Situated a few kilometres south of the central business district of Sydney, Botany Bay was the site of a landing by James Cook of the HMS Endeavour in 1770. Cook's landing here marked the beginning of Britain's interest in Australia and in the eventual colonisation of this new Southern continent. In modern times the Bay is chiefly known for being the site of Kingsford Smith International Airport, Australia's largest airport. The land around the headlands of the bay is protected as Botany Bay National Park. Also within Botany Bay is Towra Point Nature Reserve.
Initially the name Stingray Bay was used by Cook and other journal keepers on his expedition, for the stingrays they caught. That name was recorded on an Admiralty chart too. Cook's log for 6th May 1770 records "the great quantity of these sort of fish found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Stingrays Harbour". But in his journal (prepared later from his log) he changed to "The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place occasioned my giving it the Name of Botany Bay".
In 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip led the First Fleet into the bay on 19th January 1788 to found a penal colony there. Finding that the sandy infertile soil of the site in fact rendered it most unsuitable for settlement, Phillip decided instead to move to the excellent natural harbor of Port Jackson to the north. On 26th January, while still anchored in the bay, the British encountered the French exploratory expedition of Jean-Francois de La Perouse. Panicked by the thought that the French might beat them to it, the colonists sailed that afternoon to found a settlement at Sydney Cove.
Despite the move, for many years afterward, the Australian penal colony would be referred to as "Botany Bay" in England - and in convict ballads such as Ireland's "The Fields of Athenry". The good supply of fresh water in the area led to the expansion of its population in the 19th century. The land around Botany Bay became part of the Sydney metropolitan area with suburban expension in the early part of the 20th century. Port Botany was built in 1930 and is now a container terminal.
Botany Bay is fed by the Georges River, which rises to the south-west of Sydney near the coal mining town of Appin, and then flows north past Campbelltown, roughly parallelling the Main South Railway. At Liverpool it then turns east and flows past suburbs such as East Hills, Lugarno, Bangor and Blakehurst, before emptying into Botany Bay at Taren Point in the southern suburbs of Sydney. The circular shape of Botany Bay, echoed in the outer area of Port Hacking to the south, is distinctive; it occupies what was once a much larger bay, lying in a shallow basin in the surrounding rock formations. This drowned valley is now filled in by depths of sand which forms a natural underground reservoir. It is ironic that the lack of water drove the First Fleet from its originally selected home here.
The north section of Botany Bay National Park lies on the tip of the La Perouse Peninsula at the mouth of Botany Bay on the north side. It is a major focal point in European Australia's pre-colonial history. It was here that the first recorded expedition from Europe came ashore and took a long, hard, serious look at the place. That visit, by James Cook, set in motion the events that led to the arrival of the first fleet in January 1788 with the intent of establishing a penal colony on Botany Bay. Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) was eventually chosen as a more suitable site.
On the southern headland at the bay's entrance is the grave of one Torby Sutherland, a crew member with Cook who died and was buried there in 1770. On the northern shore is another grave, that of Pere Receveur, a Franciscan friar and scientist who came to Australia aboard the French vessel L'Astrolabe in 1788 at the time of the arrival of the first fleet. The Frenchman, who was buried on the La Perouse headland, died from injuries received when a landing party was attacked by native Samoans two months earlier.
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Though the Kurnell Refinery is visible across the bay and Botany s port and industrial area is just around the corner, the low-surf Congwong Bay, like its neighbour, Little Congwong Bay, is sufficiently secluded to not be affected by its location. Incoming tides gently scour the bay, ensuring this beach has the lowest pollution readings of any in the Sydney metro area. Located on Botany Bay within the Botany Bay National Park. Anzac Parade, La Perouse.
To reach Little Congwong Bay, take the Congwong Beach Walk, cross Congwong Beach and follow the pathway to Little Congwong. Many regulars take short-cuts across the rocks between the two beaches. Little Congwong is an unofficial nudist beach. No facilities at beach.
In spite of its close proximity to local industry, the airport and Port Botany shipping facilities, Frenchmans Bay is a pleasant 60-metre strip of beach, ideal for families, on the north-east shore of Botany Bay. The bay's name recalls the visit of French explorer Comte de La Perouse, whose two ships entered Botany Bay and anchored here shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788. Yarra Bay is large bay to the immediate west of Frenchmans Bay. It was for many years the site of an Aboriginal community, which was first established during the 19th Century. Landscaping has done much to improve the park and hide its location, as Port Botany and the airport are just a stone's throw away. It has a picnic area, sailboard and kayak launching area; yacht club with boat ramp.
Facilities: toilets, grassed picnic area with barbecue and picnic facilities, shops, cafe and restaurant at nearby Frenchman's Bay.
Pt. Molyneux is the site of Port Botany's visitors lookout where the public can watch ships come and go, catch fish and observe sea creatures such whales and dolphins when they enter Botany Bay. A cairn and plaque here commemorates the sister ports relationship between Sydney Ports Corporation and Yokkaichi Port Authority, Mie Japan. Location: end of Prince of Wales Drive on Yarra Bay, Port Botany.
The point bears the name of Robert Molyneux, the master of the Endeavour during James Cook's first voyage of discovery. It was Molyneux who guided the Endeavour safely into Botany Bay in 1770. On the return voyage he fell ill in Dutch Batavia (now Jakarta) along with most of the rest of the crew. Molyneux died 16th April 1771 at Robben Island (Penguin Island), South Africa, and was buried at sea, age 31. Molyneux was the most senior of the warrant officers. His main duty was to navigate the ship, under the direction of the captain. He also acted as surveyor taking soundings and produced several very important charts of previously unknown coasts. He was responsible for 'trimming' the ship - distributing its load so that it sat correctly in the water. He had to ensure the safe anchorage of the Endeavour and oversaw the day to day running of the ship.
Molyneux was from Hale, Lancashire (not to be confused with nearby Hale in Cheshire) a village on the river Mersey just south of Liverpool. It is highly likely he learned his trade in the great seaport of Liverpool which was booming in the mid 18th century.
Naval records indicate Molineux had only just returned to England after serving as Master's mate on HMS Dolphin under Captain Samuel Wallis when he signed up for HMS Endeavour. The Dolphin had circumnavigated the globe and returned to England in May 1768 after two years at sea. A month later on 17th June Molineux was appointed as master of Endeavour along with several other members of the crew of the Dolphin. Molyneux had a reputation for rowdiness and drunken behaviour. Cook recorded in his log: "I must constantly put him to task to keep him off the bottle. Even so, I know he slips drinks in during work".
Port Botany is Sydney's main deepwater seaport, located on Botany Bay. The port is dominated by trade in containerised manufactured products, and to a lesser extent, bulk liquid imports including petroleum and natural gas. It is Australia's second-largest container port, and is administered by NSW Ports. Prior to 1960 Sydney's international shipping facilities were exclusively located in Port Jackson, with bulk and break bulk docks at Darling Harbour and Walsh Bay. and bulk and ro-ro docks at Glebe Island and White Bay.
With the advent of containerization in the late 1950s it became clear that Sydney would require additional port facilities to cater for new cargo types. In the 1960s the State Government adopted a plan to build a new port complex in the northern part of Botany Bay adjacent to Sydney Airport. In 1971, work commenced on two container terminals to the north, and a bulk liquid wharf and storage area to the south. A third container terminal at Port Botany was completed in June 2011.
Filled with significant sites, remarkable landscapes and heritage-listed attractions, Kamay Botany Bay National Park offers an idyllic daytrip from Sydney. Separated by the marine-rich waters of historic Botany Bay, the park s northern and southern headlands feature a unique combination of natural and cultural heritage. Most of the places listed here are found within Kamay Botany Bay National Park.
Botany Bay National Park has two sections one on the northern side of the entrance to Botany Bay, and the other on the southern shore. The park has numerous historic sites, including the site of Lt. James Cook s landing in 1770. A snake display and demonstrations of boomerang throwing are held on weekends at La Perouse.
La Perouse: End of Anzac Parade, La Perouse: Open all times. La Perouse Museum (Old Cable Station) open 9.00 am - 4.30 pm daily, phone (02) 9331 3379. Bare Island Fort open Sundays, phone (02) 9311 2765. Facilities: toilets, picnic area, cafes and restaurant, swimming beach.
Kurnell: End of Captain Cook Drive, Kurnell: Park open 7.00 am 0 8.00 pm every day. Discovery Centre open 9.30 pm - 4.00 pm daily. Gift shop open Wednesday to Sunday. Phone (02) 9668 9111.
In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook landed at Botany Bay's Inscription Point on the Kurnell Peninsula headland. He and his Endeavour crew stayed in the area for eight days and had a dramatic impact on Australian history. Located near Silver Beach, Cook's landing place is a popular Sydney attraction. Now heritage-listed, this reserve interprets the story of the meeting of European and Aboriginal cultures. It has memorials to Cook and his fellow travellers, naturalists Joseph Banks and Carl Solander, a marker and plaque identifying the exact spot where they came ashore, and the grave of a sailor, Forby Sutherland.
Artist's impression of Cook's Landing
Kurnell Visitor Centre: Features an art gallery, theatrette, historical exhibition, shop and cafe. Be sure to pay a visit to the centre on your visit to Kamay Botany Bay National Park. You can enjoy a coffee before discovering more about the significance of the area. Be sure to view the film Kamay Botany Bay before you leave. Learn about the European arrival through the centre's interactive displays. See how the area s Aboriginal inhabitants lived at the time of Captain Cook s landing in 1770 and find out more about Aboriginal people in the area. Formerly known as The Discovery Centre, the visitor centre also houses the Botany Bay Environmental Education Centre which offers excellent educational programs for students and teachers alike.
Cape Solander: Undoubtedly one of Sydney's best whale watching spots. June/July is the best time to see humpback whales as they migrate to warmer waters. If you're lucky you won't even need to look far - whales have been known to swim as close as 200m from the coast. Named after botanist Daniel Solander, Cape Solander features a lookout with a viewing platform - the perfect vantage point - along with information on whales seen in Sydney waters. Friendly volunteers are there to provide information throughout the season.
Memorial to Sir Joseph Banks
Banks-Solander Track: This is an easy walk in Kamay Botany Bay National Park. Many of Australia s plants were first collected and described in the area by Cook's botanists, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, in 1770. The track features informative panels showcasing numerous plant types that fascinated Banks and Solander more than 240 years ago.
Burrawang Walk: This easy walk tells the story of the first meeting of European and Aboriginal culture. A soundscape, featuring Aboriginal language, children laughing and clap sticks will have you feeling like you've stepped back in time and give you a sense of the strong Aboriginal connection to Country. The Burrawang walk takes you past several of the area s historic sites, including the welcome wall, the freshwater stream, the meeting place, Banks Memorial, Ferry Shelter Shed and Cook's Landing Place.
Forby Sutherland's Grave: Botany Bay is the resting place the first two Europeans to have been buried in marked graves on Australian soil. Near Cook's Landing Place is the grave of Scottish Seaman Forbus (Forby) Sutherland, of James Cook's Endeavour who died of tuberculosis on 30th April, 1770, the day after the vessel was brought to anchor in Botany Bay. His body was brought ashore and buried the following day near a watering place used by Cook (the small creek still flows today) who named the nearby headland Point Sutherland in his memory. The location is marked by a cairn. On the northern shore, at La Perouse, is another grave, that of French Franciscan friar Claude-Francois Joseph (Pere) Receveur, who came to Australia on La Boussole in January 1788 at the time of the arrival of the first fleet. L'Astrolabe and La Boussole, commanded by La Compt de La Perouse, were on an expedition of discovery and exploration into the Pacific.
The small island just inside the heads was described by Captain James Cook as 'a small bare island'. It was never given a name, and so the notation on Cook s charts stayed as the means of identifaction of this small island at the head of Botany Bay.
Bare Island was part of the traditional land of the Gweagal and Kameygal Aboriginal tribes. The island was fortified in 1885, according to a design by colonial architect, James Barnet (1827 1904), and fitted with heavy guns. In 1912 Bare Island became a retirement home for war veterans, which continued to operate until 1963 when it was handed over to the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service for use as a museum and tourist attraction. Bare Island is connected by a footbridge to the suburb of La Perouse. The historic military fort and tunnels can only be visited by guided tour. The waters around the island are popular with scuba divers.
A walking track from the main car parking area at La Perouse follows the coastline to Henry Head and Cape Banks. On the way you'll pass Bare Island, Congwong Bay, Endeavour lighthouse which guides ships into Botany Bay; the ruins of Henry Head fortifications and the remains of the coastal steamer, the Minmi, which ran aground one foggy morning in May 1937 and has been washed onto the rocks of Pussycat Bay. North of the wreck are the remains of the Cape Banks fortifications; an old cemetery attached to Prince Henry Hospital where people who died of infectious diseases were buried (including victims of Leperosy, Smallpox plague of 1881, Bubonic plague of 1901, Spanish Flu brought home by World War I soldiers); and freshwater pools noted in the log of the Endeavour by James Cook in 1770. These pools are located directly below the 128th tee of the N.S.W. Golf Club.
Prior to World War II a portion of the land located on Cape Banks that belongs to the New South Wales Golf Club was utilized by the Australian Defence Forces for the construction of the Cape Banks Battery. This was part of the Sydney Coastal Defences built prior to and during World War II. The counter bombardment fortifications consisted of two breech loading 9.2 inch gun emplacements, underground plotting room, underground powder and shell magazine, hydraulic pump room, and some short tunnels linking the different sections. During this period the Henry Head Battery which was built much earlier was also re-utilized as a local defence post, to stop landing parties from lning at La Perouse to attack Cape Banks, and consisted of two breech loading 6 inch guns when built, but by World War II was armed with two 18pdr field guns, on pedestals, in newly built concrete emplacements. Easy to Moderate walk. 4 km return.
The remains of the coastal steamer, the Minmi, which ran aground one foggy morning in May 1937 and was washed onto the rocks of Pussycat Bay, can be seen on the Cape Banks Walking Track. The SS Minmi was built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1927. She was 75 metres long, and displaced 1,455 tons. The Minmi was a collier, carrying coal from Newcastle to Melbourne and returning empty. It was named after either the lower Hunter Valley town of Minmi, or the nearby Minmi Colliery.
On 8 May 1937, the Minmi left Melbourne for Newcastle under Captain Robert Clark Callum. The Minmi s captain for all of her ten-year service was Captain McPhall, who had brought the ship to Australia. Captain McPhall commenced two weeks leave in the first week of May, leaving Chief Officer Callum to take over as Captain. At 10 pm they were off Botany Bay in heavy seas and dense fog, and shortly after the ship struck the outside of Cape Banks, the outer northern headland of Botany Bay.
Soldiers at the nearby Cape Banks Artillery Garrison were awoken by the sound of escaping steam, and saw the ship hard on the rocks. Frederick Boulton, the ship s cook, collapsed and died of a heart attack soon after the ship struck the rocks. The rest of the crew of more than 20 were stranded on the vessel due to the heavy seas.
The Minmi split in two at about 12:45 am, with crew members stranded on both the front and back sections. Those at the front were rescued without incident, but it was more perilous for those in the rear. A line was tied to the rear section, with the other end held by rescuers. One life, a Mr Burnside, was lost in the heavy seas, and several other members of the crew spent the night on the vessel before being rescued at daylight.
Crowds estimated at 40,000 on 15 May 1937 and 60,000 the next day made the trek to La Perouse to see the wreck. Cars were banked up for four miles along Bunnerong Road (now Anzac Parade) towards the city, and police were required to control traffic and guard the cliffs. Many sightseers crossed the NSW Golf Course to get to the wreck site, and in doing so prevented golf games from proceeding, and causing damage to the course.
The wreck was sold for 200 pounds to salvagers Penguin Ltd, and while undertaking salvage operations the men lived in caves at the scene. A marine inquiry exonerated the captain of the charge of failing to navigate the ship safely. The stern section of the Minmi is still visible on the rock platform on the inside of Cape Banks.
Easy to Moderate walk. 4 km return.
A carving of a large sea creature, possibly a whale, and its calf, was once clearly visible on the rocks at La Perouse. Identified as being 120 metres south west of the La Perouse monument, the whale is 10 metres long and the calf half that length. Little of the carving is visible today, thanks to wind, water and foot erosion, being located at a spot which has been frequented by fishermen and visitors for over a hundred years. A carving of a shark and two unidentified objects, possibly weapons or tools such as an axe, are known to have existed 180 metres away. On a boulder like rock 30 metres north east of the fish were two carvings of boomerangs, one with a reverse curve.
Towra Point Aquatic Reserve is the largest NSW Aquatic Reserve and is located on the southern shore of Botany Bay near Kurnell. It stretches from Shell Point on the western side of the Bay to Bonna Point in the east. The Aquatic Reserve covers an area of approximately 1,400 hectares and is divided into two zone types, a refuge zone and a sanctuary zone.The Reserve protects one of the largest and most diverse wetland complexes remaining in the Sydney region. The Reserve is adjacent to the Towra Point Nature Reserve which is a Wetland of International Importance and a declared Ramsar Site. It is an important nursery area for fish and invertebrates, provides important habitat for migratory seabirds and is rich in marine biodiversity.
The Reserve includes much of the remaining important seagrasses, mangroves and migratory wading bird habitats in Botany Bay. It represents major nursery habitat supporting commercial and recreational fish stocks in the coastal Sydney region. More >>
Carters Island (Botany Bay): Located within the Towra Point Aquatic Reserve, Carters Island consists of two small areas of terrestrial vegetation surrounded by mangroves which are the most highly developed mangrove stands at Towra. The mangroves provide an excellent roosting site for all sorts of birds and the mudflats that surround the island are frequented by wading birds. The island is believed to have been named after an oyster farmer who operated there.
Spit Island (Botany Bay): Located within the Towra Point Aquatic Reserve, Spit Island has been managed as a breeding site for the endangered Little Tern since 1992. It is a favoured site by the Terns as it is isolated from the mainland of Towra Point and is therefore safe from predators such as foxes. As a result of N.P.W.S. management of this Island, Towra is now the second most important Little Tern breeding site on the NSW coast.
Aboriginal people were the first to live at Phillip Bay and La Perouse and their presence was recorded by Europeans in 1812 by a French expedition. In 1883 a camp was established under the Aborigines Protection Board. Through time the settlement was run by a variety of church and welfare groups. At the end of the 1920s the reserve was moved back from the unstable sand to around the Elaroo Avenue area. The area is now owned by Aboriginal people, as is Yarra Bay house and the headland between Frenchmans and Yarra Bay.
Apart from the presence of that aboriginal community and a number of whaleboat operators, the area remained relatively untouched until after World War II. In 1821, Gov. Macquarie built the stone watchtower for the use of soldiers posted in the area to sight enemy ships. It was Macquarie s last construction project before his departure in that year. In 1885 the Bare Island Fort was erected as part of Sydney s maritime defence system.
The former La Perouse tram line branched from Oxford Street at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst to run south along Flinders Street, then into its own tram reservation along the eastern side of Anzac Parade beside Moore Park. It then proceeded down the centre of Anzac Parade through Maroubra Junction, and Malabar to its balloon loop terminus at La Perouse. At Malabar, a single line branched off to serve Long Bay Gaol. The line was double track throughout. The line reached La Perouse in stages from 1900 to 1902. The Loop is the circular track that was built as part of the Sydney tram terminus at La Perouse. Closure was supported by the NRMA, but generally went against public opinion. Nevertheless, closure became Labor government policy and the system was wound down in stages, with withdrawal of the last service, to La Perouse in 1961. The line followed the current route of bus 394.
It wasn't until the railway opened to Hurstville, via Rockdale in 1884, that the potential of the area fronting Lady Robinson's Beach on Botany Bay - named in 1874 to honour Governor Sir Hercules Robinson's wife - began to be realised. In 1885 Thomas Saywell constructed a tramway from Rockdale to Lady Robinson Beach, along Bay Street. He was given a 30-year lease on the line. He also financed and built the public swimming baths, a substantial picnic area, a race course and the Brighton Hotel, on the current Novotel site. It was a huge success and to avoid confusion with the English Brighton upon which it was modelled, it became known as Brighton-Le-Sands.
By 1900 there were pleasure grounds south of Bay Street, as well as a pony racetrack. Moorefields Racecourse was located at the current site of Moorefield Girls High School, at the intersection of Presidents Ave and Princes Highway, but ceased operation in 1915. For the first 20 years of the 20th century, a small boat ran a ferry service around Botany Bay, with an important stop at Brighton-Le-Sands. Extensive development of the northern area of the suburb occurred in the late 1920s and again in the 1950s, and by the 1980s Brighton-Le-Sands and its surrounding beachside suburbs have developed into what we see today.
Kurnell, on the eastern shores of Botany Bay to the south of Sydney, the suburb of is one of Australia's most historically significant locations. It was on the Kurnell Peninsula headland that James Cook came ashore and camped in April 1770 during his voyage of discovery into the Pacific. Kurnell is considered to be the birthplace of modern Australia, as it is the place where Captain James Cook landed on 29th April 1770, making first contact with the original inhabitants of the area, the Gweagal Aborigines whilst navigating his way up the East Coast of Australia on Endeavour.
Kurnell's small residential area is located to the north with a small group of shops in the village of Kurnell. The locality is dominated by an industrial area, which includes the Caltex Oil Refinery. Refined petrol is piped to the other side of Botany Bay in an underwater pipeline. The Kurnell Desalination Plant, provides much of the rest of Sydney with an alternative water supply.
The first buzz of an aircraft engine in the skies over Sydney occurred on 9th December 1909 when a Mr Colin Defries flew a British made flying machine to a height of 150m at Victoria Park, Camperdown. Little aeronautical activity was recorded in Australia before and during the First World War, but the aeroplane and the techniques of flying were developed considerably during the war when both sides used them to their advantage.
When Nigel Love brought an ex-war flying machine to Australia in 1918, he sought a suitable place to land and garage it. A friend recommended he look in the Botany area as it was close to Sydney yet far enough away so as to be fairly isolated from nosy sightseers. He ended up leasing 400 acres of open paddocks between the Botany Railway line and the Cooks River from the Kensington Race Club which were adjacent to the club's Ascot Racecourse. News of Love's acquisition spread and his grass airstrip at Mascot soon became widely used by a growing number of enthusiasts. It was here that Ross and Keith Smith, two pilots from South Australia, landed their Vickers Vimy after making the historic first flight between England and Australia.