Essentials Magazine farm visit
Having spent a few hours basking in the sun and learning to grade, shuck and suck back more than a few dozen of what we think are Australia’s best oysters. What could be better?
A little over 30 minutes south of Port Macquarie, on NSW’s mid-north coast sits the pristine waterway, estuary and river system of Camden Haven and Dunbogan. These twin tiny hamlets feature a mixture of residential plus holiday and retirement homes, most fronting the water with views also to Dooragan National Park’s North Brother Mountain just beyond Camden Haven Inlet. This nearby peak dominates the scenery with its impressive rainforest canopy to form the perfect backdrop to the foreground, where at Dunbogan a small Boat Shed café leads to a picturesque little jetty with a collection of recreational fishing boats moored close by. In this special part of Australia the warm slightly humid climate is moderated by coastal sea breezes. The sun sparkles reflections on the water as it softly shifts to the tide; we simply adore this place.
Dunbogan is also home to Rockin’ Oysters, a micro business that manages a collection of oyster growing leases: three along the adjacent Camden Haven River and Stingray Creek and two within Dunbogan’s Gogleys Lagoon. The location and water quality here is ideal as the National Park acts as a natural buffer zone from any possible pollutants or development – it can never be built out. Operating since 2010, Rockin’ Oysters grows premium oysters for local restaurants and also for the Sydney market during the summer holiday season.
The oysters are ‘direct harvest’, meaning they can be eaten straight from the water, retaining the natural brine flavour of the waterway. Owner James A. Wood explains that as oysters feed on nutrients which can differ depending on location, the oyster flavours can also vary. ‘There’s a site on the river upstream where there are sea grasses; these often add an iodine element to the taste; others with a mud base can develop brackish flavours, while another lease at the head of the river, where there’s a sandy bottom and the water is flushed daily with fresh sea water, allows the oysters to produce a fresher, more salty taste,’ says James.