The Shellharbour Council area has had an interesting growth history. Its development is attributable to four main circumstances:
- Initial settlement with land grants in the 1800-1850 period.
- Development of road and rail transportation during the 1800's making Shellharbour accessible to its north, south and west where the physical landscape on its boundaries previously made access largely impossible.
- The rise of agricultural industries of beef and dairy cattle and associated services/industries leading to the formation of new settlements.
- Growth of the area in the post WWII manufacturing era which shaped the area from a group of individual settlements into a large urban population.
Today, Shellharbour City contains a number of urban townships/suburbs and rural localities. Urban townships/suburbs include Shellharbour Village, Barrack Heights, Flinders, Blackbutt, Shell Cove, Barrack Point, Warilla, Lake Illawarra, Mt Warrigal, Oak Flats, Albion Park Rail and Albion Park. The newest urban suburb is Shellharbour City Centre located in the geographic heart of our urban area which comprises the major retail, commercial and bulky goods services in the city. It is the business and commercial heart of Shellharbour City.
Rural localities include Dunmore, Croom, Yellow Rock, Tullimbar, Calderwood, Tongarra and North Macquarie.
The key chronological dates in our history include:
- Indigenous occupation of area, most notably Bass Point, traced to 17,000 BP. Most archaeological evidence at Bass Point dates back to 6000 years BP.
- Bass and Flinders explore the south coast in the Tom Thumb and land at Lake Illawarra in 1796.
- 1817-1831 period saw free-settlers arriving in the area. Land use was mainly sheep and cattle grazing and much land clearing was undertaken. The corresponding 22 land grants spread over what now makes up the Shellharbour Local Government Area (LGA).
- As a result of the widespread felling of cedar trees, a port was required and so the port of Shellharbour was developed. Sea transport was the only means of transportation of timber and other goods to other areas due to the lack of rail and road systems at that time.
- A township was laid out in 1851 around the port of Shellharbour and was to be called “Peterborough” – even though the area was referred to as Shellharbour, which in the Aboriginal culture meant “place where there were big shellfish”. The name was abandoned after it was discovered that, with the opening of the first post office, the name existed elsewhere.
- First bridge over Macquarie Rivulet (Albion Park Rail) in 1858.
- Shellharbour (Municipal) Council was constituted on 4 June 1859 and the chambers, built in 1865, were located in Addison Street, Shellharbour.
- Stella Maris Church, the first in Shellharbour, built in 1861
- First bridge over Minnamurra River (Dunmore) built in 1872.
- Rail line through the area in 1887.
- Council relocates to Albion Park in 1897 which coincides with the decline of Shellharbour (Village) and the growth of Albion Park as a lucrative beef and dairy cattle district.
- Opening of Macquarie Pass in 1898 over the route of an Aboriginal trail, 35 years after Ben Rixon first cleared the Aboriginal track.
- First bridge over Lake Illawarra in 1938.
- Commencement of the manufacturing industry boom in the 1950's with Port Kembla steelworks only a short distance away. Eastern part of the LGA starts to develop quickly around Warilla and area absorbs new migrant population. Warilla township granted official recognition 1951.
- Council relocates to Warilla in 1969.
- Council relocates to Shellharbour City Centre in 1991.
- Shellharbour gazetted as a City in 1996 as its population passes 50,000.