Narooma & Montague Island
© Photographs : Thérèse O’Leary
This little adventure started out after reading an article in my health fund magazine on green gyms, meaning conservation volunteers. Several things looked interesting including the awarding winning eco tours on Montague Island and chatting with Sue about it she mentioned wanting to see her Aunt at Broulee so the trip grew from there.
Late one Monday morning in January, 2014 the car was packed and we were finally out the door driving to Narooma, the nature coast, on the south coast of NSW. Previously known as Noorooma, the Aboriginal name for clear, blue water at the foot of Mt Dromedary know as Gulaga. The 5 hour drive took a bit longer, we included lunch and shopping at Berry and still made Narooma YHA before dinner and nightfall. What a great place to stay, a private room, access to the clean and spacious kitchen, a communal area where we meet friendly guests including overseas tourists who were terrified of the Australian wildlife which created lots of laughter and great tourist info from happy resident managers Darren and Karli.
On the first evening we looked around Wagonga Head, watched the fishing boats and walking along the Wagonga Inlet broadwalk. Many people were out and about fishing, swimming, enjoying a relaxing evening walk and we were two happy visitors chatting with locals and visitors. The cyclepath/walkway extends from near the Narooma gold course, around the inlet and up the coast to Kianga and Dalmeny.
Day two we headed to Bodalla State Forest and a drive around Wagonga Inlet. Enjoying the view from Grant’s lookout, the bush, the scenery and at the local jetty on the inlet we settled in for a picnic and some drawing while relaxing and getting away from it all. The quiet drawing did not last for long, people arrived by car and boat and were fishing from the jetty and surrounding areas, collecting oyster trays, canoeing and enjoying picnics. The days trips to Montague Island had been cancelled due to weather conditions and I was about to find out that the evening’s penguin trip would also be cancelled.
Day three we headed to Batemans Bay driving through the costal villages of Kianga and Dalmeny, enjoying the commanding views from whale watching platforms and various points. Then back to the highway stopping at Bodalla’s cheese factory before turning off to the coast again at Moruya, driving past people parachuting at the local airport and lunch with Sue’s Aunt Elleen at the local cafe in Broulee. Heading to Batemans Bay via Mossy Point, Tomakin, Surf Beach we were wishing we were back at Narooma, we enjoyed fish and chips by the water and a walk around the city and under the bridge.
Day four, on the phone to Darren at Narooma, are NPWS doing the penguin trip to Montague Island tonight? Yes. Great, I was so excited and we head back to Narooma in a flash with happy hearts and a coffee stop with Aunty Ellen at Mossy Point.
We vistied the Eurobodella Regional Botanic Gardens on the way, it is situated in Walbanga country and the primary local language is Dhurga. The gardens have over 21 kms of low gradient gravel paths including a limited mobility track and an aboriginal heritage walk. We headed to the dam, getting lost and on a very hot day this was not the best thing finally we worked out where we were and headed to the cafe for cold drinks and lunch. The gardens were set up and are managed mostly by volunteers, with the shop worth a look for good value gifts and goodies. Being such a hot day we gave the Mogo Zoo a miss after walking in the gardens nearly finished us, there was time for a shopping stop at Mogo including Absolutely Alpaca and Mogo Pottery
The evening trip to Montague Island was fantastic and the highlight for me, 8 kms from Narooma, close to the continental Shelf and famous for its historic lighthouse, residents, colonies of seals, little penguins and nesting sea birds. This was my first adventure out into the big blue ocean from the Australian coast and the Narooma charters boat did not disappoint. After I relaxed a bit on the bost it was amazing sitting up at the top with the driver watching the seals, I could have stayed there forever, well maybe not that long. Then to watch the penguins come ashore at sunset on the island was something only to be seen for yourself.
Some interesting information from brochures obtained at the local tourist information office:
Gold was discovered in the area and industries now include cheese, timber, fishing, oyster farming, dairying, tourism.
Things to do that we missed fishing, sport fishing, swimming with seals, snorkelling, diving, sailing, water skiing, kayaking, surfing, walk up Gulaga (Mt Dromedary), horse riding along the beach, golf, movies, cycling, scenic flight, birdwatching, whale watching, mogo zoo, npws eco tours and I am sure many more.
Montague Island is part of the Mt Dromedary Igneous Complex. The northern part of the island is now made up of an andesite lava extrusion from a volcanic eruption on Gulaga, (or Mt Dromedary) about 95 million years ago in the Cretaceous period. The dark coloured rocks in the north contrast with the southern part of the island, which has been formed through intrusive igneous rocks that have cooled underneath the surface and been exposed through erosion. These rocks were also formed through the activity of the ancient volcano. Until about nine thousand years ago the island was part of the mainland. Near the summit of the forested ancient volcano that is Gulaga are magnificent granite tors that are of great spiritual and cultural significance to the local Yuin people. I have read that the primary local language for the Eurobodalla region is Dhurga so not sure, maybe Yuin is more local for the Mt Dromedary region.