As you make your way on NH66, the sudden change from the brown and amber hues of the rolling hills to the green palm-fringed coast, is both dramatic and welcoming. The alluring islands off the coast of Karwar make this part of the country a sought-after coastal destination. You’ll be spoilt for choice here be it feasting on freshly caught crabs, taking a snooze in a hammock under shady palms or watching dolphins frolic in the sea.
Perhaps you can head to the Rabindranath Tagore Beach to spend a few hours at the nucleus of the town’s social life. It was named after the great poet whose first play was written during his stay at Karwar. At the Naval Museum nearby, you can watch videos on naval ships and see the displayed models and photographs. Devbagh Beach, with its golden sands and delightful range of watersports, is a huge draw. On a good day, you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins while out on a sail. Though located 5km from Karwar, Binaga Beach lures enthusiasts with its Portuguese-era Our Lady of St Anne’s Church. Water sports is again a big lure with a good smattering of canoes, kayaks, and banana boats dotting the sea here.
If you’re more spiritually inclined, the Vithoba-Rakhumai Temple at Kajubagh is the place to be. The Dattatreya Temple at Baad, around a century old, still exudes an old-world charm and has a tranquil ambience. Meanwhile the Muralidhara Mutt at Kodi bagh has an 85-year-old structure, with a tiled roof, carved pillars and airy courtyards. A round trip to all these places is doable by auto.
When it comes to shopping, this city is a good place to buy fresh produce and nuts like cashews, often sold on the streets. Also, whole mango pickles are a Karwar speciality. The cuisine in Karwar is a mix of Maharashtrian and Goan styles and most dishes are bright red and spicy. Hotel Amrut on the Main Road is considered the best restaurant in town. The coastal cuisine on offer here, ranging from shellfish to pomfret, cooked using local spices, attracts a huge crowd. Don’t forget to try out the ‘lighthouse special’ ice-cream at Ashirwad Ice Refreshments on Kaikini Road.
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A walk across the Kali River Bridge during the early hours of the day is refreshing. Sadashivgad Hill, at the northern end of the Kali River Bridge, is a very popular hangout. Those seeking a bigger panorama of the landscape can climb up the steps to a viewpoint. The more daring can head to the top of the hill, where the ramparts of a fort, built in 1698 by the Sonda kings, are to be found.
Not far from Karwar, lies the tortoise-shaped island of Kurumgad, which can best be described by experiencing it. Go on nature walks along neatly marked trails, take a boat ride at sunrise or sunset and indulge in water and adventure sports. Cut off from all civilisation, Kurumgad is perfect for swimming, fishing, snorkeling, stargazing and luxurious massages at the cliff-side spa.