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Guide to Australia's best-kept secrets

Any book that costs $125 has got to offer something special, but then the newly published Secrets of the South Coast, by photographer Tommy Salmon, isn't really a travel book at all, although it was inspired by Salmon's desire to show off the incredible landscapes of his native region.

15 Mar 2010





By Steve Meacham

Senior Features Writer, Sydney Morning Herald

Any book that costs $125 has got to offer somethingspecial, particularly a travel tome that has very few words, no list offavoured restaurants or hotels, no maps, no recommended sites or destinations,and not even any identifying information about the wonderful scenes of naturedepicted in the photographs.

But then the newly published Secrets of the South Coast,by photographer Tommy Salmon, isn't really a travel book at all, although itwas inspired by Salmon's desire to show off the incredible landscapes of hisnative region, so encouraging more visitors to explore it.

As Greg Barton, the editor of Australian Traveller,has written: "Tommy Salmon's impressive first book is essentially a massive,200-page pictorial love letter to one of his favourite surfing playgrounds, theNSW South Coast."

Salmon, 26, was born on the southern coast of NSW and nowlives in one of the most beautiful towns on that coast, Kiama. Having trainedand worked in Sydney, he is a freelance photographer specialising inlandscapes. These days he spends six months of the year on the road: the day wespoke he was driving through rural Queensland, having completed a shoot for apopular 4WD magazine.

The Secrets project began six years ago when Salmon spentseven days doing Tasmania's celebrated Cradle Mountain trek.

Not only did it inspire Salmon's love of bush walking; italso convinced him that the section of the Australian coast from the RoyalNational Park down to the Victorian border is arguably one of the mostunderrated in the country.

So he set off to find the region's most spectacularimages. Some of the features (I presume) are actually well-known touristdestinations. I would be surprised, for example, if Kiama's famous blowholeisn't among them.

But the photos are virtually unrecognisable, becauseSalmon has shot them from unusual angles - often from the sea in a kayak amongthe foaming waves, or beneath a rock overflow after a paddle up a river, or amountain range after a trek of several days.

That's not all. With his friend and co-author, writerShaun Whale, Salmon has put up a $10,000 prize to the first person whodiscovers all 50 locations within six months of the book's publication.

"I was sitting at my brother-in-law's place, having abeer," Salmon recalls. "And I was saying that I didn't think anyone wouldactually guess the correct locations.

"There's a lot of my mates who like to think they knoweverywhere on the South Coast. I just wanted to show to the people who livehere that there's a lot to explore, a lot they have never seen.

"Then my brother-in-law said, ‘If you're really thatconfident, you should put up a $10,000 prize.' I thought it was a great idea."

Not that he thinks there is much chance of having to coughup the money. "Most of the sites are accessible by the general public, but somewere shot on private property. Only my friends and family know where I went -and they are not allowed to enter."

Assuming that no-one does identify the sites in theallotted time, Salmon and Whale (and what are the chances of those surnames asco-authors?) will publish an online "South Coast treasure map", pointing outhow people can see each of the sites on public land for themselves.

As Barton put it, the structure of the oversized coffeetable book is full of coded visual and written clues to let readers deciphereach mystery for themselves.

"It's an engaging approach that will surely make this thebest promotional tool to come out of the region in some years. It's a gorgeousbook ... it elicits an immediate ‘wow-factor' response that cannot be denied."

As for Salmon and Whale, they say that "the South Coastabounds with magical beaches and unspoilt landscapes. It's a place where youdon't have to look too far off the beaten track to uncover some of thecountry's best-kept natural secrets.

"From white sandy beaches and perfect surf breaks to lushrainforests and untamed mountains, the South Coast is guaranteed to ignite yoursense of adventure and open up a new world of discovery.

"We hope that the images will inspire you to take the timeto explore the many wonderlands of the South Coast that are yearning to bediscovered. It's pretty hard to believe when you are the only person standingon an unspoilt white-sand beach with not another soul in sight that you're onlya couple of hours' drive from a capital city.

"Put on your hiking boots and head outdoors to do someexploring of your own."

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Published: 15 Mar 2010