ESTUARIES

Australia’s Oyster Coast comprises 13 oyster-growing estuaries. Each estuary is a unique ecosystem producing world-class oysters of different taste and appeal:

AOC OWNED OYSTER FARMS

Hastings

Rising in the Great Dividing Range, the Hastings River flows through the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and Werrikimbe National Park. It is joined by seven tributaries before reaching Port Macquarie, 180km later at its mouth. Limeburners Creek is a contributing tributary, offering a pristine environment, which is reflected in its oysters’ individuality. The high water volume and elevated nutrient concentrations within the local ecosystem produce high levels of naturally occurring zinc trace elements. With a mix of mangroves, seagrass and silty, muddy seabed produces oysters with a mineral finish and full creamy texture (from their bulky glycogen storage) with a swoosh of umami and mild brininess. 

Wallis Lake

The crystal clear waters of Wallis Lake is a magnificent body of water measuring 25km long and 9km wide and is fed by four rivers: the Wallamba, Wallingat, Coolongolook and Wang Wauk. A man-made, open and trained wave dominated estuary with farming dating back to 1900, it produces approximately 40% of NSW’s Rock Oysters; the largest production on the east coast. A big expanse of water, there are two areas the front of the lake is highly influenced by an oceanic water source with granular, pebbly and sandy seabed that produces an oyster with low umami and a big beautiful brininess. The back of the lake is influenced from the rich nutrients in the freshwater, and combined with the muddy and silty seabed it produces a Rock Oyster that is higher in umami and more mild in brine. However, its oysters do have a common crisp texture and creamy vegetal flavour. 

Shoalhaven

At the northern gateway to Australia’s Oyster Coast, the Shoalhaven and Crookhaven rivers make their way from high in the Great Dividing Range to the sea near Nowra, 160 kilometres south of Sydney. The rivers meet at Greenwell Point, just to east of Nowra. As the sixth largest coastal catchment in New South Wales, these rivers have an extensive estuary system with large areas of significant wetlands. Succulent oysters have been farmed here for more than a century. Today’s AOC growers are committed to rigorous environmental management systems. Protecting these estuaries will ensure their industry has a sustainable and healthy future. Estuary grown Pacific Oysters have a unique lingering sweetness, while local Rock Oysters are creamy in flavour. Both species can be sampled direct from some AOC growers along the riverbank at Greenwell Point. Located in the heart of a thriving region with fabulous food and fine wines, freshly harvested oysters can be enjoyed at many top restaurants nearby.

Wagonga

At the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast lies the beautiful Wagonga Inlet, an ancient drowned river-valley located near the popular coastal township of Narooma (350km south of Sydney). Aptly, Narooma comes from an Aboriginal word meaning clear blue waters. As a small catchment with low freshwater inflows and a good tidal exchange, the inlet is relatively saline. This accounts for the estuary’s wide range of marine life, extensive seagrass beds and fish nursery areas. Wagonga Inlet has long been home to extensive oyster leases located in the bays along its densely forested banks. Local Rock oysters are said to be fresh and salty. Full favoured native Angassi oysters have also been reintroduced. Wagonga oysters grown by AOC farmers can be tasted at the farm gate and feature on the menu in leading Narooma restaurants. These delicacies take centre stage at the Narooma Oyster Festival – held every year in early May. Narooma has a bustling waterfront, with famed Montague Island and whale watching just offshore.

Merimbula

Merimbula Lake is a permanently open coastal lake on the NSW Far South Coast located 455km south of Sydney. Formed at the end of the last ice age, this tidal lake has a natural entrance and large marine delta that opens into the main basin. Today, Merimbula is a tourist hub that boasts a lively wharf, lakeside boardwalks and eateries. The township is serviced by daily flights from Sydney and Melbourne. Oyster farming has long played an important role in the town’s economy. The lake’s award-winning oysters are famed for their excellent quality and flavour. The flavour of Merimbula’s famed Rock Oysters mirrors the healthy ocean-fronting lake they are grown in. They tend to have a firm sweet creaminess with a salty quality, reflecting the lake’s flushing tidal flows. There can also be a hint of seaweed in the finish. Rare Angasi oysters are also produced here.  These have a full taste typically milder in saltiness than the Rock oyster, and is a rare treat normally sold in two grade sizes.

INDEPENDENT OYSTER FARMS

Wooli Wooli

The Wooli Wooli River has a narrow mouth to the ocean, is slender and runs close to the ocean, with moderate tidal movement this creates a funnelling effect of nutrients and algae through the oyster leases from the ocean. Much of the freshwater comes from the Coastal ranges, located approximately 9km west of the mouth of the river. The catchment topography ensures that freshwater meanders through the surrounding native bush reserves, marine vegetation including seagrass, mangroves, saltmarshes and macroalgaes collecting terrestrial nutrients and organic matter. The oyster leases are located where the oceanic water and freshwaters meet, mixing to create a high food concentration environment and moderate salinity.

Macleay

Macleay River is an open, wave dominated, barrier estuary. Located in the Northern Tablelands and mid north coast districts of New South Wales it draws its primary water source from the Great Dividing Range with the Gara River being the secondary source. The river is joined by some twenty-six tributaries including the Apsley, Chandler and Dyke rivers and coupled with nutrient rich surrounding native wetlands, conservation areas, mangrove and agriculture lands it helps provide a truly unique oyster growing environment. The silty and muddy seabed gifts the oysters their umami oomph and a more delicate brine and vegetal notes, and combined with the fact that the oysters are farmed only 500m from the river mouth to the Tasman Sea, and thereby taking advantage of tidal patterns, it delivers its renowned sweet and salty eating experience. 

Hastings

Rising in the Great Dividing Range, the Hastings River flows through the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and Werrikimbe National Park. It is joined by seven tributaries before reaching Port Macquarie, 180km later at its mouth. Limeburners Creek is a contributing tributary, offering
a pristine environment, which is reflected in its oysters’ individuality. The high water volume and elevated nutrient concentrations within the local ecosystem produce high levels of naturally occurring zinc trace elements. With a mix of mangroves, seagrass and silty, muddy seabed produces oysters with a mineral finish and full creamy texture (from their bulky glycogen storage) with a swoosh of umami and mild brininess. 

Wallis Lake

The crystal clear waters of Wallis Lake is a magnificent body of water measuring 25km long and 9km wide and is fed by four rivers: the Wallamba, Wallingat, Coolongolook and Wang Wauk. A man-made, open and trained wave dominated estuary with farming dating back to 1900, it produces approximately 40% of NSW’s Rock Oysters; the largest production on the east coast. A big expanse of water, there are two areas the front of the lake is highly influenced by
an oceanic water source with granular, pebbly and sandy seabed that produces an oyster with low umami and a big beautiful brininess. The back of the lake is influenced from
the rich nutrients in the freshwater, and combined with the muddy and silty seabed it produces a Rock Oyster that is higher in umami and more mild in brine. However, its oysters do have a common crisp texture and creamy vegetal flavour.

Port Stephens

Port Stephens is one of the largest expanses of water utilised for oyster farming in NSW, it is approximately 134 sqkm in surface area. A narrow mouth sits between two volcanic uprisings marks the southern headland, Tomaree or South Head, rises to 120 metres above mean sea level while Yacaaba, the northern headland, is 210 m. The Karuah River drains into Port Stephens at its north-western corner. The Myall River (through the Myall Lakes) drains into the port on its northern shore, about 5.7 km from the mouth. Twelve Mile Creek drains into the port's south-western corner. With several significant freshwater tributaries, moderate tidal movement and a surface area greater than Sydney Harbour the estuary is blessed with a broad and consistent ecological environment.

Shoalhaven River

At the northern gateway to Australia’s Oyster Coast, the Shoalhaven and Crookhaven rivers make their way from high in the Great Dividing Range to the sea near Nowra, 160 kilometres south of Sydney. The rivers meet at Greenwell Point, just to east of Nowra. As the sixth largest coastal catchment in New South Wales, these rivers have an extensive estuary system with large areas of significant wetlands. Succulent oysters have been farmed here for more than a century. Today’s AOC growers are committed to rigorous environmental management systems. Protecting these estuaries will ensure their industry has a sustainable and healthy future. Estuary grown Pacific Oysters have a unique lingering sweetness, while local Rock Oysters are creamy in flavour. Both species can be sampled direct from some AOC growers along the riverbank at Greenwell Point. Located in the heart of a thriving region with fabulous food and fine wines, freshly harvested oysters can be enjoyed at many top restaurants nearby.

Clyde River

Rising in rugged mountain ranges south of Sydney, the Clyde river system flows south through national parks and state forests into the Clyde Valley. The river then widens into a broad estuary before reaching the Pacific Ocean at the bustling coastal town of Batemans Bay. The Clyde waterway contains many significant wetland and seagrass areas and is recognised as a river of ‘High Conservation Value’. Fed by pure and nutrient-rich waters from its protected upper catchment, the fast-flowing Clyde River has long been famous for its premium oysters. Australia’s Oyster Coast farmers in the Clyde have switched to the more sustainable basket-farming system, which means better and more consistent oysters. Both Pacific and Sydney Rock oysters from the Clyde River – salty and sweet – are making their mark in high-end restaurants around Australia and are sought after in Asia.  These distinctive river-fed oysters can be sampled at the farm gate and star on the menus in many Batemans Bay restaurants.

Tuross

Tuross Lake is located on the south-coast of NSW, 325km south of Sydney and a short drive from Batemans Bay. The upper part of this huge river basin is nestled within a rugged, mountainous and heavily forested region, before flowing down through low-lying floodplains in the lower catchment. The Tuross Estuary, which is recognised for its ecological importance, is a haven for many protected and endangered wildlife species. Perched on a headland overlooking the twin lakes of Tuross and Coila, the picturesque Tuross coastal village is an idyllic hideaway that boasts abundant fishing, boating and recreational attractions. Oysters grown in the extensive lake system are protected from the ocean. With a rich flavour and unique taste that has been described as soft and fresh, Tuross oysters are plucked fresh from the lake and can be sampled at scenic waterside cafes and restaurants.

Wagonga

At the heart of Australia’s Oyster Coast lies the beautiful Wagonga Inlet, an ancient drowned river-valley located near the popular coastal township of Narooma (350km south of Sydney). Aptly, Narooma comes from an Aboriginal word meaning clear blue waters. As a small catchment with low freshwater inflows and a good tidal exchange, the inlet is relatively saline. This accounts for the estuary’s wide range of marine life, extensive seagrass beds and fish nursery areas. Wagonga Inlet has long been home to extensive oyster leases located in the bays along its densely forested banks. Local Rock oysters are said to be fresh and salty. Full favoured native Angassi oysters have also been reintroduced. Wagonga oysters grown by AOC farmers can be tasted at the farm gate and feature on the menu in leading Narooma restaurants. These delicacies take centre stage at the Narooma Oyster Festival – held every year in early May. Narooma has a bustling waterfront, with famed Montague Island and whale watching just offshore.

Wapengo

Located between on the spectacular coast road between Bermagui and Tathra (approximately 400km south of Sydney), Wapengo Lake is one of the most pristine estuaries in NSW. The pure waters that flow into the lake are filtered by the surrounding Mimosa Rocks National Park, state forests and salt marshes. Native rock oysters have grown here for thousands of years and have been farmed since the late 1880s. Wapengo usually has a large tidal exchange, allowing farmers to harvest directly from the lake. Award-winning oysters from Wapengo offer a rich taste experience that hints of minerals, salt and delicate creaminess. With a commitment to long-term sustainability and ecosystem protection, Wapengo oyster growers are modernising their growing techniques. Today, Wapengo is home to Australia’s first certified organic rock oyster farm.

Merimbula

Merimbula Lake is a permanently open coastal lake on the NSW Far South Coast located 455km south of Sydney. Formed at the end of the last ice age, this tidal lake has a natural entrance and large marine delta that opens into the main basin. Today, Merimbula is a tourist hub that boasts a lively wharf, lakeside boardwalks and eateries. The township is serviced by daily flights from Sydney and Melbourne. Oyster farming has long played an important role in the town’s economy. The lake’s award-winning oysters are famed for their excellent quality and flavour. The flavour of Merimbula’s famed Rock Oysters mirrors the healthy ocean-fronting lake they are grown in. They tend to have a firm sweet creaminess with a salty quality, reflecting the lake’s flushing tidal flows. There can also be a hint of seaweed in the finish. Rare Angasi oysters are also produced here.  These have a full taste typically milder in saltiness than the Rock oyster, and is a rare treat normally sold in two grade sizes.

Pambula

Pambula Lake, also known as Broadwater, is just south of Merimbula on the NSW Far South Coast. The lake has an open entrance in the lee of the Ben Boyd National Park, where there are plenty of tracks and secluded beaches to explore. The Pambula River floodplain was a rich source of food for the Thaua people of the Yuin nation for many thousands of years. Fresh water flows down the Pambula and Yowaka Rivers and meets with incoming tides from the Pacific Ocean. This daily exchange creates the clean, clear waters of the lake – perfect for growing the finest Sydney Rock Oysters. Oysters have been farmed here for over 100 years. Sydney Rock oysters from Pambula Lake have a smooth, subtle flavour, with earthy influences, echoing the pristine waters they thrive in. Local oyster farmers are committed to protecting the health of their estuary and conduct extensive water quality monitoring to ensure the highest quality product.

Wonboyn

Wonboyn Lake is the southern gateway to Australia’s Oyster Coast. This large and remote estuary system is located approximately 35km south of the historic whaling port of Eden at Twofold Bay and is not far from the NSW/Victorian border. With Ben Boyd National Park just to the north, the catchment is fringed by the Nadgee Wilderness Zone and extensive state forests. The lake itself is fed by the Wonboyn River and is fully tidal, running into the rolling surf via a narrow channel at Disaster Bay. Harvested from crystal clear waters in the heart of this untouched wilderness area, Wonbyn’s oysters are super creamy and fruity. From the tiny Wonboyn village, which is nestled in a bush setting, coastal walks lead to panoramic vistas and untouched beaches. Wonboyn Lake, its estuary and beaches were declared a recreational fishing haven by the NSW Government some years ago, putting the area off limits to commercial fishing.

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