The area in the vicinity of Wollongong Harbour and Brighton Lawn was used by Aboriginal people for more than 20,000 and possibly as many as 40,000 years, as a natural harbour and sheltered area for all manner of cultural and ceremonial activities.
The natural bay was protected from the direct ocean currents and south-easterly winds by the sand dunes and Flagstaff Hill. Smiths Creek provided fresh water and there was an abundance of food from the combined marine and riparian environment.
Archaeological evidence of this extended occupation by Aboriginal people was found in an extensive midden which was investigated during the redevelopment of the former Brighton Hotel site at the intersection of Cliff Road and Harbour Street, opposite Brighton Lawn.
Brighton Beach was used to unload early shipments of supplies and load produce and timber destined for the Sydney market. The boats could only moor during calm seas. They pulled in as close as they could to the beach. Alexander Stewart describes the ‘sandy’ and ‘pebbly or stony’ beaches that predated the present harbour walls in the vicinity of the original Quay – at the eastern end of Brighton Beach, and the first Wollongong Basin.