Ulladulla, New South Wales: Travel guide and things to do

Ulladulla is located 227 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway. It is a coastal holiday resort, retirement centre and fishing port. The local economy is supplemented with dairying, timber-getting and the production of honey.

There are a number of theories about the origins of 'Ulladulla' as a place name. The indigenous word is variously given as 'ullada ullada' and 'Woollahderra' supposedly meaning 'safe harbour'. The apocraphyl story is that the word 'Ulladulla' is a compromise between the Aboriginal title and the phrase 'holey dollar' whichr was a form of currency in NSW from 1814 until about 1824.

For the 20,000 years prior to white settlement the coastal area was occupied, depending on what source you read, by the Dhurga, Walbanja and/or Wadandian Aborigines. Middens and caves used for shelter testify to their occupation of the land. When Captain Cook travelled up the coastline in 1770 he noted, at Bawley Point, south of Ulladulla, people on the shore who 'appeared to be of a black or very dark colour'. On April 21 he sighted Pigeon House Mountain, to the west of the present town. He described it 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'.

In 1827 Thomas Florance surveyed the coastline from Burrill to Narrawallee, naming much of what he saw. He anchored his boat, the Wasp , in what is now called Ulladulla Harbour and hence it became known, for a time, as Wasp Harbour.

The first land grant in the area was issued in 1827 to Reverend Thomas Kendall (1778-1832). He settled north of the present township of Milton, calling his property 'Kendall Dale'. There he ran cattle and felled timber utilising ticket-of-leave men for labour. Kendall travelled often from Ulladulla to Sydney but was drowned when his small boat, the Brisbane, was wrecked off Jervis Bay.

His grandson, Henry Kendall, was born on the estate in 1839. Although he only lived there for five years the people of Ulladulla helped to launch his literary career when they instigated, by public subscription, the publishing of his first book, Poems and Songs , in 1862. He was to become one of Australia's most distinguished contemporary poets.

An area called 'The Settlement', upon the site of present-day Milton, was occupied by farmers. Creeks, rivers, gorges, mountains, lakes and swamps made access by land problematic so the settlers began to use the harbour, imaginatively known as 'The Boat Harbour', for the shipment of produce. There were no breakwaters nor any jetty, just a chain by which ships were secured.

Other grants were issued in the 1830s and the site for a village was surveyed in 1837. With an abundance of red cedar in the area, much in demand for the construction of furniture, Ulladulla prospered as a timber port in the 1840s.

The first houses consisted of a sapling framework with strips of dried bark for covering. As families developed (until 1850 there was only one white woman living at Ulladulla Harbour) larger slab houses were erected.


Shipbuilding was also undertaken from about 1840 by David and James Warden on the beach inside Ulladulla Harbour. The promontory known as Warden Head is named in their honour.

Other early industries included dairying, wheat-growing (destroyed when 'rust' hit the south coast in the 1860s), pig-rearing, honey, maize and vegetable-cultivation, a tannery works at Millards Creek and the mining of silica and quartzite which was loaded on a wharf at Bannister Point and shipped out for usage in the furnaces at Newcastle.

In 1856 the population of Ulladulla was around 300. A road was marked out in 1858 although it was not suitable for laden wagons. That same year a wooden jetty was built by private subscription, being replaced by a government wharf in 1865. The stone steps are all that remain in Ulladulla Harbour. Markets are held at the wharf on the second Sunday of each month.

Today Ulladulla is a peaceful, relaxed seaside resort. The harbour, with two boat ramps, is nestled between two enclosing headlands. With a couple of notable beaches, seven lakes nearby and a hinterland of state forest, mountain ranges and national parkland it is ideal for all aquatic activities, camping, bushwalks and scenic drives. There are surfboards and bodyboards etc. for hire from Totally Board (02 4454 0694) and pedal boats from the beach around the harbour in the holiday season.

Things to see

Historic Houses
1. Mitchell House
The earliest houses in Ulladulla consisted of round timber corner poles, slabs of timber for the walls and wooden shingles on the roof. The old Mitchell home at 56 North St (which runs west off the highway) Ulladulla is one such building. It was owned by the great-grandson of Henry Mitchell who obtained the licence for the mill at Bawley Point in the 19th century.

2. Millard's Cottage
The oldest extant building in Ulladulla (c.1868) now houses Millard's Cottage Restaurant, 81 Princes Highway. However, just north at Milton there are a number of historic buildings. Indeed the National Trust classified the township as an Urban Conservation Area in 1985.

3. Springfield
On the western side of the highway,about half-way between Ulladulla and Milton, is 'Springfield', an attractive 11-roomed house with elaborate iron lacework about the verandah. Considered distinct in its architectural features it was built in the 1860s by Ephraim Mison, who owned a timber mill above the wharf at Ulladulla.

At the northern end of Ulladulla is Mollymook with its two golf courses and patrolled surf beach. The name is thought to derive from an albatross, the 'Mollymawk'. The first settlers to take up residence in that particular area built a house called 'Molly Moke' in 1859 where Garside Road is today. The Tallwood Avenue Sub Newsagency can help with local enquiries, tel: (02) 4455 3054. If you turn seawards into Mitchell Pde at the southern end of Tallwood Ave it will take you out to Bannisters Point where there is a lookout.

Narrawallee Creek and Pattimores Lagoon
Just north of Mollymook are the calm, shallow waters, mangroves and mudflats of the inlet to Narrawallee Creek which is an ideal spot for children. The inlet lies at the southern end of Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve which stretches north for 5 km along Buckleys and Conjola Beaches. Largely undisturbed these beaches are good spots for fishing and surfing and are backed by a dune system adjoined by woodland through which there is a circular walking track. Pattimores Lagoon is in the northern part of the reserve and is a breeding ground for waterbirds. To get to the reserve turn east off the highway at Yatteyattah into Lake Conjola Entrance Rd which takes you the 6 km to the car park and the start of the 2.5-hour walk. There is one picnic area a kilometre past the car park and others at Conjola Beach and Narrawallee Inlet.

South Pacific Heathland Reserve and Warden Head Lighthouse
South of Ulladulla harbour (turn left into Dowling St) is South Pacific Heathland Reserve which has a walking track with information panels relating to the park's flora - mostly waratahs and trigger plants. There is a viewing platform to observe the birds, including yellow-tailed black cockatoos and New England honeyeaters - and a vantage point with a view of the coastline. At low tide it is possible to walk north along the beach and around the promontory to Warden Head Lighthouse which was built in Ulladulla in 1873 and re-erected at the present site in 1889. Made of iron and designed by a contemporary colonial architect the original optical apparatus is intact and still in operation. Fishing off the nearby rocks is excellent and there are good views of the harbour and surrounds.

The Coomee Nulunga Cultural Trail
The Coomee Nulunga Cultural Trail commences opposite the Lighthouse Oval carpark off Deering St, just past the 4-metre Aboriginal figure (Bulan). This lovely walk was created by the local Aboriginal Land Council from a land grant. At this stage Part 1 is complete and a further stage of development planned, which will cover the rest of the headland, both north and south. Stage one (700 m) takes you through low scrub down to Renny Beach; the last section of the walk winding in the manner of the Rainbow Serpent, the creator in Aboriginal dreamtime. Along the way are detailed, hand-painted and carved information posts which incorporate the names of local plants and animals. There is a small bridge across a creek and a viewing platform facing the sea. The best times for the walk are dawn and dusk as the animal life is at its most active. Visitors are requested to stay on the main trail for the protection of the flora and fauna and themselves (from snakes etc). A guided tour can be organised by contacting the Budamurra Aboriginal Corporation, tel: (02) 4455 5883.

Ulladulla Wildflower Reserve
On the corner of Green and Warden St, next to the swimming pool, is Ulladulla Wildflower Reserve (12 hectares). There are over 100 plant types, mostly waratah and Christmas bush, but also ferns, creepers, shrubs, ground and tree orchids and herbaceous plants under a canopy of eucalypt and turpentine.

Burrill Lake
5 km south of Ulladulla is Burrill Lake, its shores lined with natural bushland and its waters full of fish. The inlet and beach lie to the east of the highway. There are fine views to be had from Dolphin Point. Simply cross the bridge and take the first left into Dolphin Point Road. This will lead you past Bungalow Park Caravan and Camping Park, where there is a bird sanctuary and six-seater outboards for hire, past the windsurf hire (open weekends, December-February) and take the first left into Seaside Parade.

Burrill Lake sports three boat ramps. There is a concrete launch on the northern side of Burrill Inlet off Kendall Crescent. A natural ramp for catamarans and skiffs is located in Moore St on the opposite side of the inlet. There is a hire service offering catamarans, canoes, surfskis and windsurfers at the same spot which is open daily from October to Easter (02 4454 0951).

Tabourie Lake
A further 9 km south is Tabourie Lake, unsuitable to all but flat-bottomed non-motorised boats. A haven for birdlife it has excellent beaches. At low tide you can also walk across to tranquil Crampton Island.

Lake Tabourie Museum is a small fibro building with an interesting collection of items, including Aboriginal artefacts, 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 daily from 10-5 and can help with local information. The entry fee is negligible and donated to charity. If you are coming from the north it is situated to your right about 500 metres past the Tabourie Bridge.

Morton National Park and Pigeon House Mountain
Inland from Ulladulla are Morton National Park and Pigeon House Mountain (719 m). The latter has a walking track to the summit. The best access point is Wheelbarrow Road which heads west off the highway 3 km south of Burrill Lake. However, it is gravel and its condition varies. 4.5 km along Wheelbarrow Road a small signpost points to Frightening Hill Ostrich Farm which offers a two-hour tour through ostrich and worm farming. There is also a rainforest walk and a chance to buy the produce: ostrich eggs, plumes and leather products, composting worms and organically-grown vegetables. The tour is by appointment only (02 4455 3115).

An alternative way of getting to this point is to drive to Milton and turn left into Croobyar Road at the Angel Rose Restaurant and then left again into Woodburn. 15.4 km south of Milton turn right off Woodburn into the Clyde Ridge Road. After 14.5 km you will reach the turnoff to the right which leads to the picnic area and car park at the start of the Pigeon House track. The route is well-signposted (Tourist Drive 3).

The walk to the summit is four hours return. It offers magnificent, panoramic views of the rugged cliffs and gorges of the Budawang Ranges. These were carved, by the Clyde River and its tributaries, out of an extensive tableland (of which Pigeon House is but a remnant) that once stretched north to the Shoalhaven. To the north-west are the two elongated plateaux of Byangee Walls and the Castle. To the east the coast can be seen, on a good day, stretching from Point Perpendicular in the north to Mt Dromedary in the south. Sandstone layers, deposited by a shallow sea 250 million years ago, can be seen in the surrounding cliffs. The ash which grows here is only found in the Budawang Area.

The Pigeon House is important for the local Aborigines due to its conspicuousness and its closeness to their trading route from the coast to the tablelands. They called it Dithol or Did-Dell.

The walk is outlined in a National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) pamphlet on the Pigeon House. After a steep 800-m climb along a spur the walk reaches a flat area of woodland heath, wattle, spring/summer wildflowers and small birds. A further climb takes you to the base of the ladders to the summit. During the Christmas school holidays there are guided walks (phone the Nowra NPWS Office on (02) 4423 9800.

The mountain is situated at the south-east corner of 162 000-ha Morton National Park, one of the state's largest. Containing a sizeable portion of the Southern Highlands its features include rugged sandstone cliffs, deep, well-forested valleys, and the Clyde, Shoalhaven, Endrick, and Kangaroo Rivers.

Due to its size the park features a number of landforms, climatic circumstances and habitats - sedgeland, woodland, heath and rainforests. The transition from one to another can be quite dramatic.The landforms are also various and hence there is a diversity of flora and fauna. There are wildflowers in abundance on the plateaux, giant turpentine trees below the major cliffs, coachwood and black ash in abundance and true rainforest canopy where the soil is richest. The park has numerous birds of prey, including hawks, wedge-tailed and other eagles, plus parrots, honeyeatres, lorrikeets, crimson rosellas, cuckoos, comorants, grebes, lyrebirds and two threatened species - the swamp parrot and eastern bristle bird. There are also macropods, bandicoots, the dunnart, possums, echidnae and dingoes, plus the marsupial mice, snakes and lizards upon which the predators feed.

At Termeil, Timbertops Stud and Riding School (02 4457 1008) offers one and two-hour coastal rides between Tabourie and Bawley Point. Beach fishing trips can be arranged at Termeil by Alan Perry (02 4457 1322).

Bawley Point
Bawley Point is a beautiful seaside village where coastal steamships were once built. Timber was the main industry here and an initial sawpit was replaced by a sawmill in 1881. The mill constructed in 1910 was reputedly the largest in the southern hemisphere at the time, employing 72 men. The remains can still be found near the water. Most of the logs came from the area just north of Termeil, where a community once thrived, and was transported on a timber tram line. Little remains but bush today.

Bawley Point Road departs from the highway just south of Termeil. About 1 km east of the highway is Mimosa Hill Wildflowers and Holiday Cottages, with native and South African species for perusal or purchase. They are open Friday to Sunday, plus public holidays and every day during school holidays. Another kilometre east is Protea Grove, specialising in proteas, Australian natives and dried flowers.

There are quiet beaches and headlands to the south and north of Bawley Point and lagoons to the north and west where the prawning is good in season. The area to the east of the highway is a proclaimed wildlife sanctuary, hence fauna is plentiful, though dogs are restricted and shooting and trapping forbidden. Bawley Point Newsagency, at the shopping centre in Voyager Crescent (02 4457 1350) is also a visitor's information centre.

Other Attractions in the Area
An interesting local ceremony is the Blessing of the Fleet at Easter. This rite has its origins in the Italian Catholic immigrants who built up the fleet in the 1930s. Those interested in pleasure cruises, diving tours, or half, three-quarter and full-day fishing and game fishing tours should contact the Ulladulla Dive Shop on 044-555303. The Annual Game Fishing Tournament is held late in January each year and the Sport Fishing Convention in late February or early March. The visitor's information centre can provide information on the timing of these events and also has leaflets on local fishing spots. It is located on the Princes Highway between Green and Church Sts in the civic centre (02 4455 1269). The steam engine at the centre dates from the 1920s and was used in a local sawmill.

Tourist Information

Ulladulla Tourist Centre
Civic Centre Princes Hwy
Ulladulla NSW 2539
Telephone: (02) 4455 1269
Facsimile: (02) 4454 0889