Mt Pleasant Lookout
Mt Pleasant Lookout is clearly marked on 'The Bends' to the north of Gerringong. It offers excellent views over the town, the beach and the undulating landscape of coast and pastoral hinterland rolls on beyond Nowra.
As the Princes Highway descends the hill from the north of the town there is, to the left, a substantial and attractive colonial building in good condition. The homestead of the 'Renfrew Park' estate, it was erected in 1862 adjacent to the site on which an earlier wooden slab house once stood (c.1845). The current structure was remodelled in 1932: brickwork replacing the old wooden verandah which used to surround the building.
The original owner of both the slab house and its successor was Robert Miller who settled here in 1837 after migrating from Renfrewshire in Scotland. He purchased the land from a Mr Campbell, a clerk for Alexander Berry. Campbell had purchased it from a Mr Smith who had taken up the property as the first land grant in the area, in 1831. The area had been surveyed in 1826, though the town was not proclaimed until 1854. Timber shops began to appear in 1856, followed by a post office and hotel in 1857.
At that time the run was known as 'Smith's Swamp' for reasons that become apparent when you reach the bottom of the hill and turn left across the railway tracks into Fern St (the main thoroughfare of Gerringong) at the stone wall which proclaims the township. Marshland stretches out on either side of the road.
If you bypass the Fern St entrance and continue south along the highway there is a sign to the right to the 'Alne Bank' homestead (c.1851), one of the most impressive of the town's historic buildings. It was built of rubble stone by Michael Hindmarsh (1800-1867) who settled in Gerringong in 1836. The building has attractive sash windows, cedar joinery, a notable front door with fanlight, plus a stone barn and iron lacework, both added later in the nineteenth century. It is still occupied by the descendants of the original owner and can only be inspected by appointment (02 4234 0281) Tours by appointment only..
Back on Fern St the first road on the left is Sandy Wha Road, which leads down to Werri Beach, definitely one of the town's main attractions. Although people have built along Werri's perimeter (and there is a substantial caravan park at the southern end) they have not really enjoyed great ocean views. The sea and southerly winds have whipped up a huge sand dune which has to be clambered over to get to the surf. This has meant that the beach is very quiet and quite isolated. Although you can be only a few hundred metres from your car you can feel that you are far removed from all signs of civilisation. It is a good surfing location and a very deep beach with snapper and whiting to be had by keen anglers.
Gerringong Uniting Church
Return west up Sandy Wha Road and back into Fern St and continue south. The next road to the left is Willawa Avenue. On the corner, symbolically situated at the crest of the hill, is the old Congregational Church, now the Uniting Church. Services initially commenced in a timber building in 1861. The present stone structure, a brilliant white of hue with stained-glass windows, dates from 1884.
Old Methodist Church
Clearly visible on the hillside opposite, in Bridges Road, is the old Methodist Church (now also the property of the Uniting Church). The original structure was a slab building further down the hill dating from the 1850s. The present building was constructed in 1869-70 when the twin pines were planted. It is a dignified but plain stone temple of subdued blue with attractive wooden window trimmings.
Willow Bank Homestead
Directly opposite, on the other side of Bridges Road, is 'Willow Bank' homestead, one of the most beautiful properties in town. Built in the early 1860s it has been modified but excellently maintained by the present owners, the Noble Family, who, appropriately, are builders. They have also kept the gardens in immaculate condition. It is not open for public inspection.
The Old Police Station
Further south on Fern St, to the right and just before Blackwood St and the shopping strip, at number 89, is the original police station. Built in 1883 the structure is of stone and lime mortar with walls nearly two feet thick and ceilings almost twelve feet high. It is now privately owned. The cells can be seen around the back of the building if you turn right into Blackwood Street.
Gerringong Heritage Centre
Further along this road, to your right, behind the scout hall (look for the sign) is Gerringong Heritage Centre (02 4234 2364). Open from 1-4 on weekends, public holidays and every Tuesday and Thursday of the school holidays, there is a very small admission charge. The displays deal with early transport, the geology and fauna of the area, the hand tools of the pioneers, dairy farming and Charles Kingsford Smith. There are also records of historical land grants, places of interest and cemetery data, as well as some family histories and photographs.
Just past Blackwood Street, on the right, is the Anglican Church (1874), designed free of charge by Edmund Blacket. The original slab building (1855), costing 200 pounds, was burned down during a major conflagration in 1872 which almost completely destroyed the township.
Ocean View Inn
Opposite, on the eastern side of Fern St and the first building of the central shopping area, is 'Ocean View Inn'. This relatively small two-storey building, with upstairs balcony and iron lacework, was opened in 1875 as a site where horses could be changed during the trip from Kiama to Nowra. Guidepost Travel now operate within and they double as a supplementary tourist information centre, providing heritage walk leaflets and other information.
Just past the shops and the Belinda St crossroad, to the right, at number 158 Fern St, is 'Vileh' cottage. Once Cockerells' Blacksmith it is now much renovated but the street-front exudes a little old-worldly charm and the old-style exterior flue is visible from the street.
Boat Harbour Store
Two houses along, at the corner of Fern and Jupiter street is the old Boat Harbour Store (c.1856), probably the oldest extant structure in the town, though it has little to appeal to the eye from the outside other than the exterior chimney. The original owner was a Mr Fuller who married Robert Miller's youngest daughter. The stretch of road from here back to the site of the present garage, a little further north along Fern St, was, at that time, the town centre with four or five businesses and a couple of residential structures. It is now privately owned.
Over Jupiter St and to the right, at number 169 Fern St, is 'Peppercorn' cottage, probably the next-oldest dwelling in Gerringong. Painted an earthy red-brown it is still an attractive structure with a corridor running straight through from the front of the house to the back.
St Mary's of the Sea Church
On the opposite side of Fern Street is the Roman Catholic Church (St Mary's of the Sea). The present stone building is small and intimate, with an attractive wooden interior and elaborate stained-glass depictions. It was erected in 1882 where a wooden slab church, doubling as a school, had been built in 1864. The building was extended in 1995.
Gerringong Boat Harbour
Turn east into Jupiter St and it will take you to the boat harbour. Like all of the harbours on the south coast it was once a major port where the produce of the local area was shipped to Sydney.
Cedar-getters began to use the site in the 1840s. Looking at it today it is hard to imagine that a 400-foot jetty once extended out into the harbour from where the boat ramp now stands and that sailing ships regularly arrived bringing stores and supplies from Sydney and taking away local produce. Prior to that the boats anchored offshore and a punt would row to the current ramp site where it would unload and reload numerous times. Passing boats would be alerted to the fact that there was a load to pick up by means of a white flag tied to a pole.
A government grant saw the erection of a 200-foot jetty in 1880. However, boats could still only approach it at high tide as they hit bottom at low tide. Consequently another grant in 1882 saw its extension to 400 feet. A cyclone tore the structure apart a few years later. However, the railway was being developed at this time. It arrived in Kiama in 1888 and Gerringong in 1893, causing a shift away from marine transport. Consequently, the jetty fell into disrepair. It was soon completely demolished. A painting of the harbour complete with jetty can be found in the town hall's major downstairs room. There is a pool at the boat harbour, a boat ramp and a small park with some swings. Tuna, kingfish, mulloway, snapper, flathead, morwong and even marlin can be caught in the offshore waters.
Old Schoolhouse Wool Workshop
On the corner of Belinda and Victoria streets is the Old Schoolhouse Wool Workshop. Built by Alexander Berry in 1862 it served as the Public School in Tooloijooa (4 km south of Gerringong along a turnoff to the left off the Princes Highway) from 1870-1952, then was moved to become Gerringong Public School in 1953. In 1995 it was moved again to its present site. More of historical than architectural interest, it is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday, from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and woollen knitwear of all sorts are on display inside.
The Gerringong Surf Spectacular is held in January of each year and a patchwork quilt exhibition in November. The Gerringong markets are held on the second Sunday of each month.