Wheeler’s Oyster Farm Tour

Location:        162 Arthur Kaine Dr, Pambula NSW 2549
Telephone:     (02) 6495 6330
Website:         http://www.wheelersoysters.com.au

Wheeler’s Oyster Farm has been operating in the coastal town of Merimbula since the early 1900s. I happened upon their Oyster Farm Tour when I stopped for dinner at the Wheeler’s Seafood Restaurant and saw a sign advertising it.

It turns out that the farm is vertically integrated with the restaurant. The oyster-sorting site is literally across the road from the dining hall – talk about fresh oysters! So of course, I came back the next morning to check out the tour.

Tours run daily at 10am and require a minimum of four participants to run. The tour starts at the small seafood and memorabilia shop located at the back of the restaurant. Yes, seafood and coastal town memorabilia – what a combo.

We met one of the wonderful oyster farmers at the shop where he talked us through what we would be seeing and showed us a short video on the life cycle of an oyster. I had no idea how oysters were reproduced or farmed, so this was very insightful and educational for me.

After the video, we got taken to the productions site where the farmer took us through the farming process. It turns out that farming used to be done using wooden slats, which were prone to rotting in salty waters. Nowadays this farm is using plastic slats that seem to be a lot less labour intensive.

So here’s some information that blew my little mind: it takes approximately four months before the oyster spats are visible and around three to four years for the oysters to be at a size ready for market. Other types of oysters can take less time but not these little Merimbulan (let’s make that a word) beauties.

Merimbula oysters are quite a bit smaller than pacific oysters, but are oh so tasty. These little pearls are juicy, sweet, and have a fantastic clean after taste. During our tour we were shown how the oysters are graded based on size, and packed up ready for the fish markets. We also got shown how the oysters are shucked for the restaurant – and then we got to sample some freshly shucked oysters. I had never had an oyster shucked then and there in front of me and now I can never go back. It was perfect.

At the conclusion of the tour we were taken to the restaurant to try a few more oysters. The serving styles were Kilpatrick, mornay, Napoli, and fresh. My favourite was the fresh oyster followed by the Kilpatrick; I didn’t like the oysters served with mornay and Napoli sauce – the sauces just diminish the beautiful taste of the fresh oysters.

I wasn’t a major fan of the taste of oysters before this tour. However, eating oysters this fresh has converted me and possibly spoilt me from eating oysters that are not freshly shucked. If you’re in the area, I recommend taking 45 minutes to give this tour a go. It’s educational, interesting, and you get some fresh oysters to eat – what’s not to like?

-Ashanie Perera

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