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Looking across the Clyde River towards the centre of Batemans Bay
 

Batemans Bay
Attractive and substantial service town and fishing port.
Located 279 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway, Batemans Bay, at the mouth of the Clyde River, is both a tourist and retirement resort and a service and commercial centre for the local sawmilling, wattlebark production, dairying, cattle-rearing, agriculture, fishing and oyster-farming industries.

Various sources have cited several Aboriginal groups in the general vicinity prior to white settlement, these being the Walbanga, Murrinjari and Bergalia tribes.

The bay was sighted by Captain Cook from the Endeavour on April 22, 1770. He named it after Nathaniel Bateman, his superior on the Northumberland which was engaged in a survey of the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Cook considered the bay too open to easterly winds to be of much practical use.

The first Europeans to explore the area were the survivors from the wreck of the Sydney Cove who reached the banks of a river, thought to have been the Clyde, on April 16, 1797. Nine of them became the first Europeans to die in the Batemans Bay area. The remainder crossed the river by a canoe they found nearby the next day. Only three survived the difficult journey to Sydney.

George Bass was prompted by the survivors' reports to venture south and on December 14, 1797, he entered Batemans Bay. He observed signs of severe drought and reiterated Cook's view that it was too exposed to function as a port.

The bay was regularly visited during the 1820s and 1830s. Timber cutters and fishermen were known to be in the district at the time but there was little settlement, despite a land sale in 1841.

In 1853 James McCauley, a pioneer settler, piloted the first steamer up the Clyde River to Nelligen. The township was gazetted in 1854 and a major road from Nelligen to the goldfields at Braidwood was completed in 1856.

A township was laid out at Batemans Bay in April 1859. The postal service commenced operations that year though an official building was not erected until 1894.

Shipbuilding and oyster farming were established around 1860. Limeburners operated on the coastal estuaries for some years, burning live oysters for the oxide.

A timber mill was opened at Batemans Bay by Francis Guy in 1868. In fact the timber trade remained the backbone of local industry throughout the century with steamers carrying milled timber to Sydney twice a week or more. Being almost entirely dependent upon the Sydney building trade the locals were hit hard by downturns, with mills closing, opening, moving and burning down with some regularity. Schools were frequently located near the timber mills and dependent upon their fate. Children often had to walk miles in flourbag clothes to attend half-week schooling in small, bark-roofed slab huts. Apparently baked or stewed koala was not an uncommon dish during times of economic hardship.

A provisional school opened at Batemans Bay in 1869, with the population of the district recorded at around 60. It was declared a public school in 1872.

In 1871 a ferry service was established across the Clyde at the township of Batemans Bay. It drew some of the trade away from Nelligen, the major centre in the area at that time.

A police station was built in 1876, an Anglican church in the early 1880s (services previously being held in makeshift premises) and a two-storey courthouse and police residence in 1885 where the Clyde River Lodge now stands at 3 Clyde St. It burned down in 1903 and was replaced by another at the corner of Beach Rd and Orient St in 1905.

In 1892, the year gold was discovered at Batemans Bay, the population of the township was still only 200, with the same number at Mogo and some 500 at Nelligen. It is only in recent times that the numbers have swollen considerably, from 450 in 1934 to 8320 today. The town was connected to Nowra by a coach service in 1899. Electricity arrived in the late 1940s and a bridge was finally built across the Clyde to replace the ferry service in 1956.

Things to see:   

Clyde River and Batemans Bay Historical Society Museum
The Clyde River and Batemans Bay Historical Society Museum has information on local history as well as an interesting collection of artefacts and photographs. It is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm (02 4472 8993) and can be found off Beach Road. Turn right just before the R.S.L. Club and the museum is located adjacent the new community centre.

 

Birdland Animal Park
Birdland Animal Park is at 55 Beach Road, on the left just past the Rugby Union field. It features a number of animals, including wombats and snakes - both being brought out at 11.30 am and 2.30 pm each day for public handling - an animal nursery, duck ponds, waterfalls and rides on the Birdsville Express train through eight acres of parkland. It is open 9-5 daily and the admission is currently $8 for adults, $5 for children and $7 for concessions.

 

Walks around Batemans Bay
Within Batemans Bay take a short walk from the intersection of the Princes Highway and Beach Road along Beach Road, turning left at the traffic lights and walking through the shops to the boatshed. Follow the riverbank under the bridge and continue to Smoke Point.

For another short and pleasant stroll, cross the bridge, turn left towards Jamesons on the Pier Restaurant and follow it to Old Punt Road. Continue along this route then take the second left into Penthouse Place. At the top of this road is Folders Hill Lookout. It is a reasonably steep climb but the reward is excellent views of the Bay.

Alternatively you can follow Beach Road south for about 2.5 km then turn left into Hanging Rock Place and Corrigans Beach. At the boat ramp continue south along the beach another 2.5 km to Batehaven. This is an easy, flat route which takes in some pleasant scenery.

The area around Smugglers Rocks and Smugglers Cove is worth visiting. Start from Denhams Beach, Surf Beach or Wimbie Beach at the southern end of town. At the end of Wimbie is a reserve and a track leading around the headland to a rocky area.

 

Cruises on the Clyde River
Those wishing to take a cruise along the Clyde River can choose from the Clyde Princess (02 4478 1005) or the Merinda (02 4472 4052) which operate every day. Boats can be hired from numerous businesses in town and there is a ramp at the marina.

 

Lookouts and Vantage Points
Batemans Bay is a good central point for scenic drives, camping and lookouts. Batemans Bay is surrounded by state forests - the Boyne, Benandrah, Mogo, Kioloa, Bolaro and Buckenbowra - and by Murramarang National Park. For detailed information on the attractions at Murramarang see the entry on Durras.

 

1. Holme's Rotary Lookout
The Holme's Rotary Lookout, situated within the Benandrah State Forest, is 5 km west of Batemans Bay on a signposted road that departs the Kings Highway.

 

2. Big Bit Lookout
The Big Bit Lookout lies further north. Drive up the Princes Highway 1.2 km past the Durras turnoff and head west along Old Nelligen Road. 2.6 km along this one-laned dirt road you will come to an intersection. Turn right onto Lookout Road then take the first right into Big Bit Road (watch for the small yellow sign). Climb up this hill for 1 km to the summit. To return to the highway simply continue east along Big Bit Road.

 

3. Round Hill Fire Tower Lookout
The Round Hill Fire Tower Lookout lies just 2 km south of Batemans Bay on the Princes Highway. The walk is only 1.5 km but you can drive to the top if you prefer. All three of the above vantage points offer spectacular views over the surrounding forest and out to the coast.

 

4. Observation Head
Within the town itself Observation Point is located off Observation Ave on Observation Head, at the southern end of Corrigans Beach. There are fine views of Batemans Bay, south to Malua Bay and across to Long Beach and North Head.

 

5. Folders Hill Lookout
Folders Hill Lookout is situated near the bridge, on the northern bank of the Clyde. If you are coming from Sydney, turn off the Princes Highway just before you reach the bridge and, instead of taking the first right into the Kings Highway, take the second into Penthouse Place and the lookout is at its terminus.

 

 

The bridge across the Clyde River
 

Driving in the Area
The beautiful trip south along the coast road through Broulee to Moruya is delightful.

The drive along the Kings Highway through Nelligen, past Clyde Mountain, and on to Braidwood is also attractive.

An alternative is to take a trip through the forest, heading east off the highway into Pebbly Beach Forest Road about 17 km north of Batemans Bay and 2 km north of East Lynne. Follow it through the Kioloa State Forest to Pebbly Beach at the coast in the Murramarang National Park. From here wind back west along Mt Agony Road towards the highway. Part of the way along this route an unsealed tertiary road appears to the left which will take you back out to the coast at a point further south (Depot Beach) and from here you can continue south to Durras North.

If you are driving north towards Ulladulla you may wish to take the detour along the Old Princes Highway, which branches off to the west from the present highway about 2 km north of the Mt Agony Road turnoff. There are three picnic sites and a number of streams ideal for fishing along this 18-km stretch of road.

Ingolds Knob Lookout lies at the northern end of the road, which rejoins the highway at Termeil.

A detour from the detour can be made by taking the first gravel road on the left (Berkshed Road) and heading out to Shallow Crossing on the banks of the Clyde River. A concrete causeway crosses the river here. The Crossing is impassable after heavy rains or during high tide. If you do ford the Clyde then Backhouse Road will take you a few kilometres north-west to Mogood Lookout.

Head back to the Crossing and then north along the River Road for a few kilometres until you come to The Sheep Track which will take you back to the Old Princes Highway. Near the intersection of the two roads is Clyde River Farm (02 4478 1057) where, from mid-December to mid-February, you can pick your own blueberries, or just buy them. There are also fresh peaches, nectarines and other fruits available in season

 

Bushwalking
For the more adventurous there is the Corn Trail, a 12.5-km walking and horseriding track in Buckenbowra State Forset. It starts at Clyde Mountain (850 m), which is about 34 km from Batemans Bay along the Kings Highway route to Braidwood. A signpost will direct you off the highway to a car park 1.6 km away. The track passes through a large steep area of eucalypt forest to the head of the Bolero Valley. While the top of the mountain is often enveloped in mist the lower slopes are usually sunny.

The trail was first used in the 1830s by the settlers of the valley to facilitate trade with their neighbours on the Southern Tablelands while the latter would ship their cattle along the track en route to the coast for agistment. Corn was grown in the valley and transported on pack-horses usually by women. There was once a shed atop the mountain from which carts would be used to transport produce to Braidwood and Araluen. The trail was also used by gold prospectors headed for Araluen and the banks of the Buckenbowra River and by travellers wishing to journey between the Tablelands and the coast.

When the Clyde Mountain Road connecting Braidwood to Nelligen was opened the track fell into a state of disrepair and was completely overgrown by the 1920s. In 1987 the Bicentennial Authority funded the research, plotting and reconstruction of the trail by local historians.

The route is marked out by stone along the edges while occasional cairns reassure you that you are on the right path. It takes about four to seven hours, so take some food and water, something warm and waterproof, a good map (available from the local visitors centres) and a fit body. Contact the Forestry Commission on 02 4472 6211 for the latest report.

 

Eurobodalla Charters and Tours
Eurobodalla Charters and Tours (02 4478 6355) also coordinate local activities around the Durras and Murramarang National Park areas. They offer bushwalking in the park, deep-sea fishing, dolphin watch cruises, sunset cruises, snorkelling, canoeing and bike tours, all of which depart from the Murramarang Resort. You do not have to be staying at the resort to take part in the tours: indeed you can use the resort's facilities on a daily basis if you pay a fee.

 

Botanic Gardens and Reserves
Eurobodalla Native Botanic Gardens lie to the south just off the Princes Highway and to your left.

The Tollgates are a nature reserve. Both are very rocky and a breeding habit for wedge-tailed shearwaters, little penguins and white-faced storm petrels.

 

Fishing in the area
Being located at the juncture of a river and the ocean Batemans Bay is, not surprisingly, popular with boat, rock, river, beach and bank fishers. The marina is located on Beach Rd not far from the bridge. Upstream from the town are extensive mangrove and oyster flats with bream, whiting and mulloway. From the bridge to the sea whiting, flathead and flounder can be caught on the banks and bream near the rock walls. The Tollgates cannot be landed upon but boat-fishing in the vicinity can yield snapper, tailor, kingfish and salmon, while trolling or live baiting can produce tuna and black marlin. American novelist Zane Grey caught a black marlin here in the 1930s. Corrigans Beach, just south of the rock wall and marina, is another popular spot for water-based activities.

 

Runnymede House
Runnymede House was built by convict labour in 1838. It was reconstructed after a bushfire in 1904. Today it is privately owned and, if you are interested, can be viewed from the bridge at Runnyford. To get there head south from Batemans Bay driving 7 km along the highway and turn right into Runnyford Rd (an unsealed track). Ignore the western branch of the road and follow the northern trail for about 7 km.

 

Tourist Information
Information about charter boats for deep sea fishing, coach tours, adventure tours, river cruises, canoe hire, sailing cruises, trail rides, bushwalking tracks, local galleries and pottery displays and sales is available from the Batemans Bay Visitors Centre at the corner of the Princes Highway and Beach Road. They can also furnish more precise dates for November's Clyde River Festival, which includes street stalls, entertainment, markets, fishing competitons, sailing races and a gala dinner.

 

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Phone: 1300 136 559

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