New South Wales (NSW) is blessed with some of the best seafood hotspots in the country. If you’re anything like us, holidays wouldn’t be the same without fresh seafood straight from the waterways, enjoyed alfresco on sunny days with your preferred tipple. With our weather about to warm up, we’ve put together a list of must-visit coastal locations in NSW for seafood lovers just in time for your next holiday. Take a culinary journey with us to four of our favourite seafood travel destinations from Sydney’s famous fish market to the charming oyster farming town of Narooma.
The largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, set on the water at Pyrmont in Sydney, NSW, this iconic fish market is a seafood lovers paradise. Currently undergoing a $750 million development, due to be completed in 2024, it will become the biggest seafood market in the world. The new facility will include a public viewing area, more public space, more cafes, restaurants and dining options, specialty shops, boardwalks, a ferry pier, undercover parking and an interpretive centre.
The markets have a rich history firmly embedded in the immigration of Italian fishermen. Some of the most well known and beloved seafood retailers reflect this Mediterranean heritage with Italian names like Poulos, De Costi, Claudio's, Nicholas and Musemeci, who have all been serving up seafood for decades. Other vendors to explore are the Sushi Bar (one of our absolute faves – the sushi is amazing!) or dine in at The Boatshed for all day deliciousness – you can even enjoy prawn scramble, chilli crab omelette or lobster eggs benedict for breakie!
If you want to take your relationship with seafood a step further, you can’t go past the Sydney Seafood School where you can learn how to prepare your favourite food like an expert. Renowned chefs will teach you their trade secrets, you can learn how to prepare popular international dishes and cuisines such as Spanish Paella, Singapore Chili Mudcrab, Italian seafood risottos and pastas, even Mexican, Korean and Thai classes are available plus lots more. It’s a fabulously fun and delicious way to experience the markets with your family or friends or as a special treat for yourself.
Ninety percent of the Dawson’s oyster stock comes from this local haven – home to the Sydney Rock Oyster. But Port Stephens is known for much more than just delicious oysters. Fishing has been an integral part of life at Port Stephens since the Chinese fishermen first set up at Nelson Bay in the early 1800s. By the late 1800s the European fishermen moved in, with oyster farming taking off in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1950s when refrigeration became standard that the fishing industry really took off. Fun fact, the world’s first black marlin was caught with a rod and reel off Port Stephens in 1913 and game fishing has been a popular recreation there ever since.
If you’re keen to discover more about the fascinating history of the oyster farmers in this region we stock the book, Oysterman by John Clarke which details the last one hundred years of this fascinating industry. Another fabulous book available in store that highlights the culinary delights of this region is Port to Plate by Lynda Sloane. It celebrates the fishermen, oyster farmers and restaurateurs that turn the bounty of the port into some of the best quality dishes that you will find anywhere in the world.
Food trails and artisan produce provide the perfect fodder for a culinary journey to satiate the senses with produce such as tomatoes, avocados, macadamias, farm fresh barramundi, artisan beer and pastas, local lobster and good old-fashioned fish and chips fresh from the marina where the fishing boats dock. With some incredible restaurants (Rick Stein's at Bannisters is a must), coupled with pristine waters, gorgeous beaches and a laid back lifestyle it’s easy to see why this is such a popular holiday destination.
Venturing north, we arrive at Yamba, a charming fishing and surfing beach town located in the Northern Rivers region of NSW and once voted Best Town in Australia by Australian Traveller Magazine. Yamba is known for producing some of the best prawns in Australia, thanks to its proximity to the Clarence River.
Commercial fishing in the area began in the early 1800s and is now one of the largest and most diverse fishing industries in Australia. In addition to its famous Yamba King Prawns, the Yamba seafood industry also features ocean bugs, snapper, bream, flathead, shark, emperor, tuna, salmon, cod, school prawns and specialty products such as lobster, squid, clams and roe.
Don’t miss the Yamba Farmers and Producers Market located at the Whiting Beach Carpark every Wednesday. It acts as the agri-food tourism portal for the Clarence Valley region with a broad range of locally grown, hand crafted and wild gathered produce available to tempt your tastebuds. Follow that with a stroll along Coldstream Street in the village to explore a great range of restaurants with many of them featuring the seafood the area is renowned for. We’ve got a great connection to Yamba here at Dawson’s (aside from delicious prawns) – owners, mother daughter duo Lou and Hannah’s dad/grandfather was the captain of the surf club in his heyday!
Taking our journey to the south coast of NSW we come across Narooma, meaning ‘clear, blue water’ in the local indigenous language. This spectacular and picturesque seaside town is renowned for its oyster farming industry and its annual Narooma Oyster Festival held in May each year and attracting thousands of visitors to the region.
One of Eurobodalla’s most popular tourist destinations, it’s close to Barunguba Montague Island, the historic Tilba region well known for pure produce, bespoke arts and crafts and heritage architecture. There are also wineries, ale houses, dairy farms, marine life and of course, seafood.
Originally a cattle farming area, gold was discovered in the 1880s and timber became a major industry. By early in the 20th century, oyster farming had begun, and it became a popular holiday resort for boating, aquatic sports and big game fishing. Commercial fishing didn’t begin until the 1930s when a cannery opened on the Wagonga River.
The Narooma Oyster Festival aims to raise the profile of the Rock Oyster, which is indigenous to NSW and features Australia’s Oyster Shucking Championships, Australia’s Biggest Oyster and the Oyster Farmer’s Alley. Over 70,000 Rock Oysters are shucked and slurped at the festival each year. A visit to Narooma is not complete without taking one of the oyster farm tours that take visitors out to the oyster leases and educate them about how the industry works.