Cultural heritage

Aboriginal heritage

The local Aboriginal communities within the Gumbaynggirr Nation and Yaegl Nation have strong cultural links with the Marine Park and are actively involved in planning its conservation.

The Gumbaynggirr people are the traditional owners of the land and sea in central and southern section of the park, with some overlap with the Yaegl people in the northern section.

Several Elder groups live adjacent to and use the marine resources from the park, including:

  • the Birrigan Gargle Elders (generally north from the Wooli Wooli River);
  • Garby Elders (generally Minnie Water to Moonee Creek, known as Munim-Munim by the Gumbaynggirr people);
  • Garlambila Guuya Girrwaa Elders (generally south of Moonee Creek ).

Important sites for collecting marine plants and animals include Coffs Creek, Park Beach, Arrawarra Headland, Corindi River, Corindi Beach and rock platform, and the Sandon River.

Sites within the marine park have been used for thousands of years for resource use, cultural gatherings and storytelling and are still very significant to Aboriginal communities.

Visit Arrawawarra Sharing Culture for more information.

See the Aboriginal engagement and cultural use of fisheries resources policy for more information.

Maritime heritage

Buster Shipwreck

Captain Cook named the Solitary Islands in 1770 during his voyage along Australia's east coast in HM Bark Endeavour.

The Solitary Islands are rich in maritime history and many ships have been lost in or near the area, especially during the 1800s.

  • The location of most wrecks is known, though only a few are visible.
  • Eighteen recorded wrecks lie within or near the park.
  • The earliest ship wrecked was built in 1841 and the latest in 1928.
  • The Keilawarra, built in 1878, was carrying passengers when it hit the Helen Nicholl near North Solitary Island in 1886.  More than 40 lives were lost. The Keilawarra was found in 2000 near North Solitary Island in about 70 m of water.
  • The Buster, which lies on Woolgoolga Beach near the mouth of Woolgoolga Lake, is the only wreck in the park that is visible from an accessible location.
  • Pieces of Lady of Lorne are also visible in Moonee Creek.

A shipwreck becomes historic after 75 years and is protected under the NSW Heritage Act 1977 and the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

The lighthouse at South Solitary Island – considered the most isolated on the NSW coast - began operating in March 1880.

A school education program to raise awareness and appreciation of local maritime history began in 2007.