The drawcard for Sth Durras is its incredible natural beauty that remains virtually unaltered since its first discovery by holiday makers looking to camp and fish by its beaches and lake foreshores. Surrounded by Murramarang National Park the village is a gem for those who enjoy being close to nature.
SOUTH DURRAS was home to the Yuin people whose land covered much of the South Coast of New South Wales. Just north of South Durras in the Murramarang Aboriginal Area is what is believed to be the largest midden on the South Coast. While there was some initial hostility between the Yuin and the white settlers, introduced diseases such as smallpox killed off around 95% of the tribe, leaving them in no state to fight for their land.
The first land grant in the area was made to John Whitehead McNee in 1840 and the name Durras was in use at that time to describe the area. For the next ninety years or so, the area was primarily used for timber cutting with a mill in operation at Wasp Head but the mill's closure in 1929 caused a reappraisal of the area's potential.
The land south of Durras Creek was subdivided in 1937 to form the village of Durras which didn't become known as South Durras until the establishment of another settlement north of Durras Lake. In the 1940s and 50s, a school, post office and store were established in the town with electricity introduced in 1960
Now surrounded by Murramarang National Park you can spend your days exploring the area’s wonderful walks – beachside, lakeside and challenging climbs leading to spectacular ocean views, all offering abundant bird and animal life, including kangaroos grazing close to the beaches.
Historically, the settlement south of Durras Lake was originally known as the Village of Durras, but with the later development of a settlement north of the lake, the southern village came to be known as South Durras. That name [South Durras] was generally applied to the original village at Durras Creek, and the settlement south of Durras Lake was known as Durras Water. Today, both the ‘southern’ settlements are known as South Durras, with the ‘Durras Creek’ area known as ‘village side’, and the ‘Durras Lake’ area known as ‘lake side’.
It appears that the first time that the name Durras appeared on a map was on John Larmer’s survey of 1840 of the first land grant in the area; that of John Whitehead McNee.
In 1853 James McMillan bought 150 acres of land at South Durras [at the back of the present ‘village side’]. In 1857 John Spurgeon had bought fifty acres fronting the village beach. James McMillan had originally applied for this land as well, and the McMillan family later acquired this land. Kate Strawbridge, a descendant of James McMillan, built a house on an allotment to the south of Wasp Head. The ‘Durras road’ ran through Mrs. Strawbridge’s property and one had to open two gates and cross a creek to pass through. The Strawbridge house at Wasp Head has long since been demolished, and Wasp Head itself is leased from the NPWS as the Murramarang Resort.
The first timber mill in the area commenced in the 1870s. The timber mill was located close to Wasp Head. The mill closed about 1929 due to the collapse of the coastal timber industry during the Great Depression, and was eventually demolished for safety reasons.
Tourism arrived in 1932 when Charles Innes built 13 holiday cabins beside Lake Durras
By 1945, the village had grown in size and comprised twenty-four buildings. The village had a school, and by the 1950s a post office and store and a Bush Fire Brigade. The first telephone was connected to the general store in the early 1950s. The South Durras Hall was opened in 1953. The ‘switching on’ of electricity came on 25 November 1960. The introduction of electricity displaced the general reliance on kerosene lamps.
In the 1950’s a store was built at the present site of the Beagle Bay Caravan Park. Prior to that various small shops operated from houses in the village This store burnt down in 1973 and Durras was without a store for some years until the general store was built in Corilla.
Source and Further reading
Murramarang National Park and its Walks
Murramarang National Park is never more than 2 km wide but it stretches for 44 km along the coastline from Kioloa to Batemans Bay. Dominated by beaches, cliffs and headlands it also has rock stacks, offshore islands, fossil-bearing rocks and impressive rock platforms.
The park is rich in both fauna and flora with eastern grey kangaroos, swamp wallabies, red-necked wallabies, parrots, finches, honeyeaters, eagles, hawks, terns, thrushes, parrots, oyster catchers, wrens, muttonbirds, albatrosses and fantails. It is one of the highlights of the park that kangaroos feed on the edges of the beaches.
The flora is predominantly wet eucalypt forest comprising spotted gums with an understorey of burrawangs leading to banksia, she-oaks and heath on the beaches and headlands. There are small areas of rainforest in sheltered gullies, particularly around Durras Mountain.
The National Parks website includes detailed information on Murramarang National Park.
Wasp Head walk. Murramarang National Park. Distance 2km return Time suggested 30min - 1hr 30min
This short, scenic walk in Murramarang National Park, south of Durras Lake, is a delightful easy walk taking in coastal views and golden beaches in this spectacular part of the coast, north of Bateman’s Bay. Walking north from Wasp Head picnic area takes you through a casuarina forest and opens up to a fantastic view of Wasp Island. Significantly Wasp Head is the southernmost point of the Sydney Basin sandstone.
Heading south along the path you’ll reach Emily Miller Head where you can gaze down to a dramatic rocky cove of Wobbegong Bay. Another off shoot of the path leads down to the beach where you may discover an alluring sea cave, depending on the tide levels. This whole area is renowned for its rich Aboriginal heritage; keep an eye out for evidence of shell middens along the way. More Information from National Parks HERE
Dark Beach walking track in Murramarang National Park is only a distance of 0.5km return with a suggested time of 15 - 30min. The walk leads to a secluded beach with unique rock formations in Murramarang National Park. Ideal for fishing, swimming and snorkelling. More information from National Parks HERE
The tracks around Wasp Head lead to areas where shellfish fossils abound. There are rock pools, an igneous dyke and a one metre fault plane which runs right up the coast. At Mill Point there are the remains of a timber mill which was vital for the local economy. Its rusted old boiler still lies in the grass. More information HERE
Beaches in Murramarang National Park
There is an excellent walk south from Murramarang Beachfront Nature Resort which passes a series of isolated beaches in that section of Murramarang National Park north of Batemans Bay. These include Emily Miller, Dark, Myrtle, Richmond, Oaky and Honeysuckle Beaches. Each has its own unique appeal. Dark Beach was named because of the many small black shingles. Honeysuckle Bay is characterised by distinctive spotted gums with stunted trunks and horizontal branches, the result of deficient nutrients. At the southern end of the walk - North Head has very large rock pools which are suitable for snorkelling.
Depot and Pebbly Beach
To the north of South Durras, and accessed by Mount Agony Road and North Durras Road are Depot Beach and Pebbly Beach. At one time the noted Australian historian, Manning Clarke, had a holiday home at Depot Beach. Today these two beaches are popular with holidaymakers wanting quiet retreats. Pebbly is known for its sheltered position and the many wallabies which feed and lounge at the edge of beach.
Historically it was important to the local timber industry. The surrounding forest was logged and the timber carted by bullock teams to a sawmill near the beach. The sawn timber was then transported along a tram line to the northern section of the beach where it was deposited on the rocks. A ship was then moored nearby and the timber winched aboard. For more information click HERE
Aboriginal Sites in Murramarang
Durras North has a midden in a sea cave near Point Upright which was discovered and excavated in the early and mid-1960s.The excavation is described in Josephine Flood’s Archaeology of the Dreamtime: “Further south on the New South Wales coast, the small sea cave of Durras North, which overlooks a large ocean beach, was excavated by Lampert.
The deposit only spanned the last 500 years and revealed a number of surprises. There were almost no stone tools. The only numerous artefacts were fish-hooks and bone points, pointed at one or both ends and made out of bird bone. The deposit was full of bird bones, particularly of the mutton bird.
These birds migrate down the coast each year and would have been caught after they collapsed exhausted at sea and were swept ashore. The mutton bird collectors also consumed fish, shellfish and Macrozamia nuts, and doubtless many other foods, which were eaten away from the cave or have not survived in the midden. The southerly aspect of the beach at Durras makes it an ideal location for the collection of flotsam, and we can imagine these prehistoric beachcombers sitting in their cave in October and November, the best months for mutton bird casualties, looking out across the sand to the rolling surf, which might bring them their dinner”.
Murramarang Aboriginal Area
Murramarang Aboriginal Area is a 2 km easy walk which should take around 90 minutes. Described on the National Parks website as "Give yourself a couple of hours to immerse yourself in the surroundings on the 2km Murramarang Aboriginal Area walk along the coastline. Interpretive signs offer insight into some of the most culturally significant Aboriginal sites along the track. The beginning of the walk is along a sand track from the car park, and the undeveloped location is very evocative, making it easier to imagine how the landscape would have looked thousands of years ago when large numbers of Aboriginal people lived here." Click HERE for more details and a description of how to reach the car park which is the starting point.
Other Bushwalks in the Durras Area
Beyond the walks described in the Murramarang National Park there are also a number of interesting walks in the area including:
Durras Discovery Trail
The Durras Discovery Trail features three types of forest, a viewing tower and interpretation signs.
The trail is an easy 1.5 kilometre loop route that takes approximately 45 minutes. The route runs along the northern perimeter of Durras Lake through tall eucalypt (wet spotted gum and blue gum) forest, then climbs into dry blackbutt forest, and then descends into a rainforest gully. Along the way are bush seats, foot bridges and some 300 metres of ironbark boardwalks.
To access the trail drive to the Princes Highway and turn east off the highway at the North Durras/Depot Beach turnoff sign into Mt Agony Road. Follow the road to North Durras and then turn right into gravel-laden Lake Road (clearly signposted) and continue down to the car park where the trail commences. Another way to experience the walk is part of a guided tour that features kayaking on Durras Lake.
Durras Lake Walking Trail
To extend the Durras Discovery Trail walk and get more exercise, take The Durras Lake Walking Trail through the Durras Nature Reserve. This six kilometre trail follows the northern shores of Durras Lake and offers great scenic views and good fishing spots. The trail commences from a signposted point on Mt Agony Road, two kilometres east of the Princes Highway.
The aim of the Eucalypt Trail is to help people identify eleven different species of eucalypt which are common on the South Coast. If you are attentive you will see Blackbutt, Sydney Blue Gum, Grey Ironbark, Monkey Gum, Rough Barked Apple, Sydney Peppermint, Red Bloodwood, Spotted Gum, Woollybutt, White Stringy Bark, and Bangalay.
The trail is located in the Kioloa Rest Area, is 500 m long, takes around 20 minutes and is an easy walk. The site is clearly signposted and is off the Princes Highway approximately 7 km north of the Durras Road turnoff. It has wooden steps and signs which describe the various eucalypt species.