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Sussex Inlet, NSW

Quiet holiday and retirement coastal town at the mouth of St Georges Basin.

Sussex Inlet is a holiday and retirement town located on a narrow, meandering stretch of water known as "The Inlet" that connects the Pacific Ocean to the lagoon, St Georges Basin. The township is a typical water activities-based destination with an emphasis on fishing, swimming, surfing, sailing and water skiing.


Sussex Inlet is located 206 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway and Sussex Inlet Road.


Origin of Name

No one is sure how Sussex Inlet got its name but it was clearly named after the county of Sussex in England. One source reliably claims that it was named in honour of Thomas Florance, a surveyor who, in December 1827, was appointed assistant surveyor in New South Wales. In 1828 he made surveys of the coast near Cape Jervis. Florance had been born in Chichester, Sussex and it is likely that the town is named after his birthplace.


Things to See and Do

Christian's Minde
Christian's Minde is located on what is now Ellmoos Road, which runs from the Visitors Centre at the entrance to the Jervis Bay National Park to south-eastern tip of the Inlet. Amusingly it would be easier to swim from the Sussex Inlet RSL Club across the inlet than to drive the 46 km around St Georges Basin and through Booderee National Park to reach the heritage-listed retreat.

The story around the buildings is strange. The first European settler in the area was Jacob Ellmoos, a migrant from Denmark who arrived in Sydney in 1878 then sailed down the coast. Elmoos obtained a letter of introduction to the lighthouse keeper at Cape St George and set up camp there. During a fishing trip in November, 1880 he sailed up Sussex Inlet and was impressed with the plentiful fish stocks and the tranquil locale. Subsequently he was granted 1200 acres of land on the eastern side of the Inlet. In 1886 he brought out his parents and siblings from Denmark and in 1890 the family erected a guest house, "Christian's Minde". It is a comment on the isolation of the South Coast at the time that it was the only one of its kind between Sydney and the Victorian border. The name means "Christian's Rest" or "To the Memory of Christian" after Jacob's brother, Christian, who had died from pneumonia after surviving several hours in the water when his boat capsized in St. Georges Basin.

The guest house was frequented by Sydneysiders who journeyed by horse drawn coach to Pelican Point on the northern shore of St Georges Basin and then by boat the nine miles to Sussex Inlet. In 1915 the land was claimed by the Commonwealth Government as part of the Jervis Bay Territory. The property eventually returned to the Ellmoos family and in 1940 a road was cleared to the naval base at Jervis Bay by Jacob's brother and his nephew. The guest house was converted to self-contained flats in the late 1940s. The buildings, unusual examples of a timber guest house at the turn of the nineteenth century, have been classified by the National Trust. Today Christian's  Minde offers self-contained accommodation which fronts onto the calm, safe waters of the Inlet. Check out https://www.christians-minde.com for details.

Water Activities
Sussex Inlet is primarily about water activities. The lake, St Georges Basin, is a 12 km long and shallow lagoon with a tree-covered shoreline comprising mostly casuarina, river mangrove, saltmarsh and sedge. The inlet is primarily a tourist destination for people who are keen on boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking and escaping from the bustle of the more commercial holiday towns.

Seeing the Inlet where the sea enters the Lagoon
Sussex Inlet is called that because, at the ocean end of the town the sea enters the large lagoon system. To see the "inlet" is challenging. There is no lookout and no path or road to a headland viewing spot. If you want to see the opening to the sea there are two difficult places and both have limitions.
(1) the first involves driving to the end of Pacificana Drive where you will eventually reach the the Sussex Inlet Surf Lifesaving Club house which is behind the dunes at Cudmullah Beach. You have to turn around, go back on Pacificana Drive for about 100 metres, turn right onto a very rough dirt track (lots of potholes as you bump your way through the bush) until you reach a kind of car parking area halfway up a hill (it isn’t really – but at least you can turn your car around), then walk up the rest of the hill and you will get glimpses through the trees of the inlet and the beach that lies to the north in the Jervis Bay Territory. If you keep walking you will reach a locked gate which is access to what look like fishermen’s huts. Certainly there is no vantage point or track to the actual inlet.
(2) If you want a distant view of the waves breaking at the inlet you can get back onto Pacificana Drive, return to Lakehaven Drive, turn right and you will reach a car park and a jetty and, in the distance, on the horizon, you can see the inlet.


Other Attractions in the Area

Booderee National Park
It is a comment on the isolation of Sussex Inlet that, although Booderee National Park is located just across the narrow inlet, it is a long 46 km drive (with the last section on unsealed road to Christians Minde) to reach the park directly opposite the town. Not surprisingly the park has a wide range of activities with six walks of varying distances; the impressive cliffs at Cape St George where there is also an historic lighthouse; beautiful lonely beaches - Caves Beach, Steamers Beach, Green Patch, Murrays Beach, Iluka; the impressive Booderee Botanic Gardens; and a diversity of wildlife and flora. If you are planning to visit the National Park there is detailed information, maps and suggested itineraries at http://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/booderee and at http://www.booderee.gov.au. The website is remarkably comprehensive.

Booderee Botanic Gardens
Located 37 km east of Sussex Inlet is Booderee Botanic Gardens, a product of the Commonwealth Government’s decision to excise the “Jervis Bay Territory” from New South Wales. In 1915 the area bounded by Jervis Bay to the north, the coastal cliffs to the east, Wreck Bay to the south and Sussex Inlet and St George’s Basin to the west all became part of the ACT.

In 1951 the Canberra-based Australian National Botanic Garden, needing a frost-free area for research into mild climate plants and knowing that Canberra was too cold in winter, developed part of an old farm (it had been known as Bherwerre and had been used for timber and dairy since 1900) near Wreck Bay as an mild climate botanic annex. For the next 44 years this annex was known as the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens. The only criterion for plantings at the annex was their need to be frost free. The small local Yuin and Wadi-Wadi Aboriginal community at Wreck Bay worked at the Gardens. Today many of the paths, rock walls and garden beds are the result of their labours.

In 1995 the Botanic Garden was handed over to the Wreck Bay community, it was renamed Booderee Botanic Gardens, it became jointly managed by the local community and the Director of National Parks and, most significantly, the non-indigenous plants were slowly removed so that now it is a collection of the flora of south eastern Australia’s coastal environment and it is “the only Aboriginal owned botanic gardens in Australia.” The result is a wonderland of flora including lemon-scented tea tree, bottle brush (callistemon), waratah, Gymea lily, orange, pink and yellow flowering gums, cabbage trees, turpentine, blackwood and bloodwood amongst which fauna such as red belly black snakes, diamond pythons, 10,000 pairs of the eastern long-necked turtle in Lake McKenzie (a perched lake in the gardens) and over two hundred species of birds, including crimson rosellas ,rainbow lorikeets,kookaburras, wood ducks  and a satin bowerbirds, live.

Booderee Botanic Garden is being returned to its former indigenous glory. Already there is 3.7 km of easily accessible tracks through the wooded landscape, across the open lawns and beside Lake McKenzie. The trails pass the Heath and Woodland Garden which focuses on South Coast flora; the Casuarina Lawn which is particularly popular with the glossy black cockatoo; the Waratah Lawn which is an ideal place for picnics; the Rainforest Gully with its tree ferns and palms; and the Koori Garden which, given the new Aboriginal ownership, is emphasising the bush tucker and bush medicine aspects of the flora.

During the school holidays there is an extensive program of Aboriginal activities for kids including Bush Tucker and Medicines, Aboriginal Tools and Technology, Koori Games, Campfire Yarns, and a Twilight Walk. Check at the Visitor Centre for details. Booderee National Park is open daily according to the time of the year. Entry to the Botanic Gardens is free but it costs $10 per vehicle, $5 concession (pensioners, veterans, disabled) for entry to the park. Tel: (02) 4443 0977, check out http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/booderee.



* Prior to European occupation the area around Sussex Inlet was occupied by the Dhurga Aborigines who called the basin behind the inlet, 'Bherwherree'.

* The first European to sail past the area was Captain James Cook in April, 1770.

* The first Europeans to walk through the area were the survivors from the wreck of the Sydney Cove who traversed the district in 1797.  Nine of them died on the journey up the coast and only three reached Sydney alive.

* In 1822 Alexander Berry, Hamilton Hume and Lieutenant Johnston sailed south in the cutter HM Snapper and explored the coastline.

* In 1827 the surveyor, Thomas Florance, travelled to St Georges Basin and mapped Sussex Inlet.

* In September, 1850 the Barque Juniper was shipwrecked near Cape St George. The area was subsequently named Wreck Bay.

* Wandandian, supposedly meaning "home of lost lovers", was settled in the 1850s.

* In 1870 the Walter Hood was shipwrecked near Wreck Bay.

* Remarkably the first European settler in the area was Jacob Ellmoos, a migrant from Denmark who arrived in Sydney in 1878 then sailed and fished his way down the coast. He arrived at Cape St George and set up camp there.

* During a fishing trip Jacob Ellmoos came across Sussex Inlet and was captivated by the good fishing in the lagoon and the beauty of the locale.

* Shortly after 1880 Ellmoos was granted 1200 acres of land on the eastern side of the Inlet.

* In 1886 Jacob brought out his parents and siblings.

* The family erected a guest house, 'Christian's Minde' in 1890, the only one of its kind between Sydney and the Victorian border. The name means "Christian's Rest" or "To the Memory of Christian" and was named after Christian Ellmoos.

* The first sawmill in the district began operation in 1910.

* In 1915 the area was compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth of Australia as part of the Jervis Bay Territory.

* In 1918 Henry Hourigan was granted land upon which he built the famous Inlet Cottages, an early example of a seaside holiday camp.

* By 1986 the population of the town was 1,705.


Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information at Sussex Inlet. The closest is the Nowra Visitor Information Centre, cnr. Princes Highway and Pleasant Way, Nowra. Tel: 1300 662 808.


Useful Websites

There is a local website - http://www.sussexinlet.nsw.au - which provides detailed information about the history of the town.

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