A trip around Twofold Bay, a vast expanse of blue, edged
Rosalind stopped keeping detailed records a few years ago, but she’s unequivocal about the increase in the number of whales swimming by. “When we started doing tours 30 years ago we’d take the boat out three days a week and every Saturday in October and November and have about 15 people on board. Now, we do daily trips in season and have about 60 people on board. The thrill of a close encounter is still there after all these years,” she says. As inconceivable as it seems now, in Eden whaling was a commercial activity from 1828 to the 1930s. You can discover the story of the whalers and Eden’s history at the Killer Whale Museum, which opened in 1931. Whaling here was a fact, but is thankfully no more since the International Whaling Commission voted on a moratorium on all commercial whaling in 1986, which Australia abides by. A visit to the museum during whale watching season is often interrupted by the wail of a siren, sounded whenever a whale is sighted. Everyone rushes to the viewing areas to gush and exclaim, standing transfixed by the antics of these creatures. Humpback and southern right whales are known to put on a bit of a show when they surface, rolling and crashing around in the water. It’s a spectacular sight. A trip around Twofold Bay, a vast expanse of blue, edged by native bush and theatrical cliffs, is a must. You’re following in the footsteps of Benjamin Boyd, an ambitious Scottish merchant banker who arrived in the colony of NSW in 1842. He became one of its largest landholders and selected the bay as a port for his pastoral, shipping and whaling interests. He planned a town, Boydtown, on the southern reaches of the bay, which he hoped would become Australia’s capital city. Boyd’s bold ambitions were never realised however, and he ended up losing everything, including his backers’ money. There’s a palpable sense of the unrealised dream at Boydtown, but the house that Boyd built, a ruin until it was rescued in the 1930s, has survived and is now the Seahorse Inn. His name also lives on in the 10,500-hectare Ben Boyd National Park that surrounds Eden, as well as Boyd’s Tower, which was used as a lookout by generations of whalers. This is a place of ceremony and hunting for the local Indigenous people, who believe orcas to be the incarnation of their ancestors. Historians suggest that Eden’s European hunters took their cue from the Aboriginal whalers who would co-operate with orcas, which took part in the whale hunt of their own volition so they could feed on the whale’s tongue. The story goes like this: a pod of orcas arrived in Eden every spring, recognised by whalers and townsfolk. Among them were Stranger, Humpy, Charlie, Montague and Tom. (It was Tom’s death in 1930 that prompted locals to establish the Killer Whale Museum; his skeleton is now on display there.) The orca would drive a passing whale into Twofold Bay to trap it there for whalers to spot. This relationship between orca and whaler has not been heard of anywhere else in the world. There’s much more to Eden, of course, especially if you’re keen on seafood. You won’t taste better oysters (Eden’s on the South Coast Oyster Trail), and there’s a new shop on Imlay Street, Southlands Fish Supplies, where you can buy fish that has come directly off the vessels that unload at Snug Cove Wharf. Stan Soroka smokes seafood, as well as meat, at Eden Smokehouse, which you’ll see on all the restaurant menus. There’s also no end of nature to absorb and plenty of opportunities to walk, snorkel, kayak or drive and take it all in. Once you’ve had your fill of windswept coastlines, rugged bushland and whaling history, head north to explore Pambula and Merimbula. Both towns have surf and family beaches as well as beachside cafés. You might even find your vocabulary becoming less constricted as you travel north, looking out over the rivers, lagoons, tidal flats and white sand beaches. The water is not only blue, but also turquoise, lapis, jade, citrine and even sapphire.
CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT Standing at 23 metres tall, Boyd's Tower was built by Benjamin Boyd and used as a lookout for whalers; Davidson Whaling Station is Australia’s longest operating shore-based whaling station; the beach surrounding the tiny 1890s station. FACING PAGE Eden's stunning Aslings Beach.