The history of Narooma

Wagonga Inlet was used as a port from 1860 to supply the Dromedary and Nerrigundah goldfields, with initial settlement in from the entrance. Sawmilling became the major industry with ships carrying timber to Sydney from several sawmills until the mid-1950s. Narooma was gazetted as a town in 1886.

Tourists were attracted to Narooma from its early days by the area’s beauty, ocean and inlet fishing, and oysters. From the 1920s, Narooma’s stylish guest houses attracted Sydney professionals and farmers and graziers from ‘out west’. Camping along the foreshore was popular from the 1920s. Tourism is now Narooma’s main industry.

Australia’s first commercial fish cannery was established in Narooma in 1937. Narooma is the closest port for whale watching tours to Montague Island (Baranguba) and its historic lightstation (1881).

What to do

  • Visit the Visitors Centre and the Narooma Lighthouse Museum to see the original lens from Montague Lighthouse and learn about the history of Montague Island and the lightstation, Aboriginal custodians, early settlement, maritime endeavours and fishing
  • Visit the historic Montague Island Lightstation
  • Stroll along the shore to Narooma’s Bar Rock Lookout, or head north across the bridge to Mill Bay Boardwalk. Interpretive signs include some of Narooma’s history
  • See the cluster of heritage-listed boatsheds, the largest group of boatsheds on the south coast
  • Cruise on the Wagonga Princess and hear about life on the 'river'
  • Explore Narooma with the Ringlands Rotary Walk map
  • See a movie at the School of Arts Hall (1926 – the Kinema), one of the longest-running movie theatres in NSW
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Narooma Lighthouse Museum

Narooma Lighthouse Museum

Come and discover the exciting maritime history of Narooma at the Narooma Lighthouse Museum, located at the Narooma Visitor Centre. The key piece of the Narooma Lighthouse Museum is the original light and optical apparatus from the Montague Island Lightstation.

History of the Light

The light and optical apparatus were constructed by Chance Brothers of Birmingham, suppliers of most lighthouse equipment for colonial governments at the time. The light was first lit on 6 October 1881 and was used for almost 105 years, with its final manual lighting occurring 14 September 1986. The light and optical apparatus were removed from Montague Island when the light was automated and is now housed at Narooma Visitor Information Centre. A detailed interpretive display 'Mainland to Island' and a collection of items have been developed around the theme of this central piece. Some of these items include the original signal flags from the Narooma Pilot Station, lighthouse artefacts from the era and items salvaged from the wreck of the SS Bodalla.

The original light and optical apparatus from the Montague Island Lightstation is deemed to be the best example of an early multi bullseye lens, in Australia, on display with the entire revolving section of the mechanism floating in a reservoir of mercury. When constructed, the light had an intensity of 45,000 candelas (candle power) which subsequently increased to 357,000 by 1933. The light source was originally oil, then kerosene followed by pressurised kerosene mantle, before conversion to electric power in 1969, with a light intensity of 1,000,000 candelas.  This mechanism was completely removed in 1986, and a battery of solar powered quartz halogen lamps installed in its place, radiating two beams of 120,000 candelas whilst consuming 75 watts of power.

Obtaining the Light for Narooma

In order to retain the dismantled original light mechanism for permanent display, the community of Narooma and members of Narooma Apex Club successfully sought permission from the Department of Transport & Communications (DOT) to house the mechanism in a purpose-built extension of the Narooma Visitor Centre. With the support of the community, Eurobodalla Shire Council, National Parks & Wildlife Service, State Member John Hatton, Federal Member Jim Snow, Narooma Area Tourism Association, Narooma Apex Club and local citizens, grants were secured for the construction of the extension. 
The light mechanism, housed in the completed Lighthouse Museum was handed over in an official ceremony on 10 August 1990 by the Governor-General of Australia - His Excellency the Honourable Bill Hayden AC.

Acknowledgements:

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (2007) Heritage Artefacts Loan Agreement.
Author Unknown (1991) Montague Island and the Narooma Lighthouse Project.
Author Unknown (1990) Programme - Presentation of the Lamp from the Montague Lighthouse.
Author Unknown [online] http://www.lighthouse.net.au/lights/Museum/Narooma%20museum.htm accessed 6 August 2010.
Pacey, L. (2001), The Lure of Montague