The New and Historic Shellharbour Shire

The New and Historic Shellharbour Shire

Tuesday 15th May 2018, Maggie and I arrived in Shellharbour, NSW Australia for a five day camp with the Jayco NSW Caravan Club. From a past half-day visit I only had memories of the seaside caravan park and the quiet village adjacent to the harbour.

The Beachside Tourist park
Looking north to the ocean pool, small boat marina, Cowrie Island (more a low headland) and beyond to the Shellharbour North Beach

During this visit we discovered there’s a lot more to the Shire of Shellharbour than we’d previously realised.

Of the 128 shires in NSW it is ranked 108th in size, yet it is 35th in population with 68,460 residents (2016 Australian Census). Plus land at Shell Cove (towards Bass Point) is being prepared to accommodate more residents. With these indicators you’d expect a lot of high rise dwellings, but not so.

Gravel Loader at Bass Point – quickly approaching this loader and adjacent quarry, is the latest Shell Cove housing development

The centre piece of Shellharbour’s recent development is a new $60 million Civic Centre (opened December 2017) which includes council chambers, offices, an auditorium, a museum and library, situated in the shires central business district (near Lake Illawarra).

We visited the Civic Centre, spent time in the Museum and found a surprising exhibit. Memories came slowly trickling back of what I’d learnt in Primary School, about an English women who (amongst other things) did so much to help new settlers in Australia. That women was Caroline Chisholm and this exhibit celebrates her work in December 1843 arranging passage and farm land, for English and Scottish immigrant families to settle in Petersborough (now Shell Cove in Shellharbour Shire).

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Despite all of the new development in other parts of the shire, Shellharbour Village has thankfully retained some of its beachside, “small town” charm.

Attractive Cafe building, temporarily closed for roof restoration
Main street of Shellharbour Village, viewed from harbour end
Beachside carpark and well known Ocean Beach Hotel
A different type of “Charm”? – Interesting colour scheme on a multi-era Chinese Restaurant building
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Mosaic on an external wall of the Ocean Pool amenities
Small Boat Marina


With Shellharbour as a base there are plenty of things to see and do nearby, for example Jamberoo Action Park. For the less lively …

St Matthew’s Catholic Church Jamberoo 1879
The Catholic Church (centre) surrounded by a new development in Jamberoo, on land that most likely belonged to the church in the past
The Commercial “Pub”, Jamberoo
Old Stone Cottage, in the middle of another new development at Jamberoo

The view from Saddleback Mountain is spectacular

Kiama from Saddleback Mountain Lookout (Platform A). Can you see the lighthouse?
Kiama “Blow Hole” was definitely working that day
The Kiama Lighthouse, completed in 1887


And back in the Shellharbour Shire …

HARS Aircraft Museum with RAAF Roulettes Macchi MB-326H at entrance

The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Inc. (HARS) at Albion Park Rail has a large collection of civilian and military aircraft on show, including a QANTAS 747, RAAF Mirage (France), RAAF F111 (USA), RAAF Canberra Bomber, Southern Cross II (replica of Kingsford Smith’s 1925 Dutch Fokker) to name just a few. The tour guides (all volunteers) are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and have many interesting stories to tell.

One particular story relates to HARS aquisition of a German ME 108 Messerschmitt fighter, repainted by its previous owner to replicate the WWII ME 109 Messerschmitt of German Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Franz Stigler. This is significant because in 1943 Franz Stigler spared the lives of a wounded American crew flying a crippled B17 bomber back to Britain. Despite the likelyhood of being court-marshalled and shot for his actions, Stigler flew beside them, providing safe passage until they were over the English Channel. This act of humanitarianism is the basis of a movie entitled, “A Higher Call”.

“The Guardian” painting by Nicolas Trudgian – Photo of a signed copy, on the wall at HARS

At the time of our visit to HARS the ME 108 Messershmitt was partly dismantled for restoration.


Wandering the seaside rocks and pools always uncovers something new, or old …

Fossil of a Dinosaur’s Foot?
Squid in the Sand?
A Lost Graphic Language Revealed?
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Colourful Seaside Rock Garden

And looking at dwelling styles in Shellharbour Village… these caught my eye.

St Paul’s Anglican Church 1886 (who parked there)

Shellharbour also has an enormous (Workers) Club which we visited, but didn’t photograph and a car museum that we missed completely (there’s always next time).

It was relaxing, enjoyable and informative to spend time in Shellharbour. I’d certainly go there again; and with a far better understanding of what it has to offer.

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