Aw, shucks: welcome to oyster country
The NSW South Coast is making a name for itself as prime rock oyster country with the launch of Narooma Rocks, a new tourism brand from the company that delivers the region’s flagship event, the Narooma Oyster Festival. The company plans to build on the success of the annual oyster festival, which attracts more than 5000 visitors each year, by delivering year-round events to drive food and oyster tourism and grow employment in the region.
“We are taking the best parts of the Narooma Oyster Festival and delivering these as bespoke events and immersive visitor experiences throughout the year,” says Narooma Rocks Chair, Cath Peachey. “We’re harnessing our natural assets – our world-class oysters, incredible local harvests, passionate producers, our rich Aboriginal cultural history and our landscape that makes this stretch of coastline unmistakably rock oyster country.”
For the love of local
Experiencing quality local produce is a major factor in holiday destination decision making, and this demand for quality local produce is what Narooma Rocks is hoping to tap into.
“Visitors are seeking more immersive, small-scale and interactive food experiences that encourage them to get hands-on, and also offer an opportunity to meet and engage with locals,” Peachey says. “We’ll be giving visitors the authentic food experiences they crave while educating them about oyster merroir [local conditions in which seafood is raised] and why NSW South Coast oysters are the best.”
Following the horrific year faced by NSW small businesses, with the COVID-19 pandemic on the back of last summer’s bushfires, the need for year-round tourism offerings is more important to local economies than ever before. Due to recent event bans, last year’s oyster festival did not go ahead as planned, and so the Narooma Rocks board used the down time to develop an event strategy with a tempting program of activities to promote Narooma, its regional neighbours and the South Coast oyster industry.
“The annual Narooma Oyster Festival will still be our flagship event, with plans for the 2021 festival well underway,” Peachey says. “However, one of the great lessons from the bushfires for summer tourism towns like Narooma is that we need to give people a reason to come all year round. We hope Narooma Rocks can play a role in contributing to that.”
The event strategy includes the Narooma Oyster Festival as the headline act alongside a seasonally-inspired destination dining series that will be launching early this year, which will hero local producers, regional harvests and Indigenous ingredients. The plan also involves a roving oyster bar that sells multi-estuary rock oyster tasting plates, and there are also aspirations to host a state food tourism conference.
A fresh start
NSW Farmers’ Oyster Committee Chair Todd Graham says the entire state’s oyster industry is coming out of one of the hardest years on record, and is now looking to 2021 for a fresh start by calling on oyster lovers to support local estuaries.
“It’s been a tough 12 months for oyster growers up and down the NSW coast,” Graham says. “Early in the year, the bushfires closed many oyster farms down. Then COVID-19 hit, halting face-to face hospitality which ordinarily accounts for the majority of oyster sales.
“The good news is that demand for our state’s beautiful oysters is now bouncing back, with more restaurants open and Australians appreciating local fresh produce more than ever.”
NSW is home to both the famous rock oyster and the Pacific oyster. Graham advises that people should always buy oysters from reputable retailers and avoid black market seafood.
“This will ensure the oysters you buy are certified safe through our stringent quality assurance programs,” he says.
To find out more about Narooma Rocks, head to naroomarocks.com. Tickets for the 2021 Narooma Oyster Festival are also on sale now from naroomaoysterfestival.com. To find Australian oyster retailers near you, use the fish finder at greataustralianseafood.com.au or head to nswoysters.com.au