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Mallacoota, VIC

Quiet and picturesque coastal holiday and fishing resort town.

Mallacoota is a quiet seaside holiday village which is surrounded by the 87,500 ha Croajingolong National Park with its 100 km of undeveloped coastline. The small town lies in the heart of a genuine wilderness coast. It is a village which seems to have been specifically created for campers and caravan holiday makers with the main foreshore between Captain Stevenson's Point and Coull's Inlet being a wonderfully extended caravan park. There is a great sense of laziness and peacefulness about the town with anglers in tinnies plying the quiet waters, campers relaxing and enjoying the views and the admirably named Bottom Lake and Top Lake being unspoiled places of great tranquility. The poet and journalist, E.J. Brady moved to Mallacoota after World War I. He played host to Henry Lawson and other literary and artistic luminaries and has left us with a seductive description of the sunset over Mallacoota Inlet: "I have never seen anything in Australia to equal some sunsets that have held me spellbound in Mallacoota. Picture a perfectly still sheet of water, three or four miles in width, with a number of little islets clustered in one corner, covered by green coast-currant and honeysuckle, with billowing ranges at the opposite margin; the Pacific Ocean spreading its blue floors eastward, and purple hills and peaks over in the west, where the sun is radiating bands of colour towards the zenith, green, blue, vermilion, and a hundred intermediate shades of rose and yellow!" The surrounding countryside is still that beautiful.

Location

Mallacoota is almost exactly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne via the Princes Highway. It is located 514 km east of Melbourne and 560 km south of Sydney.

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Origin of Name

It is believed that Mallacoota is a Krauaetunglung Aboriginal word which either means "the place of many waters", "place of meeting" or "good water".

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Things to See and Do

Water Activities
Mallacoota Inlet comprises two large lakes (Top Lake and Bottom Lake) which are part of the estuaries of the Genoa and Wallagraraugh Rivers. There is 320 km of shoreline and these peaceful waters are ideal for canoeists, kayakers, small boats and cruises. The lakes are ideal for anglers and anyone interested in the rich marine birdlife which is attracted to the region. There are eleven cruise, water taxi and boat hire operators listed in the excellent Mallacoota: The Place for Reflection which is available at the Mallacoota Information Shed. It also provides information about the water sports on the inlet including swimming, surfing, fishing and just mooching around in boats.

Bunker Museum
The Mallacoota Bunker Museum is located in a large underground concrete bunker from where anti-submarine operations were conducted throughout World War II. It can be accessed by driving south of Mallacoota on the Betka Road and is open every Tuesday from 9.30 am - Last entry at 11.30 am. Tel: 0459 437 474.
The signage outside explains: "This building was used by  the Royal Australian Air Force during World War two for communications. It was part of a chain of defence bases located around the Australian coastline. As a high security installation it formed the headquarters of RAAF coastal intelligence activity in the region. Trained wireless operators listened to coastal shipping, decoded and collated the intelligence which was sent via a separate transmission station to East Sale and to Melbourne. The purpose of the surveillance was to keep the sea lanes open. Japanese submarines operated off the east coast of Australia and had claimed 22 Allied ships, of which 12 were Australian owned. Wartime censorship meant that these events were not reported. The adjacent Operational Aerodrome, a RAAF landing ground, extended the range of aircraft engaged in coastal reconnaissance by providing staging facilities for refuelling, re-arming and maintenance. The aerodrome was used initially by Avro Anson aircraft and later by Beaufort bombers after a third runway was built. A nearby barracks area provided accommodation for personnel. Restoration of the building commenced in 2002 by community volunteers including RSL sub-branch members. It is now operated as a museum by volunteers who are committed to the preservation of this unique World War II history. Local heritage exhibits and displays include Lakeview, the first Mallacoota township; the EJ Brady story and Henry Lawson; local shipwrecks including the SS Riverina;  "On the home front" - the war years; and a century of tourism at Mallacoota and Gabo island."
A radar installation and signal station on nearby Gabo Island provided surface surveillance and communications. This system provided defence against German surface raiders in early years of WWII and subsequently against attacks from Japanese submarines. These installations were operated on a joint service basis with the RAAF's 1 Operational Base Unit operating the Bunker and the Gabo radar site, the Army providing local security from 38 Battalion and the RAN operating the signal station on Gabo Island.

The Geology of Quarry Beach
There are rare and particularly beautiful rock formations at Quarry Beach where marine sandstone sediments form ribbons of colour. The geology of the area is explained in Mallacoota: The Place for Reflection: "The Ordovician period (500 million years ago) marine sedimentary rocks showing at Bastion Point are from before the time when the Antarctic crust broke off. The marine sandstone sediments are so old they have been repeatedly folded and faulted."

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Other Attractions in the Area

Croajingolong National Park
Croajingalong National Park is 87,500 ha with 100 km of undeveloped coastline which surrounds Mallacoota Inlet. The Inlet comprises two large lakes with 320 km. UNESCO have listed it as a World Biosphere Reserve. It is a outstanding wilderness region which claims to be the home to more than 70 native orchids and wildflower species as well as at least 250 different species of birds.

Croajingolong comprises rocky headlands, sandy tidal estuaries, swamp systems, sand dunes, landlocked freshwater lakes, mountains, temperate rainforest valleys, coastal forests and extensive heathlands. These diverse habitats support over 1500 plant species (215 being endemic) and a diverse range of animal life. There are over 306 birds species and 52 mammal species including Eastern Grey kangaroos, possums, wallabies, platypuses, tree goannas, sea eagles, lyrebirds, kingfishers and the rare Ground Parrot.

The park is accessible by boat and vehicle although some areas can only be reached on foot. There are are a number of sheets and brochures available . Contact either the Mallacoota Visitor Information Shed at the Main Wharf, tel: (03) 5158 0800  or the Parks Victoria Office, cnr Buckland and Allan Drive, Mallacoota, tel: 5161 9500. For further information visit the website: http://www.visitmallacoota.com.au.

The Story of E.J. Brady
Edwin James (E.J.) Brady (1869-1952) was a successful journalist and poet who was regularly published in The Bulletin; was friends with Henry Lawson, J.F. Archibald and Katherine Mansfield; and published a number of successful books of poetry and a memorable travel book, River Rovers, about a boat journey down the Murray River. He spent the last 40 years of his life in Mallacoota where he set up an artist’s colony and had, as his guests, literary luminaries including Henry Lawson (who wrote a well-known poem about Mallacoota), Katherine Susannah Pritchard and Louis Essen (the last two were prominent literary figures who are now almost forgotten).
The Australian Dictionary of Biography accounts for Brady's time in Mallacoota in the following terms: “Brady spent the rest of his life at Mallacoota, with intervals in Melbourne. His interests were wide-ranging: he attempted to establish a south-coast railway, timber-mills, and gold-mines; to grow medicinal plants; to sell a mechanical voting machine; to set up a commercial publishing venture with Randolph Bedford, and a co-operative for some of Melbourne's unemployed; but he continually reverted to publicity work and journalism. He wrote The Land of the Sun (London, 1924) after a visit to Queensland, and contributed weekly to Labor Call (Melbourne) in the early 1930s under the pseudonym 'Scrutator'. He ghosted several books on economics, compiled a biography, Doctor Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne (1934), and wrote many unpublished short stories and poems. Brady received Commonwealth literary fellowships, in 1941 to write Two Frontiers (Sydney, 1944), an account of his father's adventures, and, in 1944, for a biography of Archibald which was not published. His most substantial literary achievement is as a balladist of the sea - John Masefield, for one, keenly appreciated his energy and enthusiasm.” Today he is little more than a footnote in the history of Mallacoota. There is a plaque marking his campsite at Captain Stevenson's Point.

Gipsy Point
Located 18 km upriver from Mallacoota, Gipsy Point has become a boutique hideaway for anglers looking to try their luck in the Mallacoota Inlet and people seeking a quiet retreat on the edge of the Croajingolong National Park. The main attraction is Captain John Gerard's Wilderness River Cruises which run from the jetty on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Tel: 0418 279 997 from 8.00 am - 9.00 pm. The cruise lasts for 2 1/2 hours and, as the brochure explains: "After taking in the sights of Gipsy Point and negotiating the Genoa River sand flats we arrive at the deep still waters of the 'Rock Wall' where we view the giant nest of the Sea Eagles. Then on to the wilderness waters of the rarely visited Maramingo Creek, famous for its pristine beauty and abundant birdlife, and home to the beautiful azure Kingfisher. Here the Sea Eagles are fed providing excellent photo opportunities as they swoop within metres of the boat. After exploring the upper regions of the creek we anchor at beautiful 'Jumping Mullet Bend' whilst afternoon tea is served. This is a most scenic cruise with interesting commentary aboard the comfortable all-weather cruise boat Gypsy Princess."

Gabo Island and the Gabo Island Lighthouse
Off the coast directly east of Mallacoota is Gabo Island which covers 154 ha and is a pink granite outcrop approximately 2.5 km long. Its location and its lighthouse have made it an important reference point on the Australian east coast.

The lighthouse is elevated 55 metres above sea level (it is 46.9 metres tall) and has a range of 16 nautical miles. A wooden tower was built in 1853 and the present red granite tower on the southern tip of the island was completed in 1862 as a result of the shipwreck of the Monumental City which went down with the loss of 33 lives. These were completed after an earlier attempt in 1846 had stalled because of a lack of funding. It was upgraded to kerosene in 1917 and to electricity in 1935. In 1993 it was converted to solar power.

The appeal of the island is a rare combination of the beautifully clear waters of Santa Barbara Bay; the island's delightful sandy beach; the harbour area where it is possible to see sea stars and sea anemones; and the pink granite shoreline featuring rock pools. Day visitors to the island can take a picnic lunch and visit the World War II ruins that include the radar station. There is also the Monumental City monument and the old cemetery. In season it is also possible to spot whales, dolphins and seals and, for those who stay on the island overnight, it is possible to watch the Little Penguins (it has the largest breeding colony in the world) come ashore and make their way back to their burrows following a day foraging at sea.

Gabo Island is commonly referred to in weather reports and is often mentioned as an identifiable point in the Sydney-Hobart yacht race because it is so close to the New South Wales-Victoria border. The island is located across a narrow channel and is only one kilometre from the mainland although it is 13 km from Mallacoota. For more information check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/gabo-island-lighthouse-reserve. It is possible to stay in the Assistant Light Keeper's Residence on the island. It has three bedrooms, holds eight people and can be booked for a minimum of two nights. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/gabo-island-lighthouse-reserve/things-to-do/stay-overnight. There is an excellent downloadable brochure produced by Parks Victoria which provides detailed information about the fauna and flora on the island. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/313799/Park-note-Gabo-Island-Light-Station-Reserve.pdf.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the coastal area around Mallacoota was occupied by the five tribes of the Krauaetunglung people including the Bidawal and Nindi-Ngudjam Ngarigu Monero Aboriginal people who used Gabo Island for ceremonies.

* Gabo Island was first reported by Captain James Cook when he sailed up the coast in 1770.

* In the 1830s both Ben Boyd and the Imlay Brothers, who were whaling along the coast from southern NSW to northern Victoria, established Mallacoota Inlet as their major whaling station south of Twofold Bay.

* By the 1850s the best land around the inlet had been settled by squatters.

* In 1841 Captain Stevenson, who had captained whaling ships along the coast, was granted a grazing license.

* By 1842 Captain Stevenson had built a house on what is now known as Captain Stevenson's Point. It was the location of a large Aboriginal shell midden which, when excavated, revealed stone and bone tools, shell deposits and animal remains. It is considered one of Victoria's richest coastal archaeological sites.

* By the 1880s settlers had moved into the area and commercial fishing had begun with boats being moored in Mallacoota Inlet.

* In 1882 a home and hotel were established at Lakeview - the first "township" in the area.

* In 1894 gold was discovered and at one point there were 50 mines in the area.

* The Spotted Dog Mine (reputedly named after a spotted dog which was killed by a falling tree) was productive 1895-1899.

* In 1909 the poet and journalist E.J. Brady established a writers' and artists' camp at Captain's Point.

* Henry Lawson came to the area to stay with  E.J. Brady and recover from alcoholism in early 1910.

* Both Katherine Susannah Prichard and the playwright Louis Esson wrote passionately and romantically about Mallacoota and the lakes.

* In 1921 a road navigable by motor cars was completed between Gipsy Point and Mallacoota.

* During World War II Mallacoota became the headquarters for RAAF coastal surveillance.

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Visitor Information

Mallacoota Service Centre, cnr Allan Drive and Maurice Avenue, tel: (03) 5158 0800.

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Useful Websites

There is an excellent and detailed local website. Check out http://www.visitmallacoota.com.au. There is also an excellent booklet (a gold coin donation appreciated) titled Mallacoota: The Place for Reflection which has maps of the area and very comprehensive information on activities in the district. It is particularly useful for local walks.

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