You've got one guess. Where will you find the whitest beach in the world? Some tropical island in the Caribbean? A deserted patch of sand in Fiji? No. It's actually in a quaint village off the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. An exclusive hamlet called Hyams Beach holds the Guinness Book of Records accolade for having the world's whitest sand.
With Hyams a mere two-hour scenic drive from Sydney, I decided to discover whether this beach deserved its prestigious title.
The route there is almost as spectacular as the destination. Our first stop was Kiama, home to the awesome blow hole, notorious for spewing plumes of water into the air if the tide is right. The blow hole has almost reached cult status in my family.
When my sister and her husband first moved to Australia, my uncle took them for a day trip specifically to see the blow hole do its thing. Unfortunately the hole wasn't up for blowing and since then, I've always been sceptical whether it actually ever does.
When I shared my suspicions with a friendly cab driver, who happened to grow up in Kiama, he instantly lost his charm.
Of course the blow hole blows, he said tersely.
Tourists only visit the town when it's all nice and sunny and then obviously it's not going to happen in those conditions.
Well, I'm pleased to report that during our stopover, I witnessed this powerful phenomenon. I was mesmerised by the cascades of water rocketing up from the sea. Of course, I took heaps of photographs to prove to my family that it's not all myth.
We couldn't resist slowing down at the charming town of Berry. With a name like that, it was sure to be delicious. Unfortunately, the famed sour-dough bakery was closed but we had a lovely amble through the main street and soaked in the countrified atmosphere.
Hyams Beach is among a handful of towns that occur along the Jervis Bay coast. We stayed in Vincentia, which is sandwiched between Huskisson in the north and Hyams further down.
A local whispered to me that the towns seem to be ordered by prestige, with the Husky dwellers striving to better themselves in Vincentia and the Vincentians hoarding their cash to one day afford a million-dollar beach pad in Hyams.
Our self-catering cottage Corrinyah, which we booked through extremely efficient www.jervis.com.au was footsteps from Collingwood beach. The owners had left us a bottle of sparkling wine, some choccies, a selection of DVDs and a fully-equipped apartment.
Heading towards Hyams Beach we joined the aptly named White Sands walking track passing through the four adjacent beaches of Nelsons, Blenheim, Greenfields and Chinamans. The trek was spectacular taking us through elements of forest, snow-white sands and azure seas. We even spied on two frolicking dolphins almost within touching distance.
By the time we finally reached Hyams, my brain could no longer distinguish between the colour of the sand - it all seemed ivory to me. But I'll take Guinness's word for it.
After dreaming about which rustic beach pad we would like to buy, we rewarded our exercise effort with something we could afford - a creamy milkshake from the Hyams Beach Store.
Dinner that night was in the bush. Actually, it was up in the trees at the acclaimed Gunyah Restaurant. This treetop dining room of the Paperbark Camp is situated outside Huskisson and boasts a fusion of Afro-Aussie safari style.
With the high ceilings, wooden floors, classy wicker furniture, a bouquet of proteas and the doors opening into an expanse of forest, I was reminded of an upmarket bush lodge in South Africa, except for perhaps the cheeky possums that playfully tried to steal the apples from the ornamental fruit bowl.
Gary Fishwick swapped surfing for chefing, taking over the Gunyah kitchen in February 2005. And what a good thing he did, as he creates the tastiest food I've had in Australia. While the setting may have a hint of Africa, the cuisine was pure modern Australian with Gary making full use of the delicious local ingredients.
The triumph of the dinner was the tender linefish wrapped in paperbark, served with caramelised Jap pumpkin, grilled asparagus and some exotic-sounding aioli. Gary obviously didn't struggle to source this ingenious casing as the trees (with their trademark peeling skin) are dotted all around the camp. The kangaroo fillet (which has a gamey taste similar to ostrich) was succulently seared and served with bush tomato chutney and mountain pepperberry crème fraiche. After such a scrumptious meal, it would have been heaven to retire to one of the luxury tents. Oh well, next time.
To add some adventure to our weekend, we decided to take to the Jervis Bay waters on kayaks. If you're thinking of doing the same, then Jervis Bay Kayak (JBK) company are your best bet. They were professional, efficient and offer a half-day adventure that is suitable for all skill levels.
The water sports took place on the crystal clear waters of the Booderee National Park, an aboriginal word meaning Bay of Plenty. This 6 000ha plot lives up to its name, with an abundance of all kinds of nature, including birds, kangaroos, wallabies, aquatic animals and probably the best diving conditions in the area.
After a comprehensive introduction to kayaking and a safety demo from our guide, Matt, we put on our gear and clambered into our two-seater vessel.
The equipment was top notch and we even had a lycra canopy which stretched around our bodies to ensure that we were kept snugly water tight. What a pleasure in comparison to the kayaks we had taken out locally in Sydney where we returned soaking wet from all the splashing of the waves.
Another difference to paddling in the city harbour is that out there you have to compete with bustling boat traffic, including water-skiers and massive ferries. I know our lowly kayaks are supposed to have right of way but that's not going to help me when my boat's been sawn in half by a renegade speedster.
Out here in the reserve, it's all peace and tranquillity. The only sound that competes with your breathing is the plop of fishes into the water. It's invigorating paddling through such scenic terrain. And hard work too. So the break on a stretch of beach (pure white, of course) was welcoming. We munched on carrot cake and fruit and Matt even produced flasks of tea and coffee.
After a dip in the chilly water, we enjoyed another hour-and-a-half kayaking stint before arriving back on shore. Lugging the vessel back onto the van was probably the downer of the trip but in Australia, you get used to doing things for yourself.
Making our way back to Sydney, we detoured through the magnificent Kangaroo Valley with its green pastures and undulating mountain passes. Sadly though, the only kangaroo we saw en-route was dead alongside the road. If we had stopped at all the tempting places we passed by, it probably would have taken us another two days to reach the city. At least I know there'll be plenty to see when I return.
- For more information, visit www.jervisbaykayaks.com.au.
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