As the Endeavour sailed along the coast of the southern Eurobodalla region in April 1770, Captain Cook named the majestic mountain that dominated the landscape Mount Dromedary, as the peak reminded him of a camel’s back. Little did the famous British explorer know that this sacred mountain had long-been known to the people of the Yuin Nation (the name for the Aboriginal groups that have traditionally occupied the NSW South Coast) as Gulaga.
Forming part of Gulaga National Park, Gulaga officially became known by its Aboriginal name when the mountain was handed back to its Traditional Owners in 2006.
Today, the lush green foothills of Mount Gulaga provide the backdrop to Tilba, a picturesque region of great historical and cultural importance, both Aboriginal and European. Comprising two small villages – Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba – linked by a scenic country road just off the Princes Highway, Tilba was first settled by Europeans in the gold rush years of the mid-1800s before dairying took over in the early 19th century. Listed by the National Trust as a conservation area in 1974, the quaint pioneer-era buildings lining the villages’ main streets form one of the Eurobodalla region’s most revered tourist attractions.
Wandering atmospheric Bate Street in Central Tilba, the larger of the two villages, visitors will discover historic B&Bs, charming cafes, artisan boutiques, art galleries and more. Don’t miss the produce-led Tilba Market in the Big Hall if you’re visiting on a Saturday morning, and no trip to Tilba would be complete without stopping in at the ABC Cheese Factory, NSW’s first cheese cooperative, for a decadent tasting.
Five minutes’ drive to the south, Tilba Tilba’s elegant Foxglove & Co accommodation and garden is open to the public. The Manchurian pear tree arbour is a feature of the luscious woodland garden and has seen many a wedding ceremony over the years. Just north of Central Tilba, the Tilba Valley Winery & Ale House beside Corunna Lake is a great spot to spend a lazy afternoon sampling the fruits of this emerging South Coast NSW wine region, with a tasty lunch menu and live music on weekends.
For active visitors, hiking to the 797 metre summit of Mount Gulaga is an essential Tilba experience. From French-inspired bakery La Galette in Tilba Tilba, where you can leave your car, it’s a 12 kilometre round-trip to the summit, with the journey taking most walkers three to four hours to complete. At the saddle, an interpretative sign explains Gulaga’s significance to Yuin People and some goldmining history. Nearby, look for the short trail leading to a cluster of magnificent granite tors.
While Yuin Elders permit independent walkers on the Summit Trail, arguably the best way to experience Gulaga is on the two-day Gulaga Creation tour. Run by Aboriginal-owned and operated Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Awareness, this unique cultural experience invites visitors to learn the sacred Dreaming stories connected with Gulaga from an Aboriginal guide while walking in the ancient footsteps of the Yuin People. The experience also includes a traditional welcome, the opportunity to share your experiences in a traditional yarning circle led by custodians, and a traditional farewell ceremony.
You can also delve deeper into Tilba’s European and natural history by taking a guided walk with Zoe Burke of Tilba Talks and Historical Walks, who has a wealth of knowledge about the local region. And if you’re headed to the Tilba region’s beaches, don’t miss the seaside Tilba Tilba District Cemetery at the end of Haxtead Road, just south of Tilba Tilba Lake, where the headstones of some of Tilba’s early pioneers still stand today.