Beaches, Pioneers and History

I’ve always thought that the most scenic coastline I have ever seen is along the Oregon Coast in the USA. Yesterday, we explored the beaches and coastline for about 15 kilometres to both the north and south of Batemans Bay and I think that in many ways, it rrvals the coastline of Oregon. The beaches were excellent for swimming and the rocky points and headlands were very scenic.



On a few beaches,  we found kangaroos grazing on the grass behind the sand. They were clearly unafraid of us and allowed us to approach within a couple of metres of them. One was lazing in the sun right beside the picnic table where we had lunch at South Durras.


While we were eating our cheese and salami crisp breads, we saw some movement in the grass and noticed a Goanna heading our way. As soon as I moved to take a photograph, it bolted up a tree where it blended in to the bark on the trunk very effectively. This one was almost a metre long.

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The Goanna is one of the Monitor Lizards. These carrion eaters mostly live on the ground and dig holes for nests or burrows to protect their eggs from predators and to provide a constant temperature for embryo development. As I witnessed, they are good climbers. If threatened, they will rise vertically on their hind legs and hiss loudly. They have very sharp claws and teeth.

We were planning to drive north along the coast and then head to our overnight destination of Mittagong in the Southern Highlands through Kangaroo Valley or across the Macquarie Pass. Both of these main roads that cross the Great Dividing Range were blocked with landslides. . As a result, we were left with no other option than to drive across Mt Clyde to the south and travel through the historic towns of Braidwood and Goulburn. This route took us through some very rich pastoral land and through some interesting and historic towns.


Braidwood is a quite a rare type of town. Even though ithe major highway from Canberra to the coast runs right down the main street, by some miracle, it has managed to retain a strong sense of its nineteenth century history. Today it is an important service centre and historically it was a vital centre during the goldrush era. It has a total of 54 places of interest.

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Europeans explored the area in the summer of 1822 and shortly afterwards  a Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson, a surgeon, was granted land in the area. He named his farm ‘Braidwood’ so that when part of the farm was allocated for the town, it was a simple step to name the town Braidwood.

From there, we drove north to Goulburn. The roads on which we have been driving are in a terrible state. All the way, from Cann River in Victoria, we have been dodging potholes. I try to look at the scenery that we are passing but I can only keep 1/2 an eye on our surroundings. The other 1 1/2 eyes are on the road. I don’t think these road conditions are just a result of water from the recent heavy rains getting under the Roa seal. Some of the problem could be due to a shortage of workers because of Covid, or perhaps these roads just need more funding.

We reached the regional city of Goulburn in time for lunch. There are more historic buildings in this city than you can shake a stick at!

Goulburn, is a major service centre for the surrounding pastoral land with huge stockyards and meat processing plants. It has an engineering and industrial base, it is an important railway town and its location ensures that it became a significant warehousing and distribution centre. It always had a strong educational base which had been enhanced by the establishment in 1984 of the NSW Police Academy; and, most of all, it was a thriving centre with a beautiful park, Belmore Park, in the city centre and a large number of elegant public buildings.


These were the days when the Station Master, the Bank Manager and the Postmaster (and Policeman) were the most respected people in the community.


The French name for Law Courts is the ‘Palais de Justice’ (Palace of Justice). If ever a building lived up this name, it is the Goulburn Law Courts.

There has long been a jail in Goulburn. I was expecting a similar one to the jail in Cooma with its high walls and decorative front entrance. This one is very different. It is a supermaximum security prison. The High Risk Centre (commonly called SuperMax) was opened in September 2001. This was the first such facility in Australia and makes this prison the highest security prison in Australia. Like other jails, it is run by the Department of Corrective Services. Good luck to any prisoner correction in this place!

The current structure incorporates a massive, heritage-listed hand-carved sandstone gate and façade that was opened in 1884 based on designs by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet. This has now been enclosed in a totally secure outer wall, The complex is listed on the Register of the National Estate and the New South Wales State Heritage Register as a site of State significance.

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Opposite the jail is the original Goulburn Cemetery. Much of it is untidy and derelict although I found the graves of a famous Australian Family.

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Mary Durack (nee Costello) married Patrick Durack in 1862. He was one of the great pioneer pastoralists who crossed uncharted lands to the Cooper’s Creek area of Queensland in the 1860s, and later worked his way overland to settle in the Kimberley District of Western Australia.
While Mary, his wife, is not given much of a place in Australian History, she should be. She was an archetypal colonial wife, surviving all the difficulties of the outback. She gave unstinting support to her adventurous husband, who was often away for long periods, and she reared to adulthood six of her eight children. Her inclination was for a settled suburban life but she showed endurance and resourcefulness when travelling with small children through harsh lands. She experienced drought and flood, having at times to live off the land, economic depression, loneliness and fear of hostile Aborigines. She died in 1893, a loved and respected matriarch.

Her grand daughter, Dame Mary Durack, became a well known author. She is best known for writing her book “ Kings in Grass Castles’. It is the story of her grandparent’s pioneering family in the Australian outback during the 19th Century.  The book was notable for its portrayal of the role of women and families in the pastoral industry and collaboration and respect between the pastoralists and local Aborigines.

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Before turning off to Mittagong, we passed through the town of Marulin. This tiny town has a railway station, a pub, cafe and a few other old buildings. The butchers shop has operated in the same building since 1868.

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What makes this town unique is that it sits exactly on the 150th meridian. It is the only town in the world that is situated on the this meridian which is used as the basis for Australian Eastern Standard Time. A sculpture depicting this interesting fact is located in the town centre. On the summer and winter equinoxes, the sun therefore rises at exactly 6.00 am and sets at exactly 6.00 pm.

‘Mooraulin’ is the local aboriginal name for Marulan. It was first discovered by Europeans in 1798. By 1820 it had blossomed into a village which provided essential services for pioneers.

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