Heritage and history

The area now known as the Shoalhaven has been a bountiful land for millennia, with many different language groups calling the area home for more than 40,000 years.

Throughout the Shoalhaven, there is significant markers of Indigenous occupation, with many cutting and scraping stones found in key areas, shell middens along the rivers and coast and secret and sacred sites in key landscape formations.

Aboriginal oral history records the sighting of Cook’s voyage and again the First Fleet, with histories talking of Gurung-gubba – a great white pelican on the ocean.

First contact is believed to have occurred in 1797 with survivors from the Sydney Cove shipwreck travelling overland from Point Hicks (Victoria) to Sydney.

White settlement of the area occurred in 1822 when Alexander Berry was granted 10,000 acres and 100 convicts to establish a settlement on the south coast of New South Wales.

The rapid development of white settlement in the region is illustrated in the many historical structures still standing and in use today.

The Shoalhaven

For more information about the history and heritage of the Shoalhaven see:

  • At Shoalhaven libraries:


The heritage and history of the Shoalhaven and the South Coast region is on display in museums across the region. From our fascinating fossil record, to early pioneers and the different industries that have called the region home, you’ll discover something of interest in these museums.

Museums are supported by Council in a range of ways, from the buildings they are housed in, to support for volunteers through the Museum Advisor program and donations/grants to help their activities. Council also owns the Jack Nicholson Collection on display at the Lake Tabourie Museum and several of the fossils at the Gondwana Fossil Walk Museum.  

Learn more: