Balgowlah Heights

Location: Middle Harbour
Situated on a ridge up to 80 metres above North Harbour and Middle Harbour, Balgowlah Heights offers panoramic views of the harbour, Eastern Suburbs and Spit Bridge. The suburb features remnant Sydney Harbour bushland, contained in the National Park around Dobroyd Head and Grotto Point. Tania Park at the eastern fringe offers relaxed recreation and one can watch the Manly ferry cut its way to Circular Quay. Balgowlah is said to be the Aboriginal name of the whole of North Harbour. The area now known as Balgowlah was known to the Aborigines as Jilling.

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Washaway Beach

On the North Harbour side of the peninsula, Washaway Beach has a strong swell as it faces the harbour entrance. Because of its isolation, it is often used for nude bathing. Balmoral beach and boats heading to and from Manly can all be seen from this beach, but it is far enough away from any other place in the area to offer plenty or privacy, particularly if visited on a week day. Like other beaches on Dobroyd peninsula, the beach is tidal so if you visit at high tide, very little if any of the beach will be exposed and you will have to walk or sit on the rocks rather than sand.

Crater Cove

Crater Cove is an indent on the Dobroyd headland that faces Port Jackson heads. The cove's isolated cliff face is home to seven old huts that line the south-facing, lower slope of the cove. The huts are scattered along a narrow sandstone shelf between the harbour waters and the steep, scrub-covered slope behind, and were built between 1923 and 1963. Like all such huts, they were constructed of available materials - rocks and driftwood found on site, fibro sheets and galvanised iron roofing carried in. They were not meant to be permanently occupied, nor was it anticipated they would become of historic interest. Occupancy of Crater Cove started around 60 years ago when weekend fishermen built the first of the huts. During the depression of the 1930s, some of the huts may have been occupied full time. The huts were again occupied, this time by what were described as hippies - people inspired by the ideology of the late 1960s and the '70s - to search for a simpler way of living.

For a time they found this at the cove, but in time they drifted away. By the start of the 1980s only a few buildings were occupied on a full-time basis. The huts are now within the boundaries of Sydney Harbour National Park. In keeping with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) policy on places of interest that need protection, NPWS has tried to keep their location secret but to no avail. As with Aboriginal sites, pretending such places don't exist doesn't stop people finding them. Consequently, who stumble upon them and, not being aware of their significance, have no respect for what they have found, who inflict the very damage the policy is intended to prevent.

Castle Rock Beach

Castle Rock Beach is one of a number of wonderful, isolated little beaches scattered around the shores of Port Jackson that very few people know about. It is named for a large rock on the beach which is said to resemble a castle. Behind this little ribbon of beach is a small waterfall which pours a stream of fresh water onto the sand at the foot of the rocky hillside.

Access to the beach is by a path (marked on street directories as Weekes Road) from Cutler Road and the end of Ogilvie Street or from the Manly to Clontarf harbourside walking path which passes above the beach. Parking in Ogilvie Street is limited.

Arabanoo Lookout

Part of Sydney Harbour National Park, this lookout gives sweeping views across North Harbour to Manly and south to Sydney Heads. The surrounding reserve includes Crater Valley, Tania Park (honouring local resident, Tania Verstak who was Miss Australia, 1961 and Miss International Beauty, 1962), Forty Baskets Beach (with Aboriginal rock carvings) and the Captain Cook Panorama, offering a panoramic view of Middle Harbour towards Spit Bridge.

The lookout's name honours an Aborigine, a native of the area who was captured by Marines during the colony's first year. Arabanoo was forcably abducted on Gov. Arthur Phillip's orders at Manly Cove on New Years Eve 1788. Eplaineing the capture in a Letter to Lord Sydney, Phillip explained, "It was absolutely necessary that we should attain their language, or teach them ours that the means of redress might be pointed out to them, if they are injured, and to reconcile them by showing the many advantages they would enjoy by mixing with us". Two Aboriginal people were seized but one escaped. The other - Arabanoo, appeared to be about 30 years old. He was the first Aboriginal person of Australia to live among Europeans.

In order to at first prevent him from escaping, Arabanoo was usually restrained by handcuff and rope, or iron chains, and was locked in a hut with a convict at night. When Arabanoo was first cuffed, he believed the handcuffs to be unique ornaments, but he became enraged when he discovered their purpose. He did not learn English very quickly, "At least not to the point where he could make (Phillip) any wiser on the grievances of the natives," according to Phillip. Arabanoo worked with Phillp to assist in the care of aborigines who were struck down with smallpox, which killed around 2,000 Aborigines of the Sydney region in 1789. Arabanoo seemed to do this willingly, but it is not known if that was because he was resigned to his fate, if he understood and accepted the friendship offered by Phillip, or did it to help his people.

After only 6 months amongst the settlers, Arabanoo succumbed to the disease himself and was buried in the grounds of Government House in May 1789. His unmarked grave is believed to be located somewhere in the area bounded by Bridge, Bent, Phillip and Macquarie Streets, Sydney. Colonel David Collins said his death was "to the great regret of everyone who had witnessed how little of the savage was found in his manner, and how quickly he was substituting in its place a docile, affable, and truly amaiable deportment".

Location: Dobroyd Scenic Drive, Balgowlah Heights.
Facilities: grassed areas, sports oval, toilets and change rooms, walking tracks through reserve and south to Grotto Point. Public transport: bus No. 132, 133 from Manly; 171 from Manly Wharf & Wynyard. Alight in Beachview Street. Walk down Concise St, right into Cliff Dr, left into Elevation Ave, right into Fisher St, left into Dobroyd Scenic Dr.

Tania Park

Tania Park functions as a suburban park containing large dog exercise areas, sporting facilities and play equipment. As well as facilities for playing cricket and soccer, there are barbecues, change rooms, childrens' playground, public toilets andseating, so the park is a good spot for a picnic lunch. Tania Park also offers expansive harbour views to Sydney, the Eastern Suburbs and across North Harbour to Manly. Location: 2 Bareena Drive, Balgowlah Heights.

Tania Park honours a local resident, Tania Verstak who was Miss Australia, 1961. She was the first migrant to win the Miss Australia title. Verstak went on to win the Miss International title in Long Beach, California in 1962. Thus, the victory further endeared her to the Australian public, demonstrating their pride and approval of Tania Verstak as the embodiment of perfect Australian womanhood and as the image of Australia as a modern nation, even though in the terminology of the time for immigrants, she was a "new Australian".
Reef Beach

Reef Beach is located on North Harbour beyond Arabanoo Lookout. Aboriginal carvings of fish and a shield are visible on the tesselated rocks of Reef Beach after a storm. An Aboriginal shell midden extends the length of the back of the beach. It was near here in the 1830s that a tent village of hermits known as Pirate's Camp sprang up. Visitors are warned that this is used by locals as a nudist beach.

Evidence of millenia of use by Aboriginal people includes a midden stretching nearly the length of the beach, with oysters, cockles and shellfish sourced from the rock ledges. Today, the midden is mostly covered by grass. The permanent freshwater stream near the stairs, the sheltered surrounds and tools found in the midden, also provide evidence that Reef Beach was an Aboriginal campsite. Fish and shields have been carved into the tessellated rocks. These carvings are badly weathered and may only be visible only after a storm.

Until the 1940s, it was a shockingly common practice for the remains of Aboriginal people to be removed without permission from graves, hospitals, and prisons to be housed in local and international museums, anatomy collections and private ownership. In 2005, the remains of Aboriginal people previously taken from here and Forty Baskets Beach for the University of Sydney s collection were returned to country nearby in a Repatriation Ceremony. Reef Beach is now a declared Aboriginal Place of the Gai-mariagal people, protected by NSW law in recognition that Aboriginal sites and places are culturally significant.

Public transport: bus No. 132, 133 from Manly; 171 from Manly Wharf and Wynyard. Alight in Woodland Street, walk down Alder Street and then to end of Cutler Road. If you wish to drive and park nearby, the closest free street parking to Reef Beach is at the end of Beatty Street, Balgowlah Heights (or try the end of Geddes Street as it joins up with Beatty Street).

Cutler Road Lookout

This lookout offers panoramic views to Manly, Middle Harbour, Middle, North and South Heads. Being directly opposite Sydney Harbour Heads, it is also a great spot to watch shipping entering and leaving the harbour.

There are also a few Aboriginal rock carvings nearby off the pathway to Washaway Beach.Known as the Grotto Point engraving site, it contains numerous illustrations of a small kangaroo, a large kangaroo with tail buried, a large fish, a dolphin and an emu. The engravings are marked by heavy timber guard rails which make them easy to find. The engraving of the large kangaroo with its tail buried is not considered to be a genuine Aboriginal carving. As with all Aboriginal sites, visitors are requested to treat the rock art with respect. Please do not walk on them or attempt to re-groove then as this destroys the site's integrity.

Public transport: bus No. 132, 133 from Manly; 171 from Manly Wharf and Wynyard. Alight in Woodland Street, walk down Alder Street and then to end of Cutler Road. Cutler Road, Balgowlah Heights.

Grotto Point

Located at the confluence of the three harbours of Port Jackson, this popular fishing spot offers panoramic views to Manly, Middle, North and South Heads and Sydney's eastern suburbs. Like its neighbour, Dobroyd Head, Grotto Point is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. The walking path which passes across the headland is part of the Spit to Manly Walking Track. It offers expansive views up Middle Harbour to The Spit and across to Middle Head and Balmoral Beach.

The vegetation and landscape of the headland is the traditional image evoked by the term Hawkesbury Sandstone, with shallow sandy soil vegetated by sandstone heaths and light woodlands which make up the largest areas of remaining natural vegetation around Sydney. The coastal heath seen on Grotto Point is typical of that found on the coastal headlands between Palm Beach and Royal National Park. Aboriginal axe grinding grooves and rock carvings of footprints, known as mundoes (pronounced mun-doe-eez), have been found on the rocks below Scenic Drive.

Grotto Point Light: the white stone lighthouse was erected in 1911 to guide ships through Sydney Heads. Its light aligns with that of Parriwi Light, also known as Rocherville Light on The Spit peninsula. Both the Grotto Point and Parriwi Head Lighthouses were designed by Maurice Festu. Access via Cutler Road, Grotto Point.

Public transport: bus No. 132, 133 from Manly; 171 from Manly Wharf and Wynyard. Alight in Woodland Street, walk down Alder Street and then to end of Cutler Road. UBD Map 217 Ref J 2.

Forty Baskets Beach

Located on a thin ribbon of bushland through which the Spit to Manly Scenic Walkway passes, it is thus named after a haul of 40 baskets of fish by local fishermen in 1885 which were given to a contingent of soldiers quarantined at North Head returning from war in the Sudan. Being off the main drag, it is a quiet beach with a very low swell. Pleasant view across North Harbour to Manly. Facilities: grassed areas, toilets, picnic and barbecue facilities, pool with shark net, limited parking. UBD Map 197 Ref M 12. Gourlay Avenue, Balgowlah Heights.

At Forty Baskets Beach, there are Aboriginal hand stencils and carvings of a kangaroo, emu, shark, fish, boomerang are well preserved in a rock shelter near the beach, however they are not sign posted and are not easy to find.

Public transport: ferry to Manly, bus No. 132, 133 from Manly beach; or bus No. 171, E71 from Wynyard. Alight cnr New St & Gourlay Ave., walk along Gourlay Ave.

Manly Vale

Manly Vale is a neighbouring suburb, 17 kilometres north-east of the Sydney central business district. Manly Vale is predominantly a residential suburb with commercial land use on Condamine Street, containing small patches of light industrial. It also contains multiple Retirement Villages and Aged Care facilities. The suburb contains many recreational facilities including parks such as Passmore Reserve and playing fields at Millers Reserve and David Thomas Reserve. Manly Dam is on the western edge of Manly Vale. There are also a number of small reserves, for example King Street Reserve.

Manly Dam: Located on Curl Curl Creek some 3 kilometres north west of Manly, Manly Dam has a catchment area of about 520 hectares extending to Frenchs Forest in the North. The Catchment area and stored water of the Dam are now used primarily for public recreation. The original water supply for Manly, built in 1892, consisted of a dam, pumping station, rising main, and service reservoir, constructed by the Government. It supplied water initially to Manly, then progressively the suburbs of Balgowlah and Seaforth, expanding to cover the coastal strip of the Warringah Shire as far north as Mona Vale. The dam wall was also raised three times to augment supply, using sandstone concrete and sandstone plums. The pumping plant at the Manly Dam was dismantled in 1933.

Manly Dam Reserve is an important area of urban bushland which has for years has been a place to relax and unwind for local residents. Facilities: toilets, picnic facilities and barbecues, grassed areas, bushwalks, Aboriginal rock carvings, swimming areas. Location: anly-Warringah War Memorial Park, King Street, Manly Vale.

Mermaid Pool

Manly Creek Circuit Track: This walking track (formerly Curl Curl Creek Circuit Track) is an easy 8 km pathway through the bush which loops Manly Reservoir. On the way are numerous scenic vistas, Aboriginal rock carving sites and two waterfalls over which Manly Creek falls on its way from the Allambie Heights plateau to Manly Dam. Mermaid Pool is situated on Manly Creek (formally Curl Curl Creek), approximately 400 metres down stream of Manly Dam. Access is via a short bush track starting from King Street. It is known as the Mermaid Pool because girls from a nearby shantytown, during the 1930s Great Depression, would swim naked there in the evenings. But it s once pristine swimming area, with sandy beach, sparkling waterfall, and diverse bushland and rainforest surroundings, had suffered from years of neglect and illegal dumping.

Fairlight, a neighbouring suburb,lies between Balgowlah and Manly on both sides of Sydney Road. The suburb reaches north past Balgowlah Road and the western boundary is Hill Street. Fairlight has a tiny beach on North Harbour with limited room for swimming but it is somewhat less crowed than nearby Manly Cove. Delwood Beach, midway between the two, has a longer beach than Fairlight and similar facilities. Fairlight Beach is located on the Manly Scenic Walkway on Sydney Harbour, which can be followed for some kilometres to Spit Bridge.

Clontarf is a neighbouring suburb to the immediate west of Balgowlah. Situated on Middle Harbour, Clontart has a pleasant harbour beach where, in 1868, an attempt was made to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh who was guest of honour at a summer picnic there. He was taken to hospital but made a quick recovery. The bullit fired at him at close range by an anti-Royalist Irishman had lodged in his braces, saving him from serious injury or death. The 'golden probe' used to remove the bullet is on display at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital museum. Clontarf Beach is the start of the Spit to Manly Scenic Walkway along the northern shores of Middle and North Harbours.
About Balgowlah Heights

Farming commenced in the 1830s in what was then known as Little Manly. Development speeded up with the introduction of a hand punt service at The Spit in 1850. Trams were introduced in 1911. The beaches on the Grotto Point and Dobroyd Headlands are all are well hidden and away from the road so access by car is restricted. They are all fairly quiet and offer relative seclusion apart from passing walkers on the Spit to Manly Scenic Walkway which passes through the area. Facilities are limited at the smaller beaches.

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  • Get Directions

  • How to get there:
    Public transport: ferry to Manly, bus No. 132, 133 from Manly beach; or bus No. 171, E71 from Wynyard.
    Balgowlah is midway between Manly and The Spit on the popular harbourside walk between the two localities, and provides plenty to see and do for walkers.

    The Name
    The name Balgowlah was first recorded in 1832, it being either an Aboriginal word meaning North Harbour, or being the Aboriginal name for it.
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