Tourist Drive 8
Cobargo - Bermagui - Tilba Tilba
Road conditions: - Easy travelling on sealed roads.
A short tour with lots of history, some amazing but restful picnic spots, and the craft towns of Cobargo and Tilba Tilba to enjoy along the way.
The route between Cobargo, Bermagui and Tilba takes you past the special spot of the old Montreal Goldfield. This heritage site is unique in many ways and its story of history, geology and mystique of an unsolved mystery should not be missed. Admission is by guided tour only so book ahead at the Bermagui Tourist Information Centre for a guide to take you around. Ph. (02) 6493 3054 or 1800 645 808
1. Cobargo A small historic township which stradles the Princes Highway, with a variety of craft and curiosity shops, and delicious eateries. Cobargo was once called ‘Wattle Town’… This was due to the quantities of wattle bark sent to Sydney from the area for use in leather tanning. Cobargo is an Aboriginal word which means ‘Grandfather’.
2. Bermagui cobargo road
During the early 1900’s livestock being exported to Sydney went by ship from Bermagui, the roads north being almost non-existent. Cattle and pigs were walked along this road from the farms to Bermagui Wharf, often in excess of 20kms. Turkeys walking along the tar had shoes put on them so they wouldn’t get sore feet.
3. Old Butter Factory Built beside the creek for water supply, it was first established in 1901, burnt down in 1926 and rebuilt immediately. By 1975 this was the only specialist butter factory in NSW, finally closed in 1980.
4. Pee Tree Beside the road is a notice board and a tall Spotted Gum, noticed perhaps only by the most observant traveller. The notice board informs, ‘This Spotted Gum is protected from felling or injury of any kind’. Why?The story of the ‘Pee Tree’… The story is that during the 1920’s this tree was of special interest to one gentleman (the local bank manager it is said) who walked home from the pub this way every week, stopping here to answer natures’ call. When the forestry announced plans to clear fell the area he applied to purchase the tree, it was assumed for the timber. But having bought the tree he then gave it to the Mumbulla Shire Council on condition that it never be removed. Needless to say this has resulted in some small problems over the years with even roads being aligned to by-pass it.
5. Turn right at the T-intersection to Bermagui
6. Bermagui - Spend some time investigating the natural wonders of this small coastal township: Blue Pool
The entrance to the carpark is right opposite the water tower and the pool is reached via a staircase from the parking area. This large spectacular swimming pool, plus the small pool for the children, has been a favourite with locals for many years. On a clear day the reflecting sapphire blue sky accounts for the name.
Originally called the Blue Hole and only half its present size, locals enlarged and improved it to its present standard in the 1940’s, rock being blasted and then removed by wheelbarrow to be dumped in the sea. The small pool was constructed and dressing sheds built at the top of the stairs at the same time.
Dickson Park Dickinson Park was known as Zane Grey Park, for the American author who camped on the headland and enjoyed the Australian country life between his fishing trips. Zane Grey’s magazine articles put Bermagui on the map as a big game fishing venue and the Caravan Park still carries his name.
The park however was re-named for philanthropist Bill Dickinson. He came to Bermagui in 1935 on a one day trip. It is said he walked around the township and visited the cemetery where he noticed that most people had lived until their eighties. He always said this was the reason he decided to live in Bermagui. He resided at the Horseshoe Bay Hotel for 15 years. Community fundraising always received pound for pound donations from Mr Dickinson. He assisted in the building of many local facilities, and is credited with having had the many Norfolk Pines planted. He died in 1950 aged 82.
Dickinson Park is an ideal spot to sit and watch the fishing boats return to harbour, savour a feast of Bermagui’s famous fish’n’chips, or just enjoy the spectacular view.
The Freshwater Lagoon
Opposite Coluga Street on the northern entrance to Bermagui, this was once a deep salt water lagoon. It sealed itself from the sea following dredging of the mouth for gravel. The lagoon then dried up completely during the 1980’s drought but has refilled with fresh rainwater since. It is now a habitat for native birds.
Mount Dromedary dominates the scene across Horseshoe Bay, and it was from a spring on its heights that the first water was piped to Bermagui in 1952. Prior to this tank water was supplemented by ballast water brought by ships calling to take on produce.
From either headland, Montague Island and the lighthouse can be seen to the north, although visibility varies according to the prevailing weather conditions. Granite from Montague Island was used in the building of the Sydney G.P.O.
Located just below the present War Memorial, it was demolished by the Government in 1971 as it was considered unsafe. Remains of the wooden piers can still be seen, and scuba divers enjoy exploring the site and occasionally finding a relic of the past.
Scenic Forest Drive
A short detour through a forest of Spotted Gums and Burrawongs on a well maintained gravel road will take you around the southern shore of Wallaga Lake to discover a very pretty picnic spot with BBQ’s and fresh water. From the BBQ area a short bushwalk is signposted. Worth the effort.
7. now head back the way you came...
Leaving Bermagui you head back the way you came, this time passing the turnoff to Cobargo and continuing north along the coast road.
8. Old Goldfields’ Lookout
Turn right opposite the Wallaga Lake Caravan Park. Gold was discovered along this coastal stretch in 1880. Within two weeks, 2,500 miners were in the area. There were three hotels, stores and a newspaper all established within five weeks. Today there is little evidence of this frantic activity, just a few unused mine shafts, and a story of mystery and murder. Check at the local Tourist Information Centre for more details. Ask also for the map and leaflet ‘Coast Walk’ on the newly created and signposted walking trail, a pleasant coastal walk from Bermagui to Wallaga Lake Bridge with the option of returning by bus.
9. Camel rock
The entrance is opposite the Beauty Point turnoff. Facilities are minimal (just pit toilets, a picnic table and a shady tree to park under), but the short path to the beach takes you through to this fascinating rock. Yes, it can be seen from the road, but you will miss the rock pools around the base and the amazing variety of tiny coloured stones that shimmer in the clear water. The area is a popular snorkelling and fishing spot. Just a short stroll along the beach to the north and you will discover Horse Head Rock.
10. Wallaga Lake Bridge
A single lane bridge (give way to south-bound traffic). A small picnic area can be enjoyed south of the bridge and virtually right in the middle of the lake. A special spot for birdwatchers. This extensive lake, actually a drowned river valley, created hardship for residents of Tilba prior to the building of the bridge in 1894. They experienced difficulty reaching the Bermagui Wharf to ship produce or receive stores. If the lake was closed they travelled along the beach, where deep soft sand made travel difficult with horse and cart heavily loaded, but when the lake mouth was open to the sea travel was almost impossible.
The story of Emily Wintle...
Emily Wintle was the only freight carrier willing to freight goods across the water when the Wallaga Lake mouth was open to the sea. Emily was one of eight children and when she was just five years old she was bound-over to a farmer at Cobargo where she worked for 13 years both in the household and at heavy farmwork. She married Robert Wintle and they acquired a farm near Camel Rock. When her husband died in 1887 (she was then 37) she had six boys and five girls to support. Emily decided there was more money to be made being a carrier than a farmer. She carted stores from Bermagui to Tilba and backloaded railway sleepers, using a team of eight horses. When the lake mouth was open this necessitated unloading the wagon and taking the goods across on a punt, then swimming the horses over with the empty dray and reloading.
12 Tilba Tilba
Upon reaching the intersection with the Princes Highway, you may choose to turn right and continue a few kilometres to the National Trust Classified township of Tilba Tilba, for a leisurely cup of tea and a stroll through the many craft shops. Alternatively a left turn will take you back via the Princes Highway to your starting point of Cobargo - just 18 kilometres.