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Wooyung - A History

by Kathy Cherry, Wooyung Beach Holiday Park
Text and Photographs © Wooyung Beach Holiday Park

Aerial view of Wooyung locality

Photo: Aerial view of Wooyung locality and Wooyung Nature Reserve looking north to Pottsville

Aboriginal Inhabitants

For thousands of years Wooyung was a party place for Australia's original inhabitants.

Nature supplied a bounteous feast of fish, pippies, roots, nuts and fruit in this spot, so the Aborigines built a Bora Ring in the wetlands and congregated here regularly to perform ceremonies and partake of nature's bounty.

Timber Getters for Red Gold

The first whites were timber getters hunting for red gold. Stumps of red cedars can be seen from Jones's Road marked by the cuts used to support standing planks. Men with hand saws stood on these planks and felled these forest treasures.

These white men came towards the end of the 1840s.

1849 Shipwreck

In 1849 the schooner Swift, en route from Brisbane to Sydney, encountered a fierce cyclone off Cape Byron. The ship capsized and was carried north by the current and finally cast ashore just north of the present New Brighton.

After the cyclone abated timber getters John Boyd and Steve King examined the upturned hull.

One of the men struck the side of the ship and there came an answering tap from within.

Cutting the hull with their axes, the two pioneers released ship's Captain Robb and a passenger who had been trapped in an air pocket inside. Captain Robb's descendants still live in the district.

Dairy Farming

Gradually dairy farmers followed the timber getters. Henry Rook Jones bought a farm along Jones's Road in 1902 and so the road got its name. A little wooden school was built in 1919 where the brick building now stands.

Sand Mining

In 1935 men were looking for gold on the beach. Along with the gold were black mineral sands, rutile and zircon, traces of which can be still be seen as crumbly black rocks on Wooyung Beach.

Wooyung Beach

One of the early sandminers, Arthur George Stevens, built himself a little home in 1940 from saplings and sacks on the site of the present motel.

A photo of his home hangs in the office of the present day park reception. The Stevens family ran a Sunday school for local children including their own brood of five.

Being a coastguard volunteer, Arthur insisted that his children keep a roll of clothes at the foot of their bed and instructed them that if he came home from the beach yelling 'Japs' they were to grab the roll and head for the bush.

Motel and Caravan Park

An insurance salesman from Sydney discovered Wooyung in 1963. He found a dairy farm extending to the beach at the end of a dirt road. The beach was still being mined with a workforce of about 60 blokes.

Wooyung Motel units

The secluded location, combined with the presence of potential customers, inspired him to build a motel and caravan park.  But it was a lonely life as few of the sandminers availed themselves of the service, most of them having wives and families just down the road.

When the enterprise failed, the place was put on the market.

Motel Purchase

My parents Ray and Jeanne Thomson, came to Northern Rivers in 1967 looking for a small business so they could get out of the farming game.

The widow had put Wooyung Motel and Caravan Park on the market and Ray and Jeanne instantly fell in love with it.  They were bitterly disappointed when the widow would not take terms and [they] returned to Biloela in Central Queensland.

Some months later Jeanne was in the butcher's shop. The butcher's parents lived in Kingscliff and he was telling another customer about a widow selling a small motel at Wooyung for terms.  Jeanne raced out to find her husband, who called the widow and obtained first option on the property.

The Thomsons took over Wooyung Motel and Caravan Park in May 1968.  The insurance salesman had been a collector.

It took a year for Jeanne, Ray and their youngest son Greg, to remove all the old stoves, refrigerators and sundry other items.  Some had been stored in the amenities block.

Ray kept bread on the table by doing night shift as a fitter and turner for the sandmine.

The first Christmas holidays there was just one customer at Wooyung, Graham and Margaret Haigh, whose van is still here, one of two of the vans joined by an annex at the entrance to the park between the motel and the creek!

Ray and Jeanne's daughter and son-in-law, Kathy and Frank Cherry, bought the park in 1978 for a family price and hope to leave only in a box.

Wooyung History © provided by Kathy Cherry 2006, edited by Big Volcano.

Webmaster Note: An eco cabin was added to the park accommodation options in 2003.  It is a popular choice for couples and families who want a little more amenity while still enjoying the quiet coastal atmosphere. Kathy and Frank's son Mark and daughter-in-law Jacqueline now manage the motel and camp park and look forward to your visit.

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Wooyung Nature Reserve

When visiting our national parks and reserves please minimise your environmental impact by following these guidelines.  If you use a tour operator or guide service, check to see if they observe the Ecotourism Operators Code of Practice.

Wooyung Nature Reserve is is located on the far north coast of NSW between Pottsville to the north and the locality of Wooyung to the south.

The reserve consists of 87 hectares of coastal land bisected by the Tweed Coast Road. Mooball Creek constitutes the reserve's western boundary, while the eastern boundary is the mean low water mark of the South Pacific Ocean along approximately 2.5km of Mooball Beach and Wooyung Beach.

The reserve was gazetted as a nature reserve on 1st January 1999, and named as Wooyung Nature Reserve due to its proximity to the township of Wooyung as well as the part inclusion of Wooyung Beach within the boundaries of the reserve.

The name ‘Wooyung’ is a Bundjalung word meaning ‘slow’.  Prior to its gazettal, the reserve was known as Mooball Beach Reserve and was Crown land managed in trust by Tweed Shire Council.

Principal Rainforest Habitats

The reserve contains littoral rainforest, lowland rainforest on floodplain, coastal wetland and coastal dune vegetation communities.  Principal habitats within the reserve include rainforests, mangroves, paperbark and swamp oak woodlands/forest, banksia woodlands, coastal dune communities and the beach.

Threatened Species Habitats

These provide suitable habitat and/or foraging grounds for a suite of fauna, including many threatened species, including fruit bats like the {eastern} Common blossom bat (Syconycteris australis) and black flying-fox (Pteropus alecto), insectivorous bats like the eastern longeared bat (Nyctophilus bifax) and the little bentwing bat (Miniopterus australis), and ground dwelling mammals such as the common planigale (Planigale maculata) and the long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus).

The reserve contains two flora species listed under the TSC Act: the scented acronychia (Acronychia littoralis) and stinking cryptocarya (Cryptocarya foetida). In addition, it has been proposed that the critically threatened Monococcus echinophorus be listed as endangered (Richards et al. 1998). Appendix 1 lists the flora species within the reserve that are considered regionally significant.

There are presently no recordings of mammal, amphibian or reptile species in the reserve.  However, the reserve’s location in a region of high biodiversity, its status as an overwintering ground for bats and birds and the habitat values inherent in the reserve’s vegetation communities indicate a diversity of fauna.

Bird Life

Tawny frogmouth

Threatened birds that may utilise the reserve include ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), rainforest pigeons like the rose crowned fruit-dove (Ptilinopus regina) and the wompoo fruit-dove (Ptilinopus magnificus), the white-eared monarch (Monarcha leucotis), the collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) and the mangrove honey eater (Lichenostomus fasciogularis).

Bird Species seen by residents and bird watchers include Brahminy Kite, Whistling Kite, White-faced Heron, Beach Stone-curlew > more information, Pied Oystercatcher > more information, Silver Gull, Common Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank.


The reserve provides potential habitat for Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting sites, which have been recorded on beaches adjacent to the reserve.

Introduced Species

There has been no research undertaken into the introduced fauna species within the reserve, although foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and cane toads (Bufo marinus) have been observed in the area (Hing, pers. comm. 2002). Predation by foxes is a threat to shore birds as they can disturb feeding, roosting and nesting birds and they can spread weed species throughout the reserve.

A total of 47 introduced flora species have been recorded in the reserve including the noxious weeds bitou bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. rotundata), lantana (Lantana camara), groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia), prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) and parramatta grass (Sporobolus indicus var. capensis) (Murray & James 1995; Joseph 2000).

Bitou bush, which covers much of the coastal dunes is listed as a Key Threatening Process on Schedule 3 of the TSC Act. A Restoration and Rehabilitation Project incorporating Weed Control Strategies (Joseph 2000) has been completed for the reserve and an ongoing bush regeneration program is being undertaken.

References and Readings

Wooyung - A History, by Kathy Cherry, Wooyung Beach Holiday Park
Text and Photographs © Wooyung Beach Holiday Park May 2006

Wooyung Nature Reserve, extracts from Draft Plan of Management, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Part of the Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) June 2004.

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