Oysters are valuable indicators of the purity of an aquatic environment because they filter and absorb their food directly from the water. The fact that multi award winning certified organic rock oysters are grown in Wapengo Lake is a sure sign that it is a wonderfully wholesome place to paddle.
|REGION||South Coast, NSW|
|START||Beach, Bithry Inlet picnic area, Haighs Road, Tanja|
|GPS||DMS: 36° 29′ 31.9″ S, 149° 44′ 28.0″ E
DD: -36.627194, 150.016333
|FINISH||Return to start|
|PARKING||Small parking area|
|CONDITIONS||Open areas, tidal, light traffic, shallow areas|
|FISHING||Blackfish, bream, flathead, garfish, mullet, whiting|
You don’t need to taste the oysters to appreciate the unspoiled nature of Wapengo Lake. One look at the clean golden sands and crystal clear water tells you everything you need to know. However if you are an oyster connoisseur you would be mad not to sample the wares of the Wapengo Rocks Wild Organic Oysters farm which occupies large parts of the lake. If the season is right you can usually grab a dozen or two from the processing centre at the water’s edge.
The Wapengo Rocks website explains that the water that flows into Wapengo Lake is filtered by the surrounding national parks, state forests and salt marshes. This is married with “the latest in sustainable aqua-culture techniques” to “offer the discerning consumer a taste experience that can be described as a unique combination of minerals, salt and delicate creaminess. The mouth feel lingers long after the oyster is gone.” Gourmet Traveller magazine concurs, saying that these oysters have “consistent soft marine-vegetable flavours” and “delicate poached-egg creaminess. These qualities have earned them awards at both the Far South Coast National Show and the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.
There are two places to launch into Wapengo Lake. The first is the beach adjacent to the Bithry Inlet picnic ground in the Mimosa Rocks National Park at the end of Haighs Road in Tanja. The second launch site is a grassy clearing next to the Wapengo Rocks processing centre on Wapengo Lake Road in Wapengo (GPS: 36° 36′ 15.3″ S, 150° 1′ 4.0″ E). Factors which may influence your decision about where to start may include the convenience of the toilets in the Bithry Inlet picnic ground or the excellent Picnic Point camping area which can be found at the end of Wapengo Lake Road.
Bithry Inlet is the name of the wave dominated ocean entrance to the lake. Tidal currents can be quite strong in this area so it is important to take extra care, particularly on an outgoing tide.
Wapengo Lake is a haven for pied oystercatchers which can be recognised by their black and white plumage and long bright red beaks. Surprisingly, oystercatchers don’t actually eat many oysters, preferring smaller molluscs, worms and crustaceans.
The lake may appear quite wide but shallow sandbars in the southern parts and oyster beds in the north mean that the path through is fairly well defined. The best bet is to paddle at high tide and follow the route shown on the map. There aren’t any published tide times for Wapengo Lake but the WillyWeather website has them for Picnic Point Beach which is a short distance away up the coast.
No Wapengo Lake adventure is complete without an exploration of Wapengo Creek. However a prevalence of oyster beds and sandbars at its entrance means that it isn’t that easy to access. The trick is to look for the boatshed on the western side of the lake and head for that. The channel is much more obvious from there.
It is generally possible to paddle up the creek as far as a low level wooden bridge which carries the Tathra-Bermagui Road overhead. If the tide is right you may even be able to progress a little further before the navigable limit tells you it is time to head for home.
“We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.” Jules Verne
|EAT||Mimosa Rocks Pizza, 61 Andy Poole Drive, Tathra, (02) 6494 1483|
|DRINK||Tathra Hotel, Bega Street, Tathra, (02) 6494 1101|
|SLEEP||Tathra Beachside, 41 Andy Poole Dr, Tathra, 1300 527 010|