History of the Tilba district

The Tilba Conservation Area was listed by the National Trust in 1974.

Gulaga, formerly Mt Dromedary, is sacred to the people of the Yuin nation and dominates the Tilba region. Gulaga and Biamanga (Mumbulla Mountain, further south) were handed back to the traditional owners in 2006.

Goldmining contributed to the district’s prosperity but only on a modest scale. At its peak 1902-1904, 300 people lived on the mountain.

The two villages of Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba relied more on dairying. The ABC Co-operative in Central Tilba was the first cheese co-operative in NSW (1891); the village developed to mainly service farmers delivering milk to the factory.

What to do

  • Walk along Central Tilba’s historic Bate Street to the ABC Cheese Factory
  • A short drive along Sherringham Lane will take you to the picturesque and historic Tilba Cemetery on the coast.
  • Walk up Gulaga from the historic Pam’s Store in Tilba Tilba (1879-1880). It’s a 14km  four hour return walk. An interpretative sign at the saddle explains Gulaga’s significance to Yuin people and some gold mining history.
  • Follow the Tilba District Historical Tour for a self-guided car tour of the district.
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The remarkable heritage value of this district with the villages of Tilba Tilba in the south and Central Tilba a few kilometres to the north was recognised by the National Trust (NSW) through the Classification of the Tilba Conservation Area in 1974 as a place of historic and aesthetic significance.  The two villages and the surrounding countryside are now set within a large conservation area that is managed by Eurobodalla Shire Council to ensure the unique character and setting of the place is not compromised.  Most of the buildings were constructed over a short period around 1900 and consequently retain tight and cohesive streetscapes set on the fertile volcanic soils that surround Gulaga Mountain.

One of the first European settlers in the area was Henry Bate and it was he who first established growth with subdivisions.  Soon after, the gold rush hit the area and the town of Central Tilba became a booming and colourful settlement.  After these heady days the town settled down and again relied on the local dairy (especially cheese) industry for its survival.  More recently it has become famous as a day trip destination of excellence or as a wonderful place to stay, central to other attractions of the Eurobodalla region.  Thousands of sightseers and lovers of history come here each year to experience the ambience of a gentler and slower existence.

Settled mostly during the gold rush years, many of the beautiful Victorian timber buildings that exist today, were erected in the 1890’s.  Its streetscape and architecture are clearly evident today with the only constructions standing being original weatherboard residences and shops.  The local hotel and general store are particularly evocative of our pioneers’ days.

Not only a delight to those inspired by yesteryear but also now a bustling centre for artisans of many forms, there is plenty to occupy and interest visitors of all ages.  These craftspeople work from the quaint and original business houses of the village offering their wares and demonstrating their fine work to fascinated visitors.  They include, amongst others; leatherworkers, woodturners, jewellers, cheesemakers and galleries.  Nearby, along the scenic drive from Narooma is Tilba's winery and deer farm.

In 1770, explorer Lieutenant James Cook, captain of the Endeavour, was the first European to sight the region, naming an extinct volcano Mount Dromedary and which the Yuin people called Gulaga.  Nestled in the green undulating foothills beneath the sacred Gulaga and now a Flora Nature reserve, the villages are surrounded by lush dairying areas only minutes from the coast.

The Tilba villages must be amongst the most picturesque of their kind in Australia.  No visit to the NSW South Coast is complete without a trip to Tilba, making a memorable day trip from anywhere in the region.

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Notable buildings along Bate Street

Bates General Store - Emporium

Built in 1895 by Crapp and Boxsell immediately following the subdivision of land in April 1895 by Samuel W Bate to establish the village of Central Tilba. It was the first business to open and was by far bigger than any other business in the region.  The building contained a general store, post office, milliner, baker, hardware and farming supplies as well as gold mining supplies and a large cartage business.  The business was a universal provider supplying all the needs to all people, covering a very large and rapidly expanding area.  A true Emporium.

The Dromedary Hotel

The iconic two storey Dromedary Hotel was erected in 1895.  It was initially known as the Palace Hotel having a lovely sitting area, rooms for rent and served as a coach stop for weary travellers.

The School of Arts (Little Hall)

Built in 1894-5, the School of Arts became the community centre of the district, containing an excellent public library and meeting room (both downstairs).  Upstairs housed a stage, two dressing rooms and a dance floor.  The hall was the only building of this type in the region until modern times.

The former Roller Skating Rink (Big Hall).

The ‘Big Hall’ was built in 1915 from funds mostly donated by The S.W. Bate family.  After the end of World War One, roller skating became less popular and dancing became incredibly popular and remained so until the early 1980's.  The dance floor was always considered to be far superior to any other from Moruya to Bega.  It remains a wonderfully popular building.

A.B.C. Cheese Factory

A.B.C. was the first co-operative cheese manufacturing factory in NSW.  Built in 1891, it is arguably the first in Australia.  Perhaps only second to another co-operative cheese factory in Gippsland, believed opened only a few weeks earlier than A.B.C.  Originally a timber framed building it was replaced in 1925 by the present building.

The A.B.C. Cheese brand was the leading brand of cheddar cheese manufactured in Australia for over seventy years and was the price leader for Australia all that time.  In 1924 A.B.C. Cheddar Cheese topped the London market for its price.