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Fishing boats in Bermagui Harbour

Sleepy and attractive fishing village on the Bermagui River.
Located 378 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway Bermagui is an attractive fishing port with a population of 1166 located on the estuary of the Bermagui River.

It is thought that 'Bermagui' is derived from 'permageua', a word with an unknown meaning, from the vocabulary of the Dyirringany Aborigines who inhabited the area before white settlement.

The port at Bermagui was established in the 1830s for the local dairy farmers and the town, planned in 1867, quickly developed into a fishing harbour. Gold was found on the Bermagui River late in the nineteenth century but the rush was short-lived as finds were disappointing.

Today Bermagui is a fishing, dairying and timber town. In spring the warm currents bring marlin and yellowfin tuna close to the coast and charter boats take divers, deep-sea and big-game fishers out to sea.

One of the most notable figures to exploit this aspect of Bermagui was American author of 'westerns', Zane Grey who wrote of his experiences in An American Angler in Australia (1937) and his posthumously published novel, Wilderness Fresh .The town park is named after him and the local hotel has photographs and memorabilia of his stay.

The crime novelist Arthur Upfield lived at Bermagui for a time in the 1950s. His novel,The Mystery of Swordfish Reef (1960), starts at Bermagui with the disappearance of a boat. The story was probably inspired by the fate of geologist Lamont Young who was sent from Sydney to inspect the new goldfields at Bermagui in 1880.

Wanting to investigate possible sites further north Young and his assistant were offered passage on a small boat with the owner, Thomas Towers of Batemans Bay, and two of his friends. On the way all five disappeared. At 11 am a passer-by saw the boat at Mutton Fish Point, noted it was stationary and concluded there was only one man on board. On his return journey he noted that the vessel was stranded on the rocks and that no-one was on board. He raised the alarm and the authorities found that the boat contained five bags full of clothing, Young's books and papers, a bullet in its starboard side and some vomit. The craft was staved in and there was no sign of the men. Subsequent searches, rewards, government inquiries and wide media coverage turned up the remnants of a fire, some food and three shirt studs. The mystery was never solved. A monument was erected at the site in 1980 to mark the centenary. To get to Mystery Bay take the Tilba Road 10 km north until it rejoins the Princes Highway, continue north along the highway for 7 km then take the signposted turnoff to the right.

Mystery Bay is part of the Dromedary Conservation Area. It includes seven coastal lakes, a number of beaches and Montague Island. Mystery Bay is a popular camping site for anglers and a launching site for Montague Island while the deep waters off Cape Dromedary are ideal for kingfish and bonito.

Things to see:   

There are a number of excellent lookouts around the township - particularly off Paraboon Drive. The best way to enjoy the dramatic cliffs and the beautiful honey-coloured rocks is to drive around the foreshores. The lookouts are clearly marked and all offer excellent views.


Michael Lerner Lookout
Michael Lerner Lookout is 3 km south of Bermagui. It has excellent views over the coast. The rocks in this area are particularly impressive and dramatic.


Horseshoe Bay and Blue Pool
Horseshoe Bay and Blue Pool are situated on the headland to the east of the town centre. The former is on the northern side of the promontory and the latter, with its large saltwater pool, lies off Scenic Drive on the southern side. The Bermagui headlands are also a popular rock-fishing location.


Cuttagee Lake
Cuttagee Lake and Beach is 8 km south and is noted as a good prawning, surfing, fishing and picnic spot. The sheltered area of lake near the bridge is ideal for children. Beares, Mooreheads, Camel Rock and Haywards Beaches are popular surfing spots.



Camel Rock north of Bermagui

Wallaga Lake National Park
On the eastern shore of Wallaga Lake is Wallaga Lake National Park, a beautiful open forest. Camel Rock, on the shoreline, is an unusual rock formation. The 8-km walk up the coast to the lake will take you through wetland flora and fauna reserves and the remnants of the Montreal goldfields. The Park is generally hilly with steep gullies and so is best explored by boat (available for hire from Regatta Point and Beauty Point, on the eastern shore). It is essentially a fishing, swimming and boating location. There are few beaches but a number of shallow bays and sheltered inlets. The fauna in the area includes potoroos, koalas, bandicioots and swamp wallabies.

Wallaga Lake was formed when two river valleys were flooded at the end of the Great Ice Age and the river mouths were blocked by a large sandbar. It was frequented by Aborigines for thousands of years and there are many ancient human relics, including a number of middens on the lake's foreshores. All are protected by law.

Access to Merriman Island, in the middle of the lake, is forbidden due to its great significance for indigenous communities. It was the first place to be gazetted as an Aboriginal site. A focus of tribal culture the island is associated with the story of King Merriman, widely known amongst the Aborigines of the south coast. According to legend King Merriman lived on the island while his people lived on the shores of the lake. His power derived from his ability to understand a black duck, his moojingarl, which forewarned him of forthcoming dangers. One day it told him of a group of warriors coming from the far south to do battle. King Merriman remained on the island while the other men took the women and children to a place of safety and then hid in the reeds. The first to sight the approaching warriors the King warned his men who fought a fierce battle but lost. The opposing tribesmen then set out for the island. King Merriman threw powerful spears, and a boomerang which severed the arms and heads of his opponents before returning to him, but it was not enough. He then turned himself into a whirlwind and flew off. He passed over the fierce Kiola tribe and their wise men correctly divined his presence and that it meant the defeat of the Wallaga people and the advance of another tribe. King Merriman journeyed on to the Shoalhaven tribe to warn them but the Kiola tribe defeated the invaders and the King, whose power was finished, stayed for a time at the Shoalhaven then travelled away.



Eric Naylor, a Yuin Elder, on Mt Dromedary with Wallaga Lake and Bermagui in the distance

Umbarra Cultural Tours
A most interesting way to see the area is to take a guided four-hour, four-wheel drive tour with the Yuin people of Wallaga Lake. It starts at the Umbarra Cultural Centre. There are cruises of the lake, its birdlife and midden sites with a full commentary on their cultural significance. The centre will furnish information unavailable in written and most other sources about Aboriginal culture in the area. There are Dreamtime stories, a chance to indulge in ochre painting, bark-hut building, spear and boomerang throwing, bush medicine and bush-tucker. The centre can be found on the Bermagui Road a few kilometres south of the Princes Highway (02 4473 7232).


Mimosa Rocks National Park
Mimosa Rocks National Park stretches south of Bermagui 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.

Visitor facilities are excellent .

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 5000).

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.


Tilba Valley Wines and Vineyard
Tilba Valley Wines and Vineyard (02 4473 7308) is located 5 km north of Tilba on the Princes Highway. A family business it was the first winery on the south coast. The opening hours are 10.00 to 5.00 and 11.00 to 5.00 on Sundays.


Brooklands Deer Farm
Brooklands Deer Farm (02 4473 7330) is 12 km north of Tilba. It has picnic and barbecue facilities. The opening hours are 10.00 to 5.00 seven days a week.



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Phone: 1300 136 559