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Ulladulla, NSW

Popular holiday town surrounded by quiet beaches and pleasant coastal walking paths

Historically Ulladulla was an important port for the local timber and dairy industry. Today the harbour is home to a fleet of commercial fishing trawlers but, increasingly, the town has become a coastal holiday resort and popular place for retirement. It is one of those rare places on the New South Wales coast where the main artery - the Princes Highway - actually passes the harbour which, with its two boat ramps, is nestled between enclosing headlands. On either side of the town there are holiday beaches, seven lakes and in the hinterland there are state forests, mountain ranges and national parkland which are ideal for bushwalks and scenic drives.


Ulladulla is located 226 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway.


Origin of Name

It is likely that 'ulladulla' is derived from a local Yuin Aboriginal word - either  'ullada ullada' and 'Woollahderra' which meant 'safe harbour'. There is a story that the term 'holey dollar', which was an early form of currency in the colony, is also involved in the evolution of the word. This is given considerable weight by a newspaper advertisement which appeared on 14 December, 1841: "For Holy Dollar and Broulee direct, the cutter FRIENDSHIP, to sail for the above Ports, on Wednesday next, the 15th instant." Apart from the spelling it does suggest that Ulladulla was once known as Holey Dollar.


Things to See and Do

Blessing of the Fleet
The annual Blessing of the Fleet - a festival which has its origins in the Italian Catholic immigrants who established Ulladulla's fishing fleet in the 1930s - is held each year on Easter Sunday. It includes a parade, the announcement of the Festival Princess, a variety of games and entertainments and, most importantly, the Blessing of the Fleet. For full details check out http://www.blessingofthefleet.info.

Warden Head Reserve and Warden Head Lighthouse
Turn left into Deering Street off the Princes Highway at the southern end of the town's main street and the road goes to Warden Head Reserve which leads out to Warden Head Lighthouse. The town's lighthouse was originally built on the Ulladulla Breakwater in 1873 and was transferred to Warden Head in 1879. The lighthouse is positioned 34 metres above sea level and has a range of 17 nautical miles (28 km). It was designed by Edward Moriaty in the Colonial Architect's Office and was made of curved wrought iron plates which were designed and built in Wollongong. In 1920 the original oil lamp was replaced and it was converted to electricity in 1964. The original lightkeeper's house is now a doctor's surgery in the main street of Milton. Check out http://www.lighthouses.org.au/lights/NSW/Warden%20Head/Warden%20Head.htm for more details. There is a walking track on the headland with information panels relating to the park's flora - mostly waratahs and trigger plants - and a viewing platform to observe the birds, including yellow-tailed black cockatoos and New England honeyeaters.

The Coomie Nulunga Cultural Trail
The Coomie Nulunga Cultural Trail is located on the town's southern headland and will take around 90 minutes to walk the winding 2.5 km walk which commences opposite the Lighthouse Oval car park off Deering Street. The walk was created by the local Aboriginal Land Council.

The first 700 metres takes the walker through low scrub down to Rennies Beach and the last section of the walk winds like the Rainbow Serpent, the creator in Aboriginal dreamtime. The walk is enriched with detailed, hand-painted and carved "dreaming posts" which provide information about local plants and animals.

One Track for All
Located on the Northern Headland - follow Dolphin Street and there is a sign indicating the beginning of the walk - is One Track for All which has four lookouts across the Tasman Sea and the town's harbour. There are interesting carved pieces of timber created by local Aboriginal elder, Noel Butler, which tell the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history of the district. The track is 2 km long. The trail was developed with the help of the Budawang Aboriginal Landcare Group.


Other Attractions in the Area

Burrill Lake
Located on the Princes Highway 5 km south of Ulladulla is Burrill Lake. It is known as a quiet retreat with its shores edged by natural bushland and its waters popular with anglers. The inlet and beach lie to the east of the highway. There are good views along the coast from Dolphin Point. Burrill Lake has three boat ramps. It is possible to hire catamarans, canoes, surf skis and wind surfing equipment on the shores.

Lake Tabourie
Located 12 km south of Ulladulla on the Princes Highway is Lake Tabourie which boasts has excellent beaches and a relaxed holiday ambience. At low tide it is possible to walk across to Crampton Island.

Tabourie Lake Museum was created in 1965 by a local, Jack Nicholson, and is a typical small local museum with displays of Aboriginal artefacts, telecommunications, whaling materials, minerals, shells, fossils, reptiles, spiders, birds eggs, marine life and a variety of implements from the pioneering days. Located on the Princes Highway, it is open weekends and school holidays. For more information check out http://www.ulladulla.info/tabourie-lake-museum which includes a short video or tel: (02) 4457 3269.

Morton National Park and Pigeon House Mountain
Inland from Ulladulla is Morton National Park. One of the premier bushwalking experience on the South Coast is the walk to the summit of  Pigeon House Mountain (719 m). The best access point is Wheelbarrow Road which heads west from the Princes Highway 3 km south of bridge over Burrill Lake.

The walk to the summit takes four hours return but offers panoramic views of the rugged cliffs and gorges of the Budawang Ranges. To the north-west of Pigeon House Mountain are the two elongated plateaux of Byangee Walls and the Castle and to the east it is possible to see the coast all the way from Point Perpendicular in the north to Mount Dromedary (Guluga Mountain) in the south. Sandstone layers, deposited by a shallow sea 250 million years ago, can be seen in the surrounding cliffs.

Pigeon House Mountain, named by Captain James Cook in 1770, is important to the local Yuin Aborigines who called it Didthul. It was a distinctive landmark in the area and was close to a traditional trading route.

The walk to the top is challenging but after a steep 800 metre climb along a spur it reaches a flat area of woodland heath, wattle and wildflowers. A further climb reaches the infamous "ladders" that lead to the summit and the panoramic view.

Pigeon House Mountain is located at the south-east corner of the 162,000 ha Morton National Park which stretches from the Southern Highlands and includes rugged sandstone cliffs, deep, well-forested valleys, and the headwaters of the Clyde, Shoalhaven, Endrick, and Kangaroo Rivers.

Morton National Park is so large it includes flora ranging from sedgeland through woodland and heath to rainforest. There are wildflowers on the plateau, giant turpentine trees below the major cliffs, coachwood and black ash in abundance. There are also rare examples of Pigeon House Ash and a true rainforest canopy in the valleys and gorges. The park is particularly rich in birdlife with hawks, wedge-tailed and other eagles, parrots, honeyeaters, lorikeets, crimson rosellas, cuckoos, cormorants, grebes, lyrebirds and two threatened species - the swamp parrot and eastern bristle bird. There are also bandicoots, wallabies, dunnarts, possums, echidnae and dingoes. For more details check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Morton-National-Park/Pigeon-House-Mountain-Didthul-track/walking which provides a map of the walking track and four photographs of the track.

Bawley Point
Located 27 km south of Ulladulla, Bawley Point is a sleepy seaside village where coastal steamships were once built. Timber was the important local industry with a sawmill operating by 1881. By 1910 the local sawmill was reputedly the largest in the southern hemisphere. Most of the logs for the mill came from north of Termeil and were transported on a purpose-built timber tram line. There are quiet beaches and headlands to both the south and north of Bawley Point and lagoons to the north and west. It is primarily a holiday and retirement destination.

Lake Conjola and Fishermans Paradise
Lake Conjola is a large lake which lies 14 km to the north of Ulladulla. It is thought the name comes from a Yuin Aboriginal word 'Kongoola' which was the name of a fish which lived in the lake. The lake is a classic South Coast "get away from it all" designed for holidaymakers, seachangers and retirees whose idea of heaven involves boating (there are boat ramps at the two towns - Lake Conjola and the amusingly named Fishermans Paradise), sailing, water skiing and safe swimming.  Bream, flathead, whiting, tailor, and blackfish can all be found in the local waters. Access to the town of Lake Conjola is via Lake Conjola Entrance Road which heads east from the Princes Highway 6 km north of Milton. Access to Fishermans Paradise is a few kilometres north on Alma Road.

Pointers Gap
1.4 km north of Lake Conjola Entrance Road on the Princes Highway, and heading west, is a scenic drive along Pointers Gap Road which leads up to Pointers Gap Lookout which is on the edge of the McDonald State Forest at the top of the escarpment. It offers panoramic views of Lake Conjola and the beaches south of Burrill Lake. The whole area, particularly the heathland, is particularly beautiful when the wildflowers are blooming in the spring and summer.

Mollymook and Rick Stein's at Bannisters
Two kilometres north of Ulladulla is one of the best restaurants on the NSW South Coast - Rick Stein's at Bannisters. It specialises in seafood and offers a reasonably priced menu (compared to Sydney prices) which ranges from French through Indian and Malaysian to Modern Australian with heavy hints of Asia. Also Mollymook (see https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/mollymook-nsw) has one of the best beaches on the South Coast - arguably one of the best on the east coast of Australia.

Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve and Pattimores Lagoon
Beyond Mollymook is Narrawallee Creek (there is continuous suburban development between the two places) which is characterised by calm shallow waters, mangroves and mud flats. The Narrawallee Creek inlet lies at the southern end of Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve which stretches north for 5 km along Buckleys and Conjola Beaches. Largely undisturbed the beaches are popular for fishing and surfing and are backed by a dune system and woodland through which there is a circular walking track.

Pattimores Lagoon, in the northern part of the reserve, is "Fringed with magnificent paperbarks, the picturesque lagoon literally teems with waterbirds, and you’re likely to see southern emu wren, pied oystercatchers, pelicans and white-faced herons.". Head north to Yatte Yattah and turn east on Lake Conjola Entrance Road, drive 6 km to the car park and the start of the 2 1/2 hour walk. There are picnic areas at Conjola Beach and Narrawallee Inlet. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/narrawallee-creek-nature-reserve for details about walks and the individual components of the Nature Reserve



* For 20,000 years prior to European settlement the area around Ulladulla was occupied by the Dhurga, Walbanja and Wadandian members of the Yuin First Nation peoples.

* In 1770 Captain James Cook noted at Bawley Point, south of Ulladulla, that there were people on the shore who "appeared to be of a black or very dark colour."

*  On April 21, 1770 Cook sighted Pigeon House Mountain, to the west of the present town, which he described as "a remarkable peaked hill, which resembled a square dove-house, with a dome at the top, and which for that reason I called the Pigeon House."

* The first Europeans to pass through the area were the survivors from the wreck of the Sydney Cove who reached the area in April, 1797.  Nine of them died in the Batemans Bay area. Only three reached Sydney alive.

* In 1797 George Bass sailed south and explored the coastline.

* In 1827 Thomas Florance surveyed the coastline from Burrill to Narrawallee. He anchored his boat, the Wasp, in Ulladulla Harbour which, for a time, was known as Wasp Harbour.

* In 1827 the first land grant in the district was issued to Reverend Thomas Kendall (1778-1832) who settled north of the present township of Milton. He called his property 'Kendall Dale'.

* In 1839 Kendall's grandson Henry Kendall, who became one of Australia's most famous poets, was born on the estate. The residents of Ulladulla helped launch Kendall's literary career when, in 1862, they raised money by public subscription to publish his first book, Poems and Songs.

* An area called 'The Settlement', upon the site of present-day Milton, was settled by farmers who began to use the harbour at Ulladulla which, at the time, was known simply as 'The Boat Harbour', to ship their produce to Sydney. The harbour was so primitive that ships were secured by a chain so they could be loaded.

* More land grants were issued in the 1830s.

* The site of Ulladulla was surveyed in 1837.

* Ulladulla prospered as a timber port in the 1840s.

* Around 1840 David and James Warden started building boats on the beach inside Ulladulla Harbour.

* By 1856 the population of Ulladulla had reached 300.

* In 1858 a road was marked out but it was not suitable for loaded wagons. That year a wooden jetty was built at the harbour by private subscription.

* In 1865 the government built a wharf in the harbour.

* In 1873 a lighthouse was built on the breakwater entrance to the harbour.

* In 1889 the lighthouse was moved to Warden Head.

* By the mid-1950s the weekly ferry service from Sydney, which had operated since the 1860s, finally stopped.

* In 1956 the first Blessing of the Fleet was held.

* Today the harbour is the home of the largest fishing fleet on the New South Wales South Coast.


Visitor Information

Shoalhaven Visitor Information Centre Ulladulla, Civic Centre, Princes Highway, tel: 02 4444 8819. Open 10.00 am - 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday and 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Saturday and Sunday.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website - http://www.ulladulla.info - and NSW Tourism has useful information on their site - http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/south-coast/jervis-bay-and-shoalhaven/ulladulla.

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6 suggestions
  • re: origin of the name ULLADULLA
    FYI, I came across a Sydney newspaper advertisement in December 1841 that refers to “Holy Dollar”as a destination along with Broulee, for the cutter FRIENDSHIP out of Sydney – this boat was used for transporting timber and passengers, but it was a small boat only about 33-35ft long. There may have been a connection with Thomas Hyndes a timber merchant in Sydney.
    Bob Chapman

    Bob Chapman
  • I have noticed on some older maps that the spelling of Tabourie used to be spelt Taboorie do you have any explanations of the name change

  • Excellent information Bruce however you might check if Renny Beach is actually Rennies Beach.

  • The first ever house built in Ulladulla (Wasp Harbour) was built in Green Street across the road from Centrelink these days. It is now a fossil museum.

    Ken McElroy
  • Washerwomans Beach Bendalong was named after indigenous people that would bath and wash themselves, clothes etc. As there was no water supply.

    Ken McElroy