Austinmer And Thirroul With Dominique Brammah

Summer might be over, but we’re still dreaming of coastal getaways!

We’ve got an enticing one to share with you for our latest Travel feature – by Arent & Pyke interior designer, Dominique Brammah.

Taking some time out of her maternity leave, the former Sydney commuter and then mother-to be (now mum to newborn Freddie!) took us along to explore her favourite spots in her home of Austinmer and nearby Thirroul, where the mountains meet the sea, 70 kilometres south of Sydney.

Dominique Brammah

Where the mountains meet the sea, as seen from Sublime Point. Photo – Nikki To.

Dominique Brammah
10th of April 2018

We made the move down to ‘Austi’ in October 2016, but we were still yo-yo between our apartment in Bondi, which we were Airbnb-ing out and the in-laws’. We have been really settled here for about one year now. My partner was offered a job down in Bowral so we drew a line between there and the Arent & Pyke studio on the coastal train line and we ended up in here!

We really haven’t looked back! Until maternity leave, I had been commuting up to Sydney three to four days a week and then working from home where possible. It’s an easy hour on the train – perfect time to devour a great book. Living in Sydney, we had really busy lives and it does feel like we have turned the volume down since moving here. The pace is so very relaxed and there is a lovely sense of community where neighbours chat over the fence and kids ride bikes until twilight.

I grew up in the Sutherland Shire, so the Coal Coast was always somewhere I went as a kid, as well as in my late teens when we all wanted to take our crappy first cars for a spin along the coastal road!

The beauty of this area for me is still the drama of the landscape. The little towns snake their way down, bound on one side by the vast ocean and on the other by the incredible scale of the Illawarra Escarpment ledge, It makes you feel so small beside it.

As the weather cools down the mist tends to sit over the steep slope. It is considerably colder and windy down here in the winter so it’s a great time to cuddle up and keep warm beside the moody grey of the ocean or the misty green plateau.

On the other hand, summer down here is pretty special too. There is almost always a coastal breeze and the temperatures remain lower than Sydney even on the hottest of days. The beaches are sparkling, the iced lattes are flowing, and it feels like you are on holidays every day.

It’s a challenging hike tells Dom! Photo – Nikki To.

The 45-minute trek leads you through through thick bushland and dense Cabbage Tree palms. Photo – Nikki To.

The view from the top out over Austinmer. Photo – Nikki To.

Activity · Sublime Point Walk

My favourite activity would have to be to walk up Sublime Point, which offers an unforgettable view of the whole Coal Coast.

Let me warn you, the track is a challenging up-hill trek from the bottom of the escarpment, through thick bushland and dense Cabbage Tree palms, to the top. Right near the highest point there is a rock face where you can climb up a series of ladders – it’s a real rush! And of course, at the top you are rewarded!

661 Princes Hwy, Maddens Plains, NSW

Before my pregnancy, you would have found me at the Point pretty often! If you prefer something less intense, the beaches are by far the most heavenly part of the Coal Coast. You can take a swim at one of the many beaches and can look back up at the escarpment. There is this tiny sliver of land full of pretty houses, nestled between the cliff and sea – its magic! There are also some incredible ocean pools and don’t miss a walk or drive across Seacliff Bridge, which really announces the start of the Coal Coast.

If it’s more of an inside day or after dark, head to Anita’s Theatre. Built in 1925, the beautiful building hosts a bunch of events over the year from music to comedy to film.

Moore Street General in Austinmer. Photo – Nikki To.

The general is Dom’s pick for a wholesome, homey brunch. Photo – Nikki To.

Everything is served on locally-made bread! Photo – Nikki To.

This cafe is a gorgeous space,’ tells Dom. Photo – Nikki To.

The interior designer often goes for their daily muffin! Photo – Nikki To.

Our tour guide Dominique “Dom” Brammah. Photo – Nikki To.

Moore street features old miners cottages and beautiful old shop buildings. Photo – Nikki To.

Eatery · Moore Street General

Moore Street is the most gorgeous street of old miners cottages and beautiful old shop buildings. Occupying one, is the namesake General.

This cafe is a gorgeous space and the food is homey, honest and lovely. They do a daily muffin which is always incredible and anything is served on locally-made bread!

38 Moore St, Austinmer NSW

Finbox is a Thirroul institution. Photo – Nikki To.

The boardstore also sells art. Pictured here: works by Nick Santoro. Photo – Nikki To.

And has awesome coffee, in case you’re in need of another (after the drive and that Point hike!) Photo – Nikki To.

Brunch round two for Dom (and yet-to-be-born Freddie). Photo – Nikki To.

Boards and surfwear in store. Photo – Nikki To.

‘They really do make the best coffee!’ tells Dom. Photo – Nikki To.

Finbox mural. Photo – Nikki To.

The Coal Coast look – on rack and in-situ. Photo – Nikki To.

Store · Finbox Boardstore

When in Thirroul, you must stop by Finbox. A surf shop/coffee spot, it is really a bit of an institution down here! I can attest, they really do make the best coffee!

269 Lawrence Hargrave Dr, Thirroul NSW

Some of my other favourite shopping offerings include Retro Wombat, which is my go-to for the occasional gem of a find! It’s an Aladdin’s cave… I once picked up a set of six Cesca chairs for $15 each! The locals’ tip is all the good stuff is on the front lawn, so a drive-by is enough to know when you need to make a stop-off.

I’d also recommend Flame Tree Co-Op, a local food cooperative that stocks a bunch of local produce, organic and bulk products – so gorgeous and great to support, as well as Luca Luna for flowers and plants.

There is also a gorgeous row of 1970s red-brick shops in Thirroul: (a record shop, beautician and… a shop for rent!). They all have a little white awning over the front door and are by far the prettiest, maybe dropping by will inspire some sea-change conspiring!

Thirroul Beach Motel, just waiting to be Instagramed! Photo – Nikki To.

The beauty of this area for me is still the drama of the landscape,’ says Dom. Photo – Nikki To.

The ‘retro-tastic’ motel is located within walking distance to the train and buses, plus the village and beach! Photo – Nikki To.

Stay · Thirroul Beach Motel

This motel is so retro-tastic! Inside, the rooms have been comfortably renovated. Located within walking distance to the train and buses, you’ve got the surf, sand, and bush close by to keep the whole family happy.

The Beach Motel is such a great base for a weekend by the sea. And, as you can see, just waiting to be Instagrammed!

222-226 Lawrence Hargrave Dr, Thirroul NSW

A pretty little space, serving fancy seafood: South Sailor. Photo – Nikki To.

It occupies the site of Jim’s Fish Café, which dated back to 1946. Photo – Nikki To.

South Sailor Pale Ale is on tap. Photo – Nikki To.

Inside the fish bar and garden. Photo – Nikki To.

The menu offers seafood share-plates cooked to order and classic chip-shop fare. Photo – Nikki To.

You’ll also find some exotic flavours at the in-house Sushi & Poke bar. Photo – Nikki To.

Dominique Brammah
10th of April 2018

Dine · South Sailor

Nearby Thirroul Beach Motel, you’ll find South Sailor, a newbie restaurant in a pretty little space, serving fancy seafood.

Occupying the site of Jim’s Fish Café, which dated back to 1946(!) under Head Chef Graham Ette it continues to serve up tasty fresh, local seafood. The menu offers seafood share-plates cooked to order, classic chip-shop fare, and more exotic flavours from the in-house Sushi & Poke bar. The wine list is extensive, there’s beers and ciders from the south coast and Australia as well as their own South Sailor Pale Ale on tap.

216-218 Lawrence Hargrave Dr, Thirroul NSW

A close second is Jose Jones next door, which is great for a bowl of chips and a cold beer. This place has such a great vibe!

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