Bright, beautiful and bucolic, the town of Berry could have been built by a movie director wanting to create an idyllic and historic country setting.
In the real-life Berry story, locals stroll along its picturesque main street, some clad in moleskins and RM Williams, nodding at neighbours as they make their rounds to the butcher, the boutique bakery and any number of clothes and homeware shops.
I know this, as I’ve accompanied Berry friends on their Saturday morning walks and have been amazed at the number of people they stop and chat to, asking after camellias and arranging get-togethers at their country homes. I’ve visited the little South Coast town a dozen times in recent years, watching the country capers and driven back to Sydney with more than a touch of envy for my mates who made the change.
Berry is blessed: it sits in rolling green hills that only lush dairy country can manifest, a stone’s throw from the coast and within an easy drive of six wineries. An interesting community of artists, actors, hobby farmers, providores, garden-lovers and a clutch of well-heeled retirees from Sydney mix with folk that have lived in this pretty patch of the Shoalhaven for generations.
Berry’s main street — a short section of the Princes Hwy known as Queen St — must hold some sort of record for the biggest concentration of antique, home- ware, craft and gift shops in NSW. Only a person who is tired of shopping (with apologies to Samuel Johnson) would fail to be drawn into Bedroom Bliss or Bountiful Of Berry for a look; I never fail to return to Sydney without a trinket or two.
While homewares are everywhere, there’s also a profusion of food shops, which are loved by the locals and are day-tripper perfect, especially if you have kids in tow. Continuing the alliterative theme is The Berry Bon Bon, a sweet shop that has everything from Belgian chocolate and fudge to Rocky Road made daily on the premises, lollipops and old- fashioned musk sticks. And in the enticing Old Creamery Lane complex (a precinct dating back to 1895) is The Treat Factory, which makes its chocolate in an old dairy and sells an array of sauces, chutneys, tapenades and lollies including cobbers.
A real favourite with locals is the Berry Woodfired Sourdough Bakery, off the main drag in Prince Alfred St. The loaves are hand-crafted (no moulding machines here) and baked in a brick oven in a restored building that was the town’s original bakery.
Berry, however, is not all about food, touristy teashops and scatter cushions. The scenery, particularly on a spring day, is picture book perfect, even though it’s a real working landscape. You need only drive a kilometre out of town to be struck by the beauty of verdant fields dotted with daisies and cows dozing under trees near babbling brooks, horses in fields, hills — many planted with vines these days — and the disused white concrete silos topped with red roofs that date back 80 years or more and were used by dairy farmers to store cattle feed in winter.
For an unforgettable view over the entire Shoalhaven region and the ocean, take the 15 minute drive up to the top of Woodhill Mountain Rd, park the car and then set out on a sometimes steep, 90-minute round-trip walk to Drawing Room Rocks. Towering 600m above sea level, the “rocks” are huge chunks of the sandstone escarpment that have been shaped into amazing tables and chair formations by centuries, nay eons, of winds. If it’s not too blowy, you can sit on the stone chairs, some positioned precariously close to the edge, and eat a packed lunch for a picnic with a difference.