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In it's 17th year, the not-for-profit festival delivered $3.4 million into the local economy and provided a platform to showcase NSW’s own native seafood - the Rock Oyster - to key markets in Sydney, Canberra and regional NSW.

It’s hard to fathom what 60,000 oysters look like, or a media reach of 4 billion, but there’s no doubt about the tangible benefits this brings to Eurobodalla during the Narooma Oyster Festival weekend.

In a tough economic climate the not-for-profit festival delivered $3.4 million into the local economy and provided a platform to showcase NSW’s own native seafood – the Rock Oyster – to key markets in Sydney, Canberra and regional NSW.

Oyster lovers responded in droves, with 9500 attendees quaffing 60,000 oysters during the festival’s 16 hours and filling seven premium experiences. Festival stallholders showcased some of the best produce and beverages of the region and reported bumper sales.

Outside the gates, an additional $700,000 was spent on food, tours and retail in Narooma over the festival weekend. Accommodation providers benefited from an extra night’s stay on 2022 figures, with most visitors booking four nights and bucking the state-wide average of three nights.

In line with regional tourism goals, the majority of visitors travelled to Narooma from outside the region (82%), mainly from Sydney, Canberra, Illawarra and Shoalhaven. Sixty percent of those were first time festival goers with 98% reporting they would recommend the festival to others.

Cath Peachey, Chair of Narooma Rocks, the organisation behind the festival praised the generosity of the sponsors, community and 150 volunteers who support the festival.

“Delivering Southern NSW’s largest food and beverage event in a small town with little hard infrastructure is not for the faint hearted,” she said.

“Ticket prices cover about a third of the costs of putting the event on, so we rely on the support of sponsors, government funding and volunteers to get us over the line and keep prices at the gate as low as possible.”

“These results make it all worthwhile and prove just how important this festival is to Eurobodalla.”

“The economic benefits are delivered right when we need them as we head into the quieter winter period and the media coverage, an incredible 4 billion this year, helps to raise awareness that our region is a year-round destination with much to offer.”

Ms Peachey said the festival is also a driver for the development and promotion of new food experiences and products. This year that included bookable shucking lessons with Broadwater Oysters from Pambula Lake, promotion of new tours with Out of the Blue Oysters and Nar-oo-ma Aboriginal Cultural Tours, barnacle encrusted marine aged wine with Borrowed Cuttings, native foods and the Yuin Cultural Program and a swathe of new recipes from smoked oyster pates to rock oyster po’boys from New Orleans.

A collaboration with Eurobodalla Council also saw 800kg of oyster shells saved from landfill, with many of them included in an installation by First Nations artist Megan Cope to celebrate the Sydney Opera House’s 50th anniversary in September.

“Oyster farmers are a truly innovative group of people, and that mindset goes beyond growing techniques and estuary care to thinking of new ways for people to experience oysters.”

“Oyster Farmers Alley, the producers market and our premium experiences provide a great place for them to test those new ideas and products beyond the farm gate directly to an engaged regional, interstate and increasingly international audience.”

Ms Peachey said that the audience includes celebrated chefs, national media and representatives from the food and beverage industry, many who return year after year.

“We are so lucky to have support from some of the biggest names in the food and beverage industry,” she said.

“They absolutely love coming to Narooma each year and invest their time and expertise in helping us to reach our goals, namely to showcase the NSW South Coast and to drive demand for the rock oyster, our bivalve superstar and NSW’s greatest native food.”

Narooma Rocks will now turn its focus to September’s World Oyster Opening Championships in Ireland, where the festival’s shucking champion Gerard ‘Doody’ Denis will compete on September 23. 

In a blistering tie-breaker shuck-off on the festival’s big day on May 6, Doody opened a record 40 oysters in 2.41 minutes to become the 2023 Australia’s Oyster Shucking Champion.

Ms Peachey will be there to cheer him on and progress a pitch to organisers to host the world championships in Narooma in the future.

“We are so proud to host the Australia’s Oyster Shucking Championships each year, and would love to bring the world cup to Narooma.”