Small timber town with an alternative lifestyle ambience.

Located 524 km north of Sydney via Pacific Highway and 12 km west of Macksville, Bowraville is situated in the heart of the Nambucca Valley. It is approximately half way between Sydney and Brisbane. The town promotes itself as 'the verandah post heritage town' because most of the older buildings in town are characterised by old-style verandahs which reach out and provide shade on the footpaths.

Before the arrival of Europeans the Bowraville district was inhabited by the Ngaku and the Gumbayngirr Aborigines. Today there are still substantial numbers of their descendants living in the area. The first Europeans to arrive in the area came in the 1840s. Like most of the coastal areas of New South Wales the first settlers were cedar cutters.

In March 1841 Clement Hodgkinson explored the upper reaches of the Nambucca and Bellinger Rivers. He was the first European to make contact with the local Aboriginal community. The township, originally named Bowra, grew up in the 1850s and 1860s. It was renamed Bowraville in the 1870s because confusion was occurring with the Southern Highlands township of Bowral. No one knows with any certainty what the word 'Bowra' means. Various sources claim it is a local Aboriginal word meaning either 'cabbage palm', 'bullrout fish', 'scrub turkey' or 'bald head'. There is also a suggestion that the town's name comes from a European, Captain Bowra, who was sent up the river to search for cedar.

In the early years of its existence Bowraville was primarily a timber town. It grew to meet the needs of the local timber cutters and so by the 1870s it boasted two hotels a number of general stores, a blacksmiths shop, a tailor, local post office, a school and a number of churches. By the 1880s, while timber was still dominant, the district was also an important dairy and pig raising area. However it is still true that timber remains the predominant industry. People who are interested need only to take a short walk down the hill from the Bowra Hotel to see the size and scale of the local timber mills.

The town has remained relatively static throughout the 20th century but by the 1960s this area of the New South Wales coast was attracting people interested in alternative life styles. Today this alternative lifestyle is apparent in the rather sophisticated, alternative movie house in the main street and the window advertisements for drug rehabilitation, masseurs and alternative type activities. The area has seen the development of such activities as macadamia farms, avocado growing and even deer and ostrich farming. The towns main street has been carefully recreated (much of it had been destroyed by a series of bush fires) so that it maintains a certain old world charm.

Things to see:

St James Anglican Church
Located at the northern end of the main street this striking wooden building was completed in 1899. It is a symbol of the town's total commitment to the use of timber.

Walking Around Town
There is no substitute to simply getting out of your car and walking up and down the main street of Bowraville. There are number of attractive buildings including the Bowra Hotel with its wide verandah, the Bowraville Folk Museum and particularly the attractive wooden churches at the northern end of town. The Old Bank Gallery in the main street is also worth visiting as it has fine displays of paintings and craft made within the local area.

Bowraville Folk Museum
The Bowraville Folk Museum has a range historic items which recreate the history of the local district. These include a boarding house, Ryan's cottage, a unique collection of naval tallies and some farm machinery. In the area of the Folk Museum is the local Presbyterian Church which dates from 1885.

The Handmade House Tour
Each year, usually in October, the Tallowood Community School organises for a range of handmade houses in the Bellingen/Bowraville area to be opened to the public. For a modest fee  visitors can inspect houses made from mud brick, rammed earth, wattle and daub, mud and sawdust packing and stone and wood construction. There is also an opportunity to inspect permaculture and solar energy uses. For more information contact the school on (02) 6564 7619 or email

Drives in the Local Area
Virtually any road leading out of Bowraville takes the visitor through spectacular forest countryside where it is possible to see giant tree ferns, cedar trees, fig trees, stag horns, kangaroo ferns, and a variety of eucalypts. Particularly attractive are the roads from Bowraville to Bellingen and from Bowraville to Taylors Arm, the home of the famous 'Pub With No Beer'.

Bowra Hotel
33 High St
Bowraville NSW 2449
Telephone: (02) 6564 7041