A queue of motorists stretched for kilometres along the Princes Highway as holidaymakers left the South Coast in droves on Thursday.
Batemans Bay traffic ground to a slow crawl as roads became congested with tourists leaving the coast.
Visitors wore masks in the smoke haze as they sat in their cars and waited in queues, both to get out of town and to fill up at petrol stations.
People were lining up to get into shops, too. Customers were waiting outside Coles at Batemans Bay at 5.30am
Coles at Village Centre was nearly out of milk by lunchtime, its bread trays were empty, it ran out of apples, and customers were stocking up on bottles of water.
The NSW Rural Fire Service issued a tourist leave zone spanning more than 180 kilometres from Batemans Bay down to Wonboyn near the Victorian border. That includes the towns of Merimbula, Narooma, Tathra, Bermagui and Moruya.
Motorists were backed up kilometres down Beach Road as they tried to merge onto Princes Highway.
Queues stretched from the Caltex service station north east of Clyde River Bridge as motorists waited to get petrol.
One visitor trying to reach Sydney reported a journey of three hours from Tuross Head to Batemans Bay and another said it took two hours from Surf Beach.
Chris Bellingham was trying to get back to Sydney from Tuross Head and said it took him 90 minutes to drive from the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club to Clyde River Bridge.
"Everyone's trying to get petrol," he said.
Tuross had run out of petrol within two hours, at 6.30am, he said.
Three petrol tankers were seen heading into Batemans Bay about 7.30pm.
The queue across the bridge moved slowly as motorists tried to get home.
Shoppers wearing smoke masks pushed trolleys of food north east across Clyde River Bridge, and unloaded their bags into cars parked on the other side.
Cathy Gleed was trying to get home to the Central Coast with her husband and mother-in-law.
They'd spent over an hour travelling from Tomakin to get to Beach Road in Batemans Bay, with another long wait in traffic for fuel.
"Fuel's the problem otherwise we would have left three days ago," she said.
While her mother-in-law, who lives in Tomakin, had enough food for the family, visitors to the area were really struggling to even get their hands on staples.
The biggest issue though, was the lack of information getting through, with even radio news giving outdated reports about road closures.
"There's a lot of lessons to be learned here."
The exodus of visitors clogged the highway through Ulladulla as they left fire-struck parts of the coast, heeding calls from authorities to get out while they could.
Traffic crawled through the town as motorists made their way north towards Nowra.
The queue extended back beyond the bridge at Burrill Lake.
Murray and Jean Gill were making their third attempt to leave the coast for Sydney.
They had left from Malua Bay on Thursday and said motorists had queued at a petrol station at Batemans Bay.
"Everyone wants to stop to get fuel," Mr Gill said.
Stephen Pope was trying to return to his home in Canberra with his children and dogs after staying in Batemans Bay as bushfire hit the town on Tuesday.
"We're heading back to the relative safety of Canberra," he said.
"We will be very relieved to get there."
Outages and fuel shortages had hit Batemans Bay.
"No fuel, no power, no internet. It's very tricky."
Andrew Hilliar was queueing through Ulladulla as he tried to reach his home in Sydney, and was expecting a long drive as motorists left the coast.
He had evacuated to Bawley Point as fire threatened his property at Cuttagee.
Mr Hilliar received a call at 5.20am on Tuesday from the Rural Fire Service telling him and his family to leave.
"Better safe than sorry," he said.
Fire came within five kilometres of the Cuttagee property.