History & Heritage

Eurobodalla enjoys a rich cultural heritage grown from an eclectic past. The Yuin people were the first inhabitants of the area, with white settlement taking place in 1828. What followed were decades of dairy farming and cheesemaking, bustling shipping and port towns, the rip roaring days of the gold rush, larrikins and bushrangers.

streetscape of Central Tilba historic heritage trust village

1. First Inhabitants

The Eurobodalla Shire was originally the home of the South Coast Aborigine of the Bugelli-Manji and Yuin tribes. It was a rich land in which small nomadic groups hunted and fished. Fish and vegetable foods were plentiful. These earliest inhabitants gave their attractive names to many of the Shire’s beautiful and unique places. Other Shire landmarks, like Batemans Bay and Mount Dromedary, were named by Captain James Cook.

2. Settlers & Settlement

In 1828 land on the north bank of the Moruya river was settled by Francis Flanagan. At Shannon Rise he grew potatoes for sale to the crews of passing tall ships who stopped at Broulee for fresh water. John Hawdon claimed his land on the Moruya River in 1831 building the elegant Kiora House in 1832 and thence acquiring parcels of land from Bodalla to Batemans Bay.

Broulee predates Moruya town and in 1840 became the headquarters of the police district. Broulee Island boasted the Erin-go-brah hotel, a wharf and a collection of government buildings while the bay provided a sheltered harbour. Since road transport was almost impossible, goods and passengers arrived and left the Eurobodalla by sea. In 1841 the schooner ‘Rover’ was wrecked at Candalagan Creek, many of the passengers being rescued by the heroic local aboriginals.

Convicts were administered from Broulee and most were assigned to farms along the coast from Batemans Bay to Wagonga Inlet.

In 1851 Moruya became the centre of the Eurobodalla Shire’s development. The town was on the southern side of the river with passengers and goods crossing the river by punt. Entry to the Moruya River from the sea was difficult but the construction of breakwaters and dykes allowed the township to flourish.

The first settler to take up land around Wagonga Inlet was Francis Hunt in 1839. His farm ‘Noorooma’ later became the name for the town Narooma. Development on the Wagonga Inlet was initially to service the gold township of Nerigundah in the 1860’s. Later sawmilling, fish canning and farming encouraged further development. The land around Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba became rich dairy farms which supplied the local cheese cooperatives. In 1880 the vessel ‘Lady Darling’ was wrecked off Mystery Bay and the lighthouse on Montague Island was established in 1881 to protect coastal shipping.

In 1821 Lt Johnson visited Batemans Bay with Hamilton Hume and Major Mitchell, but development of the area occurred in the 1860’s with sawmilling and farming. Timber was shipped from the mouth of the Clyde and Nelligen wharf became the home of the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company. Later shipbuilding and brick manufacturing were established near Tomakin.

In 1860 Thomas Sutcliffe Mort took up 13,000 acres in Bodalla. An enlightened, if authoritarian personality, Mort established dairies all along the Tuross Valley. He established the cooperative Bodalla Cheese Factory, improved the welfare of his employees and pioneered the export of frozen meat to Europe.

3. Gold, Gold, Gold

The Eurobodalla region was hit with ‘fifties fever’. Gold was discovered in the Moruya district in 1851. Araluen proved to be one of the three principal goldfields in Australia producing more than 26 tonnes of pure gold. In 1857 gold was found near Broulee and in 1858 Cabbage Tree Creek at Mogo sprang into the news. In 1860 good gold deposits were found at Mt Dromedary.

Then in 1861 the fever moved to Gulph Creek and Nerigundah became the centre of activity. Returns from The Gulph were good and gold buyers plied the fields regularly. Gold was also found at Nelligen and at Merricumbene on the Deua. Indeed the whole Eurobodalla Shire was gripped with gold fever!

4. Bushrangers

The discovery of gold brought bushrangers to the Eurobodalla Shire and the notorious Clarke gang held up the Morris Hotel at Medmalong near Araluen and stole horses from Merricumbene on the Deua. In 1866 they held up the Gulph gold escort at Nerrigundah shooting a police constable, Miles O’Grady, before riding off with booty stolen from several stores. Boldrewood is said to have written Robbery Under Arms whilst staying in the Araluen Valley.

By the end of the 1890’s gold at these diggings was running out and the thousands of hopeful miners including some 6000 Chinese dispersed to other sites or settled down to become farmers and small businessmen.

5. Sawmilling, Fishing & Farming

In the 1880’s the Eurobodalla Shire became the centre of thriving saw milling and cheese producing industries. Mills dotted the coast from Batemans Bay to Wagonga Inlet. Hardwood sleepers were shipped from Batemans Bay and Wagonga Inlet and timber shipbuilding thrived there too. Small cheese factories dotted the whole area from Rosedale and Mogo, to Kiora and the Deua, to Bodalla and Corunna near Narooma. By the turn of the 19th century dairying and vegetable production flourished on the increasingly cleared land of the Eurobodalla. Commercial fishing began in the 19th century and oyster farming was introduced early in the 20th century. Today oyster growers on the Clyde and Moruya Rivers, Tuross Lakes and Wagonga Inlet supply Sydney and Canberra markets.

6. Moruya Granite

The British Engineering firm, Dorman Long and Co won the contract to erect the Sydney Harbour Bridge early in 1924. The firm decided to take the granite required for the bridge pylons from a quarry site on the north bank of the Moruya River. The Ziegler family, monumental masons, had used the granite from this quarry prior to 1924 for cutting headstones.

Early in 1925, ninety stonemasons and their families arrived in Moruya from Scotland, along with a few Italians and Australians. A special township, Granitetown, was built to receive them. The regular movement of three steamers carrying the granite to Sydney increased shipping traffic on the Moruya River. Other works, including a highly mechanised plant for preparing the stone, a light railway leading to the wharf, and a stone crusher for associated concreting work, added to the economic life of the town.

By 1927, a community hall, a general store and a school were built in Granitetown, and a lively branch of the Australian Workers’ Union also established itself among the skilled tradesmen.

By 1929, the activity was starting to wind down as the focus shifted to Sydney for the final dressing of the bridge pylons. In 1932, as the now famous steel arches spanned the Sydney sky, the Scots left Granitetown and the houses were bought by local people and shifted to house blocks around the district.


More Information

Visitors who are interested in the history of particular areas of the region are invited to discover more by contacting the relevant Historical Societies or visiting our Eurobodalla Visitor Information Centres.

The Original Gold Rush Colony - Mogo

See local history in action at the Original Gold Rush Colony in Mogo. Enjoy panning for gold or take part in a lively guided tours of the Heady Gold Rush Days conducted multiple times throughout the day.

Download your free copy of History in Eurobodalla. (Adobe 458kb)


Batemans Bay Historical Society
Courthouse Museum
1 Museum Place, Batemans Bay
Ph 4472 8993
President (02) 4472 6603
Opening Times:
Tuesday and Thursday 12pm - 3pm
2nd, 4th & 5th Sunday 9.00am - noon.

Moruya & District Historical Society
Moruya Museum
Campbell Street, Moruya
Opening Times:
Wednesdays 11am - 3pm and School Holiday weekdays 11am - 3pm

Narooma Historical Society
Lighthouse Museum
Narooma Visitor Information Centre
Princes Highway, Narooma
Opening Times:
Seven days, 9am - 5pm

Quick Links