Araluen, NSW

Historic gold ghost town known as the Happy Valley.

The primary reason for visiting Araluen is the sheer beauty of the valley. It is a near-perfect example of a valley in the heart of the Great Dividing Range - a road that tumbles down to a winding stream which is edged by rich and fertile pastures in a valley which is distinctive because the early settlers could not resist the temptation to plant deciduous trees. Araluen was once one of the most famous gold towns in New South Wales. Today it is little more than a few buildings, some historic ruins and a beautiful valley famed for its orchards.


Araluen is located 311 km from Sydney via Goulburn and 362 km from Sydney via Batemans Bay and the Princes and Kings Highways.


Origin of Name

The popular explanation for the town's name is that 'Araluen', is a corruption of the local Aboriginal word 'Arr-a l-yin' which possibly meant  "place of the water lilies".


Things to See and Do

Panning for Gold
Beside the Araluen River, on the road to Majors Creek, there is a delightful picnic spot where optimistic panners and fossickers can try their luck and hope for a little gold dust. The problem is that the river was dredged for over 50 years and the chances of finding anything are rather slim. Still there is no harm in trying and the picnic ground is a reminder of how much the valley has changed since it was inhabited by 4,000 miners.

Both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in the valley have fascinating historic cemeteries. The graves are a reminder of the dynamic nature of the valley when the gold was being mined.

The Mullock Heaps
It is strange to come into the valley and to try and imagine it alive with miners. The closest there is to an historic remnant are the grassy mounds which were once the mullock waste heaps left by the dredging of the valley.

Access to Araluen
The easiest access is the 26 km route south from Braidwood which is sealed and uncomplicated. The prettiest, and also most precipitous, is the 14 km dirt track south-east from Majors Creek which drops spectacularly into the valley and offers the most attractive entry through rich orchards. This road passes both the church cemeteries before joining the main road to Braidwood. It is possible to drive from Moruya on a road that is unsealed but which is quite accessible. If you are wanting to get to the coast in a limited time it would be quicker to return to Braidwood and drive to the coast via the Kings Highway to Batemans Bay.

The Bushrangers
Not surprisingly the discovery of gold at Araluen, and the problem of taking the gold out of the valley either to Braidwood or Majors Creek up winding and narrow roads, led to the proliferation of bushrangers. The most famous in the local area were the Clarke Brothers, Tom and John, who had been born in the district and, during their two year reign of robbery, were frequent visitors to the dance halls in Araluen.
Inititally the Clarke brothers resisted the temptation to rob the coaches leaving Araluen but the arrival of Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert, and the combination of Hall with the Clarkes, led to a number of robberies. On 13 March, 1865, on the steep and narrow road from Araluen to Majors Creek (reputedly the robbery took place about 500 metres from the top of the the mountain) Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert, with the assistance of Tom Clarke, attempted to hold up a gold escort. They shot at one of the guards, Constable Kelly, but they were outflanked by the outriders and were forced to flee from the scene.

A Little About Araluen's Infamous Clarke Gang
When the Clarke brothers – Thomas and John – were being sentenced to death in Sydney in 1867 the judge, Sir Alfred Stephen, listed their record, exclusive of suspected murders, as: “Thomas, nine mail robberies and thirty-six robberies of individuals of all classes in two years; John, twenty-six crimes in one year.” If he had included the murders they were accused of, he would have added at least six people, most of whom were policemen.
The Clarkes were the sons of John Clarke, an Irish shoemaker who had been sentenced to seven years transportation and who arrived in Sydney Town in 1828. He was assigned to work for a pastoralist near Braidwood but, rather than working, he appears to have lived by stealing cattle.
When gold was discovered in the district in 1852 John and his sons, Thomas and John Jr, stole the gold miners' horses and then claimed the rewards. Old John reckoned this trade was worth some £250 a year. John’s three sons and two daughters grew up without schooling or religious instruction "in an isolated community little less than a den of thieves, connected either by marriage or misdeeds". By the mid-1860s the three brothers had established their criminal credentials. In 1863 John was gaoled for a year for horse stealing. In January 1865 James was sentenced to seven years for receiving the proceeds of a mail robbery and Thomas was awaiting trial for assault and robbery when the family managed to arrange his escape.
Between October 1865 and May 1866 Thomas Clarke was credited with three charges of horse-stealing, eight robberies including two mails and post offices, the wounding of John Emmett and the murder of Constable Miles O'Grady at Nerrigundah on 9 April.
In May Thomas Clarke formed a gang with his brother John and "no more remarkable confederacy of robbery, violence and murder has ever been known to exist in any civilized community".
Failure to catch the Clarke gang led to a public outcry. Special police were sent to the Braidwood district in April 1866 but they were unsuccessful and were recalled. In September that year the Colonial Secretary secretly appointed John Carroll, a senior warder at Darlinghurst gaol, and three others to capture the Clarkes.
In January 1867 Carroll and his party were murdered near Jinden station. The crime was credited to the Clarkes and a reward of £5000 was offered for their capture.
In March a force of experienced police were sent to Braidwood. On 27 April a party led by a black-tracker named 'Sir Watkin' found the Clarke brothers near Jinden. A Constable Walsh, Sir Watkin and John Clarke were wounded in the subsequent gunfight but the Clarke brothers were captured.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported: "The two captured bushrangers were on Saturday night (the 27th ultimo) taken to Bollaby ; and thence on to Braidwood on the Monday following. A large concourse of horsemen went to meet them as they came into Braidwood, and by the time that they reached the gaol (about half-past 2. p.m.) there must have been at least 300 persons present. The two robbers seemed to be quite indifferent to the awful position in which they were placed, smiling with real or assumed carelessness as they were taken through the town. John Clarke had one arm in a sling, and his horse was held by a constable on either side of him. The elder Clarke was handcuffed, and his horse was also held by two troopers. A large body of police, well armed, formed the escorting party. The journey was performed without any impediment. A little after the party escorting the Clarkes came in the wounded black tracker, Sir Watkin, escorted by a trooper, who was leading his horse. The poor fellow had his arm in a sling, and seemed to be faint and weak from pain; scarcely able to keep his seat on the saddle."
At Nelligen there is the “Bushranger Tree” where the Clarke brothers were chained  while they awaited shipment to Sydney where they were executed on 25 June, 1867. The executions effectively ended organised bushranging in New South Wales. There is a long and detailed history of the gang at It is a story from the Sydney Morning Herald dated 4 May, 1867 - six weeks before they were executed.



*  Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Araluen Valley was occupied by the Walbanga Aboriginal people.

* In 1822 the first Europeans reached the valley.

* By the late 1820s the valley had been accurately mapped.

* In 1835 Henry Clay Burnell purchased 1280 acres in the valley for £265.

* By 1836 Andrew Badgery was grazing cattle in the valley.

* In 1848 a road was cut from the valley to Moruya. Some of the labourers were convicts.

* By 1851 two Moruya men, Alexander Waddell and Harry 'The Blacksmith' Hicken, went prospecting at Ophir and noticed that the terrain was similar to the Araluen Valley where they found gold.

* By 1851 there were 15,000 prospectors in the Araluen Valley. The prospectors sailed to Broulee on the New South Wales South Coast and walked overland to the Araluen goldfields.

* By 1852 an estimated 100,000 ozs (2830 kg) had been successfully mined.

* By 1855 a water race had been built to wash away the overburden and reach the gold.

* A road up the mountain from Araluen to Majors Creek was constructed between 1856-61.

* By 1860 over 4,000 people were living in the valley. The valley at this time had over 26 hotels, 20 butchers shops, churches, general stores, blacksmiths and bakers.

* In 1860, with many of the valleys stripped by overzealous goldminers, the area was hit by a devastating flood. The creek grew to over 1000 metres wide and, as reported in Moruya - The First 150 Years: "The loss of life was heavy. In one case a hotel and all its occupants (see below - they were the Carney family) were swept away, and the bodies of several of those in the building at the time were found afterwards on the beach at Moruya. Much later that year the workings were reopened but they never returned to their former glory or excitement."

* On 13 March, 1865, on the road from Araluen to Majors Creek and no more than 500 metres from the top of the mountain, Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert and with the assistance of Tom Clarke (one half of the Clarke Brothers), attempted to hold up a gold escort. They shot at a Constable Kelly but they were outflanked and were forced to flee from the scene.

* In 1870 hydraulic sluicing was introduced to extract the gold.

* In 1871 the population of the valley was approximately 3,240. At this time the town stretched for 5 km along the valley.

* Gold continued to be mined until the end of the century but, after the removal of the alluvial gold, dredges moved in and the gold fossicking miners moved out.

* In 1899 the first dredge arrived in the valley and started dredging the river. It was eventually followed by 11 other dredges.

* By the 1920s there was a cheese factory in the valley.

* In the 1930s orchards and market gardens were planted in the valley.

* By 1939 dredging had stopped and the valley was allowed to return slowly to its former beauty.


Visitor Information

The closest Visitor Information Centre is at Braidwood - the Braidwood Visitor Information Centre, tel: (02) 4842 1144.


Useful Websites

There is no specific site for Araluen but the Braidwood site - - has useful information about the valley.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

23 suggestions
  • I am looking for the title of a book by Jackie French about Araluen Valley’s history. She has written so many books that I can’t find it. I think that the book (and perhaps a couple of others) are worth a mention on your page. Jackie French is so well known and so much loved, and I keep remembering this book and want to replace it. Just don’t include her address on your site!!

    Margaret McKenzie
    • “Somewhere around the Corner ” by Jackie French, i just finished reading it. Fantastic read.

      Dawn McMullin
    • You might be looking for A Year in the Valley (non fiction).
      But many of my books are set in the valley, or based on it. You might like Walking the Boundaries, To Love a Sunburnt Country, a Waltz for Matilda and the others in the Matilda saga. ‘Gibber’s Creek’ and Biscuit Creek’ in many of my books are based on Braidwood.
      Let the Land Speak also has chapters on the valley.

      Jackie French
  • I have always known that the meaning of Araluen “Is the Valley Of Peace” I have known this since my granddads days…

    Funny how we have endless confusion over town names. The official site – Geographical Names Board of New South Wales, offers the following definition: “Place (or home) of (i) running water – A.W. Reed (ii) water lillies – the Aust Museum.” Check out

    Shirley Schlick nee Mather
  • My great grandfather Heinrich Schutt, his older brother Hans and their families lived in Araluen for three years while searching for gold in the 1860s. They then settled in Big Hill near Bendigo Victoria where they became more successful as market gardeners and horticulturalists. They were Danish but German Speakers. Heinrich named his farm in Big Hill, Araluen. I’d love to receive any information on the Schutts while in Araluen please.

    Jillian Boyd
  • Re the Clarkes, PC Smith has recently published a Substantial account of the Clark Gang. It is now the preferred reference.

    Hugh Rudyard Hodgkinson
  • One of the few things i know about my great-grandmother is that she emigrated from Ireland, probably some time in the 1850s, and came to Araluen, where she married (a cooper from Bavaria, as we understand). This must have been at the height of the gold rush. I’m glad to see these book references — must look for them.

  • The devastating flood that swept through the Araluen Valley in 1860 took the life of my great, great grandparents and most of their children. John Carney and his wife Catherine were the publicans of the inn that was swept away in the story above. I am here because 2 of their children, 1 being my great grandmother Sarah Jane Carney, were in a boarding school in Sydney. Their son Augustus Carney survived the flood as he managed to haul himself onto a log and swim to the embankment. I just thought you might like to know this, so you could amend the above to say the people in the inn that were swept away were the Carney family. They were very well known in the Valley.

    Thea Webster
  • Hi. My great grand father Giovanne Salvia came over from Switzerland (Semione) and settled in Araluen approx.1860 and died 21 Sept.1881 and buried in Newtown, Araluen.
    To the best of the my father’s knowledge he and his cousin had brought over grape cuttings and had the first vineyard in the valley located in Newtown. My grandfather was also born in the valley on 18/03/1865. My father was told the only place that was never prospected was their vineyard. If you are interested my sister knows more than me. Like to hear from you.

    Brian Joseph Salvia
  • I think these comments are of real value to the community. Can we link them to their facebook page “Araluenies”?

    Kylie CIT
  • My 2 x great grandfather, William Atkins & his wife Catherine, ran a pub called the Pick & Shovel in the 1860’s. I’d like to find out exactly which building it was. Is it still standing?
    Thank you for this site.

    • I’d just like to add, the yearly licensing states Araluen, for the Pick & Shovel Inn, but the actual signing of the license says Jembaicumbene Swamp. I hope this helps

      • My great great grand parents were William and Catherine Atkins also.
        From what I’ve been able to find in the Trove- newspaper site opened the 1st pub on the gold fields at Jembaicumbene about 10 klm towards Braidwood then moved to Araluen and operated a pub under the same name there.
        If any of my Atkins family would like to contact me- sue at email address

        Sue Ahearn ( nee Atkins)
      • My gg grand parents were William and Catherine Atkins. From what I’ve found on Trove- newspapers
        They had the 1st pub at jembaicumbene about 10 klms from Braidwoid. Then moved to Araluen to operate their pub.

        Sue Ahearn ( nee Atkins)
  • It is good that the V.I.C. Braidwood has kept the History of Araluen.
    Looking for any information regarding the McCann’s – Madigan’s and the Costello’s if any one has any information regarding of these Families please send the information to
    Also if there any photo’s please send them to the email address above.
    Many thanks !

    Sir James mccann
  • Great history. I live in an old house at Wentworth Falls named Aralluen and did not know the history of the name. Great information!!!

    A. SILVA
  • According to my sister’s records (who has since passed away) it appears that my Great Grandfather came to Araluen to manage a mine. He was an English miner from Cornwall. His wife opened a shop and they made a lot of money in the late 1880s. They came to Sydney and purchased the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay and another hotel in Enmore – also some terrace houses in Newtown. According to information my Great Grandfathers name was Sydney James May. Would there be any records from the past years.Thanking you

    Robert May
  • Some detail about the Madigan family, Michael (born in County Clare around 1836), his brothers James, Philip & Thomas, and his sisters Peggie, Nellie & Anne is found in the very useful book “Where were they and what were they doing in 1872” published by Myles Hannan in 2007.
    Both Michael Madigan and Philip Madigan ran inns or hotels in and around Araluen.
    Also included in Myles’ book is detail about the Hannan, Kelleher, Greenwood, Watson, Hynes and Hallam families all of whom had early links to Araluen, Majors Creek and surrounding localities.

    Ian Connor
  • The Carney’s were my family. A couple of their daughters were at boarding school in Sydney when the flood came so they survived. One of the girls was Sarah and she was my great grandmother. Augustus, a son of 17 swam after his mother who was clutching 2 smaller children. Alas, he saw them go under after being hit with a large log. He survived but had a troubled life. Regards, Thea Webster, Sydney.

    Thea Webster
  • Gday just curious. My Grand mother was an Aboriginal woman named Alice Maud Hall
    She was born at Araluen I am wondering if anyone in the area has a connection with the name

    Steve Byers