Funny how you judge things by different criteria when you grow older. As a teenager my daughter thought Bermagui, on the southern New South Wales coast, about midway between Sydney and Melbourne, and about three hours from Canberra, epitomised “uncool” because its location put the village out of mobile phone reach from friends.
But that out-of-the-wayness is exactly what makes Bermagui appealing to grown-ups, at least those like me who enjoy an Aussie seaside and hinterland escape with all the old-fashioned charms. The southern NSW coast has a particular allure with its rickety wooden bridges leading over shallow lakes which open into the ocean. Or sometimes close over after too much pounding from boisterous seas. These lakes – with wonderful names such as Cuttagee, Baragoot, Wapengo and Wallaga – are a rich breeding ground for prawns, oysters and fish.
Cuttagee Beach with the extinct volcano Mt Guluga in the background.
The dramatic New South Wales south coastline.
Cuttagee Lake- a perfect example of a southern NSW coastal lake.
After plentiful rain, such as now, rolling emerald green hinterland pastures support rich dairy farming lands producing famous brands like Bega, Bodalla and Tilba cheeses. The seas also offer a harvest: Bermagui is a renowned deep-sea fishing port, for both amateurs and professionals, and its harbour is crowded with fishing vessels.
The hinterland township of Cobargo celebrates its dairy heritage for tourists.
It’s all a perfect backdrop for the popular Four Winds music festival held at in a picturesque, purpose-built, open-air venue every second Easter in a forest at Barragga Bay, just south of Bermagui. Luckily for me I have family living at Barragga Bay so attending the festival is a bonus to catching up. Over the years I have seen the site transform to its now permanent sound shell, designed by renowned architect Philip Cox, with glass back panel allowing full view of a water lily-packed lagoon. The brand new Windsong Pavilion, which fits a full orchestra in rehearsal or seats 160 music lovers enjoying a recital, was unveiled at this festival.
The three-day gig kicked off with a late afternoon community jazz and popular music program in Bermagui Harbour aboard a yacht transformed to a floating stage. An evening variety show starred television personality and former Doug Anthony All Stars member Paul McDermott.The weekend gourmet music menu included acclaimed Australia Chamber Orchestra Director Richard Tognetti, flamboyant Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima, Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic and Chinese violinist Zen Hu. Young performers from the Australian National Academy of Music featured and Indigenous poet Herb Wharton delivered his work, Tracks. Jazz signer Michelle Nicolle wrapped up the program with a tribute to Cole Porter.
How sublime to hear the words and notes of world class artists mixing with the croaking of frogs and the ping-ping-pinging of bellbirds.
Welcome to Barragga Bay.
Bermagui Harbour sets the scene to open the Four Winds festival.
Nature’s concert hall…the glass-backed purpose-built sound shell makes the most of its setting.
The sun sets on Cuttagee Lake.