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Moruya, NSW

Quiet service town in the South Coast hinterland.

Moruya is an unusual South Coast town. It is not on the coast and its appeal lies in the attractions - both on the Moruya River and in the interesting areas which lie inland - which surround it rather than the town itself. The town is primarily a service centre for a rich rural area known for its dairying, cattle, vegetables, fish and oysters. In recent times tourism, particularly connected to the Moruya River and the isolated coastal beaches, has become increasingly important.


Moruya is located 305 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway. It is located on the Moruya River 8km inland from Moruya Heads.


Origin of Name

When the town was surveyed it adopted an Anglicisation of the local Aboriginal word  'Mherroyah' which reputedly meant 'resting place of black swans'. 'Moruya' was used when the town was gazetted in 1851.


Things to See and Do

Carved Wooden Sculptures by Bryan Carrick
One of the most interesting and unusual aspects of Moruya, and particularly Vulcan Street (which is part of the Princes Highway), are a number of large wood carvings by Bryan Carrick an internationally recognised wood carver. The most recent one, "The Airman", stands 3 metres tall and was modelled on the World War II Dutch aviator Gus Winckel. It honours the "allied aircrew, ground support and ancillary staff who operated from Moruya airfield during the war years". The likeness of Gus Winckel now stands outside the Air Raid Tavern on Vulcan Street. The other eleven wood sculptures can be seen as follows:

* Mountains to the Sea at Moruya High School
* Pelagic Fish on the corner of Church and Vulcan Streets
* The Footballer in Mirrabooka Avenue
* The Little Mermaid and the Gold Miner in the Apex Park
* The Dolphins outside the Air Raid Tavern in Vulcan Street
* The Jazz Man near the Monarch Hotel in Vulcan Street
* Aboriginal Man, Black Swans, The Seapole and the Snake all in Vulcan Street, the main street.

If you want to find out more about the artist check out http://www.auzpiciousarts.com.au

Exploring Moruya's Historic Past
Moruya is one of those towns which has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. The hotels are still the same; the historic buildings have remained unchanged; and there is very little evidence in the town of any significant changes. So the visitor interested in the town's historic buildings (and one historic grave) can spend little more than half an hour admiring the most significant buildings.

The Court House
The Court House (1879) in Vulcan Street (it was called Vulcan Street because there was a blacksmith in the street when it was named) is, as The Heritage of Australia, notes "a symmetrical building comprising a two-storey central court house flanked by recessed single-storey wings, and is constructed of brick (painted) with rusticated quoins. The front verandahs have corrugated iron roofs supported by timber posts with decorative brackets ... This symmetrical court house is an excellent example of its type".

Sacred Heart Catholic Church
The Sacred Heart Catholic Church (1889), 36 Queen Street, was built of local granite which came from a quarry which in the 1930s supplied stone for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It stands as a dominant building on the top of the hill above Vulcan Street. The church's foundation stone dates from 21 August 1887.

Wesleyan Church
The Moruya Uniting Church, formerly the Wesleyan Church (1864), was built in Page Street of local blue granite. It replaced the original Wesleyan Church which was built of timber on the present site in 1851. By the 1860s the local Methodist congregation has grown to such a point that the original timber church was dismantled and a new blue granite church was built. The granite was taken from Joseph Ziegler's quarry at Pomphrey Point. It was designed by Sydney architect, Thomas Rowe, and finished in December, 1864. It cost £1,085 and was capable of holding 300 people.

Post and Telegraph Office
Located on the corner of Page and Campbell Streets, the Post and Telegraph building (built in 1887, extended 1926 and 1984) has been converted into an elegant bed and breakfast - the Post & Telegraph Bed and Breakfast. When it was first opened it was regarded as one of the grandest of all the civic buildings in the town. Check out http://mhsociety.wordpress.com/page/3/ for an interesting photo of the building in the 1880s.

St John the Evangelist Anglican Church and Rectory
The first Anglican church in Moruya was a wooden building constructed between 1858-1862 on land which had been granted to the church in 1850. The church was demolished in 1890 and replaced by the present St John The Evangelist Church (1891) which was designed by the architect Arthur Blacket (he was the son of Edmund Blacket who designed the quadrangle at Sydney University) of Bond Street Sydney. The contractors for the building were Messrs T H Reeves and F Peblow of Mortlake, Sydney and it cost £1220. It was dedicated in 1891 and consecrated in 1893. The Australian Department of the Environment notes "The Silver Jubilee of the church, celebrated on Sunday 29 October 1915, encouraged major renovations for the church. Many gifts, including a new altar, prayer desk, oak litany desk, and hymn board, were donated to the church at this time. Similarly major renovation works to the fabric and furnishings of the church were undertaken for the centenary celebrations." It adds: "St John The Evangelist Church is a Victorian Gothic church of brick and stone construction with a new slate gabled roof. The walls of the eastern end of the church have been cement rendered. To the west of the church is a timber belcote with corrugated galvanised iron canopy and brass bell.

The design of the church was based on a similar plan by Blacket for Junee church. The Junee church included two vestries and a tower, whereas in Moruya only one vestry was included and the tower completed only to the roof."

The Anglican Rectory (1870-1873) "is a two storey Victorian Neo-Georgian house with gabled roof. The walls are granite rubble (undressed granite) with a smooth cement rendering on the exterior. The verandah, which extends around all sides of the house, was a later addition. The roofing is corrugated galvanised iron and there are two brick chimneys. There are eight main rooms in the house." See http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=103695 for further details.

Moruya & District Historical Society Museum
Located at 85 Campbell St the Historical Museum (1875, restored externally in 1982) focuses its exhibits of life in the mid-19th century through a collection of books, furniture and artefacts. It is housed in an interesting building which the society's website explains "In 1875, Abraham Emmott, a migrant from Yorkshire, ... built a pair of semi-detached houses, using a standard North of England design. The bricks were made locally and now show their age and the lack of firing in their making. As a concession to the Australian climate, good roofed verandahs were added to the English design. Stepping out from his bedroom to the verandah, Abraham could see what was happening down the street ... Abraham's house is now home to the Moruya Museum." It is open 11.00 am - 1.00 pm Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and every day during school holiday from 11.00 am - 2.00 pm. Check http://mdhs.org.au/museum.htm for details.

Moruya Cemetery
Moruya Cemetery is located on the corner of Dwyer Creek Road and Spencer Street.  Take the first gate on the Moruya side, go straight ahead and the tombstone of Constable Miles O'Grady is in the third-last row immediately on the left. The date of his death was 9 April 1866, not 7 April, as the inscription indicates.  The story is that the town of Nerrigundah was raided by the Clarke bushranging gang. Before reaching the town the gang held up travellers on the road. Then, on 9 April, they entered the town and held up Wallis Hotel, bailed up people in the street, and attempted to rob a local store. Two constables, Troopers Smith and O'Grady, went to Wallis Hotel where they fired two shots, killing one of the bushrangers. The policemen withdrew into the street where Clarke shot O'Grady who died almost immediately. The police of the Southern District subscribed to a marble headstone which was placed over O'Grady's grave.

Moruya River
If the town looks like just another quiet town on the Princes Highway then it is important to remember that so much of the pleasure of the area is located on and around the Moruya River where the visitor can you canoe, go boating, enjoy waterskiing, go fishing (the breakwater at the river mouth is known for its tailor and salmon) and there are boat-launching ramps both in town and at the river's mouth.

Granite Quarry
Located 4 km from the centre of town via North Head Drive (on the north-east side of Moruya River) the Granite Quarry has an excellent new visitor area with information signboards about Moruya Granite which was used in the columns of Sydney GPO, the base of the Captain Cook statue in Hyde Park and the columns near the confessional in St Mary’s Cathedral. There is excellent additional information on the Yuin Moruya Community website (https://moruya.storylines.com.au/2015/06/15/moruya-granite-quarry) which explains that "When Dorman, Long & Company were looking for suitable material to face the piers and pylons of the planned Sydney Harbour Bridge, Moruya Granite was chosen because of its well-known quality, there was a plentiful supply and because of its location next to the Moruya River for loading the material onto boats. In the contract, there was a clause that stated that: 'The State Government would provide, at Moruya, a quarry from which the granite for the bridge pylons could be taken, free of loyalty' ... In the seven years of quarrying at Moruya, 173,000 blocks of granite were used in the bridge to face the piers and pylons as well as 200,000 yards of crushed stone. Not one stone was rejected. The Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney was also entirely dressed and lettered in Moruya. Its base block is 7 tons and it consists of 23 blocks in the pedestal."
Other geological attractions around Moruya include Guerilla Bay beach (the word Guerilla is from "big rocks" in the Yuin language) has rocks squashed and twisted by Continental Drift, where one-tonne glacial "drop stone" boulders have been flattened into flying saucer shapes that stick out of the sedimentary slate layers and at Bingie Bingie Point the white granite is shot through with pink intrusions. This area was an important sacred site.


Other Attractions in the Area

Scenic Drives and Lookouts
(1) The easiest and most rewarding drive in the area is the 37 km Coast Road from Moruya to Batemans Bay via Moruya Heads, Broulee, Mossy Point, Tomakin, Rosedale, Malua Bay, Surf Beach and Batehaven. It is full of simple delights. Take the road to the breakwall and enjoy the views up the Moruya River and north along Bengello Beach; walk around Broulee Island; drive up to Mossy Point headland with its views over Broulee Beach; at Guerilla Bay drive to the end of Burrewarra Point where there are panoramic views to the north and south; and at Malua Bay go for the a swim at this near-perfect beach. It is safe the Batemans Bay SLSC is located on the beach.

(2) There is a pleasant scenic drive in the hinterland which heads out of town on Luck Street which turns into the unsealed Womban Road and heads south through the Moruya State Forest via Little Sugarloaf Road. Do not turn at Fox Gully Road. After 10 km the Western Boundary Road heads south and loops back to the Princes Highway near Tuross Lake. If you do not turn into Western Boundary Road and continue along Sugarloaf Road you will eventually reach Hanging Mountain Forest Reserve which has an impressive lookout.

(3) Another interesting hinterland drive is the road to Araluen which is noted for its scenic beauty and the opportunity to see local wildlife and one of the limestone wonders of Australia.

Head north out of Moruya on the Princes Highway until you reach Larry's Mountain Road which, in turn, joins up with Araluen Road which runs through the northern end of Deua National Park. The Park's vegetation comprises both wet and dry schlerophyll forests and small sections of sub-tropical rainforest. The mountain range is dominated by Big Badja (1362 m) and Mother Woila Mountain (1104 m). There are 90 bird species, as well as kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, possums, bandicoots and the rare tiger quoll.

The main attractions - Big Badja, The Big Hole, Marble Arch, Wyanbene Caves and Bendethera Cave - are all found along the western boundary of the park.

The Big Hole is a steep, 96 m deep and 50 m wide pit, probably formed when sedimentary rocks caused underlying limestone caves to collapse. Access from Berland Campground involves wading across the Shoalhaven River. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/deua-national-park/the-big-hole-walking-track/walking.

Marble Arch is nearby and Wyanbene Caves, 9 km south, are popular with cagers. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/deua-national-park for details.



* Before European settlement the district was home to the Bugelli-Manji and Burgurgo Aborigines, both part of the Yuin language group.

*  Although Captain Cook had passed up the coast in 1770 the first organised survey occurred in 1827 when Thomas Florance mapped  from Batemans Bay to Moruya .

* The survey was followed quickly by settlement. In 1828 an Irish-born tailor Francis Flanagan (1780-1863) became the district's  first European landowner . Being Irish and a tailor  Flanagan had previously been refused a land grant but Governor Darling. He travelled south by ship to Ulladulla and then overland, with the assistance of Aboriginal guides,  to Mullenderee (2 km north of Moruya) where he built his first home and took up four square miles of land on the north side of Moruya River.

Two years later John Hawdon squatted at Kiora 4 km west of Moruya.

* The second settler in the area was John Hawdon who took up four square miles of land (2560 acres) upstream from Francis Flanagan in 1831.

* The sand bar at the mouth of the Moruya River was always a problem for vessels attempting to enter the river. Consequently the district's first port was established at Broulee where, by 1841, there was a post office, a court and a police station.

* In 1848 land was opened up for sale.  A town site was surveyed and gazetted in 1851. The town was located on a track where the road from Broulee reached the river. All access to the town was by punt. In one of those wonderfully obvious naming exercises there was a blacksmith on the track and consequently the main street of Moruya was named Vulcan Street. Other street names were equally obvious. Campbell Street was named after a local squatter, Queen Street to honoured Queen Victoria and Church Street was due to the Catholic Church's presence there. Land sales commenced in 1852.

* The whole area changed in 1851 when gold was discovered at Araluen. Not surprisingly the prospectors who poured into the area found good deposits in the smaller creeks running into the Moruya River.

* At first diggers used the jetty at Broulee and walked up the river but the road between Araluen and Moruya was developed between 1856 and 1861 and  Moruya grew in importance.

* By 1859 Moruya was the main centre near the coast. The court house was relocated from Broulee and in 1879 an impressive new courthouse was built in Moruya; the Erin-go-Bragh Hotel moved from Broulee Island to Campbell Street.

* In 1875 local businessman Abraham Emmott built one of the first semi-detached houses in Moruya. A century later the house became the property of the Moruya Historical Society.

* The area boomed in the 1860s. Gold was mined at Wagonga and silver was mined at Moruya and a town rapidly developed with the arrival of hotels, banks, a newspaper, new churches and general stores.

* In 1868, for the first time, fine-grained granite was mined. The granite was initially used for the Wesleyan church and the local harbour. John Young, a contractor for the Sydney GPO, opened a granite quarry and started shipping stone to Sydney. The Colonial Architect James Barnet used it for the decorative columns of the facades at the Sydney GPO. Subsequently the quarry supplied material for St Mary's Cathedral and the headquarters of the Bank of NSW and the statue of Captain Cook in the Sydney Botanical Gardens.

* In 1876 the punt was replaced by the first bridge across the Moruya River. The river flooded regularly and new bridges were built in 1900, 1945 and 1966.

* Moruya was proclaimed a town in 1885 and a municipality in 1891.

* In 1892 the Moruya Co-operative Dairy factory was opened. It provided dairy products mostly for the Sydney market

* In 1924 the contractors for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Dorman Long & Co., took over the local granite mine and built Granite Town, a 1000-acre(405 ha) village with 72 low-rent cottages. It existed until 1931 and provided housing for around 300 people including 150 stonemasons, toolsmiths and quarry workers recruited  from Aberdeenshire (famed for its granite masons) and Italy.


Visitor Information

Moruya Information Centre, Moruya Library, Vulcan Street, Moruya, tel: (02) 4474 1333, open 10.00 am - 5.00 pm, Monday - Friday, 9.30 am - 12.30 pm Saturday.


Useful Websites

The Eurobodalla website is useful. Check out http://www.eurobodalla.com.au.

Got something to add?

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

2 suggestions
  • This isn’t for publication, just for information. I checked with the tourist information people in Moruya and they told me the Bush Orchestra no longer functions.

    I’d also like to say I travel round NSW a lot and I absolutely love the information on this site. I’ve lived between Moruya and Narooma for nearly 40 years and you’ve told me things I didn’t know about these two towns. Thank you.

    Meg Davis
  • Great information, but where is Pomphrey Point? Joseph Ard, Elizabeth Currans and Herman Ziegler lived/worked there at some stage in the 1800’s

    Marilyn Anderson