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Gerringong is a town on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. It's less than two hours' drive south of Sydney. It's maybe ten minutes' drive north of Gerroa, a smaller town whose chief claim to fame is that it lies on Seven Mile Beach. There are quite a lot of Seven Mile Beaches in the world, but this one is easily as long as the name suggests, curves around gradually so that a distant hazy line of yellow is visible across the water from the start of the beach, and was chosen as a runway by Charles Kingsford Smith when he decided to fly to New Zealand in 1933. Seven Mile Beach is an excellent place to walk (endless very fine sand), a good place to learn to windsurf (bugger-all waves), and a lousy place to surf (bugger-all waves). If swimming there, beware L-plate windsurfers. They may not yet know how to turn.

Getting back to the subject - Gerringong's own strip of sand is called Werri Beach. It's quite picturesque, but is well known for dangerous rips and unpredictable topology beneath the waves. Brave surfers can have fun near the rocks at the south end; wussy geeks like me just walk on the (coarse and adhesive) sand.

I have a great affection for Gerringong, because my family used to have a house there, and we went there for many holidays. My mother did much of her growing up there. When they built the house (it's a two storey breeze block and weatherboard affair that looks vaguely nautical, has several shortcomings, but is perfectly wonderful as far as I'm concerned), Gerringong was a one-horse town. A photo from 1968 shows nothing between our house and Werri (a ten minute walk away) but cow paddocks and a shed or two.

Nowadays, the view's interrupted by a lot of houses, a lawn bowls club, and an expansive caravan park (USA readers may substitute "trailer park", but it's really not the same thing; fewer tornadoes, more boogie boards). Central Gerringong now looks like a mildly laid-back and quirky Sydney suburb.

The air's still clean, though, you can still see the Milky Way at night, and you're never more than a short walk from a paddock with some sizeable animal or other in it.

The expansion of the town also means that you can now buy a good lunch that isn't fish and chips; there's an excellent vegetarian cafe attached to the surf shop, and a few other eateries besides. There's a decent supermarket now, as well.

Gerringong still shuts down after sundown, though. If you want to eat dinner in a restaurant, you have to drive a bit north to Kiama. Which is still pretty darn sleepy by Sydney standards, but has ISO Standard Quality Chinese and Italian Places.

I never noticed the town's after-dark coma when we used to go there for family holidays, because we never, ever, ate out. Which suited me fine. How could I play with my Lego in a restaurant?

I went with my girlfriend to Gerringong for a long weekend holiday a little while ago. She's a city chick who feels frankly uneasy when quality cappucino is not a one-cigarette walk away.

She loved Gerringong.

If you're holidaying in Australia, Gerringong is a good combination of rustic peace and civilised practicality. It's not an amazing, incredible tourist must-see; if you're only staying a week in NSW and want to get out of what Australians quaintly believe to be The Big Smoke, you should go somewhere else. Katoomba, for instance, is closer to Sydney than Gerringong is, and it's got mountains and stuff. My sister lives there, so it must be good.

If you've got a spare weekend, though, and want to be in a place where you can collect seashells and buy a tasty tofu-burger, you could do a lot worse than check Gerringong out.

Our old house is still there, too. It's on Wilson Avenue. See if you can pick which one it is.

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