Like other suburbs on the Barrenjoey Peninsula on Sydney's northern beaches, the residential suburb of Avalon has beaches on both sides of the peninsula. Avalon beach itself is a surf beach that faces east and fronts the Pacific Ocean. Paradise Beach and Careel Bay are also saltwater beaches, but are on the west side of the peninsula facing the calm waters of Pittwater. Avalon Baths are on Paradaise Beach whilst there is an ocean rock pool at the southern end of Avalon Beach. The homes on Marine Parade, Avalon opposite St Michael's Cave are Sydney's most easterly residences. The most easterly point is Bangalley Head, Avalon, a short walk away.

St Michael's Cave

The most well known feature of North Avalon's headland, St Michael's Cave is now fenced off due to the landfalls within the cave and the cliffs above it that make it dangerous to visit. Its closure occurred as a result of a tragic accident that occurred in February 2004 in which a huge sandstone block two tourists were standing on slipped, crushing and killing one who fell with it instantly. The other was fortunate to fall backwards. The cave's name came from Archpriest Joseph Therry and was part of a land grant of 1833. Father Therry planned to establish a chapel on the cliff above, although some sources state he intended to have a church within the cave itself and conduct Lectures and Services inside it.

Around the headland from the cave, towards Avalon Beach, is a pile of rocks at the foot of the cliff face. On maps it is marked as the Hole In The Wall. There used to be large rock arch here - presumably that was the hole in the wall. Joseph Therry called it St Michael's Arch, as it was a nutural archway through which one had to pass to reach the cave. The arch stood nearly 12m tall and 7m wide but in 1867 the top of the arch collapsed during a tremendous gale that lashed the coast for days. By the storm's end, only half of the full height of the column supporting the arch remained. Over the years the stone column was called several names  The Pedestal, The Stone Woman or Stone Lady, Lot s Wife and even the Foreign Legionnaire. But the soft stone continued to be battered by the elements and finally collapsed in 1959. Today all that remains on the rock ledge of this once-grand natural masterpiece is a pile of wave-eroded boulders at the base of the 50 metre high cliffs.

The Hole-in-the-Wall is known as one of Sydney's best if not the best snapper fishing location. The homes on Marine Parade, Avalon behind (or in front of, depending where you are looking from) St Michael's Cave are Sydney's most easterly residences. The most easterly point is Bangalley Head, Avalon.

The Stella James House

In 1933 Estelle James and Clare Stevenson, flat dwellers from the Eastern Suburbs, commissioned Walter Burley Griffin to design this small cottage as their weekend retreat. Deceptively simple, the house is a masterful expression of Griffin s design philosophy. The house is essential viewing for devotees of organic architecture. 32 Plateau Road, Avalon 2107 Tel: (02) 9258 0123 Open: By appointment only.

Birchgrove Park shipwreck

Ten lives were lost on a cold August night when the 46.7 metre, 640 tonne Birchgrove Park sank off Avalon Beach on Sydney's northern beaches in August 1956. Built in 1930, the vessel had operated variously as an auxiliary minesweeper, stores carrier and personnel carrier. Leaving Newcastle in calm seas, the ageing steamer soon ran into a strong southerly. Water surging over the decks forced its way into the hold causing the ship to list over to port. The problem increased until the steamer rolled over at about 2.45 am, tipping the crew into the cold sea. Search efforts continued throughout the night and the next morning but only four were saved.

Ocean Beaches

Avalon Beach: Old Barrenjoey Road, Avalon. A popular, relaxed surf beach favoured by visitors, thanks to the backpacker hostel, cinema, shops and cafe society established around the beach. Surf is good, especially at the northern end. A rock pool caters for children at the southern end. Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club members patrol Avalon Beach. Several former surfing world champions are also past or current Avalon residents. Parking fees apply. Facilities: patrolled by surf lifesavers, changerooms, toilets, showers, grassed area, shops and cafes nearby. UBD Map 118a Ref D 1.

Bilgola Beach: Bilgola Avenue, Bilgola. The isolated, atmospheric beachfront village built around the beach becomes a chaotic nightmare on busy weekends when (it seems) the rest of Sydney descends on the place. The beach has a permanent rip called the Newport Express so stay between the flags if you want to survive the excellent surf here. A rock pool caters for children. Parking fees apply. It is hard to believe that an early settler, Rev. JJ Therry, once mined Bilgola Head for coal.
Facilities: patrolled by surf lifesavers, changerooms, toilets, showers, kiosk.

Pittwater Beaches

Paradise Beach: Hudson Parade, Avalon. 30 minutes walk from Avalon beach (the walk is advised as parking space is limited), it is a sensible alternative if you want a quiet dip away from the crowds. Being on Pittwater there is no surf, and the water is clean though a little murky until you have gone out a bit from the shore. The baths offer cleaner swimming and a place for a picnic at Old Wharf Reserve. The nearest shops are at cnr. Riverview Rd & Avalon Pde. No facilities.

Long Beach, Clareville: Delecta Avenue, Clareville. Located on the western shores of the Barrenjoey peninsula, Clareville Beach is very much a boat owner/user's paradise. A makeshift boat ramp is the launching point for a plethora of kayaks, rowboats, jet-skis, yachts and sailboards, many of which can be hired here if you don't bring your own. There are places to swim, but the major activity here is boating. The secluded beach is backed by a pleasant park.
Facilities: boat launching ramp, kiosk/restaurant, toilets, changerooms, picnic and barbecue facilities, shops at cnr. Riverview Rd & Avalon Pde.

Careel Bay: The bay has the largest stand of mangroves and sea grass beds in Pittwater. It is also a fish nursery important to Pittwater and nearby coastal waters. 116 species of birds have been recorded as having been seen in Careel Bay. Some of these birds, from East-Asia, use Careel Bay as a stop off area. The Federal Government and Australian people are committed to a number of agreements to protect theses birds and their habitat, including the China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement and the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement agreements.

Loggan Rock

Loggan Rock is as whimsical and eccentric as the architect who built it. Built by the eccentric architect Alexander Stewart Jolly in 1929 - and arguably the most bizarre home in Sydney - the climb from Whale Beach Road to Loggan Rock is a breathtaking in both senses of the word. Loggan Rock - "log on rock" - is three dwellings in one. The oldest, and most amazing, is the original log cabin, complete with twig windows and a wooden floor. The stone tower, deliberately reminiscent of a Scottish castle, contains the two bedrooms. An extension, added in 1954, has no connection with Jolly and is by comparison bland and colourless - though prized as typical of '50s design.

Born in Lismore in 1887 into a family of timber merchants, sawmillers and furniture makers, Jolly retained an interest in timber and rock as building materials when he became an architect. He was heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and Frank Lloyd Wright's Chicago school. During the Depression, he often camped in a makeshift tent beside the emerging homes. Only three of his masterpieces survive in the Avalon area - Hy-Brasil (originally named The Gem), Careel Head House and Loggan Rock, the most peculiar. Note: this property is a private residence; please respect the privacy of those who live there today.


In Pittwater and Warringah, Koalas were once common and widespread. They were particularly numerous on Barrenjoey Peninsula. From the 1940 s to the 1970 s, the Koala colony on Barrenjoey Peninsula was the largest and best known colony in the Sydney region. Sadly, in Pittwater it is now very rare to meet a Koala in the wild. However, there are still small populations on Barrenjoey Peninsula and in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, and possibly also in Garigal National Park. These populations are isolated from each other by the density of urban development in Mona Vale and Newport and the lack of bushland corridors.

The peninsula's bushland reserves are critical for the survival of our remaining Koalas. Research has shown that sightings of Koalas are increasingly rare, the further away you are from these bushland remnants. These days, the Koala colony on Barrenjoey Peninsula is concentrated around two major bushland reserves, Angophora Reserve (see below) and Stapleton Park in Avalon. Stapleton Park is an important area of remnant bushland Riviera Avenue bisects the park.

Angophora Reserve

This reserve, on the southern boundary of the suburb of Avalon off Palmgrove Road, consists of 18.5 hectares of urban bushland. It is dominated by remnant forest and woodland vegetation communities. This reserve provides a small taste of the Peninsula similar to what it was like pre-settlement and provides significant samples of vegetation communities and fauna habitats that as under threat. It is one of the most significant reserves in an area that is now dominated by suburbia and true bushland is restricted to mostly small reserves. Two main walking tracks extend through the reserve, firstly one from the Palmgrove Road to Wandeen Road entrances and the second from Hilltop Road to Chisholm Avenue.

Two frog species, four lizards, thirty four birds and eight mammals have been recorded in or near the reserve. The parrots, of which there are seven species, are very prominent. Especially common are rainbow lorikeets and sulphur-crested cockatoos. The mammal species include the koala, which is listed as a Vulnerable Species in NSW. Other notable mammals are the echidna, long-nosed bandicoot and squirrel glider. The Barrenjoey population of Squirrel Glider is also listed as an endangered population.

Bangalley Head Walk

A relatively hard walk, 45 leisurely minutes return on a loop route. Highlights inclide a rugged climb to the hheadland's ighest point, with spectacular views and an abundant variety of native wildlife. Bangalley Head is part of the Bicentennial Coastal walk.

Bangalley Head stands as the highest point and one of the largest bushland reserves on Pittwater's coastline. Its size together with the great variety of native plants in the reserve, makes Bangalley Head a virtual paradise to many forms of wildlife. Native birds - such as honeyeaters, spinebills, finches and wrens - feed, breed and shelter amongst the dense thickets of coastal scrub and pockets of rainforest plants. Small mammals, including the long-nosed bandicoot and the brown marsupial mouse, shelter in rock overhangs and crevices, or in dead logs in the eucalypt forest. Lizards and snakes sun themselves lazily on the open rocky platforms, although always wary of any hungry kestrel which may be soaring overhead. The headland takes its name from the Bangalay Eucalyptus tree which is found in the area.

The first land grant was 60 acres to John Farrell in 1827. 1,400 acre land grant to Irish Catholic clergyman Father John Joseph Therry in 1833 encompassed the Barrenjoey peninsula and a large section of present day Avalon. His idea of a Catholic settlement at what he called Priest's Flat was a failure.

The first land grant in the area was 60 acres (240,000 m2) to John Farrell in 1827. A 400-acre land grant was made to Irish Catholic clergyman Father John Joseph Therr in 1833, who fought hard for the recognition of the Catholic Church in the colony. He built a church in this area but his plans for a settlement never eventuated. In the 1920s, the area was still known as 'Priest's Flat'. Arthur J Small handled a subdivision in 1921 and chose the name Avalon. Avalon is named after an earthly paradise in Celtic mythology, the final resting place of King Arthur.

Avalon was subdivided in 1921, initially as a holiday retreat but between the wars it attracted many permanent residents. Significant housing developments took place during the 1920s. The architect Alexander Stewart Jolly designed a number of houses that were built in the Avalon area in that period. Loggan Rock was a flamboyant log cabin combined with a stone tower; the combination of logs and rocks gave rise to the name. The house is heritage-listed. Careel House is a bungalow made of stone that was quarried in the area. Nowadays it is on the Whale Beach side of the boundary. It is also heritage-listed. Hy Brasil, located near Clareville, was built in 1936, but was originally known as The Gem. Later it was bought by Ted Herman, son of the painter Sali Herman, who changed the name, using the name of a mythical island west of Ireland. It is heritage-listed.

Another significant development was the creation of Ruskin Rowe in 1950. This street was designed as an estate by the architect Harry Ruskin Rowe, son of the architect Thomas Rowe. Rowe created covenants to preserve the character of the estate, but they have been ignored to an extent over the years. Nevertheless, the estate is heritage-listed because of its historic significance, as well as its scientific significance in preserving the bushland environment of the area.

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