s a large timber viewing platform where you might see humpbacks breaching or at rest in the deep waters during October-November. To the south is the woodchip mill which exports woodchips to Japan and slightly to the right is Mount Imlay, which is the highest mountain in the district. Fishing trawlers and leisure craft are regularly seen passing the lookout as they head in or out of Snug Cove or Quarantine Bay respectively.
Twofold Bay Lookout – Photo: Darren Stones
Ben Boyd National Park
The scenic coast, bay and landscape of the Ben Boyd National Park provide photographers a broad scope to make beautiful nature photographs. The park has historical and national significance and it became a national park in 1971. It consists 10,485 hectares of coastal, heath and forest land stretching from Pambula in the north to Green Cape Lighthouse in the south, and is divided into two sections separated by Twofold Bay. The northern section stretches between North Head near Eden to the Pambula River, with the southern section stretching from Red Point to the Green Cape Lighthouse.
Lookout at Red Point – Photo: Darren Stones
The park is named after Benjamin Boyd, a 19th century Scottish entrepreneur who was instrumental in the initial development of the area. He saw a rich future in whaling, grazing and trading in the Twofold Bay area. Boyd’s Tower is a sandstone lighthouse tower at the southern entrance to Twofold Bay on Red Point which was built by Boyd in 1847. The tower is made of Pyrmont sandstone which was quarried and shipped from Sydney and unloaded at East Boyd. The sandstone was then hauled to the site by bullock teams for shaping by stonemasons. The stones were lifted by connecting chains to each block which were then raised into place by a frame or gantry mounted on top of the growing structure.
Boyd Tower – Photo: Darren Stones
The lighthouse was never used as intended, but subsequently provided an excellent vantage point from which Eden’s shore-based whalers kept watch for migrating whales along the coastline. The 23 metre five-storey tower is protected by the national park and is maintained by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. It can be accessed from a car park by walking along an easy-grade 350m bitumen path and timber boardwalk through melaleucas. From the tower, there are two paths leading to scenic lookouts and they provide panoramic views of the sapphire-coloured waters of the Pacific Ocean. If the humpback whales are migrating, there’s a good chance you’ll spot them from here – just like the whalers did.
Boyd Tower – Photo: Darren Stones
Severs Beach in the far northern section of the park can be reached by driving along a narrow dirt track through dense forest to a small parking area. From the car park it’s a 500m walk through eucalypt forest to the beach. An aboriginal shell midden of national significance is located on the Pambula River foreshore at the beach and it’s been carbon dated to be at least 4000 years old. The midden area has been impacted by increasing erosion and degradation from natural forces and human activity; however protection works have commenced to protect the midden from erosion and human impact. A raised boardwalk has been built, sandbagging and erosion control is in place, and interpretative signs have been installed to educate visitors.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo at Severs Beach – Photo: Darren Stones
Eastern grey kangaroos inhabit Severs Beach, but are generally shy and bound away quickly. To photograph them up close, approach them quietly later in the day. It’s recommended to have camera settings pre-set and be prepared to fire off frames quickly. A telephoto zoom or fixed 400mm lens should be adequate. Use a wide aperture to keep the shutter speed high. I had an interesting moment with a large male kangaroo where we virtually came face-to-face. My heartbeat increased, but I was thrilled at the opportunity to photograph a male kangaroo in its natural environment. I was only able to fire off a couple of shots before he powerfully bounded away into the trees.
Davidson Whaling Station
The Davidson Whaling Station – located in the southern section of the park and now an historic site – was the longest-running shore-based whaling station in Australia, and the last of its type in the country to cease operations. Three generations of the Davidson family would venture out to sea in small boats from the sheltered waters of Kiah Inlet.
Kiah Inlet at the Davidson Whaling Station – Photo: Darren Stones
Historic Cottage at the Davidson Whaling Station – Photo: Darren Stones
These days, a pathway leads past the timber cottage towards the ruins of the whale processing area located on the shore of the inlet. At its height of activity, a 10m long shed housed cutting tables, brick furnaces and storage tanks where the whale oil cooled. Last used in 1929, the try works area fell into disrepair in the years leading up to World War II. Little remains of the structure except for its important archaeological remains, artefacts and rusting storage tanks. Interpretative signs are located around the whaling station precinct and provide information of the whaling operations.
Try Works area at the Davidson Whaling Station – Photo: Darren Stones
Another highlight in the northern section of the park is the Pinnacles, which is a geological feature that can be viewed and photographed from a designated lookout which faces south-east. The Pinnacles are a deeply eroded gully which consists of red and white sand. From the Pinnacles car park it’s an easy-grade 400m walk through forest which forms part of a 1km circuit walking track. From this track, there are stunning views of the ocean.
The Pinnacles – Photo: Darren Stones
To experience the many features of this park, consider spending a minimum of two days exploring it. One day in each of the two sections should be enough time to photograph a wide variety of its features. Sturdy footwear and a good supply of water and food are suggested. Sunscreen, hat and appropriate clothing for changeable weather conditions are highly recommended.
Humpback whales visit the waters around Eden and are a common sight from late September to early December as they migrate south to the Antarctic. When whales are seen in Twofold Bay, the Killer Whale Museum activates a siren, which alerts the local community. The whales can be seen from various locations and lookouts around the town as they move in close to shore to rest.
Killer Whale Museum
The Eden Killer Whale Museum provides indoor photographic opportunities – ideal if the weather turns sour. You can learn about the development of Eden whilst gaining an insight into the whaling industry that existed in Eden.
Skeleton of Old Tom the Killer Whale – Photo: Darren Stones
A skeleton of ‘Old Tom’ the killer whale is exhibited behind a glass partition; however it can be photographed with ease. Old Tom led a pack of killer whales that patrolled Twofold Bay and they would trap the humpbacks within the confines of the bay and then the whalers would harpoon them. The humpback whale carcasses were left overnight for the killer pack to feed on the tongue and lips of the humpbacks – apparently a delicacy for killer whales.
Eden Killer Whale Museum – Photo: Darren Stones
There are numerous displays in the museum with whaleboats, artefacts and interactive computer displays providing an educational experience for all ages. Outdoors there is a two-storey working model lighthouse and a balcony with views over Twofold Bay.
Eden Killer Whale Museum – Photo: Darren Stones
Green Cape Lighthouse
Green Cape Lighthouse is 23kms from the Princes Highway, south of Eden, and is reached via a well-maintained dirt road. The weather can be rough, with a combination of gale force winds and rain at times, so check the forecast before visiting. The lighthouse is best photographed early and late in the day, however gloomy and windy conditions during the day can provide excellent photographic opportunities due to the fast-changing lighting conditions.
Green Cape Lighthouse – Photo: Darren Stones
Built in 1883, it’s the southernmost lighthouse in New South Wales, and the state’s second tallest at 29m. It was deactivated in 1995 and replaced by a less-stately looking lattice-type tower with a solar powered light. The weather conditions on the tip of Green Cape can be calm, stormy and everything in-between. At first light, the scene can be bathed in golden sunlight and is probably the best time to photograph this towering beacon. Heritage-style accommodation is available at the Green Cape Lighthouse Keepers’ cottages and guided tours operate most days at 1pm and 3pm. Bookings can be made with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in Merimbula.
View from Green Cape Lookout – Photo: Darren Stones
The rustic and sand-filled seaside pool at Aslings Beach in Eden is an interesting subject to photograph in sunlit or gloomy conditions.
Seaside Pool at Aslings Beach – Photo: Darren Stones
I have photographed the pool on a gloomy day and used my 70-200mm lens with a neutral density filter attached so I could take long exposures that accentuated the movement of the water flowing through overflow holes and crashing over the rocks.
Seaside Pool at Aslings Beach – Photo: Darrern Stones
Cocora Beach in Eden is a hidden gem which is generally deserted due to it being just far enough off the beaten track. As far as coastal photographic opportunities go, it’s definitely worth investigating. Cocora Beach can be easily accessed by turning off the Princes Highway into Mitchell Street and then driving into Ida Rodd Drive. A car park is located adjacent the beach and a 24-hour public toilet facility is situated here.
Cocora Beach – Photo: Darren Stones
At the western end of the beach, there are large gums and ochre-coloured rocks worth photographing – some of which are partially covered by sand. A partially hidden track leads up a small hill where you can see glorious views of Twofold Bay. I photographed Cocora Beach in the afternoon when lighting conditions accentuated the colour of the rocks. I used my 10-22mm lens in this location as it allowed me to go in close to the rock formations whilst including cloud formations in the frame.
Cocora Beach – Photo: Darren Stones
Quarantine Bay, about 3km south of Eden, is ideal for taking photographs of recreational fishermen cleaning their catch. Photo-journalistic style images can be taken whilst fishermen clean their fish and feed the scraps to the pelicans at the fish cleaning area adjacent the boat ramp. Best times for seeing fish cleaning action are on weekends and major holidays.
Catch of the day at Quarantine Bay – Photo: Darren Stones
At sunrise and sunset, the bay has soft light of pastel tones, which shines on the anchored yachts in the safe and protected harbour. If you visit here during still weather conditions, the soft golden light highlights the masts and creates stunning reflections.
Quarantine Bay – Photo: Darren Stones
The bay is one of the best photographic secrets of the NSW far south coast and can be accessed via Quarantine Bay Road. The Quarantine Bay Beach Cottages are located adjacent the protected harbour, and with magnificent views over the beach and bay, the parkland setting provides a peaceful and secluded setting for a short break. It’s a perfect place for photographers who like to rise early and head out for an hour’s shooting at sunrise.
Bird photography opportunities are plentiful, with various sea birds to be found at Aslings Beach, Quarantine Bay, Snug Cove and Lake Curalo. Pelicans are common in this area and it is great fun to photograph them whilst they are feeding on small fish and fish scraps thrown to them by recreational anglers.
Pelican at Quarantine Bay – Photo: Darren Stones
Sooty oystercatchers, crested terns, hooded plovers, sea eagles, egrets, cormorants and albatross are just some of the species you’ll see. The bush and forest areas can be just as productive for spotting silvereyes, fantails, fairy wrens and rosellas.
Crested terns at Aslings Beach – Photo: Darren Stones
A telephoto zoom lens or a fixed length lens of around 400mm is ideal for photographing the habits of the birdlife. Also, a monopod will assist to keep the camera steady in low light situations found in the bush and forest areas. It is reasonably common to see a variety of sea birds catching the thermals above the steep cliff faces around Eden.
I have visited Eden numerous times and always discover new subjects to photograph. I trust you can find the opportunity to visit Eden and explore the places which offer rich photographic rewards.
Sorting the catch at Eden Wharf – Photo: Darren Stones
Ben Boyd National Park:
The northern section of the Ben Boyd National Park is accessed by two routes. For the small area north of the Pambula River, take Pambula Beach Road from Pambula. For all other areas in the northern section of the park, such as Barmouth Beach, Severs Beach and The Pinnacles, take the turn-off from the Princes Highway into Haycock Road. For the southern section of the park, turn into Edrom Road from the Princes Highway. From here you can access Green Cape Lighthouse, Bittangabee Bay, Saltwater Creek and Boyd’s Tower.
Haycock Point, Ben Boyd National Park – Photo: Darren Stones
Eden is 471 km south of Sydney, 274 km south-east of Canberra and 560 km north-east of Melbourne.
The Eden Visitor Information Centre is located at the roundabout on the corner of Imlay and Mitchell Streets, Eden. Visitor parking is available in front of the building in Mitchell Street. A large selection of visitors’ guides and brochures are available.
Phone: (02) 6496 1953.
Postal address: P.O. Box 435, Eden, NSW, 2551
Twofold Bay – Photo: Darren Stones
Eden is serviced by a large variety of shops, supermarkets, a newsagency, doctors, bistros and sporting clubs.
When to visit:
Any time is a good time to visit Eden as the temperatures are generally mild to warm. However, peak holiday times such as Christmas and Easter can impact on wildlife sightings due to a rise in people activity and noise levels. Wildflowers bloom in the national parks during spring and autumn. Humpback whales migrate south during October-December, and from various coastal lookouts their blow and breach can be seen.
Lookout at The Pinnacles – Photo: Darren Stones
What to bring:
Solid hiking shoes, sensible clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen and bottled water are highly recommended for when undertaking bushwalking in the Ben Boyd National Park. Also, take spare memory cards and batteries, and a polariser filter for scenic coastal shots.
Whale watching cruises of 3-3.5 hours are available in the area. Cat Balou Cruises depart from Eden Wharf and True Blue departs from the Merimbula Marina.
Address: P.O. Box 50, Eden, NSW 2551
Phone: (02) 6496 2027
Fishing Fleet at Eden Wharf – Photo: Darren Stones
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service:
There is a $7.00 entry fee per vehicle per day to the park and self-registration points are located within the Ben Boyd National Park. The main office is located in Merimbula where free brochures and advice from staff is available.
Address: Corner Sapphire Coast and Merimbula Drives, Merimbula NSW.
Phone: (02) 6495 5000.
Postal address: PO Box 656, Merimbula NSW 2548.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm.
There are numerous accommodation options available in Eden. Camping grounds, caravan parks, motels, hotels, luxury apartments, units, B&Bs and resorts.
Whale Fisher Motel
Located in the heart of Eden and a short walk to shops and clubs.
Address: 170 Imlay Street, Eden, NSW, 2551
Phone: (02) 6496 1266