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Cobargo, NSW

Impressive historic town on the Far South Coast of New South Wales.

Like so many small towns on the New South Wales South Coast, Cobargo would benefit hugely if it was bypassed. At the moment, although it has a thriving arts community and a wonderful range of historic timber buildings, it lacks the quiet charm of Tilba Tilba which is located off the Princes Highway. Still it is a town well worth exploring. It has a range of excellent cafes (very few are open in the evenings) and has leather and timber craft shops, potteries, art galleries, tea rooms and antique shops. It is an ideal, central location for visitors wanting to explore Tathra, the remarkable Mimosa Rocks National Park and Wadbilliga National Park. The tourist towns of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba are just up the highway.

Location

Cobargo is a small, timber town located 383 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway.

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Origin of Name

It has been claimed that Cobargo got its name from a local Yuin word, "cubago", which was possibly the term used for Mount Dromedary which lies behind Bermagui and Tilba Tilba. This seems unlikely as the indigenous community around Wallaga Lake refer to the mountain as "Gulaga", a fact which is acknowledged in the title Gulaga National Park. Before becoming Cobargo the town was known variously as Wattletown and The Junction.

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Things to See and Do

Guide to the local historic buildings
There is an excellent brochure, Historic Village Walk (cost $2.00 and available from shops in the area or the Visitor Information Centre in Bermagui), which lists a total of 27 buildings most of which are in the main street of town. Each of the buildings of interest is numbered making the pleasant task of walking around town a very easy operation. So, for example, if you stop outside No.7, located at 62 Princes Highway, you can read (and observe) that it is now the local pharmacy but it was built in 1906 and is “one of the few buildings of that era constructed in brick with pressed metal ceilings and a marble fireplace” and was originally used as a solicitor’s office. Equally the Old Cobargo Convent, an excellent local B& B, is covered in detail.

Old Cobargo Convent
Built in 1917 the Old Cobargo Convent is remarkably well preserved. It is a typical, solid, post-Federation Australian rural brick building with a wide veranda, lots of shade, a rose garden out the front, a wide central hallway and, most impressively, beautifully preserved and superb pressed metal ceilings in all rooms. It was once used as a school and it is possible to stay in small rooms that were once dormitories crowded with schoolgirls.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Tathra Wharf
Located only 59 km from Cobargo, Tathra Wharf is a reminder of a time when the main transportation to the region was by boat from Sydney. It is now the last of the wharves which once were like a daisychain all the way down the South Coast and were vital for commerce – the ships carried the region’s dairy produce to Sydney.

Mimosa Rocks National Park - Aragunna
Just beyond Tathra, is Mimosa Rocks National Park which, at Aragunna, boasts one of the finest Aboriginal middens anywhere in Australia. If you want to understand how idyllic indigenous life was before European settlement the midden at Aragunna, with its freshwater stream on one side and its rocky headland heavy with crustaceans at the water’s edge, is a reminder of what life was like for the Yuin people for thousands of years before European settlement.

Wadbilliga National Park
Lying inland from Cobargo via Wandella Road (Bourke's Road) is the impressive Wadbilliga National Park which was created in 1979. It is characterised by rugged mountain ranges, broad plateaus, deep river valleys, wet sclerophyll forest, heathland, bogs and numerous pockets of rainforest. It is an untouched wilderness area which is home to at least 122 species of native birds as well as swamp wallabies, echidnas, possums, platypus, eastern grey kangaroos and wombats. Many of the highlights of the park can be seen from the Cascades Camping Area (for more details check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0048). The most impressive feature is the Tuross Falls  which tumble over boulders down 35 metres. They can be accessed easily from the Cascades Camping Ground. The viewing platform is only 300 m from the ground and it takes around 15 minutes to reach it. More difficult is the 4 km Tuross River Walk which also starts from the Cascades Camping Ground. Although it is only 4 km (2 km each way) it is of medium difficulty and will take around four hours. It is typical of the geology of the area which is noted for its deep, steep-sided river valleys. This is a genuine wilderness experience. The park's pristine state means that exploration is mostly by foot. It is ideal for  experienced bush walkers who enjoy lengthy walks and are prepared for an overnight stay. Note that heavy rains can render roads and river crossings impassable, so it is best to enquire about local conditions before setting off. The National Parks and Wildlife Service office is located on the corner of Graham and Burrawang Streets, Narooma, tel: (02) 4476 0800.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the Cobargo area was populated by the Yuin people for tens of thousands of years. It has been estimated that the population was around 11,000 between Cape Howe and Batemans Bay in 1788. The group living around Cobargo were known as the Dyiringanj.

* The  first European into the Cobargo district was William Duggan Tarlinton who arrived in February, 1829. At the time he was guided by three Aboriginal men from near Braidwood to Cobargo via a track long used by Aboriginal people. Tarlinton returned in the 1830s, selected land, erected slab and bark huts and in 1837 obtained an official squatters licence.

* By 1840 Alexander Imlay, one of the three Imlay brothers, had acquired a substantial land holding in the district. He named his property 'Cobargo'.

* In the 1860s cutters moved into the area to exploit the extensive stands of black wattle. Wattle bark was sent to Sydney where it was used in the tanning industry.

* In 1864 a scandal erupted in the town when Margaret Tarlinton gave birth to a child with the father being an Aboriginal farmhand. It is claimed that both Margaret and her sister, Elizabeth, were accused of killing the baby to avoid the shame. They were charged with murder but were acquitted.

* In 1871 there were sufficient numbers of settlers living around the junction of the Narira and Bedbatoura Creeks to establish a public school for 37 children.

* By the 1870s the area was dominated by the dairy industry with butter and cheese being sent to Sydney from Bermagui.

* In the 1880s the roads in the area were upgraded and a bridge over the Narira Creek was opened by W. D. Tarlinton in 1882.

* In 1887 a School of Arts was opened in the town. It was built mainly from local hardwood.

* The first Cobargo Show was held in 1889.

* In the 1890s the town, and surrounding district, was large enough to sustain a local newspaper - the Cobargo Watch - and in 1890 a Post Office was constructed.

* In 1898, following a gift of land from the Tarlinton family, the town's Roman Catholic church was consecrated.

* The local butter factory was opened in 1901. It eventually closed in 1980.

* In 1965 the town's sawmill closed down.

* In the past two decades the town has been revitalised by the arrival of craft shops and cafes.

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Visitor Information

There is a volunteer Cobargo Tourist Information Centre on the western side of the Princes Highway, tel: (02) 6493 6110. It is open Thursday to Monday from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm. Also there is an excellent and comprehensive visitor information centre at Bermagui - Bermagui Visitor Information Centre, Bermagui Community Centre, Bunga Street, tel: (02) 6493 3054, 1800 645 808.

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Useful Websites

The town has two useful local websites which are worth checking out. See http://www.visitcobargo.com/ and http://thebegavalley.org.au/cobargo.0.html

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Got something to add?

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4 suggestions
  • Hi, thanks for this site and the info on Cobargo. In the history section I would like to suggest an addition to acknowledge that W D Tarlinton was guided by three Aboriginal men from near Braidwood to Cobargo via a track long used by Aboriginal people, and where he eventually moved to with his whole family.
    Also one correction in the history section with regard to Margaret Tarlinton’s baby, I understand that both Margaret and her sister Elizabeth (my great grandmother) were accused, and unsurprisingly – given the times, the status and connections of the Tarlinton family – were acquitted of the murder.
    Regards,
    Janene Collins

    Janene Collins
  • I just saw the very supportive stand your local community took re Marriage Equality on the News channel this morning. I was so excited by this. It indicated a caring and united community but also one of fun!! My daughter is returning from overseas with her Chinese husband to tour Australia in November & I have just sent her a message to visit your town.

    Cheers

    Joan James
  • In December 1918 Stafford Bros were reported in the Cobargo Chronicle as “burning 50,000 bricks to build a cordial factory and residence for Mr C Bown, a progressive young townsman”. The building still stands at the top end of Avernus St and my wife and I are the current owners. There is a well in the back yard that may have been used in the production of the cordial. I’d be keen to find out more about the history of the business operation if anyone knows.

    Richard Pass