Historical Towns Directory

By clicking on a state or territory on the map, you can access a regional guide to Australia's historic towns, including a wealth of information about organizations, museums and locations.

We invite organisations to submit information for inclusion on this site. Please click here to email your information to the Directory Editor, Ros Stirling.



Find Nowra

Nowra (population approximately 17,614) is the major centre of the Shoalhaven district on New South Wales' South Coast. It is situated on the Princes Highway 160 kilometres south of Sydney.

Nowra takes its name from the Aboriginal word translating either to 'black cockatoo' or 'camping place'. The region was most likely occupied by the indigenous Dharawal people before white settlement occurred.

In 1797 the 'Sydney Cove' shipwreck survivors passed through the area on their way to Sydney, with George Bass investigating the coast soon after.

Assistant surveyor-general James Meehan and Lieutenant Kent charted the coast from the land in 1805. Their reports on the region's timber resulted in the arrival of cedar-cutters who had begun local operations by 1811.

Albion Hotel, Nowra (courtesy Shoalhaven Historical Society)

Surveyor George William Evans and party were in the area in 1812.

James Meehan came back in 1818, together with Hamilton Hume and Charles Throsby, to try and find a way from the southern tablelands to Jervis Bay.

Settlement began in 1822 when land at Mt Coolangatta was granted to Alexander Berry.

Nowra was not gazetted until 1852. Gold was also first reported at nearby Yalwal that year. Land at the Nowra townsite went on sale in 1857. A postal service was set up in 1861.

A slab Catholic church with an iron roof was constructed in 1865.

Corner of Junction Street and Kinghorne Street Nowra c1900 (courtesy Shoalhaven Historical Society)

A ferry across the Shoalhaven River began services in 1866.

At that time the nearby town of Terarra was a bigger and more important centre than Nowra. Terarra was established around Prosper De Mestre's 1300 acre property in the mid 1830s. Prosper died in 1844 but his family continued to develop the village. A horse stud was set up by Etienne De Mestre and it was here that Archer, the first ever winner of the Melbourne cup in 1861, was trained.

When the Shoalhaven flooded in 1870 settlement began to shift from Terarra to the Nowra site.

St Andrew's Presbyterian Church was constructed at Nowra in 1875 and still remains today. This was the first of three major churches to be built in the 1870s.

Nowra was declared a town in 1885. Rail progressed as far as Bomaderry in 1893.

Nowra Bridge c1910 (courtesy Shoalhaven Historical Society)

In 1897 the current courthouse was established. A police station (1900) is now an historical museum.

Shoalhaven Historical Society Inc and Nowra Museum
Information: The Society aims to promote and encourage the study of Australian history and in particular, that of the Shoalhaven district. Founded 1967. The Nowra Museum (on the corner of Kinghorne and Plunkett Streets, Nowra) is located in the former police station and contains displays focusing on the Nowra district, using plenty of photographs held by the Society. Open 1pm to 4pm weekends and Monday, Wednesday and Friday during school holidays.
Publications: 'The Shoalhaven Chronograph' (quarterly journal) is edited by Bob Harnwell. The Society also has an extensive list of local history publications.
Events: Monthly meetings are held in the Nowra Museum on the fourth Monday of the month from February to November at 7.30pm.
President Phone: 02 4446 0297
Secretary Phone: 0413 339 911
Contact: Lynne Allen (President); Tim Rigney (Secretary)

PO Box 301
Nowra NSW 2541

Email: Museum@shoalhavenhistory.org.au
Website: http://www.shoalhavenhistory.org.au
Shoalhaven Visitor Information Centre - Nowra
Phone: 02 4421 0778; 1300 662 808
Fax: 02 4423 2950

Corner Pleasant Way and Princes Highway
Nowra NSW

Postal Address:

PO Box 475
Nowra NSW 2541

Email: tourism@shoalhaven.nsw.gov.au
Website: http://www.shoalhaven.nsw.gov.au/
Information: Built in 1885, this timber house was home to four generations of women from the same family. Their daily routines, domestic chores and social lives have moulded its rooms. A rich collection of personal items provides an insight into the private lives and daily world of this family for nearly a century. Open Saturday 1 - 5 pm, Sunday 10am - 5 pm. January Thursday to Sunday 10am to 5 pm. Closed Good Friday and Christmas day. A property of the Historic Houses Trust
Phone: (020 4421 8150

Corner Worrigee & West Streets
Nowra 2541

Website: www.hht.net.au



Index of all
Australian Heritage articles