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Narooma, NSW

Attractive South Coast holiday town which is the main access point to Montague Island.

Narooma is a popular holiday and retirement town at the mouth of the Wagonga Inlet. It is an important service centre for the surrounding small towns and villages. Set against the backdrop of Gulaga Mountain (previously known as Mount Dromedary) and the mainland departure point for visitors to Montague Island, it is a pleasant, medium-sized town surrounded by beautiful, lonely beaches; a coastline of inlets, lakes and rivers; and substantial areas of natural beauty which attract bushwalkers, bird watchers and holidaymakers eager to enjoy water sports including swimming, surfing, water skiing, sailing, fishing and wind surfing.


Narooma is located 346 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway.


Origin of Name

In 1880 a post office named 'Noorooma' was established at the site of present-day Corunna. In 1883 a township was surveyed and Noorooma (changed to Narooma in 1972) was declared a port the following year. It has been suggested that "noorooma" was a Yuin word meaning "clear, blue water".


Things to See and Do

Methodist Church and Rectory
The Uniting Church (formerly the Methodist Church built in 1914) and rectory (1935), located at the top of Wagonga Street on the western side of the road, are considered among the finest examples of Australian timber churches. Certainly the decorative gable truss structures at the end of the nave, and the small porch, are impressive. The gothic revival bell tower was erected in 1934. The rectory, with its picket fence complements the church. There is a huge bay window at the front with lead-light windows, a sunburst timber decoration on the central gable, and a fanlight over the door.

Narooma Bridge
It is a comment on the slow development of the Princes Highway that the Narooma bridge was the first major bridge constructed by the Main Roads Board. Replacing a punt, the bridge was built between 1929 and 1931 and crosses the Wagonga Inlet. The bridge has three spans and is made of steel and concrete. It is the only bascule span bridge still working in New South Wales. There are a total of three bascule bridges - the others are at Carrathool and Coraki. A bascule span bridge is a moveable bridge with a counterweight that continuously balances a span, or "leaf," throughout its upward swing to provide clearance for boat traffic. It is now opened about five times a month - so don't park in anticipation. In 2014 it was upgraded at a cost of $550,000.

The Natural Map of Australia - Australia Rock
On the rocks at the mouth of Wagonga Inlet is a strange, possibly natural, formation which looks like a map of Australia. Some authorities claim that it was created by ship's chains. Others claim it was carved by the sea out of the volcanic headland. It has become an unusual tourist attraction which is best seen when taking the trip out to Montague Island. Enthusiasts can see it by walking around the rocks.

Narooma Lighthouse Museum
The Narooma Lighthouse Museum is located in the Narooma Visitor Centre on the Princes Highway. The centrepiece of the museum is the original Montague Island light station which was built by Chance Brothers in Birmingham and was first lit on 6 October, 1881. It was used on the island for nearly 105 years and was finally de-commissioned on 14 September, 1986. Visitors can inspect the detailed display of information about the lighthouse titled Mainland to Island.


Other Attractions in the Area

Montague Island/Barunguba
Today Montague Island, also known by its indigenous name - Barunguba, is a wildlife sanctuary and flora reserve located 12 km offshore south of Narooma. The island is 1.4 km long and at its maximum is 800 m wide. It was named after the British statesman, George Montagu Dunk, by Captain James Cook in 1770. Prior to the arrival of Cook the island was known as Barunguba to the Wallaga and Djiringanj Aboriginal peoples who lived in the area and travelled by bark canoe to the island in search of muttonbirds, seabird eggs, penguins and seals. Geologically the island was once a promontory of the mainland but the land between was drowned during the last ice age. It is easy to see the huge arc of granite which extends from the island across to Gulaga. The waters around the island teem with fish because they are in the east coast current. The island is also the last known habitat on the New South Wales coast of Australian fur seals. There are thousands of fairy penguins, plus shearwaters (mutton birds), hawks, silver gulls, sea eagles, harriers, crested terns and peregrine falcons on the island which is a popular bird breeding destination. More than 90 bird species have been identified. The National Parks and Wildlife Service are restoring the island's vegetation to its native state - a closed ecosystem of remnant coastal vegetation - after a century of European animals (notably goats and rabbits) and lighthouse keepers had disrupted the native flora and introduced weeds. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Montague-Island-Nature-Reserve.

Montague Island Lighthouse
A lighthouse on Montague Island was first talked about in 1873. It was subsequently designed by the famous architect, James Barnet, and work started on construction in 1878. The first contractor made a botch of the job by blasting too much rock (the site had to be moved as a result) and eventually he gave up in 1880. A new contractor was employed and the lighthouse was completed in 1881. The tower was made from granite which forms massive outcrops and rounded boulders on the island and which was once quarried and used in the construction of Sydney buildings including the GPO, now the Westin Hotel, in Martin Place. When the lighthouse was manned supplies were brought to the wharf and then taken up the hill on a tramway.

There were originally three lighthouse-keepers and their families on the island and their cottages remain. The light, originally kerosene-powered, was upgraded in 1910 and 1923, converted to electricity with a diesel generator in 1969, and then to automatic solar power in September, 1986. The keepers left the island in 1987.

There are tragic tales connected to the keepers and their isolation. In the island's cemetery there are the graves of Charles Townsend who was killed by a horse while bringing supplies up from the wharf and two children, John and Isabella Burgess, who died of suspected meningitis in the 1880s. They should have been taken to the mainland but rough seas prevented their removal from the island.

Visiting the Island
The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife have contracted five commercial vessel operators to provide access to the island. They can all be accessed at http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/montague-island-nature-reserve/montague-island-walk/walking or through the Narooma Visitors Information Centre. National Parks rangers conduct guided tours of the lighthouse buildings and the surrounding nature reserve. The cruise across to the island includes whale-watching from mid-September to mid-November. When on the island there is also a Montague Island walking track which offers the visitor an opportunity to see the penguin breeding area as well as the island's birdlife. It is also possible to rent the Montague Island's Head Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage and the Assistant Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage, both of which were built in 1881 and which has been tastefully restored. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/montague-island-nature-reserve/lighthouse-keepers-cottage/accommodation for details.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was thought to be occupied by the Wandandian group of the Yuin First Nation people.

* The first European to sight the area was Captain Cook in 1770. He named Mount Dromedary because he felt it looked like a camel. Not seeing Montague Island as an island he named it Cape Dromedary. In recent times Mount Dromedary has reverted to Gulaga, the local First Nations name.

* In 1790 the Second Fleet, sailing up the coast, recognised Cape Dromedary as an island and named it after George Montagu Dunk.

* In 1797 the survivors of the Sydney Cove traversed the area on their walk from the coast of Victoria. Their vessel had been beached on the Furneaux Islands in Bass Strait. A boat was launched with seventeen of the crew but it was wrecked at Point Hicks. The survivors started walking north to Port Jackson but only three survived.

* The first European settler in the area was Francis Hunt who, in 1839, settled on the shore of Wagonga Inlet. Hunt's 'Noorooma' run stretched from Wagonga to Bermagui.

* The 1861 Land Act reduced the size of holdings and opened the area to selectors.

* Gold was discovered in the area in 1880 at Montreal and other finds occurred at Cape Dromedary, Mount Dromedary, Wallaga Lake, Wagonga Heads, Corunna and Kianga.

* In 1880 a post office named 'Noorooma' was established at the site of present-day Corunna.

* In 1881 the Montague Island lighthouse was completed.

* In 1883 a township was surveyed.

* By 1884 Narooma was officially declared a port.

* Through the 1880s development was slow. A sawmill opened at South Head, Wagonga. A hotel, store, wharf and a few cottages were constructed.

* In 1888 the town's first school opened.

* A new Narooma post  office was opened in 1889.

* In 1894 a punt across Wagonga Lake was established.

* The regional court moved from Eurobodalla to Narooma in 1895.

* In 1906 Mitchell Bros moved their sawmill to Narooma.

* In the early years of the twentieth century shipbuilding and oyster farming became important local industries.

* By the 1930s the town had become a popular holiday destination with fashionable guest houses and hotels.

* In 1931 the first bridge across Wagonga Lake was built. Previously there had been a barge.

* Commercial fishing began in the 1930s.

* A fish cannery opened on the shore of Wagonga Lake in 1940.

* By the 1940s the town had a reputation as a holiday resort for boating, aquatic sports and big-game fishing: a reputation it has retained to this day.


Visitor Information

Narooma Visitor Information Centre, Princes Highway, Narooma, tel: 1800 240 003.


Useful Websites

The official local website is http://www.narooma.org.au.

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6 suggestions
  • It’s always pleasant to walk along the boardwalk from Apex Park, across the bridge to town. I’ve seen stingrays, seals, sea urchins. There’s a great view across to Gulaga, and bays for fishing. Information panels record the history, both Aboriginal and invader. The boardwalk is part of an extensive cycle and walking track around town, and along the coast to Dalmeny.
    Narooma Kinema has Art Deco influence and ambience, and the building has been placed on the National Heritage Register because of its significance to the community. The Kinema shows both mainstream and art house movies, including screenings from the New York Metroploitan Opera and the British National Theatre.

    Meg Davis
  • I need information how the breakwater at Narooma was made? And the rock it was made from?

    Helen morton
    • The break-wall was built around 1974 to 1977. The rock came from Brou, which was and still is a significant Aboriginal women’s site and special place to the Walbunja people. Cleary brothers quarried the rock from this place and destroyed the site without any knowledge that it was a special Aboriginal place. It didn’t matter anyway,Those times in the 70s Aboriginal people didn’t have a say in looking after country. Very sad when I look back on it today.

      Wally Stewart
  • Hello. You have missed the the SITE of the first Original school, south of Narooma town, and the NOTELLAEA ligustrina, MOCK Olive tree, planted by Mary Canty, who was the wife of Captain Stephen Canty of the Moruya Steamship Company.
    There are 2 plaques there as well as the tree, cuttings of which were taken and planted at the Narooma Visitors Centre by Narooma primary school children in Dec 2014. And plaque commemorating 100 years of public education 1989.

    elle gross
  • I question whether the name Narooma was changed from Noorooma in 1972 since I am 73 & all my lifetime it was spelled & pronounced ‘Narooma’.

    Geraldine Mitchell
  • What is the weather like. Does it get humid. Does it get very cold

    Sue Bowen