The NSW south coast is all rainforest, gently rolling hills and great family treats, writes Lee Atkinson.
Australian chocolate manufacturers don't tend to decorate their wrappers with bucolic scenes of green rolling hills studded with contented black-and-white cows, but if they did, it would be images of the Jamberoo Valley they would use. Just 15 minutes' drive west of Kiama on the NSW south coast, the historic village of Jamberoo and the surrounding farmlands is classic chocolate-box scenery.
What it's known for
Despite being the birthplace of the co-operative Australian dairy industry and the famous Illawarra shorthorn dairy breed of cattle, Jamberoo's best-known attraction is actually the rainforest that covered the land before it was cleared for farming. Part of Budderoo National Park, the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre has a fantastic walk on elevated timber boardwalks and paved paths through the warm temperate rainforest that eventually leads to Minnamurra Falls. There is an on-site cafe, picnic and barbecue facilities, and lyrebirds and wallabies. 345 Minnamurra Falls Road (off Jamberoo Mountain Road). Open daily, 9am-5pm (closed Christmas Day).
What you didn't know
Soccer legend Johnny Warren lived in Jamberoo for almost 10 years, and the hub of the village, the Jamberoo Pub, is owned by his older brother, Ross. The walls of the Johnny Warren Dining Room are lined with football memorabilia and hundreds of photographs of the sport star. It's the place to be on Sunday afternoons with free live music between 2pm and 5pm. 12 Allowrie Street. jamberoopub.com.
Just in time for summer, Jamberoo Action Park, the largest water-based theme park in NSW, will open two new rides on December 14. Nothing to do with spiders, the Funnel Web is a monster cone-shaped ride, where four thrill-seekers at a time reach speeds of up to 30km/h as they are washed through the funnel in darkness, experiencing multiple zero-gravity moments before being shot out into a landing pool. Also new is Banjo's Billabong, the biggest interactive water-play area in the southern hemisphere, with 198 water slides, cannons, sprays and buckets. Long-time favourite attractions of the park include Outback Bay, NSW's biggest wave pool; and a "rapid river" ride with bucking rapids, cascading waterfalls and waves up to 1.5 metres high. 1215 Jamberoo Road. Open daily, 10am-5pm, from mid-September until the end of April. Over-13s $41, kids 4-12 $33, under-4s free. Admission covers all rides, all day, and there are plenty of food outlets, or BYO lunch and use the barbecue facilities. jamberoo.net.
The Illawarra Fly is a treetop canopy walk that juts over the edge of the Illawarra Escarpment. Just one of only four steel canopy walks in the world (they are all in Australia: the other three are the Otway Fly on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria; the Tahune Airwalk in southern Tasmania; and the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk in southern Western Australia), it is 500 metres long with an average height of 25 metres, not including the 45-metre-high Knights Tower, which is in the middle of the walk. On a clear day you can see the coast, 35 kilometres away. At each end, two springboard cantilevers, each 24 metres long, give you the surreal sensation of being suspended right at the edge of the escarpment. On the second Saturday of every month there are guided sunrise walks, and during school holidays there are special kids' activities, including circus workshops. 182 Knights Hill Road, 16 kilometres west of Jamberoo via the Jamberoo Mountain Road. Open daily, 9am-5pm. Adults $24, kids $10, families $59 (admission half-price on some rainy days, check the Facebook page for details). illawarrafly.com.
Where to eat
The Jamberoo Pub does good value pub food (think steak and chips, chicken parma and beer-battered fish) and is open for lunch and dinner daily. (02) 4236 0270. The cafe at the Illawarra Fly is also good.
Where to stay
The pub has simple, pub-style rooms (shared bathrooms) from $70 a double and basic motel rooms from $130 a double. For a little more luxury, try Idle Time farm stay, which has a two-bedroom house (from $300 a night) and a one-bedroom retreat (from $150 a night). Facilities include tennis court, gym and sauna. boutiquetravel.com.au.
How to get there
Jamberoo is 115 kilometres south of Sydney, nine kilometres west of Kiama. It's about a two-hour drive.