4 kilometres north of the Sydney central business district, the residential suburb of Waverton occupies one of a number of peninsulas on Sydney s Lower North Shore. Enjoying stunning views of Sydney Harbour, Waverton has a village-like collection of shops, several restaurants and cafes around its railway station.
Flanked by Berrys Bay and Balls Bay, the Waverton peninsula is blessed with tracts of both virgin bushland and parkland, heritage-listed Aboriginal rock engravings as well as a number of iconic former industrial sites. These include the circa-1910 Balls Head coal loader and BP Refinery, both with heritage significance. Balls Head Reserve, the bushland peninsula, is a popular picnic destination especially when there are harbour fireworks. Its one-way road system also forms part of a favoured route for walkers and joggers. Waverton Park, on the banks of Berry's Bay with stunning views of Sydney Harbour, is another recreation focal point.
Land grantees and business partners, Alexander Berry and Edward Wollstonecraft, were the first Europens to utilise Berrys Bay for maritime purpose in the 1800s. They constructed a stone wharf, then a stone warehouse, and workers' cottages and huts. Berry's overseer, W G Mathews, lived in the cottage on the site which consisted of only one room and a loft. This provided Mathews with an office and housing for 20 years. Due to a number of circumstances, Mathews relocated to a new cottage in 1854 located on a parcel of land leading to Ball's Head. This cottage was the Mathews family home for the next 44 years. Nearby stood the workers' cottages and remnants of the foundations can be seen today.
Click on or tap an attraction to read the description. Click or tap again to hide the description.
The land around Waverton was developed by grantees and business partners Alexander Berry and Edward Wollstonecraft, in the early 1800s. Firstly, they constructed a stone wharf, then a stone warehouse, and workers cottages and huts. Berry's overseer, W G Mathews, lived in the cottage on the site which consisted of only one room and a loft. Berry then leased the parcel of land leading to Balls Head for a short time as a coaling depot to shipping companies, P & O and General Steam Navigation Company, after which it was used for ship repairs, storage of ballast and even a distillery which operated out of a stone storehouse between 1872 and the 1880s and had connections to the Rag and Famish Hotel in the heart of North Sydney.
An historic Waverton building that still standing is the circa-1890 railway station, classified by the National Trust and built by local timber merchants, the Eaton brothers, whose yard was on the aptly named Sawmillers Reserve, bordering Berrys Bay at McMahons Point. Waverton was named in 1929 after the Waverton Estate of an early resident, Robert Old. The land once belonged to William Carr, who named it after an English village connected to his family.
Waverton Park was built partly on reclaimed mudflats at the head of Berrys Bay and partly on land obtained from resumption of a property to the east (Ivycliff). The foreshore where the playing fields are located today was used for many years as a tip by North Sydney Council and then converted to playing fields, as were many of the mudflats at the head of bays on Sydney Harbour prior to modern concerns of contamination and environmental protection.
To create the park and form the playing fields in 1944, tailings from the nearby Oyster Cove Gasworks was used. However, this fill soon required replacement when the gases from it ignited and smoke was seen coming out of the ground. It was set on fire in November 1948, and was not able to be extinguished because of the partly spent coke and clinker dumped here for many years. Complicating matters, flammable debris collected during a Clean Up Week Campaign added to the problem.
Despite Council attempts to get it under control it continued to burn deep underneath. The underground fire continued to burn unabated into 1949, extending under and damaging a portion of the new bowling green. The Council s only course of action was to bulldoze away the ashes, clinker, partially spent coke, oxide, etc in the south western corner of the bowling green to the original ground level and get completely behind the fire, at the same time bringing in filling from the eastern side of the Park and building up and consolidating to the proper level again.
Located on the upper tier of Waverton Park, Merrett Playground is set beneath two fabulous native trees and offers visitors lovely views across Sydney Harbour. The playground has a 'service station' theme; with an easily accessible pathway and 'road' system, a spring-mounted car, and a level play area with petrol bowsers, a mechanics workshop and a candy shop. Also featuring a large deck, tunnel slides and an arm-power swing, this popular playground caters to children of all ages and abilities.
HMAS Waterhen is located on the shores of Sydney Harbour at Waverton on a land area that was originally granted to Edward Wollstonecraft and passed to his business partner Alexander Berry in 1832. Today it owes its geography to the need in the 1930s for a graving dock facility for the RAN. The cliff which forms the back wall is a result of quarrying operations which saw stone removed from the Waverton site to Potts Point to form the Captain Cook Dock and the land bridge between Potts Point and Garden Island, which was actually a true island at that time.
With the advent of World War II, the site was filled and a number of temporary fibro buildings were constructed. The site was utilised as a Boom Defence Depot where they stored the booms (steel nets for underwater use to stop enemy submarines from entering the Harbour). It was a joint RAN/USN facility from 15 March 1943 to 30 June 1943, then was under RAN control from 1 July 1943.
After World War II the site reverted to a storage depot until HMAS Waterhen was commissioned on 5 December 1962 to serve as a support base for the six Ton Class Mine Sweepers, HMA Ships Teal, Ibis, Snipe, Gull, Hawk and Curlew, acquired from the Royal Navy in the 1960s. This was the first small ship base of this nature and was also home to the Mobile Clearance Diving Team. With a complement of 85 Officers and Sailors, the base had no accommodation, so the River class frigate HMAS Culgoa was relocated to the northern wharf and put into use as a barracks ship.
For many years, the base supported the Australian Mine Warfare and Patrol Boat Forces, serving as the home port for mine countermeasures vessels and both the Attack and the Fremantle Class patrol boats. In the early 1990's Waterhen underwent an extensive redevelopment and modernisation program in which all facilities were rebuilt. This project delivered an establishment designed to fare well into the future. The Hand-Over Ceremony for the completion of the Modernisation Program was held 20 February 1997.
One of North Sydney's true hidden gems. As its name implies, this was once the site of a sawmill. Its operators, John W. Eaton Ltd timber merchants, established the harbourside mill in 1880. Eaton s had its own power house, two sawmills, engineers shop, joinery shop, a blacksmiths shop and its own wharf and crane to unload logs/load timber from smaller vessels. Remnants of the powerhouse have been retained in the park to retain a link to the park s past.
Today, steps wind down to the water s edge for beautiful views of the harbour, Pyrmont and Balmain, and west to Balls Head Reserve. Sloping embankments planted with native vegetation give way to an open grassy foreshores suitable for picnics and informal play. The wreck of an old hopper barge sits just offshore in Berrys Bay. The park has access points on Munro, French and West Crescent Streets, and is either a 10 minute walk down Blues Point Road from North Sydney railway station, or a 10 minute walk up from the McMahons Point ferry wharf. Limited parking is available in surrounding streets.
In the mid 1800s Alexander Berry leased the site for a short time as a coaling depot to shipping companies, P & O and General Steam Screw Ship Company. Other uses for the site included: ship repairs, storage of ballast and even a distillery which operated out of the stone storehouse between 1872 and the 1880s and had connections to the Rag and Famish Hotel in the heart of North Sydney. In the late 1870s the area was leased to the NSW Torpedo Corps as a depot. This Corps was instrumental in the defence of Sydney Harbour in the period of the Russian threat. The Corps eventually relocated to Middle Head in the late 1880s.
The Anglo Persian Oil Company's occupation of what became known as the BP site dates from 1908 but it wasn't until 1923 that their first tank was installed. The tanks grew in number to 31 by the late 1960s and were a prominent feature of this part of the Harbour. The substantial stone store erected by Berry and Wollstonecraft was demolished to open the way for additional fuel storage tanks in the mid 1930s. The bund wall left standing contains the stones of the storehouse and is listed by the North Sydney Council as having high heritage significance. In the early 1950s additional tanks for storage were added in Unnecessary Road (a planned extension of Rose Street which is today Larkin Street) and adjacent properties purchased to provide accommodation for the staff.
The Commonwealth Oil Refineries took over the Anglo Persian Oil Company (now BP) and many locals still recall the large letters of COR in lights on top of the cliff face. The cliff face in the past was known as Gibralter and this is evidenced in historical maps of the area and relates to the character of the cliff face. The last tanks were dismantled in the mid 1990s. The outline of the tanks can still be seen, giving an impression of their size and bulk.
The whole site has undergone a remediation process and is now a parkland named Carradah Park. It was opened in 2005 as BP Park and comprises pathways, access stairs and lookout platforms, fences and handrails, seating and extensive planting of locally native species. The design also incorporates remnants of the site's industrial heritage and includes wetland areas linked to the original drainage system.
Aboriginal Rock Engravings
The area around North Sydney is rich in Aboriginal culture and history. The original occupants of this region, the Cammeraygals of the Kuringai Tribe, lived along the foreshores and in the surrounding bushland prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The landscape of Balls Head, Berry Island, Kirribilli, Cammeray and Cremorne is dotted with the cultural remains of the Cammeraygals and tells their story even though the people who once lived here were displaced many years ago.
A French engraving from the 1820s of a headland which closely resembles Balls Head in North Sydney.
It is the foreshore areas of Balls Head and Berry Island that have some of finest examples of Aboriginal cultural sites on the lower north shore. Large caves and rock shelters along waterways and trade routes were another popular location for local tribes and bands, and remnants of their occupation can still be found scattered throughout North Sydney today. Rock engravings such as the large one near the entrance to Balls Head are special places which had strong significance to the Cammeraygals and would have related to the Sydney Dreaming. There are other smaller engravings located around this site but they are covered by the roadway. They were first surveyed and recorded in 1899.
The Aboriginal carvings in this pleasant and tranquil bushland reserve are the closest ones to the North Sydney and Sydney central business districts. As you enter the reserve, the outline of a 10m long whale-like creature can be seen carved into a rock on the left of the road leading into HMAS Waterhen. The engraving includes what appears to be a man within the shape of the creature. Sadly, sections of nearby engravings were destroyed when the road was built back in the days when little thought was given to Aboriginal rock art and its significance in Sydney's cultural history.
Groups of smaller engravings, 6 shell middens, 2 rock shelters, a waterhole and axe grinding grooves are located near the waterline towards the eastern and western tips of Balls Head. Alongside the lookout at the eastern end of the car park is a rockpool used to collect drinking water with axe grinding grooves beside it. The lookout offers panoramic views up and down the harbour, taking in the opera House and Harbour Bridge, city skyline, Darling Harbour, Goat Island, the Balmain peninsula and the Parramatta River up to the Gladesville Bridge.
Joseph Bugler Playing Field in Waverton Park contains traces of Aboriginal hand stencils and engravings are located on the rocks and overhangs above and around the path leading up from the reserve to Larkin Street. As they have been badly eroded and defaced, the inexperienced rock art explorer may have difficulty finding them.
In 1964 a woman's remains were found in a cave on Balls Head in 1964. At the time murder could not be ruled out but authorities believed the discovery "was of considerable antiquity". The skeleton was incomplete but parts of the woman's skull and teeth, leg, arm, foot and hand bones were intact, plus a small tooth was found nearby. It was enough for the scientists to surmise quite a bit about her. Some 450 artefacts were also recovered in the shelter during the dig and a subsequent visit in the early 1970s. A 1971 report based on the findings of archaeologists indicated the mystery woman had lived there perhaps as long as 1,000 or 2,000 years ago. There was no mention of any decay on the teeth, so that combined with the wear on the teeth suggested that she lived in the period before British colonisation in 1788.
In a strange twist some years later, police confiscated some remains associated with Balls Head from the home of convicted killer Michael Guider, who is serving a jail sentence over the manslaughter of missing nine-year-old Samantha Knight. Guider considered himself an amateur archaeologist and surveyed some Aboriginal sites around Sydney.
Balls Head Bay
MV Cape Don berthed alongside the the Coal Loader on Balls Head Bay
Balls Head Bay, also known as Wollstonecraft Bay, is located to the west of the Waverton Peninsula and west of Balls Head and to the east of Berry Island, on the north of Sydney Harbour. The naval base HMAS Waterhen is located within the bay. Balls Head Bay has previously been known as Oyster Bay, Wollstonecraft Bay, Sugarworks Bay, Powder Works Bay and Kerosene Bay because of the industries that have operated there over the years. Before the arrival of white settlement, the Cammeraygal people lived in this area or New South Wales. Middens, art sites and rock engravings are still present in Balls Head Reserve and in the wider area. Yerroulbine is the Aboriginal name for Balls Head.
A residential development on the foreshore of Oyster Cove on Balls Head Bay (above) contains the remnants of the largest coal gas manufacturing works on the North Shore and one of the largest in Australia. The remaining structures on site are the Boiler House, the Exhauster House, the Carburetted Water Gas Plant and the Chimney. These have been included in the recent landscaping of a recreation area for the Wondakiah residential development now occupying the site. Wharfage remains largely in place.
Robey's Sugar Works first operated on the site which was taken over by the Colonial Sugar Refinery Co. In the late 1860s the Australian Mineral Oil Co. established a kerosene works there, to treat kerosene shale and handle imported case oil. The adjacent part of Sydney Harbour was consequently known as Kerosene Bay. From approx. 1889-91, part of the site also used by the Neokratine Safety Explosive Co. of N.S.W., in the old CSR buildings. The North Shore Gas Co., formed in 1875, took over the site in 1912, with construction of a new gasworks taking place between 1913 and 1917. The site remained operational (at least partly) until 1987. The Wondakiah residential development now occupies the site and has incorporated numerous gasworks buildings into the complex.
Berrys Bay is the large bay to the west of McMahons Point and east of Balls Head. Home to a local Aboriginal community until the early 1900s, the land at the head of the bay was resumed in 1912 and a Quarantine Depot was established, and used as part of Quarantine Station's operations. Two launches (the 'Pasteur' and the 'Jenner') attached to the Station were used to ferry doctors and Quarantine Staff to inspect incoming ships and ferry suspected quarantine cases to the station ships.
The depot was closed in the 1970s. It was acquired and reused by the National Maritime Museum as a shipyard and workshop from the late 1980s. The complex consists of two virtually identical brick office/administration buildings, a former workshop of weatherboard, a timber coal store now used as a workshop, a jetty and a slipway.
About 1906 the Woodley family acquired a lease in Berrys Bay from the Sydney Harbour Trust and NSW Government Lands Dept. The site at this time contained a two-rail slipway used to slip torpedo boats. Gradually the site was expanded with reclamation of the waterfront to create a flat working space. Woodley's Limited continues to build and repair ships on the site. The steam yacht Ena, originally built for Thomas Dibbs on the opposite side of Berrys Bay at Watty Ford s, was restored in the 1980s at Woodley's.
Balls Head Bushland Reserve
Alexander Berry built a wharf in the western arm of Berrys Bay to unload his ships bringing produce from the South Coast. Convict labour was used to construct a four storey warehouse. With the passing of time the land changed usage, and the Rag and Famish hotel used the warehouse as a distillery. The NSW Torpedo Corps was established on the site and built a slipway for their boats servicing seabed mines laid in the outer parts of Sydney Harbour. Strong public protests in the early part of the 20th century about the encroachment of industry around Balls Head Bay resulted in Balls Head becoming public parkland (rather than being used for commercial or residential purposes as was mooted) in 1926.
Located at the southern end of Balls Head Drive, Waverton, Balls Head Reserve is an easy 10 minute walk from Waverton railway station. There is car parking in the Reserve and on Balls Head Road. A treasured pocket of natural bushland on Sydney's Lower North Shore, it contains many Aboriginal sites including archaeological deposits/middens, art sites and rock engravings. It is thought that Balls Head Reserve was a site where men came to perform sacred corroborees to honour their ancestors of the Dreamtime. The Aboriginal name for Balls Head is Yerroulbine.
Balls Head is named after Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, Commander of the ship Supply in the First Fleet of 1788. Lieutenant Ball commanded the vessel entrusted with shipping the first group of settlers from Botany Bay to Norfolk Island in 1788. Between 1788 and 1790, Ball explored the area around Port Jackson and took part in the capture of the Aborigine, Arabanoo, on 31 December 1788, in addition to revisiting Lord Howe's Island, as it was then known, and Norfolk Island. After falling ill in January 1791, Ball returned to England to convalesce. Leaving Australia in November 1791, he landed at Plymouth in April 1792 with the first kangaroo to be shipped to England on board his ship.
Balls Head remained largely undeveloped until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1912 the Quarantine Depot was established in Berrys Bay to service the boats operating to and from the Quarantine station at North Head. This is now the National Maritime Museum's working depot.
Balls Head Reserve has several short bush walking tracks that are all interconnected. The tracks are easy to follow but there are quite a few steep climbs. Appropriate shoe wear is therefore definitely recommended. There are numerous points of interest along these tracks, including numerous caves. Heading towards the head, you will find one of the best well-preserved cave dwellings of the Great Depression of the 1920s-1930s, Tom's Cabin. During the Depression of the 1930s, people were forced to abandon their homes because they couldn't pay the rent or the mortgage repayments, and ended up living in makeshift homes like Tom's Cabin and other caves found in the reserve.
Vantage points in the reserve offer superlative views both up the Parramatta River towards Gladesville Bridge, across the water to Balmain and Darling Harbour, and downstream towards the Harbour Bridge and city skyline. Visitors can enjoy BBQ and pinic facilities and walking tracks around the headland.
Will Ashton Lookout is named in honour of the well-known artist and Waverton resident, Sir John William Ashton. Prior to being knighted in 1960, he received an OBE in 1941. Will Ashton began his art career when he studied art in his father s studio in Adelaide until 1899, at which time he travelled to Europe to paint and continue his studies. n 1906 he won the Wynne Prize for an Australian landscape (he also won this prize in 1930 and 1939). He was the Director of the Art Gallery of NSW from 1937 to 1944.
The reserve is maintained by North Sydney Council and contains a well-preserved natural bushland area, one of the closest to the city of Sydney. Plants include the Sydney red gum, Port Jackson cypress, blueberry ash and Port Jackson fig. Many birds are found here, as are reptiles, flying foxes, microbats and marsupial mammals.
Balls Head Coal Loader
Constructed on the western edge of the Balls Head peninsula in 1917 to act as a steamship bunkering station, the Balls Head Coal Loader site was a significant Sydney Harbour industrial landmark. During its working life, the coal loader's gantry cranes and cable hopper cars unloaded and loaded coal onto the many ships, both passenger and commercial, that passed in and out of the Harbour. A freak wind storm damaged one of the gantry cranes beyond repair in November 1940, leaving only one crane in operation until the late 1950s.
The Loader ceased operations in October 1992, resulting in the dismantling of the site. In October 1992, the Balls Head Coal Loader ceased operations resulting in the dismantling of the site. Only the wharf, coal loading platform, tunnels and a few brick administrative buildings remain as evidence of its former operation.
The Coal Loader site has been transformed by the North City Council, allowing access into the inner workings of this idustrial heritage site. At the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability, you can now explore one of the 960m tunnels from the historic coal loading system, and enjoy the walk through the tunnel to the bushland of Balls Head and beyond. Sensor lighting will turn on to guide you. The site has been landscaped with community gardens, native bush nursery and regenerated park lands.
Balls Head was celebrated in two poems by Henry Lawson. The second of these, 'The Sacrifice of Balls Head' protested against plans to build the coal bunkering depot there. It stands as an early articulation of conservationist sentiment.
Waverton is serviced by trains on the North Shore railway line. Numerous bus services travel along Pacific Highway in the locality's north.
Waverton was named after the Waverton Estate of an early resident, Robert Old. It was named by a previous owner, William Carr, a solicitor, who purchased the property in 1850. The estate was named by him after a village in England where his family came from. The name was adopted for the locality in 1929. Though essentially a residential suburb, some industry has encroached on the landscape of Waverton. A sugar works was built on Oyster Cove in 1857. Its site was used in 1914 for a gasworks.