|Fishing boats in Bermagui
Sleepy and attractive fishing village on the Bermagui
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
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
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
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
|Camel Rock north of
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
|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
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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