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The coastal town of Bermagui on the far south coast of New South Wales was originally inhabited by the Dyirringany Aboriginal people and takes its name from the local Aboriginal word 'permageua' which means 'canoe with paddles'. Settlement along the south coast dates back to the early 1800s when timber getters and fishermen moved into the forested land along the coastline.
By the 1830s a trading port had been established at Bermagui for the area's dairy farmers and in 1867 the town of Bermagui was officially declared. Despite the discovery of gold at Bermagui River in the late 1800s, a lack of payable gold saw a local gold rush short-lived and had very little affect on the local community. The Illawarra Steam Navigation Company formed in nearby Bega in the 1850s to improve the coastal trade routes for the surrounding towns would build a wharf in Bermagui in 1870 and would be instrumental in securing the local economy at the time with locally felled timber, dairy and other agricultural produce taken north and south to the key trading ports.
As the local fishing community grew the necessity to improve the facilities at the shore were recognised by the state government when a fishing harbour was built at Bermagui in the 1950s. With the continental shelf located only 20kms from the coast of Bermagui, the area is renowned for its deep sea fishing with Yellow-Finned Tuna and Black Marlin amongst the best fish caught locally. The fishing industry continues to define the town with the all-weather boat harbour still utilised by a large fishing fleet today.
Further than simply supporting the local economy, the fishing opportunities of Bermagui have also made the town popular with recreational anglers. American novelist and fishing enthusiast Zane Grey would write about his experiences at Bermagui in his 1937 book 'An American Angler in Australia' documenting his fishing expedition of Australia. Grey is viewed by much of the local population as responsible for the popularity of local big game fishing at Bermagui and the Zane Grey Tourist Park at Horseshoe Beach is named in his honour.
Tourism remains an important part of the local economy with the area's beaches, national parks and fishing spots attracting a regular influx of visitors. The nearby Gulaga National Park includes the spectacular Wallaga Lake and is home to the Black Duck or Umbarra which is the spiritual totem of the local Aboriginal people. Merriman Island in the middle of the lake is an Aboriginal sacred place and in 1977 was the first place in New South Wales to be officially recognised as an Aboriginal Heritage site.