This beach contains patches of littoral rainforest and is bounded by Barlings Island and Melville Point with a vegetated frontal dune, low-lying grassland, and Banksia woodland. At times a creek runs through the site, draining the nearby wetland to the eastern end of the beach next to Barlings Island. The creek has meandered over much of the site in past centuries.
Barlings Island was also called Razor Point by early settlers and an early resident of the Tomakin area recalls it also being called Little Paddock Beach, Calf Beach or Dead Man’s Beach. Many archaeological investigations have been conducted on Barlings Beach Aboriginal Place since 1981 and Radio Carbon dating has confirmed the Aboriginal occupation of Barlings Beach sites to be at least 3000 years. Aboriginal sites found in the area include human and animal bones, flaked stone artefacts and middens with shells from species found in the nearby beach, estuarine and rock platforms.
Melville Point is a notable geological teaching site, famous for two features: spectacular folding in the Wagonga rocks on the Barlings Beach side, and the mixing of the Wagonga and Adaminaby beds on the Tomakin Cove side. These rocks were originally mud laid down at the peaceful bottom of a deep ocean about 500 million years ago when all of the east coast of Australia was underwater and located near the equator. Since then they have had a very traumatic time involving volcanic activity, movement of continental plates, and massive squeezing and folding. Melville Point and its adjoining intertidal rock platform are on the Register of the National Estate as an important geological site.
Melville point was also known as “Burying Point” and “Gravehead” due to the early settler cemetery there. This cemetery was bulldozed during the “Sunpatch” development to make way for the carpark at the base of Melville Point.
Tomakin Cove is a protected sandy cove that’s shallow lagoon like qualities make it popular with novice snorkelers. The cove, along with Tomakin Beach lies in Broulee Bay and is almost completely surrounded by rocky outcrops and reefs – on its southern side rocky platforms extend out into the bay, while to the north the cove is sheltered by Melville Point.
Above the water the rocks at Tomakin Cove are known for their beautiful afternoon hues, while below the water, snorkelers commonly see stingray species such as stingarees and eagle rays buried in the seabed floor, as well as schools of small whiting, mullet and baitfish feeding over the sand. On the seaward side of the cove, the dense cover of kelps shelter many small fish in the deeper gutters near Melville Point. Tomakin Cove, like all Tomakin beaches is backed by dense dune vegetation which hides the houses of Tomakin village.
Tomakin Beach is linked to Tomakin Cove at the tombolo, and curves to the southeast, then south for 900 m to the Tomaga River mouth. The northern reefs extend 400 m to the south, while the rocks of Mossy Point protect the southern end and river mouth. These rock formations include a large peaked rock at the entrance to the river. This was named “Cone Rock “by Thomas Florance in his exploration of the area in 1828, but was apparently renamed “Mossy Rock” by early settlers as described in a report written from the memories of Mrs. Stan Stevens in the Mossy Point News on June 9th 1950:
“When ships were built on the Tomaga River……much craft entered the river, and that prominent peaked point at the entrance to the river was always known as Mossy Rock. On one side it is overgrown with green, low growing shrubs, which, at a distance, appears as moss against the brown sandstone rock.
It is good to know that a name used by the old pioneers is still in use: too often they are forgotten. For some years Mossy Point was known as Connell’s Point; but this was changed as there is a Connell’s Point nearer Sydney and sometimes there was confusion with mails. When shipbuilding and timber cutting was at its peak here, I understand there was a church, school, racecourse and several houses on the Tomakin side of the Tomaga River. When the river began to silt up and the industry was no longer carried on, these buildings gradually disappeared and now there is little to be seen.”
The Tomaga river mouth shoals produce the low sandy spit right of Mossy Point. Tomakin Beach has amenities including toilets, wood barbecues and picnic tables with a coffee shop and popular Social Club nearby.
When Tomakin village was initially developed in the 1960’s (and had been renamed Sunpatch by the developers), the streets were all named after Canberra suburbs – Ainslie; Barton, Deakin; Forrest; Red Hill; Kingston; Reid and Yarralumla with the only exception being Sunpatch Parade. Unlike most other areas nearby at that time, the streets were also developed with kerbs and it is thought that these decisions were made to appeal to Canberra residents who were seen as the prime target buyers for the new blocks. Indeed, there was a small airstrip set up at Barlings Beach to fly prospective Canberra buyers down to view the site. While the street naming fashion changed, kerbing of Tomakin roads is still mandatory and is now spreading to other road developments and upgrades across the shire.
While there have been European settlers living at Tomakin from the mid 1800’s, numbers of dwellings, farmhouses and other buildings were generally sparse and spread along the river and where George Bass drive is now situated. Since the late 1960’s when the Sunpatch development went ahead and greatly expanded the village, Tomakin has gradually grown to its present size, expanding into Burri Heights and then onto Barlings Beach with a relatively small number of additional housing still to come, notably on the Barlings Beach Estate.
The Tomaga River
The Tomaga River has always been an attractive location for both local and tourist fishermen and is a highly prolific “nursery” for many of our local fish species. At various times through the period of European settlement, the silting and course of the Tomaga River have attracted concern and attention and the issue of the river breaking through the sandspit in the middle of Tomakin beach resurfaces many times. Interestingly, some very early maps have shown that this may have been breached at several times in the past and that in 1828 the river entrance was where the current narrow sandspit on Tomakin beach now exists. Indeed, local recollections are that it broke through the spit in the middle of Tomakin beach during the large floods and storms of 1924 and also several times in 1952, but that it rapidly closed up again. The river mouth had been dredged in 1951 with little effect.
Many theories and reasons for these breakthroughs have been postulated, but it is likely that changes in the river bed and banks are just a natural occurrence from varying flow, wave and weather patterns. A very strong Tomakin Landcare volunteer group is now working with the council to revegetate and clean up much of the Riverbank and beachside areas.
Jack Buckley Park
Jack Buckley was a local character who was the local Fire Captain, training young local volunteer firefighters and regularly writing to Tomakin landowners about the fire hazards on their blocks. He ran the Fire Shed (where the community hall and Rally for Recovery shed now stands) and this hall was also used for dances and other community events. Jack Buckley Park had long been general area for local gatherings and working bees were arranged to keep the area tidy and to plant Oak trees for some shade. It originally did not have a specific name, but for the council to take over the upkeep and maintenance of the park, it required one and hence was named after Jack.
The park has also been the site for many community and social functions for a great many years including: fete’s organised by the Community Association to raise funds for Camp Quality; 1st Tomaga Scout group fairs and functions to raise money for charity; Carols by Candlelight and even a visit by Burtons circus on 23rd/24th January 1996. It is a popular spot for residents and visitors, with toilets, play equipment, barbecues and seats being regularly used.