Location: Middle Harbour
A harbourside residential area 8 km north east of the Sydney central business district, the locality is mostly known for its beach, officially divided into Balmoral and Edwards Beaches. Expensive residential real estate on the surrounding "Balmoral Slopes" benefits from the views and beach proximity. The naval depot HMAS Penguin is situated at the eastern end of Balmoral Beach. It houses a naval hospital and is accessed from Middle Head Road.
Balmoral Bathers' Pavillion
Balmoral features Balmoral and Edwards Beaches, both of which are separated by the outcrop of Rocky Point. Both beaches are usually referred to as simply Balmoral. The locality has views across the entrance to Middle Harbour to North Head, Manly, and Clontarf. The harbour beaches face north east and is sheltered from ocean swell by Middle Head. The entire beach is listed on the Register of the National Estate as the 'Balmoral Beach Conservation Area'. The conservation area includes the promenade, the esplanade, the Rotunda and the Bathers' Pavilion, which date back to the 1930s.
A number of eateries are situated along The Esplanade, the main thoroughfare along the beach, ranging from take away to restaurant dining. The Balmoral Rotunda is the home of Shakespeare By The Sea a summer outdoor event. Other notable events include the annual Mudgee Wine Festival and the annual Carols By Candlelight hosted at the Rotunda in December. The Rotunda and Rocky Point Island are also popular for wedding ceremonies and photographs.
Organisations and facilities include Balmoral Oval, a substantial netted swimming area (Balmoral Baths), Balmoral Sailing Club, a sea scout troop, and two swimming clubs.
Situated on Middle Head in Sydney Harbour, HMAS Penguin is surrounded by beaches and parklands and is within 30 minutes drive of the city centre. Penguin is also close to many sights and sounds of Sydney, including Balmoral and Manly beaches and Taronga Zoo. HMAS Penguin is part of the Navys Fleet Command and was commissioned on 14 July 1942. Its primary role today is to provide trained personnel to the Fleet and is the home of the RAN Diving School (RANDS), the RAN Hydrographic School and the RAN Medical School.
As the only remaining military presence on Middle Head, Penguin is fortunate to enjoy the strong support of the local community. Penguin is part of the Mosman local government area and has fostered close ties with the local community for many years.
The Star Amphitheatre was an open air temple constructed by the Theosophical Society-related group, the Order of the Star of the East. built in 1923-1924, it was intended as a platform for lectures by the expected "World Teacher", believed by the Theosophists to be Jiddu Krishnamurti. Demolished in 1951, its foundations were used for an apartment building that still stands on the site. A persistent urban legend in Sydney says that the Amphitheatre was built in anticipation of Jesus Christ's second coming, when it would provide a viewing platform for Christ's walking across the water between Sydney Heads up to the Star Amphitheatre. Some versions of the story include tickets for the spectacle being sold to a gullible public.
Balmoral was once linked to other localities of Sydney's North Shore by the North Shore tramway system. Whilst the only trams running in Sydney today are those at the Tram Museum in suburban Loftus and the light rail from Central Station to Lilyfield via Darling Harbour, the tram system has left its mark on the city and suburban landscape in a variety of ways. Many tram terminuses, which featured loops for returning trams, remain across the metropolitan area particularly near ferry wharves and are now used by the bus services which replaced them for their turning circles.
A visible relic of the North Shore tramway system and one which is associated with the development of Balmoral is a steep cutting in the escarpment leading from Balmoral Beach up to Middle Head Road via Beaconsfield Road and Gordon Street. The Balmoral Line operated from May 1922 until the closure of the tram system. The last tram to Balmoral ran on the 28th of June, 1958. The replacement bus services operated on a different route to the beach and the tramway reservation was abandoned. The cutting, contained largely within a Public Reserve, has been cleared and a short section of track relaid to recall the cutting's former use.
Rocky Point Island separates Edwards Beach from Balmoral Beach on Hunters Bay, Balmoral. The small island is connected to the Esplanade by a bridge, built as a government employment project during the Great Depression in 1930. The bridge is quite picturesque and a very popular spot for wedding photographs. The Island, which these days is joined to the mainland by a sandbar, has a landscape of lawns, bushland and rock outcrops and wonderful views back to Edwards and Balmoral beaches as well as out to Middle Harbour.
Balmoral Baths are a really safe yet beautiful place to swim. There a walkway that runs in a semi-circle around the perimeter, and you can swim right under the boardwalk and out to the shark net around the enclosure. Being an enclosure, the water is quite a bit warmer than the surrounding beaches on moderately cool days, and the protection of the boardwalk gives it the feel of a swimming pool. You could clamber down the vertical steps into the deep part of the baths, or dive in from the boardwalk as many do on a hot day. Change rooms with showers are nearby.
Balmoral is named after Balmoral Castle, the large estate house in Aberdeenshire, Scotland known as Royal Deeside and a favourite summer royal residence. The locality is mostly known for its beach, officially divided into Balmoral and Edwards Beaches. Expensive residential real estate on the surrounding "Balmoral Slopes" benefits from the views and beach proximity. The naval depot HMAS Penguin is situated at the eastern end of Balmoral Beach. It houses a naval hospital and is accessed from Middle Head Road.
Hunter Park on The Esplanade was originally part of the land on which Captain John Edwards built his stone house in 1839. A painting exists of the ruins of the stone cottage by artist Donald Commons. A link to the painting on the internet is given at this reference. The house was located at the bottom of what is now Mandalong Road. Captain Edwards lived there with his wife Elizabeth until his death in 1861. Edwards was a seaman in the whaling industry. In the early 1820s he had command of a ship called the Mercury. The Sydney Gazette tabulates his voyages on whaling expeditions throughout the 1820s. In 1825 his brig the Mercury was shipwrecked in New Zealand when he called in for provisions. A colourful narrative of the shipwreck and subsequent rescue is in the Sydney Gazette.
In the early 1860s his son John Edwards established a "pleasure ground" which he called Balmoral Gardens and it was from this that the present area was named. Balmoral Gardens was used by many people as the destination for a Club or group excursion. Numerous descriptions are found in the Sydney Morning Herald during the 1860s of a typical fun day that was enjoyed in the gardens. For example, in 1862 a social group describes a forthcoming event in which they will take a steam boat to Balmoral Gardens and participate in activities such as foot races, cricket, jumping, throwing weights and quoits. They said that "Mr Edwards, the proprietor of the gardens will supply refreshments of all kinds at very moderate prices." The Balmoral Gardens also catered for the general public and had a dance pavilion with a hired band.
In the early 1880s Livingston Hopkins established the Artist's Camp at the northern part of Balmoral Beach near what now is Awaba Street. Other famous artists who were also at the camp during its forty-year existence were Julian Ashton and Henry Fullwood
The area around Balmoral Beach is a heritage-listed Conservation Area The area includes Edwards Beach as well as Balmoral Beach, plus the promenade, esplanade, rotunda and Bather's Pavilion, which date back to the 1930s.
As the Balmoral area developed, it became the location for many examples of the Federation architectural styles that predominated from 1890 to 1915. There are many fine examples of these styles in the area. Balmoral is also the location of Noonee, a heritage-listed home designed by Alexander Stewart Jolly. The house was built 1918-19 and drew on elements of the American hunting lodge.
The Balmoral line opened as a branch of the Georges Heights line in May 1922 and was one of the last tram lines to be opened in Sydney. Services ran to Wynyard, Lane Cove, Athol Wharf (now Taronga Park Zoo wharf) and Chatswood, making it one of the busiest lines on the North Sydney system.
View towards Sydney Heads from Balmoral Beach
Upon departure from The Esplanade Terminus, at the corner of Mandalong Road, trams travelled south-East along The Esplanade. After passing Botanic Road, the line swung right onto Henry Plunkett Reserve. From this point, the line went off road onto its own reservation through a narrow rock cutting (now public walking track). After a steep ascent through the reserve, the line crossed several small residential streets such as Mulbring, Gordon, Plunkett, and Beaconsfield Streets, before once again entering onto Gordon Street where the line swung right onto Middle Head Road. Services ceased to operate in June 1958.