*The amazing collection of information below was taken from https://visitmallacoota.com.au and produced by the Mallacoota Information Shed.
Mallacoota The Hub of
Australia’s Coastal Wilderness
In 2008, the unique aspects of the un-spoilt wilderness coastline of Croajingolong National Park along with its listing by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve helped ensure the recognition of the region within the National Landscapes Program as Australia’s Coastal Wilderness. Australia’s Coastal Wilderness straddles the Victorian and New South Wales border.
- the Croajingolong National Park
- Nadgee Nature Reserve
- Cape Howe Wilderness
- Ben Boyd National Park
- Bournda National Park
- the South East Forests National Park
Other National Landscapes are:
- The Red Centre
- Flinders Ranges
- Australian Alps
- Great Ocean Road,
Australia’s Green Cauldron
- Kangaroo Island
- The Greater Blue Mountains
The National Landscapes Program identifies the very best regions of Australia, for promotion to tourists, the uniqueness of Australia’s truly iconic natural and cultural landscapes.
Mallacoota is surrounded by the UNESCO listed World Biosphere Reserve of Croajingolong
National Park. At 87,500ha, it is one of Victoria’s larger parks. There are 100km of beautiful
undeveloped coastline – a genuine wilderness coast.
Croajingolong is a most scenic park. There are rocky headlands, sandy tidal estuaries, swamp
systems, tall sand dunes, land locked freshwater lakes, mountains, temperate rainforest valleys,
coastal forests and extensive heath-lands.
Croalingolong’s relatively unspoilt habitats support rare and significant flora and fauna. Over
1500 plant species (215 being endemic) sustain a very diverse range of animal life.
Mallacoota is renowned for its bird life (306 species); this large number emphasises the range of
suitable habitats. The 52 mammal species have been recorded including kangaroos, wallabies,
echidnas, koalas, platypuses, possums, bats and gliders.
The diverse communities contain a range of reptiles, amphibians and numerous species of insects including colourful butterflies and moths. Whales, dolphins and seals are often seen in the coastal waters. Croajingolong National Park surrounds Mallacoota Inlet which consists of two large lakes which form the estuary of the Genoa and Wallagaraugh Rivers.
The Inlet’s lakes have approximately 320km of shore line most of which is unspoilt National Park. This feature offers unique opportunities for canoeists, kayakers and small boat passengers for viewing a wide range of birdlife and other fauna in their natural habitat.
Mallacoota – The Mediterranean of Victoria
The town of Mallacoota is located in a region where the weather patterns are quite different to that of Melbourne. Mallacoota’s ‘Mediterranean’ climate is ideal for year-round enjoyment of the area.
Mallacoota had a long history of Aboriginal occupation. It is believed a cosmopolitan group called the Bidawal, made up of refugees from neighbouring tribes, occupied the local area. The Krauatungalung tribe was to the west and Croajingolong is a version of this name. The area was a rich source of food for the Bidawal as evident by their middens and artefacts.
Early pastoralists had occupied the better land by the 1850s. One of these was Captain John Stevenson, a whaler who was granted a grazing license in 1841. In 1842 it is believed that he established his residence at Captain Stevenson’s Point. Although Mallacoota was only accessed by sea, it became popular with tourists as early as 1882.
Mallacoota had a modest gold rush in the 1890s with some 50 claims being established. The Spotted Dog Mine was the only successful one producing 899oz of gold (£3,730) from 1895 to
1899. This mine was on the eastern side of the inlet. There is a pioneer cemetery nearby. Both may be accessed from Cemetery Bight Jetty or Allan Head Jetty.
In the early 1900s Edwin James Brady established a ‘writers’ camp’ at Captain Stevenson’s Point; he invited leading literary figures to attend. One of these was Henry Lawson who wrote
“Mallacoota Bar” and other poems.
Mallacoota was the location for the headquarters of RAAF coastal surveillance during WWII. Two bunkers were established and used at that time for surveillance which was vital in ensuring
the sea-lanes around South Eastern Australia remained open (especially the entrance to Bass Strait). One has been extensively restored by the local RSL and the Mallacoota Historical Society.
It is now a museum run by the Mallacoota Historical Society.
Many people are surprised to learn that Mallacoota’s beginnings were actually at “Lakeview” on the eastern shores of Mallacoota Inlet. In 1882 John Augustus Dorron selected land and built a home and hotel buildings from bush timber and raised a large family. The farm flourished in the Spotted Dog mining days. Tourists and local visitors came by horse or boat. Professional fishermen and trading ketches visited. Dorron’s Lakeview Hotel became the social and commercial hub of the area and incorporated a post office.
Tourism, arguably Mallacoota’s principal industry, grew from these activities. Tragically John Dorron drowned in a boating accident in 1913 and was buried in the cemetery near his home, now known as the Pioneer Cemetery. The first road, trafficable by motor vehicles, was made from Gipsy Point to Mallacoota West (as the current township site was formerly known) in 1921.
The hotel licence was transferred to the Mallacoota Hotel in 1925, with Lakeview continuing as a guest house until Mrs Dorron’s death in 1927. Lakeview now has a Victorian Heritage Inventory listing, but sadly little historical evidence remains at the site.
A brief geomorphological history of the last 650 million years of Mallacoota and environment.
Geological time is so great that, in comparison, a human life span is shorter than one breath. This very brief over-view of our local geology starts with the oldest formations first, then leaps and bounds forward to our present age of human intervention and global warming.
Before there was the continent of Australia we were part of a much larger piece of drifting continental crust called Gondwanaland. The Ordovician period (500 million years old) marine sedimentary rocks showing at the beautifully natural Bastion Point are from before the time the Antarctica crust broke off, it split along this coast. These marine sandstone sediments are so old they have been repeatedly folded and faulted, to form splendid ribbons of colour at places like Quarry Beach. To the East, the sediments form part of Tullaberga Island; to the West, the rugged cliffs which run to the East side of Sandpatch Point at the Benedore River Valley. In the late Silurian period (400 million years ago) a base formed of granites and granodiorites (coarse-grained acidic igneous rock) called the Bega Batholith, which extends from Quarry Beach to the north of Bombala, to Gabo Island and west to the Snowy River.
This base underlays Devonian period sediments (350 million years ago), but the mineralisation of the
formation varies in age so we get the younger hard red granite of the Howe Range and Gabo Island and the
soft coarse grey granites of the coast from Sand Patch west to Wingan. Weathering of the overlying sediments has exposed granite landforms, such as Genoa Peak. Time and the forces of nature worked on this piece of crust until it broke up forming the landmass of Australia, which is thought to have continued to drift due to convection currents in the Earth’s mantle (Continental drift hypothesis).
The plateau of the Monaro tablelands forms part of the Genoa River catchment. Small sections of the plateau form Mt Nungatta. Tilted blocks form Yambulla Peak and Mt Wakefield with their small escarpments. Down river, the Genoa Gorge reveals a sequence of sediments from Merimbula red siltstone beds shed by the Eden volcanics to late none-marine Devonian sediments with fossils.
The Genoa River cuts through the sediments of an ancient fresh water lake. In the late Devonian period, floods and sediments covered and preserved not only primitive plants but also the footprints of a tetrapod (an amphibious creature like a walking fish) which were identified by J.W. Warren and N.A. Wakefield in 1972. The tetrapod may have been one of the first animals to make the transition from an aquatic environment to a terrestrial one.
The Genoa Gorge is accessible only to bushwalkers but the southern reaches flow into the beautiful Wangrabelle valley where the river flows over smooth hard Devonian granites littered with the pebbles carried down from the upper reaches.
Local peaks are generally all of granitic material Genoa Peak is a good example. However, through the ages, the local continental crust has continued to drift.
Minor marine sediments cap peaks to the north-east of the border indicating that this area was uplifted after
the sea had covered it. Mt Victoria and Mt Carlyle to the east on the state border have caps of these later marine sediments. The narrow coastal plains (called piedmont downs) are covered in Tertiary sediments (10-70 million years ago), but the spectacular dunes of Cape Howe, Sandpatch Pt and Pt Hicks are more recent quaternary
deposits. Mallacoota inlet is a submerged river valley, hence the very recent filling with mid Holocene epoch sediments (last 3000 to 6000 years). The possible events leading to the formation of the Mallacoota Inlet lake system.
Considering its extensive coastline, Australia has few estuaries (tidal parts of river mouths). Estuaries have a free connection to the sea with two current systems (the unidirectional fresh water currents and the oscillating tidal currents) producing a dynamic environment.
Very special habitats occur throughout a large estuarine system such as Mallacoota Inlet for the water mixing provides a changing chemical environment unlike that of a typical sea or river. These relatively rare Australian waterways are crucial to the existence of many marine organisms. Many off-shore species spawn in the estuaries (e.g. snapper). The ecology of an estuary supports a complex food web consisting of producers (algae, sea-grasses etc.) consumers (fish, crustaceans, molluscs, worms etc.) and decomposers (fungi and bacteria). Decomposers sustain a complex food web by recycling all nutrients for plant growth, marine fauna and micro-organisms.
Estuaries are the world’s most productive areas. Sea-grasses alone produce approximately 4kg (2kg dry weight) of organic matter per square metre per year. (i.e. Sea-grass beds fix about 3.2kg of CO2 per square metre per year, equalled only by tropical rainforests. Compare this to the average for vegetated land mass of 1.2kg of CO2 per square metre per year. In addition, staggering amounts of animal tissue are produced in estuaries. It has been estimated that a cultivated mussel bed in an estuary produces 80 times more flesh than cattle could gain by grazing on an equivalent area of pasture.
Mallacoota Estuary is a remnant of a drowned river valley cut by the Genoa and Wallagaraugh Rivers during the glacial period (6-10,000 years ago) when sea levels were lower. The catchment area of the two rivers is approximately 1750km2; this provides the fresh water flow through the inlet. Mallacoota Inlet is a bar-built estuary as compared to the normal drowned river estuary.
A bar-built estuary is formed when the rate of sedimentation has kept up with the level of inundation thus establishing the characteristic bar across its mouth. A bar is normally formed at the point where waves break on a beach. For a bar to develop the tidal range must be restricted and large volumes of sediment be available. Bar-built estuaries such as Mallacoota’s are generally associated with depositional coasts.
Bastion Point has contributed significantly to the formation of the bar. The refraction of the prevailing wave direction around the point disperses wave energy resulting in the formation of a constructive wave pattern (i.e. beach forming), whereas immediately adjacent to the point, on the lee side, the wave energy is concentrated and destructive waves are formed.
This refraction pattern results in long shore drift of sand contributing to maintaining the bar.
The diagram illustrates the refraction of waves around a point such as Bastion Point. The refracted waves lose energy and become constructive waves (i.e. beach building) and longshore drift tends to move
the deposited sand north. This pattern of refraction produces concentrated energy to the leeward side of the point. These waves are destructive and tend to move sand away from the rocky point. Long shore drift moves the sand north-east.
At this time, there were extensive flood plains (Top Lake, Double Creek Arm and North West Arm). Wave erosion caused shoreline cliffing, some of which is still evident, but most have been eroded or obscured by deposition of dune sand. The sea levels rose and fell over the next period (four or so thousand years). Two distinct phases have been identified using geological core samples.
The first phase resulted in the formation of an inner sand barrier adjacent to old Pleistocene marine cliffs which extended out into the inlet. This barrier probably gave rise to the Goodwin Sands and the Eight Foot Bank. Erosion, possibly due to a small sea rise, resulted in the channel/lagoon formation past the Goodwin Sands into the North East Arm. The next notable phase was the formation of the outer barrier which extended from Bastion Point to Gabo Island.
This barrier enclosed a large lagoon, the remnants of which are the Bottom Lake and Lake Barracoota. The separation of Lake Barracoota from the Bottom Lake by the formation of the East Howe Flat probably resulted from wind erosion of dune ridges, salt marsh accumulation and/or water level fluctuation.