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Eden, NSW

Historic whaling port on the far South Coast of NSW.

Eden is a charming town which is located on a headland that juts out into Twofold Bay. It is surrounded by national parks and bushland with the Ben Boyd National Park lying to the north and south and Nullica State Forest and Mount Imlay National Park lying to the west. The town's great appeal lies in its idyllic location on Twofold Bay which, historically, is romantically connected to the age of whaling. No less impressive, however, are the attractions in the surrounding area: the historic settlement of Boydtown, the Green Cape lighthouse on a lonely stretch of coastline overlooking the Tasman Sea, and the dramatically beautiful red siltstone cliffs near Boyd's Tower, a wonderful folly from the whaling era. It is a town where a visitor, eager to explore the area, could easily spend a week.

Location

Eden is located 476 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway and is 553 km east of Melbourne. It is the last major southern town on the NSW Coast and is situated 50 m above sea level.

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Origin of Name

Eden was named after George Eden (1784-1849) who was the British First Lord of the Admiralty and Governor-General of India. He was known as the Earl of Auckland.

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Things to See and Do

Killer Whale Museum
There are not many "must see" regional museums in Australia but the Killer Whale Museum is one of them. With a collection of remarkable artefacts - old whaling boats, the skeleton of a killer whale, all the parapheralia of old time whaling - it tells the story of the history of whaling in Twofold Bay. Located on the corner of Imlay and Cocora Streets above Eden Harbour it provides sophisticated displays and lots of fascinating information. The highlight of the museum is the skeleton of a killer whale known as 'Tom' who helped the local whalers to catch and kill whales in Twofold Bay. It is a unique, and now widely told, story of an unusual relationship between a wild animal and humans. Tom really did alert the whalers to pods of whales moving up and down the coast and he really did help to herd those whales to their deaths in the bay. When Tom died his body was found in the bay in 1930 and his skeleton has been successfully preserved. The 52 minute video history of Tom is on the local website. Check out http://www.visiteden.com.au. The museum is located so perfectly that it offers fine views over the ocean. It is open 9.15 a.m. - 3.45 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11.15 a.m. - 3.45 p.m. on Sundays. It is open for an extra hour during the Christmas holiday period. For more information and admission charges check out http://www.killerwhalemuseum.com.au/

Whale Watching
Most of the harbours along the New South Wales South Coast now offer whale watching experiences in cruises and individual boats. There is a strong argument, if you have time and can choose, for going to Eden during the whale watching season (late September to late November) when the whales, having wintered around Hervey Bay, are making their way slowly down the coast. Firstly there is a sense of occasion when whales get near Twofold Bay: the Killer Whale Museum sounds a siren and people rush to the vantage points. Secondly Twofold Bay is rich with krill (a favourite food for whales) and Humpback Whales will actually pause at the bay to feed. There are a number of charter operators working out of Eden Harbour. For more information check out http://www.visiteden.com.au/things-to-do/whale-watching-eden/

Fishing
Take your pick: rock fishing at Pulpit Rocks, fishing off the Eden wharf, fishing at the mouth of the Kiah River, fishing on Aslings Beach, fishing in Wonboyn Lake or chartering a boat and going deep sea fishing. Eden offers superb fishing for the visitor. You can expect to catch (if you are a decent angler) yellowtail, mackerel and trevally off Eden Wharf; luderick or whiting at the mouth of the Kiah River; dusky flathead, salmon and taylor at Wonboyn Lake and who knows what if you take a deep sea fishing charter. Check out http://www.freedomcharters.com.au/default.cfm where they offer whale watching (in season) and reef, game and kingfish charters.

Coastal and Bush walking
There are a number of short walks around Eden all of which are worth doing because they offer excellent views over Twofold Bay and the nearby beaches. The most popular walks are (1) the Lake Curalo Walkway (3 km return, 40 minutes) north of the town centre which is excellent for bird watching. It takes the visitor on a boardwalk beside a melaleuca swamp forest and it can connect to the Aslings Beach Walk or the Maritime Heritage Walk (2) the Aslings Beach Walk which is a pleasant stroll along the beach from the rock pool at the southern end to Lake Curalo at the northern end (3) Cocora Beach Walk is a charming walk around the headland with dramatic views over Snug Cove and the wharf area and (4) the Cattle Bay Wharf Walk which is a one hour long walk around the western edge of Twofold Bay to Boydtown passing Cocora Beach, Bungo Beach, Rixons Beach, Quarantine Bay, Nullica Bay and reaching Boydtown for an afternoon drink.

Historic Buildings
Crown and Anchor Inn
Believed to be the oldest building in Eden it was built in the 1840s to replace a slab and bark hut. It was licensed as a hotel in 1845 and was used as the local telegraph office in the 1860s. Today it has been carefully restored and operates as a successful bed and breakfast. It is listed by the National Trust. Check out http://www.crownandanchoreden.com.au.

Eden Court House
Although typical of a sandstone Court House of the era (it was built in 1857 with the sandstone being brought from Pyrmont in Sydney) it was altered with both a weatherboard addition and the sandstone was painted. Many now feel the building is ruined. It is located opposite the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

Cocora Cottage
Located in Cocora Street behind the Court House, Cocora Cottage was built in 1850 as the town's first Police Station. There is a section which was the old cell block. It was built from sandstone which arrived in Eden as ship's ballast. Located at 2 Cocora Street it is Heritage Listed and is now the Cocora Cottage B&B. See http://www.coastalstays.com/cocora/

Half House
Perhaps the most impressive of all the historic buildings in the Imlay Street - Cocora Street area is the two storey Half House. Built in 1850 and given the name Half House because it was never completed, it is now a private residence. It was used as the town's Post Office from 1868-1885 and after that became the office for the Government Savings Bank. Reputedly the first two storey building in the town, it stands impressively overlooking the town.

Other buildings of interest in the town are the Great Southern Inn at the corner of Imlay and Chandos Streets and the Hotel Australia at 60 Imlay Street. Also St George's Uniting Church in Chandos St dates from 1865 when, as a Presbyterian Church, its foundation stone was laid by the controversial Reverend John Dunmore Lang.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Ben Boyd National Park
Ben Boyd National Park is broken into three sections (north and south of Eden and a new section north of Pambula River) and stretches for 45 km along the far south coast of New South Wales. It was established as a reserve in 1971 and now covers a total area of 10,407 hectares. Not surprisingly it is richly diverse ranging from recessed beaches and promontories to rugged and colourful coastline cliffs, and the Wonboyn Dune System of 26 parallel dunes - a rarity in New South Wales because the dunes have been undisturbed by either sand mining or urban development. The park is home to the rare ground parrot, white-breasted sea eagles, lyrebirds, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, grey kangaroos, goannas and, less frequently seen, marsupial mice, wombats and yellow-bellied gliders. It is an activity-based park with fishing, swimming, diving, camping, canoeing, boating and bushwalking all being popular.

(a) Ben Boyd National Park (North)
The Pinnacles
Ben Boyd National Park north of Eden (it stretches from Twofold Bay to Merimbula Bay) can be accessed by heading north along the Princes Highway for 8 km and turning right into Haycock Road. The Pinnacles are an amazing formation which was formed some 65 million years ago when soft white sand was overlaid by red clay and solidified. Erosion has produced a dramatic and beautiful effect. There is a 1.1 km nature trail (30 minutes walk) which offers a number of views across the gully to The Pinnacles. There are 11 plaques with information about the formation of the unusual feature. This is well worth visiting. For more information check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0003

Haycock Point to Barmouth Beach
Head north from Eden on the Princes Highway for 8 km and turn right into Haycock Road and follow it until you reach Haycock Point at the north-eastern tip of the park.

The views from Haycock Point are excellent - ideal for whale watching in season - and there is a leisurely 6 km  (3 km each way, easy, 2 hours) walk from the Point down to Barmouth Beach through woodlands and heathlands, and with scenic views of the rugged coastline. George Bass landed at Barmouth Beach on 18 December, 1797 seeking shelter from a gale. For more information check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0003

(b) Ben Boyd National Park (South)
To reach the southern section of the park drive south from Eden on the Princes Highway for 18 km and turn into Edrom Road. There are numerous, signposted roads in the park which lead to a variety of natural and historic attractions.

Boydtown and Seahorse Inn
There is a separate entry on Boydtown (http://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/boydtown-nsw) which provides great detail on both the Seahorse Inn, Boyd's Tower and the Davidson Whaling Station Historic Site. Every visitor to Eden should visit this area as it contains genuinely fascinating reminders of the golden age of whaling at Eden and Twofold Bay.

Seahorse Inn
The Seahorse Inn was originally built, for the great entrepreneur Ben Boyd, in 1843 using convict labour. Boyd had arrived in Sydney in 1842, set up a bank, bought a paddle-steamer named Seahorse, acquired nearly 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) in the Riverina and Monaro and decided that Twofold Bay would be ideal as the harbour for his operations. However the cost of establishing Boydtown began to affect him financially and in 1849 the liquidators were called in.

The Seahorse Inn was abandoned that year and the incomplete hotel lay vacant for nearly a century. It wasn’t until 1936 that the Whiter family renovated the ruin, added an extra storey and created the essence of the modern building.  In 2002 it was closed and subsequently upgraded at a cost of around $4 million. Today it is a charming, luxury boutique hotel with a restaurant, a cocktail lounge and a brasserie. To get to the Seahorse Inn follow the Princes Highway south of Eden for 8 km and turn left.

Davidson Whaling Station Historic Site
If you have stopped and seen the skeleton of Old Tom at the Killer Whale Museum in Eden then you have to drive 18 km south (via the Princes Highway and Edrom Road) to the ruins and remnants of the Davidson Whaling Station Historic Site because it was here that Old Tom and his gang of killer whales developed a special relationship with humans.  Alexander Walker Davidson was a carpenter who had worked for Benjamin Boyd. In 1857 he built a whaling station at Kiah Inlet and with equipment he purchased from Boyd he established a whaling business which lasted until 1929. It was always a family business. The excellent Eden Community Site records: "Alexander's son, John, ... began using Boyd's Tower as their whale spotting lookout. The lookouts would either ride a horse from lookout to whaling station (about 3km) or sometimes use signal fires to alert the whalers but as often as not the Killer Whales, which kept their own lookout from Leatherjacket Bay, would have already reached the whaling station and alerted the whalers by thrashing their tails on the surface of the water to attract their attention (or as the whalers called it flop-tailing).

"Although up to 30 whaling boats were launched from the area in its hey-day, the Davidson's were the only ones alerted by the Killer Whales. This may have been because a large proportion of the Davidson's crews were Aboriginal and the local Thawa tribe had a long established co-operative relationship with the Orcas, whom they called 'Beowas' and revered as reincarnated warriors reborn to the sea from the dreamtime."

Little of Davidson's large operation remains today but the station, which was proclaimed an historic site in 1986 and is now run by National Parks and Wildlife, has excellent interpretative and explanatory placards with illustrations and photographs to help the visitor imagine what the area must have been like when the station was operational. Check out http://eden.nsw.au/index.php/historic-eden41/historic-sites61/davidson-whaling-station58 for more details.

Boyd's Tower
Signposted from Edrom Road as 'Ben Boyd National Park - Tower', the strange structure known as Ben Boyd's Tower (it has BOYD in huge letters on the side) was built in 1847. It stands 23 metres high and was constructed from Pyrmont sandstone brought by steamer from Sydney. It was originally built as a lighthouse but the government considered it unsuitable and consequently it was never used although it did serve as a whale-spotting site. Over the years it has been damaged. It was struck by lightning in the 1860s and the internal staircase has been destroyed.

The tower was designed by Oswald Brierly, an English artist and student of naval architecture, who accompanied Boyd to Australia. Brierly lived at Twofold Bay for five years acting as a sort of manager of the whaling site at East Boyd. Years later he was appointed official Marine Painter to Queen Victoria and was subsequently knighted.

Look for the tribute on the north window which reads "In memory of Peter Lia who was killed by a whale, September 28, 1881. Aged 22 years." It is a tribute to a weird event. A whale had been harpooned but it headed out to sea dragging two boats more than 15 km. Eventually George Davidson, from Davidson's Whaling Station, called for the ropes to be cut and when they were the whale turned on one of the boats, broke it in two and smashed it with its tail. Unfortunately Peter Lai was sitting where the tail smashed the vessel. He was thrown overboard and never seen again. Boyd's Tower was added to Ben Boyd National Park in 1976.

The Light to Light Walk from Boyd's Tower to Green Cape
There is a long walk - 29.2 km - from Boyd's Tower to Green Cape Lighthouse which is a sublime way to experience this beautiful and lonely stretch of the New South Wales coastline. There is an excellent map with descriptions and details at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/audioTours/Light2LightWalk.pdf. It breaks the walk into three sections:

Boyd's Tower to Salwater Creek - 13.2 km, 4.5 hours past the dramatic red siltstone cliffs, through coastal forests, melaleuca thickets and woollybutt forests.

Saltwater Creek to Bittangabee Bay - 9 km, 3 hours - through wildflowers in spring, scrubby heathland, past yellow and purple rocky headlands. to the ruins of the Green Cape storehouse and landing wharf

Bittangabee Bay to Green Cape - 7 km, 2.5 hours, along a section of the old rail track which was used to carry stores and materials to Green Cape lighthouse. There is an audio tour which can be downloaded at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0003

Edrom Lodge
Edrom Lodge, located near the woodchip mill and just beyond the turnoff to Boyd's Tower, is one of those gracious seaside homes that sends chills of envy into anyone who ever wanting to live by the sea. It was designed by owner John Logan and took three years (1910-1913) to build. It is a classic Federation-style building and the Logan family continued to live in it until 1937. In 1942 it was sold and became a guesthouse. It is available for conferences and, most interestingly, the Edrom Lodge website (see http://www.edromlodge.com.au) has a useful "Bushwalking around Edrom" brochure which ranges from short geologically, biologically and botanically interesting walking tracks in the area to the long trek to Green Cape lighthouse. For more information check out the website or tel: (02) 6496 1510.

Saltwater Bay
Saltwater Bay is typical of Ben Boyd National Park. For most of the year it is sparsely populated and ideal for safe swimming and productive fishing. There is a 9 km walking track (part of the Light to Light 29 km track - check out the excellent map at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/audioTours/Light2LightWalk.pdf) which heads south through high heaths, beside rugged cliffs, and down onto rock platforms and lonely beaches before reaching Bittangabee Bay. On the way you are likely to see Eastern Grey kangaroos and if you go in spring the countryside is awash with native wildflowers. Beyond Hegarty's Bay there is a remarkable purple and yellow coloured headland.

Disaster Bay Lookout and Bittangabee Bay
If you decide to drive to Green Cape Lighthouse you should pause at Disaster Bay Lookout which provides excellent views to the south over Disaster Bay, Wonboyn Lake and Nadgee Nature Reserve. To the left is a turnoff to Bittangabee Bay where in the 1840s the Imlay Brothers established a base for their whaling operations which were eventually taken over by Benjamin Boyd in 1848. The stone ruins of an old house set amidst a garden area, probably started by the Imlays but never completed, can be found near the Bittangabee camping area. There are interpretative placards. The beaches surrounding Bittangabee are ideal for swimming, fishing and picnicking and the Light to Light track heads south for 7 km (2.5 hours one way) to Green Cape. On the way you will travel along a track which was built for a horse drawn tram which carried the materials from Bittangabee Bay to build the Green Cape lighthouse.

Green Cape Lighthouse
Green Cape Lighthouse lies at the south-eastern tip of Ben Boyd National Park. The first lighthouse on the point was completed in 1883. It was oil-fired and could be seen 19 nautical miles (35 km) out to sea. At the time it was the second-largest lighthouse in New South Wales standing 29 metres above its base.  The view from Green Cape is impressive. The Tasman Sea breaks on the rocks below and there is a real sense of loneliness and isolation.

In the early days the process of keeping the light burning was complex and rather primitive. There were three lighthouse keepers who worked in rotating five hour shifts. The light, which flashed every minute, was driven by a weighted pulley system which meant the weights had to be cranked up every 45 minutes. The light was finally electrified in 1962 and automated in 1983.

Nearby is the tragic, historic cemetery which contains the graves of 24 of the 71 people who lost their lives in the wreck of the Ly-ee-Moon. It was taking passengers from Melbourne to Sydney when, on 29 May, 1886, it drifted onto the rocks below Green Cape around 9.00pm. Five of the 45 passengers and ten of the 41 crew survived.

Today Green Cape is popular with scuba divers. Pulpit Rocks is considered one of the best locations for land-based fishing. There is a more detailed history of the lighthouse at http://eden.nsw.au/index.php/historic-eden41/historic-sites61/green-cape-lighthouse54

Nadgee Nature Reserve
Nadgee Nature Reserve, one of the largest in NSW, lies south of Wonboyn Lake and Ben Boyd Park and runs down the coast to the Victorian border. It is an area of rare, untouched beauty which contains unspoilt coastal habitats including freshwater swamp, woodland, scrub, open forest, coastal heath and a little rainforest. The fauna includes native wrens, wattlebirds, wallabies and kangaroos and the area is edged by beaches, the estuaries of the Wonboyn, Nadgee and Merrica Rivers, creeks and dramatic headlands. There is no vehicular access but if you are a keen walker there is the 60 km Nadgee-Howe wilderness track.

Wonboyn Lake
Nadgee Nature Reserve is edged to the north by Wonboyn Lake (6 km of tidal river flows into the lake and there is a 4 km estuary) which is known as "the fisherman's paradise". The lake, river and estuary are known to anglers for their rich supplies of flathead, bream, tailor, jewfish, trevally, luderick, whiting, salmon, tailor, bream and oysters. Access is via Wonboyn Road which heads east from the Princes Highway 23 km south of Eden.

The Bundian Way
The first Aboriginal pathway to be listed on the NSW State Heritage Register, the Bundian Way is a planned 265 km Aboriginal walking route from Fisheries Beach at Eden to Mount Kosciuszko. The decision to develop the track was inspired by G. A. Robinson’s story of an Aboriginal man named Al.mil.gong who walked from Omeo to present his new corroboree to his kin at Bilgalera (Fisheries Beach on Twofold Bay) in 1844.

It also follows the track taken by the Yuin people when they made their annual journey into the mountains to feast on the rich supply of bogong moths and to meet with the other groups in the area to deal with tribal and cultural matters. Equally it was a track used by the Ngarigo people of the Monaro and the Yaitmathang of Omeo in the mountains when they descended to the coast for whaling in the springtime. It is early days for this development but it is hoped that it will be established as a rare walking experience. One of the great Aboriginal walking tracks of south-east Australia. Check out http://www.bundianway.com.au for more information.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the local Aborigines, the Katungal of the Thawa tribe who were part of the Yuin language group, had lived in the area for thousands of years.

* The first European to sight Twofold Bay was Captain James Cook in April, 1770.

* The first Europeans to pass through the area were the survivors from the wreck of the Sydney Cove.  Nine of them died on the journey up the coast and only three reached Sydney alive.

* Hearing the reports of the survivors, George Bass, travelled down the coast in December, 1797. On his return in early 1798 he entered Twofold Bay and named Snug Cove, where Eden wharf now stands, because he believed it was suitable as a resting place for passing vessels.

* Later in 1798, Bass with Matthew Flinders headed south to Van Diemen's Land. This time a detailed and accurate survey of Twofold Bay was made and the duo made contact with the local Aborigines. Flinders recounted an amusing and friendly incident where he offered a local some biscuits and in turn the local offered Flinders some fat. After tasting the fat Flinders explained that while "watching an opportunity to spit it out when he should not be looking, I perceived him doing precisely the same thing with our biscuit".

* Whaling was the reason the area was settled. As early as 1791 whalers were in the area. The migration, mostly of right whales, to and from the Antarctic resulted in large numbers passing Twofold Bay between May and November.

* The first European to settle in the area was Captain Thomas Raine who, in 1828, established the first shore whaling station on mainland Australia. Stations were already established on Van Diemen's Land and Kangaroo Island.

* By the early 1830s the Imlay Brothers had started whaling in Twofold Bay. They trained local Aborigines to become whalers. Peter Imlay arrived at Twofold Bay around 1833 and decided to settle. His brothers George and Alexander followed and they are credited with erecting Eden's first building, a small slab and bark hut at Snug Cove. Unfortunately the depression of the 1840s destroyed the family financially.

* Permission was given by the Governor to establish a town at Twofold Bay in 1834 but it was not laid out until 1843.

* The discovery of alluvial gold at Kiandra in the 1859-1860 led to the development of Eden as a port for prospectors heading to the goldfield. At one point there were 4,000 people living in the town.  The rush had ended by 1866 and the port failed to develop.

* Around 1900 Eden was mooted as a possible future national capital. This was partly because it was recognised at the time as having the third deepest natural harbour in the world.

* Whaling died off in the late 1920s and other industries grew slowly. There was a need for wattlebark (a source of tannin) and dairying, timber and brickmaking became important.

* Today tourism, commercial fishing, and the woodchip industry are the town's economic base.

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Visitor Information

The Eden Visitor Information Centre is located on the corner of Mitchell Street and the Princes Highway, tel: (02) 6496 1953, 1800 150 457.

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Useful Websites

The town has a good, detailed local website. Check out http://www.visiteden.com.au for accommodation and whale watching tours. There is an excellent and very detailed history of the area at http://eden.nsw.au/index.php/historic-eden41/eden-s-history

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  • If you would like some negatives of Eden taken by Professional Photographer Albert Jarratt of Lorne in 1946 please send your name and address and I will post them to you.

    Jill Keefe