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. Close to Washaway Beach is an Aboriginal engraving site containing 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.

Crater Cove

The cove's isolated cliff face on Sydney Harbour is home to a number of the old huts that line the south-facing, lower slope of the cove. The seven huts scattered along the narrow sandstone shelf between the harbour waters and the steep, scrub-covered slope behind 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 60s and the 70s to search for a simpler way of living.

For a time they found this at the cove, but sooner or later they drifted away. By the start of the 1980s only a few buildings were occupied on a full-time basis. The huts are 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. 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 at Manly in December 1788. Arabanoo became Gov. Phillips helper, and assisted in the care of aborigines who were struck down with smallpox. He eventually 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 in the area bounded by Bridge, Bent, Phillip & Macquarie Streets, Sydney.

UBD Ref Map 197 Ref L 14. 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.

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 canvas village of hermits known as Pirate's Camp sprang up. Visitors are warned that this is used by locals as a nudist beach. 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 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. 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. 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 termHawkesbury 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 here 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 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.
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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