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Jamberoo, NSW

Historic dairy town in the Jamberoo Valley west of Kiama.

Jamberoo is a small rural village surrounded by verdant dairy pastures. It is located at the top of a valley which is edged to the south by Saddleback Mountain and to the west by the towering cliffs of the Illawarra escarpment. This is a gentle landscape of rolling hills which were once covered with dense rainforest. Today all that remains are the district's distinctive cabbage-tree palms which are dotted across the landscape. Although there has been considerable development on the edges of the town, time seems to have stood still in Jamberoo. There is an historic and rather English feel to the region which is characterised by the town's charming churches and accentuated by the dry stone walls which separate the farms in the area.

 

Location

Jamberoo is located 114 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway and Albion Park or 128 km via Kiama. It is 9 km west of Kiama.

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Origin of Name

The word Jamberoo probably meant 'track' or 'path' in the language of the local Tharawal Aboriginal people.

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Things to See and Do

Buildings in Jamberoo
Jamberoo Pub
The most dominant building in Jamberoo is the pub which is distinguished by its rather bizarre (at least in an Australian context) faux-Elizabethan half-timbering which has a kind of olde worlde charm. It is hugely popular on weekends when it attracts enthusiastic visitors. The original Jamberoo pub was built in 1857 but has long since departed. The current pub is notable for its connections with the late, great soccer player, Johnny Warren. His older brother, Ross, owns the pub and has made the walls a celebration not only of Johnny but of soccer. The pub also has classy, intimate entertainment with the likes of Diesel, Daryl Braithwaite and Christine Anu appearing. For more information check out http://jamberoopub.com/.

St Stephen's Presbyterian Church
Further west along Allowrie Street is the attractive sandstone St Stephen's Presbyterian Church (1876) with its square tower and rounded arches it was designed in the Norman style by a local citizen, James Colley.

Anglican Church of the Resurrection
If you want to marvel at what bad taste can do to elegance then the Anglican Church of the Resurrection is a fine exemplar. It was designed by the famous  architect Edmund Blacket (Sydney University, St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney) in 1864. At the time he was Colonial Architect of New South Wales. The original building was typical of Blacket's Norman brick churches but the local parishioners found rather plain so they employed local stonemason, John Simmons, to add a tower and some stone elaborations and the church was finally consecrated in 1867. But there is more! Not happy with their changes someone decided that  the red brick had to go.  Now the church is cement rendered both inside and out.

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Other Attractions in the Area

To the East of Jamberoo
Terragong
An indication of the prosperity of the Jamberoo Valley in the 19th century is Terragong, a striking Georgian two-storey dwelling dating from around 1858 which is a distinctive feature of the winding, original road (it dates from 1841) from Jamberoo to Kiama. It is easily identified as it is opposite a power station, has a large veranda and enormous fig tree in the front yard. It was built by John Marks, a mayor of Kiama, and is not open to the public.

Saddleback Mountain Lookout
One of the great views on the South Coast is that from Saddleback Mountain. To the north the visitor can see Lake Illawarra, Port Kembla and Wollongong. To the south is Seven Mile Beach, Coolangatta Mountain and Shoalhaven Heads. From Jamberoo the visitor should head towards Kiama, turn south into Fountaindale Road and follow the signs. The reserve at the lookout  is modest but the mountain, which is the point where the escarpment tumbles down to the sea, offers one of the best views on the whole of the south coast.

Hoddles Track
Bushwalkers eager to gain even better views should head to the western end of the Saddleback reserve where there is a sign pointing to Hoddles Track. In 1830 Robert Hoddle cut a track from the Southern Highlands to Kiama so that produce from the highlands could be shipped to Sydney. Little remains of the track (it was replaced by the easier Macquarie Pass) but this track leads from Saddleback to Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. The track is marked with green posts to indicate the route. It is rough, very steep at times, and takes about four hours return. My colleague, Ivan Coates, walked the track about a decade ago and offers the following helpful advice: "When you reach the second marker you can go left or right, the left being a steeper descent. Stone fencing can be seen here and an old trail branches off to the left, leading to Foxground Road, which, in turn, leads south to the Princes Highway. Climb over the stile to enter Barren Grounds. The ascent up Noorinan Mountain is steep but you are surrounded by remarkable and cool rainforest and the breathtaking views from the summit make the effort worthwhile. Looking out to the coast, Seven Mile Beach and, beyond that, Jervis Bay lie to the south. To the north are Kiama and Wollongong. A shorter, if more strenuous route to the top, is by a rope which dangles down just before the track turns to the left as it begins its ascent to the lookout."

To the West of Jamberoo
Minnamurra Rainforest
A sublime day out, and a wonderful way to experience what the Jamberoo Valley must have been like before the cedar cutters arrived, is to visit the Minnamurra Rainforest which is managed by the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service and is part of the Budderoo National Park. Located west of Jamberoo (follow the signs on Jamberoo Mountain Road) it is a remnant of subtropical rainforest (400 ha) which was declared and protected as early as 1903. The first trails to the waterfalls were constructed during the Great Depression. The subttropical and temperate rainforest remnants are a total experience. The visitor enters through the Rainforest Centre which has a book shop and displays. Brochures explain that the reserve has 90 different species of ferns (two-thirds of all the fern types in New South Wales) and 80 species of native trees. There is a single walking track which, in total, is 4.2 km and takes about two hours. It can be shortened. There is a relatively short and easy (1.6 km) Rainforest Loop Walk (which includes a wheelchair access section) which rises through the rainforest but turns back to the Rainforest Centre before it heads up a long, steep path to two lookouts over the falls. The main Minnamurra Falls are actually two falls (one 50m and one 25m) which drop into a narrow densely covered gorge. Trees in the rainforest are clearly identified by signs and include such important local species as the sandpaper fig, the Illawarra fig, a giant stinging tree, a huge red cedar, cabbage tree palms, bush cherry and staghorns.

Rock wallabies and lyrebirds live in the reserve and, occasionally, an eastern water dragon can be seen basking on the rocks. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Budderoo-National-Park/Minnamurra-Rainforest-Centre-and-Lyrebird-Cafe/tourist-information and http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkVisitorCentre.aspx?id=N0069 for more details, times of opening and costs. All monies are reinvested in the site. Tel: (02) 4236 0469 for further information.

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve
At the top of Jamberoo Mountain Road about equidistant between Jamberoo and Robertson is Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. It is located on the sandstone plateau 610 metres above sea level and with a resident bird population of about 120 species, this 1,962 ha reserve is a birdwatcher's paradise. It is also ideal for bushwalkers who can walk 3.2 km (each way) to Cooks Nose, a rocky promontory overlooking Kangaroo Valley.

In 1956 ornithologists discovered that this piece of rugged, scrubby heathland was home to the rare ground parrot and eastern bristle bird and as a result it was declared a nature reserve. There are also grey currawong, crimson rosellas, southern emu wrens, gang-gang cockatoos, honeyeaters and the occasional lyrebird.

The mammals include swamp wallabies, the long nosed potoroo and echidna, as well there are plenty of snakes. The ecosystem is predominantly heathland which is covered with wildflowers in spring and dry sclerophyll woodland with rainforest in the gullies and gorges. Ferns cover the ground and there are orchids on the rock ledges.

The eastern edge of the reserve overlooks Saddleback Mountain. There are several walking tracks which depart from the car park and picnic area. Griffiths Trail is a circular 8 km track which meanders through heathland, rainforest and woodland and takes Illawarra lookout and Saddleback trig. The National Parks & Wildlife Service website provides maps for the Griffiths, Illawarra lookout and Cooks Nose walking tracks. See http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/barren-grounds-nature-reserve. There is also a useful brochure available at the Kiama Visitor Centre which provides information about:

(1) the Illawarra Lookout Walk (2 km, easy, 30 minutes)
(2) Redbank Gully Walk (1.5 km, easy, 30 minutes)
(3) Cooks Nose Lookout Walk (6 km, medium difficulty, 2 hrs 30 minutes)
(4) Flying Fox Pass Walk (5 km, easy, 2hrs 30 minutes)
(5) Griffiths Trail (8 km, medium difficulty, 3 hrs)
(6) Kangaroo Ridge Walk (20 km, medium difficulty, 8 hrs)

and invites potential walkers to contact the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre, Nowra Road, Fitzroy Falls, tel: (02) 4887 7270.

Carrington Falls
There is a clear sign on Jamberoo Mountain Road to Nellies Glen Picnic Area and Carrington Falls. From Thomas Place Picnic Area there is a  track (2 km return with disabled access) which leads to three lookouts over the falls which tumble 50 m over the Kangaroo Valley escarpment. There are a number of walks from the Carrington Falls Picnic Area including Izzards lookout track, Nellies Glen picnic area, Warris Chair lookout track and Missingham lookout track. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Budderoo-National-Park/Carrington-Falls/picnic-bbq for more details.

Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk  is located 3 km off the Jamberoo Mountain Road approximately 10 minutes from Robertson and 15 minutes from Jamberoo. Historically Knights Hill, where it is located, was nothing more than a few houses,  undulating rural land and a Mission Australia camp. The Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk is a $6.5 million tree top walk which opened in 2008. It offers panoramic views over the Illawarra coastline, Lake Illawarra and Greater Wollongong from a 45 m high tower and two cantilevered vantage points which gently sway as people walk out on them. The bulk of the structure is nearly 50 m above the ground and is surrounded by tall rainforest eucalypts. The entire walk takes about an hour. There is a café serving good coffee and light meals and a gift shop. For more details contact 1300 362 881. For more information check out http://www.illawarrafly.com

To the North of Jamberoo
Jamberoo Action Park
Jamberoo Action Park is a large fun park with an emphasis on water activities including Outback Bay, Surf Hill, Rapid River, Splash Out and Billabong Beach. There is also a scenic chairlift which takes you 500 m up the mountain where it is possible to see up and down the coast from Kurnell to Jervis Bay. Visitors can bobsled down the hillside on either a fast or a slow stainless steel track. The park is constantly evolving. In 2007 The Taipan - two giant slides that are totally in the dark - was opened and in 2012 the Funnel Web, a water thrill ride, was added. Visitors buy day tickets so plan on a day-long stay. The park is open from 10.00am - 5.00pm and bookings can be made, tel: 02 4236 0114 or search the website at https://www.jamberoo.net. Check times as it does close for the winter months.

The Illawarra Light  Railway Museum
The Illawarra Railway Museum is located at Albion Park and can be accessed from Tongarra Road which runs between the Princes Highway and the Illawarra Highway. Their collection includes two Queensland sugar trains dating from 1939, one of which had been originally owned by CSR; a coal train donated by AIS Port Kembla; an American steam train built in 1917 and used to haul blue metal in Kiama; and a range of diesel engines.

The museum regularly opens to the public with train rides on the Second Sunday of each month, from 11.00am to 4.00pm. They also operate on the fourth Sunday in January, Easter Sunday and the Sunday of the June (Queen's Birthday) and October (Labour Day) long weekends. Steam locomotives operate on the monthly running day but may be replaced by a diesel locomotive due to a total fire ban or other operational requirement such as volunteer availability. Check out http://www.ilrms.com.au/ for details of opening times and special days.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Jamberoo Valley was inhabited for at least 20,000 years by the Tharawal people who moved backwards and forwards from the coast to the hinterland.

* As early as the 1810s (probably around 1814-15) cedar cutters had moved into the hinterland, set up camps and were cutting down the rich harvest of valuable timber which they transported to Kiama and then to Sydney.

* An indirect consequence of the cedar cutters was that the land was cleared and this led, in the 1820s, to land grants and the settlement of the valley.

* The township developed as a result of a large land grant to Robert Hyam who named his property Sarah's Valley. By 1836 the Hyam Estate was being described as a 'thriving bustling village'. It included a pub (The Harp Inn), tannery, general stores and a blacksmith.

* Another village sprang up on the Minnamurra River in 1838. Known as Woodstock it was based around a sawmill and a flour mill, had over 80 residents and two hotels. When the mills failed the village collapsed and by 1873 it had disappeared.

* Jamberoo's first denominational school was established at the Roman Catholic Church in 1839.

* There is a wonderful description of the whole Kiama-Jamberoo area on a plaque in Kiama. It describes a visit by the local mill manager's daughter where she rode from Wollongong to Jamberoo in the 1840s. "From Wollongong to Jamberoo, the road was a mere day track through a forest of tropical foliage; gum trees 200 [feet] or more in height, gigantic india-rubber trees with broad shining green leaves, lofty cabbage palms, and many other kinds of tree towered above us, so that their tops made a twilight canopy, unpenetrable to the sunlight, save for an infrequent clearing in the forest made by the settler's axe. Huge lianas, some as thick as a man's arm, hung down snakelike from the trees."

* The area's distinctive stone fences were erected from the 1850s by one man, Thomas Newing of Kent, who came to the valley and brought the craft with him from England.

* In 1859 Jamberoo was incorporated as a Local Government Unit. It was amalgamated with Kiama in 1954.

* By the late 1800s there were four butter factories in the Jamberoo Valley and the economy was dominated by dairying. This brought prosperity and, in 1888, the train from Sydney reached Kiama making transportation to the city easier.

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Visitor Information

Jamberoo has a Visitor Centre in the local newsagency (Shop 2 / 18 Allowrie Street, tel: (02) 4236 0100) and is well served by the larger Kiama Visitors Centre, Blowhole Point Road, tel: (02) 4232 3322

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Useful Websites

There is no specific local website for Jamberoo.

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Got something to add?

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

5 suggestions
  • There is a Facebook page Remember Jamberoo History that has some old photos and images of the old town this may be interesting to people interested in Jamberoo

    Ronald B Oke
  • Is there a “Mt. Johnston” in Jamberoo? My husband has distant cousins who settled there around 1850 from Ireland: John Cullen & Rebecca (née Clinton) either named their property Mt. Johnston after his mother, Jane (née Johnston) Cullen, or they were near a place/hill/mt. they named Mt. Johnston. John & Rebecca Cullen were parents of Wm. Portus Cullen (MP, Chief Justice and Lt. Gov. of NSW, and Joseph Francis Cullen, an MP and newspaper owner). Any ideas?

    J.F. Cullen
  • Historic sandstone Catholic Church 1879
    St Matthew’s, Chapel Lane, Jamberoo

    Helen Plowman
  • Am writing my Family History which involves Jamberoo Mountain Road. Can you tell me if it was built before 1874/1875.

    Does anyone have any information about this?

    Sandra Stanley
  • My mothers relatives lived in a.large farmhouse with servant bells ballroom kitchen out back stone fences belive it may have been a nunnery one time belive it was burnt down ? Was on the historical list

    Mark Williams