Narooma, NSW – South Coast Havens

By: Chris Whitelaw, Photography by: Chris Whitelaw

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  • Trade-A-Boat

An enduringly charming centre surrounded by a treasure trove of adventurous possibilities, Narooma is a choice selection for the fourth installment of our South Coast Havens series.


Coastal Holiday Heaven: Narooma, NSW

Narooma is a popular seaside holiday resort and regional service hub 350km south of Sydney. Set against the backdrop of Gulaga Mountain (Mount Dromedary), this picturesque town is surrounded by the Wagonga Inlet, its river estuary and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

These waterways have been at the heart of Narooma's existence from its early days as a port for transporting local produce, a ship building and commercial fishing centre and, in modern times, as a tourist destination and the mainland departure point for Montague Island.


The island lies 6nm (11km) southeast of the entrance to Narooma’s harbour, and the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service manages it as a nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary to protect the thousands of birds and marine mammals that thrive along its rocky shores. The crystal-clear waters that surround it teem with all kinds of fish that provide good eating, great sport and quite a few world records. Atop one massive granite outcrop stands a 21m heritage-listed lighthouse that has been operating since 1881 and is now fitted with an automated light that casts a beam 20nm (37km) across the ocean.

Access to the island is only possible through organised charter-boat tours. Private boats can’t land or moor here and, when navigating in the vicinity, should avoid the southern end where lurk some very active bomboras and "the Boils", where two currents meet and cause an uncomfortable chop.


The passage from the island to the Narooma entrance takes about 20-30 minutes and is clear of offshore hazards. The best approach is either straight in, as shown by the green course line, or from south of east along a line of soundings. Either way, about 150m before the entrance is a bar with a reputation for being very dangerous to navigate, especially on an ebb tide with swell waves of 1.8m or higher.

Whether going out or coming in, always cross the bar during the incoming tide — never on the outgoing tide. When the tide is going out the current is extremely strong and the pressure of the sea trying to get in and the strength of the river trying to get out creates a strong "short chop" which can breach even the largest of boats. Bar conditions can change dramatically in just a few minutes, so be aware and keep a sharp lookout. Bar information is available from NSW Marine Rescue Narooma and you should heed their recommendations. Bottom line: if in doubt, don’t go out.


Flanking the entrance are two breakwaters: the southern arm extending from Wagonga Head for about 250m and the northern arm extending from the bottom of Bar Beach for about 300m. Both were constructed during the 1970s, consuming about 200,000 tonnes of rock in the process.

After crossing the bar, leading beacons are aligned then passed to port as the first bend is approached. Beyond the bend — about 800m upstream from the entrance — is the Council Wharf, where an 18m space is reserved for visiting boats, but berths are rarely available here during summer holidays.

Upstream of the wharf, anchorage is limited by shoals and strong currents, and is virtually untenable in strong windward tides. The best depths are against the east bank, after which Mill Bay is crossed by working the tide according to draft. Shallow-draft vessels can usually select a depth suitable for anchoring outside Mill Bay.


The channel is crossed by the Princes Highway Bridge, about 3.5km from the entrance. This three-span steel and concrete bridge was completed in 1931, with end spans of 48.8m and a central Bascule (cantilevered opening) span of 18.9m. Opening can be arranged on 24 hours’ notice by contacting the local Boating Safety Officer. The opening admits vessels of unlimited height, but be aware of overhead cables immediately east of the bridge (at 16.5m HWS) and shoals to the west. Also, a strong tidal stream can be difficult to manage when waiting for an opening.

Downstream of the bridge, tidal flows maintain a relatively deep, navigable channel (about 3-5m below MSL). Upstream, a complex pattern of broad, sandy shoals (typically less than 1m below MSL) extends into the deeper, more protected waters of the inlet. Shell Point separates the estuary into two distinct basins, Wagonga Inlet to the west (where water depths are up to 16m below MSL) and the smaller Forsters Bay to the south, where some accumulation of sand near the eastern shoreline is apparent.


In the eastern corner of Forsters Bay is a small marina and slipway with dockside petrol, café, bait and take-away food. It is usually full. Elsewhere, the attractive shoreline offers a number of pleasant anchorages, but private ownership of foreshore land, and in some cases proximity of oyster leases, preclude large areas of shoreline from consideration. In particular, access to the northern inlet shore and the upper reach (to Punkally and Billa Bilba Creeks) is very constrained. If anchored or moored out, the best shore access is the park south of the wharf, Apex Park or the beach at the southwest corner of the bridge.

There are public jetties at Ringland Point and Brices Bay, and two public access ramps in Fosters Bay: one between Taylor Bros. and the Quarterdeck Cafe, and the other past the Simply Seafood Restaurant. The former offers a public jetty to tie up to after launching, as well as fresh water and fish cleaning facilities, but the water isn't very deep and would only be suitable for boats up to 7m in length. The other ramp has no jetty to tie up to but has a deeper approach, as well as fresh water and fish cleaning facilities.


A clear indication of Narooma’s popularity during peak holiday periods is that there may be up to 100 boats on the Inlet at any one time and about 150 per day plying the entrance to the ocean. Fortunately, accommodation in the area is plentiful with a range of motels, hotels, camping and caravanning areas, guesthouses, units and houses available all year round.

Narooma Facilities


Commercial fishing - unloading & berthing: Yes
Charter vessels: Yes
Recreational & visitors berthing: Yes
Slipway & boat maintenance: Within Wagonga Inlet
Car park: Yes
Vessel sewage pumpout: No
Fuel – diesel: By arrangement only
Waste oil collection & storage: Yes
Water & electricity: Yes
Boat launching ramp & car park: Nearby (700m upstream)
Public toilets: Nearby (200m downstream)
Fresh fish outlet: Yes
Retail food & beverage: Nearby (200m - main street)

Narooma Marina

Moorings and berths – permanent and temporary on floating pontoons, with power and water available
BBQ boat hire
Fishing and leisure boat hire
Fishing and boating gear
Water sports equipment hire
Floating pontoons
On-water unleaded fuel
4-tonne slipway with welder, air-compressor and pressure washer.
Chandlery, boating and fishing accessories
24-hour security


Key Contacts

NSW Department of Transport, Roads and Maritime Services (Narooma)
P: (02) 4476 2364

Marine Rescue NSW (Narooma)
1 Bar Rock Rd, Narooma
P: (02) 4476 1443 or 0410 094 443
VHF Channels: 16, 73

Narooma Marina
30 Riverside Drive, Narooma, NSW 2546
P: (02) 4476 2126
E: or

NSW Parks and Wildlife Service, Narooma Office
Corner Graham and Burrawang Streets, Narooma
P: (02) 4476 0800

Narooma Visitors Information Centre
Princes Hwy, Narooma
P: (02) 4476 2881 or 1800 240 003

This story was originally published in issue #508 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest boat news, reviews and travel inspiration.


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