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The lake in Bega's Glebe Park
 

Bega (including Jellat Jellat, Brogo and Mimosa Rocks National Park)
Major centre on the NSW far south coast famous for its rich dairy country as well as the beautiful coastline to the east of the township.
Bega, 428 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway, is a dairying town with a population of 4202 situated in the heart of a rich and fertile valley where the Bega and Brogo Rivers and the Princes and Snowy Mountains Highways meet. The heavily forested Brogo Ranges lie to the west of the river flats which stretch eastwards to the sea.

It is believed that the area was occupied by the Dyirringany Aborigines before white settlement. George Bass was the first European to explore the region after the survivors of the Sydney Cove walked through the area in 1797. Late that year Bass entered the Bega River at its ocean outlet and sailed upstream as far as Jellat Jellat.

Squatters fleeing drought around Braidwood moved into the Bega Valley in the late 1820s. The Imlay Brothers took up vast holdings the following decade with Peter Imlay establishing the 'Biggah' run in 1839.

The spelling of the town had settled into its modern form by the late 1840s when cattle, sheep, corn, fruit and vegetables were all apparently flourishing in the district. The town was laid out and gazetted in 1851 to the north of the present site but repeated flooding saw its removal to higher ground south of the river. There it developed along Auckland St expanding into Carp St.

 

The Bega River between Candelo and Bega
 

The state of the roads around Bega were atrocious at this time. Alexander Whitehead wrote of them in an account of a trip from Bega to Wyndham:

I saw men mending some of the worst places by putting bushes in the holes and then covering them over with earth, so that it looked better until a heavy load came along ... There was a nasty hole on the south side of where Frog's Hollow bridge is now, when I got there the hole was filled up, not with bushes, but with a dead bullock, a worker I suppose, it appeared to fill the hole nicely.

This state of affairs, together with the lack of a rail service and the difficulty of getting to and from the port at Merimbula, meant that the Sydney markets were difficult to access. The opening of the wharf at Tathra (1862) changed this. The 1860s also saw the valley opened up to independent farmers. As a consequence of both developments dairying, and especially the cheese-making for which the town is now noted, grew rapidly in the next twenty years.

 

St Patricks Presbytery (1868)
 

The introduction of advanced cheese making processes at the Tooth family's Kameruka Estate was critical to the development of the industry in the valley. James Manning, manager of the Twofold Bay Pastoral Association, moved to 'Wanagabra' near Bega in 1864 after selling Kameruka. He was responsible for encouraging the German immigrants, whose ancestors now live in the Bega Valley, to work at the Kameruka estate. He introduced American cheese-making methods, commenced maize cultivation in the district, grew vineyards and, after pressing for the implementation of a telegraph line from Bega to Sydney, sent the first message in 1868.

Bega became a municipality in 1883 and, two years later, it was the first town in New South Wales to open a municipal gasworks.

Things to see:   [Top of page]

Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
Given the history of the town an obvious starting point is the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre (1900). As you enter Bega from the north via the Princes Highway take a left into Bridge Street before the Bega River bridge then your first right into Lagoon Street. This restored original factory features displays of old cheese-making techniques and has an art gallery. It is open for inspections, cheese tasting and sales from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm every day.

 

Yarranung
Yarranung, with its homestead and outbuildings dating from 1851 when flooding forced its removal to higher ground, is located over the hill behind the cheese factory. It is now private property.

 

Grevillea Winery
Nearby is the Grevillea Winery, open daily for wine tasting and a meal in The Bails, a conversion of the 1860s 'Kirby' milking bails with slab walls and bark roof.

 

 

Bega Family Museum
 

Bega Family Museum
If you enter the town centre from the north you will find, near the intersection with Bega St, the Bega Family Museum (open 10.30 am - 4.00 pm on weekdays and, during the school holidays, 10.00 - noon on Saturdays, but only on Tuesdays and Fridays from June to August). It is housed in the former Family Hotel (c.1867) and contains memorabilia from the town's past, including furniture, crockery, silverware, wedding dresses, ball gowns, early farm machinery, glass plate negatives and many photographs. The building houses a cafe, store, gallery and visitor's information centre.

 

Historic Buildings
Opposite the museum is St John's Anglican Church (1874) built of brick with stone trimmings upon the site of an earlier church dating from 1857 and designed by Edmund Blacket, noted for his work at the University of Sydney. The roof of the church is of slate with grey box roofing timbers cut on Mumbulla Mountain in Biamanga National Park to the north. 18 brass plates commemorate the names of the local men killed in World War I, three at Lone Pine. Blacket also designed 'Littleton House' for Thomas Rowlinson in Bega St in 1880.

 

St Johns Anglican Church
 

Further along Auckland St is Bega Primary School (1880s-1890s) and the former CBC Bank at the end of the block (1865).

The Court House (1881) at the corner of Carp and Gipps St, was designed by James Barnet, Colonial Architect from 1865 to 1890. It is a plain building of rendered brick with verandah, timber posts and an attractive, decorative iron railing. Opposite is Rosevear Jeweller's (c.1899) which has an elaborate and delightful Victorian shopfront consisting of two curved shop windows with oak panelling on either side of a central door with a fanlight overhead and a chequered marble floor at the entrance. Also of some interest here is the former Bank of NSW residence beside the Westpac Bank.

At the intersection with Upper St and Gipps Street is St Andrew's, the Presbyterian Church (1870) and, across the road, is the Uniting Church, formerly the Wesleyan Chapel (c.1868 with a porch dating from 1891). At the top of the hill is St Patrick's Catholic Church and Presbytery (1882, extended in 1952) and, behind it, St Joseph's Convent (1891).

 

In the Bega area
1. Jellat Jellat
Jellat Jellat is located 7 km out of town on the Snowy Mountains Highway. The'Jellat Jellat' homestead is a very substantial two-storey, vernacular timber house built by the Gowing family in 1876. It has a verandah around the exterior of the house with cast-iron balustrades on both floors, cedar-panelled doors, an impressive cedar stair and finely detailed plasterwork. Adjacent the house are some outbuildings made of timber and stone. The former school of the village is now the Department of Education's Bournda Field Studies Centre (see entry on Tathra for Bournda National Park).

 

2. Bega Valley Lookouts
Two kilometres north of the town, before the intersection of the Snowy Mountains and Princes Highways, is the Bega Valley Lookout. The Dr George Lookout lies 8 km to the north-east.

 

3. Biamanga National Park
Biamanga National Park is 15 km north along the Princes Highway. It contains Mumbulla Mountain, an initiation site for young Aboriginal men, and Mumbulla Creek Waterfall and lagoon which was used by Aborigines to wash off ceremonial ochre. With its beautiful rock pools it is now used as a swimming spot and picnic area.

 

4. Brogo Dam
Further north of Biamanga National Park is Warrigal Range Road, a gravel track of some 12 km that goes to Brogo Dam (signposted at the highway), a beautiful dam which has picnic and barbecue facilities, a boat-launching ramp and toilets. Also suitable for canoeing, it is stocked with freshwater bass and surrounded by impressive scenery and a variety of plant and animal life.

 

5. Brogo Rotolactor
Further north along the Highway is Brogo Pass and the bridge over the Brogo River which was first erected in 1885. The 'Broga' run, established in 1848, covered 6400 acres. 22 km north of Bega, on your left, is Baldwins Lane which leads to Brogo Rotolactor (signposted from the highway) where it is possible watch cows being milked with the latest technology. The Rotolactor is open from 2.00 pm - 5.00 pm daily on school and public holidays but only on Mondays and Wednesdays otherwise. Milking is at 3 p.m. and there is no admission charge.

 

 

The beautiful coast to the east of Bega
 

6. Mimosa Rocks National Park
Leave Bega on the Tarraganda Road for Bermagui and the road crosses a timber truss bridge that was built in 1894. On the other side is Tarraganda, a portion of the property owned by the Imlays in the 1830s. Beyond this point is a gravel road to Dr George Mountain where there is a memorial to George Imlay who shot himself there in 1847 believing that he had contracted a terminal illness.

Just east of the mountain and north of Tathra is picturesque Mimosa Rocks National Park which stretches north for 17 km along another rewarding strip of coastal beaches, caves, cliffs, rocky coves, massive offshore rock stacks, headlands, lagoons, coastal lakes and a heavily wooded hinterland, including patches of rainforest.

The park supports a rich and diverse range of birdlife, including honeyeaters, lorikeets, wrens, thornbills, ducks, cormorants, great egrets, sea eagles, goshawks, crested terns, silver gulls, pied oystercatchers, hooded plovers, topknot pigeons and brown cuckoo-doves.

There are also sugar gliders, ring-tailed possums, brushtail possums, bandicoots, wallabies and some echidnas and goannas. Snorkelling, surfing, rock and beach fishing, swimming and bushwalking, coastal birdwatching and foreshore fossicking can all be successfully pursued.

 

Mimosa Rocks
 

Visitor facilities are excellent . Take the well-graded Tathra-Tanja Road north from Tathra and follow it through Tanja and along to Wapengo. It is 5 km from Wapengo to the beach. Camping areas with picnic facilities can be found at Middle, Gillards and Aragunnu Beaches and at Picnic Point but they are not suitable for caravans and you must bring your own water. Picnic facilities also exist at Bithery Inlet, Moon Bay and Nelson Bay. Intending campers must contact the regional office at Merimbula (02 6495 4130).

The Aragunnu site is outstanding. It is one of the most interesting and well presenting Aboriginal sites on the Australian coast. National Parks have constructed a series of boardwalks which take the visitor past a huge and ancient midden, beside a freshwater creek and to a point where there are excellent views across a rocky beach to Mimosa Rocks.

Just north at Mimosa Rocks and Bunga Heads are a number of rocky coves ideal for snorkelling and rock fishing. Shipwrecks, notably the Mimosa in 1863, have occurred on the rocks. In 1908 the Bega sprang a leak and sank somewhere between Tathra and Bermagui.

Heading south, the approach to the Picnic Point site along Wapengo Lake Road and through banksia and stringybark forest is impressive. Middle Beach is popular with surfers. The camping site is a short walk from the car park and a walking track leads to Middle Lagoon. Nelson Lagoon is beautiful in the spring with its birdlife and blooming wattles. Moon Bay, 250 m from the car park at the south of the park, near Tathra, is particularly popular with surfers.

 

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