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.

Cook and his crew stayed at Kurnell for a period of eight days. During their visit they collected botanical specimens, mapped the area and tried to make contact (unsuccessfully) with the indigenous population. When Cook reported back to England he said that the land was suitable for agriculture and was lightly wooded. It was at the recommendation of Joseph Banks, head botanist of the expedition, that led to Botany Bay being chosen as the site for a new convict settlement in New South Wales in 1788. On 20 September 2004, the Kurnell Peninsula Headland was included in the National Heritage List.

Triathlons are held in Kurnell annually. There are running tracks through Botany Bay National Park, as well as running along the beach and swimming in the netted area of Silver Beach. This location also offers fishing, sailing, scuba diving and windsurfing activities. There is a free shuttle bus service during whale watching season, departing from the parking area of the office of the National Park.

How to Get There: Illawarra line train to Cronulla. Bus No. 987 to Kurnell terminus; or by car. Kurnell is is 22 kilometres south of the Sydney central business district, in the Sutherland Shire along the east coast.

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Kamay Botany Bay National Park

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. Following walking tracks, you can explore the southern side around Kurnell, where in 1770, local Aboriginal people encountered the crew of the Endeavour, or the northern side at La Perouse, where French explorer Comte de Laperouse was last sighted in 1788. Walk the Burrawang track, whale watch from Cape Solander, picnic at Commemoration Flat or go diving at Bare Island.

Please note that the Kurnell precinct of Kamay Botany Bay National park is open at 7am and gates are locked and the park is closed after 7:30pm (August - May) and 5:30pm (June - July). The Burrawang walk to the foreshore is accessible for wheelchairs from the Kurnell visitor centre. There is a section that passes over the dunes that is not wheelchair accessible.

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.

Artist's impression of Cook's Landing

Cook's Landing Place: 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.

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.

Aboriginal Shell Middens: Shell middens (discarded shells at dining sites) exist on the shores of Botany Bay near where Lt. James Cook came ashore in 1770. Elsewhere in the Kurnell section of Kamay Botany Bay National Park are middens, burial sites and at least two engravings of fish and footprints.

Cape Baily

The Cape Baily coastline is a popular whale watching spot during the spring, providing great views along the coast and out to sea. Cape Baily is believed to be named after Joseph Charles Baily, French mineralogist who travelled on Le Naturaliste on Nicolas Baudin's voyage to New Holland 1800-04. He and fellow mineralogist Louis Depuch were the first geologically trained observers to reach Australia. He transferred to Le Geographe in Sydney in 1802. It is believed that eventually he left the expedition in Western Australia, but he has also been listed as one of the five scientists and artists to return to France out of the 23 the expedition had originally started with.

Cape Baily Coastal Walk: Take the Cape Baily Walking Track fromCook's Landing Place Historic Site for an easy walk along the coast from the southern heads of Botany Bay to Cape Solander, Cape Baily Lighthouse, Potter Point, Boat Harbour and Pimelwi Rocks. Rocky coastline through low scrub. Moderate walk. 12 km return trip.

Cape Baily Fortifications: Built in 1942 in association with the military installation at Cape Banks, these fortifications included a gun emplacement for a large 9-inch gun and a small number of associated buildings. Decommissioned after the World War II, the fort was destroyed and the remains buried. The fort was located near the Cape Baily light.

Cape Baily Light: First mooted in 1931 the light was eventually established in 1950. It was erected so north bound shipping could hug the coast and avoid the strong southerly currents further out to sea. Standing in Botany Bay National Park, the lighthouse looks across the coastal heath of Kurnell Peninsula. It is surrounded by significant Aboriginal sites, sandstone cliffs and gorges, and several important wetland areas. The unmanned light is a square concrete tower standing 180 feet above sea level. Its white flashing light is visible from 25km out to sea. The lighthouse uses a simple but effective mechanism for turning the gas light on at night and off in the daylight. It has a sun valve, an aluminum rod that acts in a similar fashion to a thermostatic switch. When the day cools, the rod contracts and turns on the light; when the sun warms the morning, the rod expands and turns it off. The light is fuelled from bottled gas.


Silver Beach

Silver Beach: Located on the eastern shore of Botany Bay, ia visit to Silver Beach is well worth the 8-km trip from Cronulla, in spite of its close proximity to the Kurnell oil refinery and airport runways across the bay. Ideal conditions for sailboarding. It was at Silver Beach that Leuit. James Cook had his first encounter with the local Aborigines. Silver Beach is lose to Cook's Landing Place, Botany Bay National Park, Kurnell shopping area. Prince Charles Parade, Kurnell.
Facilities: shark-proof swimming enclosure, boat ramp, catamaran club, small park with toilets, picnic area, open barbecues and car park.

Boat Harbour Beach: Boat Harbour is a tight-knit community of beachside shacks, built on Sydney's only privately owned beach. Of the 200 cabins that emerged here during the 1930s Great Depression, only 25 basic cabins remain, many of which have been considerably modernised. Boat Harbour, located on the north-eastern side of the Kurnell Peninsula, made it onto the map when it was allocated as the location of a 4WD park. Access can be gained via Captain Cook Drive. People are permitted to drive on the beach with their 4WDs. An entry fee is required and one may drive along the beach for at least two kilometres. Boat Harbour had a reputation as one of the most polluted beaches in Sydney but water quality improved considerably when the Cronulla Water Treatment plant was upgraded in 2001.

Around that time Boat Harbour became an Aquatic Reserve. The new reserve will place restrictions on fishing and bait collection. The area contains several habitats which include platforms, crevices, rock-pools, boulders and cobbles. Some of the wildlife includes a variety of birds, such as Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone and Red-necked Stint. From January to late March 2009, an American Golden Plover was present with a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers. This species is very rarely recorded in Australia.

Greenhills Beach: Located beyond the sandhills of the southern end of the Kurnell Peninsula. The beach may be accessed only by 4WD from Captain Cook Drive or on foot via the oceanside 10-km walking track between Kurnell and Cronulla. Greenhills is also known as North Wanda Beach. Limited surfing conditions as beach is protected from the swell by Merries Reef. Popular for fishing, jogging, walking, boat mooring. UBD Map 335 Ref F 6. South of Kurnell.

Towra Point Aquatic Reserve

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.

History of Kurnell

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. On Sir Joseph Banks' recommendation, Botany Bay was chosen by the British Government as a suitable site to establish a penal colony. Captain Arthur Phillip, placed in charge of the first fleet of convicts, arrived in H.M. Armed Tender Supply on 18 January 1788, before the rest of the fleet arrived. They began to clear land and dig wells, near modern day La Perouse, but a week later, Phillip decided to abandon the site and moved north to Sydney Cove at Port Jackson as Botany Bay did not live up to the glowing reports of the Endeavour expedition.

The first land grant of 700 acres (2.8 km2) was made in 1815, to Captain James Birnie, who established Alpha Farm. 'Alpha' is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and the name was thought appropriate for the first farm in the area. In 1821 John Connell Junior was also granted land here and used it for timber getting. His father purchased Alpha Farm from Birnie and by 1842 the Connell family's estate was over one thousand acres (4 km2) in size. In 1860, Alpha Farm was sold to Thomas Holt (1811-88), who owned most of the land that stretched from Sutherland to Cronulla. The area was known as Birniemere for a time and Holtmere was once a locality.

Before the 1920s, Kurnell was used by fisherman as schools of several varieties of fish inhabited the Botany Bay foreshore and the open sea. Fishermen built numerous huts and shacks which sheltered them for the weekend fishing. During the Great Depression, from the late 1920s, many severely affected low-income families took up residence there, in a shantytown.

The 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. It has been criticised on environmental grounds (greenhouse gases and impact of large amounts of deoxygenated brine), and was initially shelved, but was resumed after the March 2007 N.S.W. state elections. The water supply of Kurnell is supplemented with bore water.

Sand mining on the peninsula has depleted the area of much of the sand that was originally there. It has been said that 40 metre deep pools now form in the dunes. Pools are clearly visible in view from Google Earth. The remaining sand dune is used as a recreational off-road area for 4 wheel drives. The Cronulla sand dunes formed part of the location for the films Forty Thousand Horsemen, doubling as the Sinai Desert in the film, directed by Charles Chauvel, in 1940 and more recently, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Sand dunes are currently being replaced with domestic and industrial waste. The only road to Kurnell Peninsula is also flanked by a sewerage treatment plant.

A number of possibilities as to the origin of the name exist;
1. It is derived from the Aboriginal name for Kurnell peninsula: Kurdul
2. It is the English pronunciation of an Aboriginal word 'Collonel'
3. it came from the name of an early settler, John Connell, who acquired land here in 1821 for timber getting.

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  • Cairn commemorating Cook's landing in April 1770

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