The 17th Narooma Oyster Festival was a celebration of oysters and NSW’s vibrant culinary scene. Set against the backdrop of Wagonga Inlet in regional NSW, this year’s festival was a fun gathering of oyster farmers, champion shuckers, seafood enthusiasts, industry experts, chefs, foodies and oyster lovers from all walks of life. With more than 63,000 farmed oysters eaten at the 2024 festival, the festival was a success despite the heavy grey skies.

As a premium partner of the Narooma Oyster Festival, we were thrilled to again sponsor Australia's Biggest Oyster Competition and Australia’s Oyster Shucking Championships. We were also involved in several other activations throughout the festival which we recap in this blog.  

Australia’s Biggest Oyster Competition Sponsored by Australia's Oyster Coast

From the moment the giant ‘pet’ oysters began arriving at the main stage with their oyster farmers, the air was filled with ‘oh-ahhs’ and ‘wows’. This unique competition began in 2019 after the festival’s first attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records for what was believed to be the World’s Biggest Oyster.

Weighing in at 3.01kg, Jill from the Clyde River was crowned Australia’s Biggest Oyster for 2024. at the Narooma Oyster Festival on Saturday, May 4. Jill is not only the biggest in Australia but also the heaviest oyster in the world—a title her owners, Bernie and Sharryn Connell, along with the festival organisers, are working to make official with the Guinness Book of Records.

While the event is filled with fun and camaraderie, the testing is rigorous. Pip Boyton, our General Manager Marine Operations, ensured that all entries were single oysters with no smaller oysters or marine growth attached.

Dr. Kate LeBars from Montague Vets checked each oyster’s health and vitality, using her stethoscope and administering the ‘sniff’ test to confirm they were live and healthy.

Australia’s Oyster Shucking Championships Sponsored by Australia's Oyster Coast

The Australia’s Oyster Shucking Championships is a race like no other. Beyond the national title, the winner earns an invitation to the World Oyster Opening Championships in Ireland this September!

Shuckers must demonstrate both speed and precision in their presentation. Oysters must be presented in the bottom shell, flipped, and with the adductor muscle cut. Once all oysters are shucked and the clocks stop, judges inspect each one. Time penalties are added if the oyster isn't neatly positioned, isn't flipped, or has shell grit inside the shell.

Congratulations to Gerard (Doody) Dennis who retained his national title with back-to-back wins. Doody will represent Australia in the World Oyster Opening Championships at Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival in September.

2nd Place: Graeme “Rushy” Rush – Pinnacle Oysters, Burril Lake.

3rd Place: Greg Carton of Broadwater Oysters, Pambula Lake.

Congrats to Sue McIntyre of Broadwater Oysters who won the women’s final.

2nd Place: Sally McLean – Jim’s Wild Oysters, Greenwell Point.

3rd Place: Jade Norris – Oyster Shed on Wray Street, Clyde River.

Oyster Farmers’ Alley

Oysters, oysters, and more oysters. Oyster Farmers' Alley was a bustling marketplace of oyster farmers representing 10 different NSW estuaries. It was all about oysters and Yarra Valley Caviar at the Australia's Oyster Coast stand this year, with punters having the opportunity to taste a variety of our premium Rock Oysters, Pacific Oysters, and Angasi Oysters topped with premium Australian caviar.

Sunset Social with Appellation Oysters

Friday night’s Sunset Social replaced the Long Table Dinner this year. We were asked to host an oyster station at this premium twilight activation run by Merivale that celebrated fine foods in a fine waterfront location.

Thanks to the team from Oyster Experience by Harley and John’s Seafood for running this Appellation Oysters activation for us. They were joined by brands Mumm Terroir, Merivale and Bodalla Dairy.

Rock Oyster Lounge with Appellation Oysters

Located close to the heart of the action, the VIP Lounge offered punters a prime location to enjoy special tastings throughout the day and exclusive access to a waterfront lawn, a cozy indoor area, a private bar, and live music.

This year, the exceptional team from Oyster Experience by Harley and John’s Seafood delivered a fantastic Appellation Oysters branded oyster bar showcasing the freshest Rock Oysters from the NSW south coast. The North of Eden gin tastings were a cool feature in the VIP Lounge this year. We personally loved their iconic Oyster Shell Gin, an exciting combination of oyster shells, saltbush, citrus and spice.

The Ultimate Oyster Experience

This is a transformative tasting experience with the best of the best – the gold medal winning Rock Oysters from the 2024 Sydney Royal Fine Food Show Aquaculture Competition. The lineup was exciting and featured oysters from Wapengo, Nelson Lagoon, Pambula and our very own double gold-medal-winning Wallis Lake Appellation Oysters.

This opportunity is like a dive deep into the world of oysters and merroir with leading Australian seafood authority John Susman, Sydney Royal Aquaculture Chair of Judges and lauded oyster farmer Warwick Anderson, board member for Australia’s Oyster Coast. Participants enjoyed a guided tasting of Rock, Pacific and Angasi oyster gastronomy and gained an appreciation for the importance of freshly shucked oysters – a life skill we believe everyone should have!

Champagne and Oyster Pairing Masterclass with Appellation Oysters

A special highlight this year was a brand new addition to the festival program – the Champagne and Oyster Pairing Masterclass with John Nobel from the Australian Champagne Bureau and Warwick Anderson from Appellation Oysters. The masterclass was a journey through France's hallowed Champagne vineyards and NSW’s Rock Oyster country. It was about discovering the synergistic umami between Champagne and oysters and learning more about terroir and merroir. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many noting the distinct flavours and superior quality that set Appellation Oysters apart.

Cooking Demonstrations

Another festival highlight was the series of live cooking demonstrations by renowned chefs. They presented innovative recipes that showcased the versatility and rich flavours of oysters. From traditional pairings to modern culinary creations, each dish celebrated the oyster’s natural beauty and taste. The lineup of chefs included: Courtney Roulston from Farm to Fork, Hao Chen from Raku, Serif Kaya from The Ottoman, Elodie Marion from Mimi’s and Belinda Dorsett from The Mossy Café.

We were proud to provide the oysters for these cooking demonstrations, for the festival oyster bar and Champagne Cruises.

Connecting with the Community

The Narooma Oyster Festival is more than just a celebration of oysters; it’s a celebration of our oyster farming community, and is an opportunity for us to connect with fellow oyster farmers, seafood agents, processors, chefs, and consumers.

We thank our VIP Trade Famil guests and the Merivale Media Famil guests for joining us on the weekend and we loved being able to take you on exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of our Wagonga oyster leases.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in the festival – from the festival organisers Narooma Rocks and volunteers to the visitors and fellow oyster farmers and stallholders. Your support and passion are what make this festival so fun! Here’s to many more celebrations of the incredible world of oysters!

Follow our blog to stay connected with Australia’s Oyster Coast for updates on future events, new products, and insights into the world of oyster farming.

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