The history of Moruya

Moruya is famous for its granite, first quarried in 1850. Moruya granite was used in the pylons for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From 1925 to 1932, the Dorman and Long company employed over 250 stonemasons from 13 different countries to supply, cut and dress granite slabs for the pylons.

Moruya’s history has been shaped by its river, particularly its floods and shifting sands. The river flats first attracted settlers in the late 1820s but initially they relied on ships anchoring in Broulee Bay. A flood in 1841 temporarily scoured the bar at the entrance to Moruya River opening it to shipping. The Government then abandoned Broulee in favour of Moruya, gazetted as a village in 1851. The first wharves were near the entrance. The river’s deep channels changed frequently and vessels often grounded so a pilot was stationed at Moruya South Head from 1860.

Moruya was an important port for the Araluen goldfields and for the district’s producers. Moruya also developed into an important regional and administrative centre. The first bridge was built in 1876 replacing the punt and ford.

What to do

  • Visit Moruya Museum in Emmott House and see the 10m long State heritage listed Abernethy & Co stonemason’s lathe. In the park opposite is the memorial to the workers of the quarry
  • Follow the Historic Town Walk to discover Moruya’s delightful historic buildings
  • Drive to Moruya Heads (Toragy Point). The Pilot Station (1861-1953), now private residence, is nearby. Moruya’s first pilot Captain John Ross is among seamen buried in the historic cemetery
  • Walk the stunning 14km coastal Bingi Dreaming Track from Congo to Coila Lake. The track links 5 camp and ceremonial sites, water and food sources
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Initially named Gundary after William Campbell’s property, the Aboriginal name thought to mean black swan, was retained and in 1851, Moruya was gazetted.

Although BG Raye was the first European to take up a grant in Moruya, it was Irish tailor Francis Flanagan who was the first settler in 1829.  Over many years he served as local magistrate, census taker and distributor of government blankets to the Aboriginal people.

Gold was discovered up river in the Araluen Valley in the 1850s which saw the economic hub of the Eurobodalla shift from Broulee to Moruya.  However Moruya became famous for the local high quality grey granite. Joseph and Flett Louttit were first to establish a granite quarry in 1850. The Government quarry opened in 1876 was established to provide materials for Sydney buildings including the Bank of NSW, General Post Office and the base of the Captain Cook statue in Hyde Park.

From 1925 to 1932 over 250 stonemasons produced granite slabs for the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons, Sydney cenotaph and many other structures.  As a result, Granite Town grew up beside the quarry with over 70 homes.  The quarry is still visible and at Quarry Park opposite, interpretive signage provides some interesting quarrying facts.

Many of the beautiful historic buildings in Moruya were constructed in the 1870's.  The Courthouse originally located in Broulee was finished in 1881.  The current day newsagent building is the only substantial commercial timber building that remains intact, built in the 1880s and the old Bank of NSW constructed of local granite, opened in 1883.

Visit the Moruya Museum at 85 Campbell Street to learn more of the history of the region and ask for a walking guide of the town to discover more than 30 beautiful and historic landmarks.