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Broadwater, NSW

Sugar town on the Richmond River.

Broadwater is a tiny town on the Pacific Highway which is dominated by its huge and historic sugar mill. The townscape is memorable for its particularly lovely timber dwellings and public buildings.


Broadwater, on the Richmond River, is located 725 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway.


Origin of Name

Broadwater's name has changed over the years. When Henry Cook and Alexander Duncan MacDonald arrived in the area in 1863 the settlement was called, rather unimaginatively, Cooktown and then MacDonaldtown. It eventually became Broadwater for no better reason than the Richmond River is wide (broad) at this point.


Things to See and Do

Broadwater Sugar Mill The Broadwater Sugar Mill dominates the town. Established in 1880 by CSR to serve the surrounding sugar cane farms it was sold to the NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative in 1979. It backs onto the Richmond River. It is no longer open to private inspections but when it was it had an amusing promotional brochure which declared: "Don't miss this exciting chance to experience sugar milling close hand ... loud, smelly and dirty".

Historic Buildings The Post Office is a reminder of the power of large, local industries. It was opened in 1880 at the request of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) which, announcing that it was building a sugar mill, asked the government to establish a post office - which they did.

Our Daily Bread Cafe The town's most prominent building is the beautifully restored old Catholic Church at the north end of town which was consecrated by the Bishop of Lismore in 1925. By the 1980s it was no longer being used and was in serious disrepair. It was sold to the current owners in 2009 and they have turned it into a classy cafe with a pottery collection called Allanah's Collection. Everything they sell is cooked and baked on the premises.


Other Attractions in the Area

Broadwater National Park Broadwater National Park covers 4,245 ha of coastal heath and wetlands including 8 km of beach frontage. It contains many large sand dunes and swale gullies that were formed 60,000 years ago. Some of the sand ridges formed by wind-blown sands are over 30m above sea level. Covered largely by coastal heath, eucalypt forests and wetlands, the park is particularly impressive in springtime when Christmas bells, golden bush peas, swamp lilies and sun orchards mingle with other spring wildflowers and the bush is ablaze with pinks, yellows, white and blues. There are many bird species in the park particularly the ibis, sea eagles, pied oyster catchers and terns which can be found on the beach and the ring tail possums, red-necked wallabies, echidnas, bandicoots, possums and bush rats. The Bundjalung Aborigines still live in the area and there are a number of sacred sites in the park. For further information check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkHome.aspx?id=N0007 .



* Prior to European settlement the Richmond River had been inhabited for thousands of years by the Bundjalung First Nation peoples who lived on a rich mixture of fish, turtles and shellfish from the river complemented by wallabies from the surrounding area.

* In 1863 Henry Cook and Alexander Duncan MacDonald became the first Europeans to settle in the area.

* In 1876 a small postal receiving office was established at Broadwater.

* 1881 saw the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) establish the Broadwater sugar mill to crush the sugar cane grown in the surrounding area. They were confident that the mill would see a rapid expansion of the local population which, at the time stood at 20. A school was established at the Union Church in 1881.

* In 1882 John Ware built the Coronation Emporium.

* A local school was built in 1885. So successful was the mill that workers came from Coraki and it was common, during the harvest season, for camps to be set up beside the Richmond River.

* A Catholic Church was consecratd in 1888.

* In 1901 a post office and residence were built.

* In 1978 CSR sold the mill which is now owned by NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative.


Visitor Information

Broadwater does not have its own Visitor Information Centre. The closest is the Ballina Visitor Information Centre, cnr River Street and Las Balsas Plaza, Ballina, tel: (02) 6686 3484.


Useful Websites

There is no specific website for Broadwater.

Got something to add?

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

19 suggestions
  • I have a photo of sugar cane being cut by hand and hauled by two draft horses from the Broadwater area. Do you want a copy? Photo taken in 1947 along with photos of the wharves, or jetty, the pub on the river and an old homestead. I also have a few photos of men at work and smoko time in a paddock.

    myree mcgoldrick
  • You have no mention of MELBA’S VERANDAH. it is a quaint little restaurant in a really old building with lots of character and really good food.

    That’s because this website doesn’t attempt to include restaurants and cafes – there are over 21,000 of them in towns around Australia. If only 1% change their name or close that involves 210 changes that would have to be made.

    Judy Ironfield
  • Strangely there is no mention of John Byrne who settled the area north of Rattle Creek. He was a well known and respected pioneer.

    PM Byrne
  • Was there a local newspaper for the area in the 1950s? I am looking for information about a major fire in a house on the hill. Two of the Jones family perished.

    Nei G Lightfoot
  • Would love to see photo as the homestead could have been my grandparent’s home.

    Beverley Powell
  • I’m interested in finding information about Alexander Duncan MacDonald he is my GrGr Grandfather I want to do a trip up to Broadwater when all this Covid is over

    Janette Lindsay
  • What about Headless Ned (Ed Kelly)the man who was decapitated by neighbour John Stenberg over an ongoing argument about an overgrown boundary tree which Ned refused to cut down.
    Stenberg walked into Kelly’s back door, shot him as he sat in his chair in the kitchen, then walked to the pub with the hand gun in his pocket, put the gun on the bar hoping someone would pick it up to admire it, thereby leaving their prints on it. Noone touched it so he finished his beer, picked up the gun and left. He went back to Ned’s, took a long bread knife from the drawer and hacked Ned’s head off and hid it. Steinberg is in jail. He has never disclosed where Ned’s head is hidden.

    Rowan Wallace
  • I believe my ancestors were pioneers in growing sugar cane at Broadwater , . Three brothers the Andersons came from Scotland in about 1872 and my great grandfather had land right next to the Broadwater Sugar Mill . My grandmother Fanny A nderson, born about 1878, lived there until her marriage to Charles Laidman in about 1905.
    We visited the house right next to sugar mill when Ida Anderson my mothers cousin lived there ? about 1950
    I live in San Francisco now and was researching this for my son who lives in Berlin

    Jeanette Brown nee M c Leay
  • I don’t seem to be able to find any reference the Sugar Trade on the River or the Canal.
    Landings, Loading, Wharfs, Original Mills, Barges, Tugs, that sort of thing.
    Can you help with this please.

    Martin Smith
  • I lived in Broadwater from circa 1965 till I left for college in early 1973. My father(Phil Barter) was the postmaster and we first lived in the attached post office residence until he had built the adjacent low set brick house in 1971. Snowy Burns built the house and also built the Hotel across the road. I attended Ballina High School on the bus with school mates David Colohan, Barry Mills and Peter Russell. The fathers of all three boys worked at the Mill. One Robert White was also a same age Ballina student who lived at Broadwater. My parents retired to an acreage plot at the high end of Pine Tree Road after the 1974 flood which inundated their new house.

    Philip Barter
    • In about November 1955 we visited the pub in Broadwater to see my god mother. I called her “Aunty Peg”, cant remember her husbands name or their surname. They ran the pub, I dont think they owned it, maybe leased? I was going on 7. I remember well, being enraptured with people coming and going and the many hotel rooms and each afternoon I’d go over to the river and throw a line in provided by the kitchen staff, and occasionally pull out ugly catfish!
      Anyone know when the pub was built?

  • Am I incorrect in remembering a cute cafe in a corner house set in a lovely garden, on the main road. I think there was a service station across the road. I always looked forward to stopping there to eat as I went to & from Sydney to Brisbane. The food was good, the garden lovely & the birds singing in the trees completed the scene,

  • Wardell is close but not listed. A lot of history there connected.

    Anthony Benson
  • Hi, I was wondering if you had any information or images of Christopher Thomas Bagot (1825-94) who lived in Broadwater from 1879/80. He and his brother John Clibborn Bagot (1830-1919), Ballina, operated a saw mill under the name of Bagot’s Saw Mills, Broadwater. The sawmill burnt down in a fire in 1899. I have a lot of information from the newspapers (Trove search) but if there was any local information it would be appreciated.

    Gaye Ashford
  • Was Alexander Duncan MacDonald an ex convict?

    Heather MacDonald