History & Heritage
Discover the early days of this resource-rich region
Well beyond the limits of holiday nostalgia, this area is rich in history with clues to its past just waiting to be explored.
Traditional stories speak of the Dharawal people who first came to the Illawarra, bringing with them the cabbage tree palm (still seen throughout the Kiama area). Nomadic Wadi Wadi tribes then passed through this heavily bush-clad region, following trails north to Bass Point (Shellharbour) or La Perouse (Botany Bay). One of their traditional camps was near modern-day Jamberoo (which actually means ‘track’).
The areas of Gerringong and Bombo were considered good sources of “ochre” — a deep orange clay used for aboriginal ceremonies. This would not be the last time that Kiama’s mineral riches were sought out.
When George Bass sailed alongside Kiama Blowhole in December 1797, he became the first European to witness what Indigenous Australians called “where the sea makes a noise”. This ushered in a wave of development which would see towering cedar forests all but removed and basalt quarries carved across the region to supply a growing nation.
Kiama’s swift growth peaked in the late 1800s, as seen in many of the dates on heritage buildings around town.