Gleaming chrome bowls of oysters on ice, abundant local oyster shell-infused gin and an impressive wall map wrapping around the space all featured at the launch of the Sapphire Coast Oyster Trail in Merimbula.
Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick officially launched the program to a room full of enthusiastic local oyster farmers, industry representatives, chefs and tourism operators at the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre.
Spanning from Wonboyn Lake in the south to the Bermagui River in the north, the trail places oysters at the centre of the coast’s plethora of natural draw cards for visitors to the region.
Anthony Osborne of Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing, creators of the trail strategy, said it was the first of its kind in Australia.
“It’s designed to highlight the unique Sydney Rock Oyster story and oyster-related experiences,” he said.
“It celebrates the quality of the region’s world-renowned oysters, which undoubtedly come from some of the cleanest waters in Australia.”
The Trail is easy to access and navigate offering experiences including visits with oyster farmers, shucking, wildlife encounters and foodie and adventure tours along the coast’s stunningly clean waterways.
Also unveiled at the event was the new Sapphire Coast oyster installation – a wall mural/map with farm locations, information boards and photographs to guide visitors through the local geography and history of which the oyster is the heart.
Many at the launch believed the pristine Sapphire Coast is home to the best oysters you can find on the New South Wales coast, if not Australia.
“It’s the basis for developing the new Sapphire Coast Oyster Trail,” Mr Osborne said.
“The Sapphire Coast is uniquely placed with five key oyster-producing estuaries, all of which imbue a special flavour upon the oyster known as ‘merroir’.
“It’s like a good glass of wine; winemakers take the flavour out of the ground, we take the flavour from the waters. This unique taste is a drawcard for visitors and will continue to be a focus of marketing the Oyster Trail in the future.
“Not all visitors have to be fans of eating oysters but we know oysters are great evidence of our untouched, pristine coastal landscape that everyone can enjoy.”
Eden Visitor Information Centre manager Claire Mudaliar said she was delighted with the trail program.
“We’ve got some of the most amazing oyster farms in NSW if not Australia here on the coast and they’ve never actually been formalised as a trail together,” she said.
“This is just pulling it all together and making an experience out of it.”
Ms Mudaliar went on to say that visitors to the Eden tourism centre are constantly asking about such experiences.
“We get asked about trails all the time. People want a map so they can head off for a couple of hours or for one or two days; they can fit it into their own itinerary.”
Pambula Lake oyster farmer and Sapphire Coast Wilderness Oysters (industry body) chair Greg Carton said the oyster industry and local tourism organisations have worked closely together over the past two years to lift the profile of the Sapphire Coast oyster brand.
“Our Sydney rock oysters are fed by the cleanest environment in NSW and they have an exceptional reputation in the culinary world,” he said.
“We hope the Oyster Trail and continued investment in profiling oysters will greatly benefit our industry and the local community.”
Visitors can create their own bespoke oyster trail itinerary from the recently-designed Sapphire Coast website.
And there is no need to get wet; you can design your itinerary solely around many of the region’s restaurants, which have created dishes starring the local mollusc. This includes Wheeler’s Seafood Restaurant, which catered for the Trail launch.
“There’s no doubt that oysters are the centrepiece of our region,” restaurant owner Jacqui Smith said.
Caroline Henry from Wonboyn Rock Oysters said the Trail would provide more than the opportunity to sample the region’s oysters.
“It should help people appreciate what goes into oyster farming and … educate them on the different flavour profiles from different estuaries,” she said.
View the new Sapphire Coast Oyster Trail including an enticing video and images on the Sapphire Coast Oyster Trail website.
To explore the Sapphire Coast oyster installation head to the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre.