A short history of Cronulla

The beachside suburb of Cronulla is located on the south side of Sydney on a peninsula surrounded by Port Hacking, Bate Bay, Botany Bay and Gunnamatta Bay.

The name ‘Cronulla` comes from the local Aboriginal dialect, ‘kurranulla` – which means ‘place of the pink seashells`, and the area was originally inhabited by the Gweagal people. Lieutenant (who later became, Captain) James Cook anchored his ship, Endeavour on 29 April 1770 in Botany Bay and this was one of the moments when modern Australian history was born. This means that the Cronulla area plays a very significant part of the history of Australia.

Gweagal People

The Gweagal people are a Dharawal speaking indigenous Australian clan, and evidence shows that they have been living in the area for about 8,200 years. They lived by the coast and estuaries in the area and you can see signs of the its historical significance through the engravings, rock paintings, stencils, shell middens and grinding grooves which can be found locally.

Flinders and Bass

The area was mapped and explored in 1796 by the British navigators and explorers, Matthew Flinders and George Bass. They used their small boat called ‘Tom Thumb­’ and were eventually to circumnavigate the whole land mass which is now called ‘Australia’. The most southernmost point of Cronulla has been named ‘Bass and Flinders point’ after them.

In 1827, surveyor Robert Dixon named the beaches in the area.

Thomas Holt

In 1861, Thomas Holt, a well-off businessman acquired the estate of Sutherland. He built the grand Sutherland House – a grand, fortress-like house, and cultivated oysters employing local people. By the end of 1880s however, the great house had become a hotel and resort with a bathing machine. Holt also built the sandstone obelisk at Kurnell in 1870 to honour the landing of Cook.

Illawarra Railway

The Illawarra railway was built in 1885 which crossed the Georges River. It started to link up the area with Sydney and gave an opening for the city dwellers to visit the stunning beaches in the Cronulla area for swimming and picnics. This was the beginning of tourism to the local area which is so important today.

The Royal National Park

The National Park was established in 1879 and the term ‘Royal’ was added after a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1955. It was the first national park in Australia – and the second in the world!


Surfing became increasingly popular amongst both locals and visitors to Cronulla, and due to the numbers of people enjoying the waves in the area, in 1907, local people and councillors set up the Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club. This is one of the first Life Saving Clubs in Australia to be established. Their first base was an old tram carriage – now, the clubhouse is in a stunning beach front art deco building built in 1940.

Cronulla Today

The rise in tourism, popularity and the beach lifestyle mean that Cronulla is now a modern, cosmopolitan and thriving place to live and visit. With its breath-taking beaches, luscious bushland and rich history, it is a perfect cocktail of nature and culture whilst being modern and comfortable.