The name refers to a small area encompassed by the north and south arms of Sugarloaf Bay which is between Crag and Castle Coves on Middle Harbour. The two coves were originally called Middle Cove.
The land around the Middle Harbour was late in being developed due to its isolation. The opening up of land for Walter Burley Griffin's model suburb of Castlecrag precipitated Middle Cove's development and became an alternative for people who liked the area but found Castlecrag's unique design too radical.
Before European settlement, this area was populated by the Aboriginal tribe Cammeraygal, which lends its name to the nearby suburb of Cammeray. Governor Phillip in a dispatch of 1790 reported: "About the north-west part of this harbour there is a tribe which is mentioned as being very powerful, either from their numbers or the abilities of their chief. This district is called Cammerra, the head of the tribe is named Cammerragal, by which name the men of that tribe are distinguished. Of these Bands, we know more about the Cammeraygals. They are recorded as being a very powerful people and by far the most numerous. They were also the most robust and muscular and had the extraordinary privilege of extracting a tooth from the natives of other Bands and Tribes inhabiting the sea-coast."
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Middle Cove Walking Track: A series of walking tracks follow the shoreline of Crag Cove and Middle Cove. The 4.5km western section, from Castle Cove to H.C. Press Park, is the North Arm Track (Castle Cove was once known as the North Arm of Sugarloaf Bay). It passes through a variety of natural vegetation including mangroves. The Foreshore Track around Crag Cove (formerly the South Arm) is the eastern section of the trail. Easy to Moderate walk.
How to Get There: take the Bus No. 203 from Wynyard station; Bus No. 275 from Chatswood station. Alight at Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag; or drive to Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag.
North Arm Track: the 4.5km western section, from Castle Cove to H.C. Press Park, is the North Arm Track (Castle Cove was once known as the North Arm of Sugarloaf Bay). It passes through a variety of natural vegetation including mangroves. It is possible to tackle a section of this track rather than the whole route. This track passes through some lovely harbourside bushland. This section of the track explores the North Arm of Sugarloaf Bay. Stormwater from Chatswood, Castle Cove and Middle Cove flows into this area. Rubbish is often visible from the bridge that allows you to cross over Scotts Creek.
From the bridge the track passes across sandy river flats before climbing onto the sandstone ridge above the mangroves. The track returns to the waters edge beside rich mangrove forest before climbing very steeply to North Arm Road.
The Grey Mangrove forms a forest on the mud flats of North Arm. The mangroves are vital in maintaining balanced estuarine life cycles, continually supplying nutrients which support a wide range of plants and animals such as micro-algae, prawns and crabs. It is now understood how important healthy mangrove forests are in supporting the young of many fish species.
Foreshore Track: the track which circles around Crag Cove (formerly the South Arm) is the eastern section of the trail. Easy to Moderate walk. As you walk along the river bank you will notice the extensive stands of Grey Mangroves (Avicennia marina). These plants have established along the river foreshore since the 1950's, due to sediment build-up from clearing and development. The mangroves now provide habitat for a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial animals.
Harold Reid Walking Trail: This circuit takes walkers through the waterfront bushland of Middle Harbour. Expect fantastic views, diverse plant communities, wildflowers, and lots of birds. Aborigines harvested the natural resources of the headland, feasting on the abundant shellfish, signs of this remains as middens. Other evidence of aboriginal habitation includes rock overhangs used as shelters and a fishtrap.
Butt Park, named after Francis Walter Butt, a Willoughby resident and Alderman 1937-41, is located on Eastern Valley Way. It is through this small reserve that Sugarloaf Creek passes over a natural rock ledge in a waterfall, and then under Eastern Valley Way and through a rainforest before entering Crag Cove. The waterfall and pool into which it pours is a natural feature, however the creek prior and after the falls and pond has been channelled underground. UBD Map 196 Ref D 10.
Downstream from Eastern Valley Way, the creek flows over another much larger falls. Here, the water cascades into a 15 metre high semi-circular rock overhang into a pool, and then passes over and around giant boulders on its way to Crag Cove, Sugarloaf Bay and on to Middle Harbour. This extremely picturesque falls is accessed by a rough walking track from a small reserve alongside 71 Sunnyside Crescent, Castlecrag.
One of the area's favourite reseves, Harold Reid Reserve is a large bushland reserve overlooking Sugarloaf Bay that brings many visitors to the area. It is named in honour of Harold J. Reid (1896-1984), a town clerk for the Municipality of Willoughby for over 50 years. The reserves includes lookouts, walking trails and picnic facilities. It has also been declared a protected area for wildlife, which includes goannas, sugar gliders, buff-banded rails, swamp wallabies, snakes and eastern spinebills.
Access is by a narrow one-way road encircling the headland developed by the architect Walter Burley Griffin and his development company, GSDA, in the late 1920s, which planned to develop the peninsula as a garden suburb similar to Castlecrag on the other side of Crag Cove. The access road features steep cuttings through the rock and dry-stone walls of large sandstone blocks.
Facilities: picnic tables, gas barbecues, lookout.
Public transport: train to Chatswood station. Bus No. 275 (occasional service). Alight at Reserve entrance in Rembrandt Drive.
When the Public Magazine Complex was established at Bantry Bay on the eastern shore of Middle Harbour in 1907, the State Government resumed 58 acres of land on the Castle Cove peninsula as a buffer zone (it sits opposite the entrance to Bantry Bay), and for that reason became known as Explosives Reserve. It remains undeveloped and is one of Sydney's untouched bushland areas. It comprises open woodland and ridge-top heathland. Mr Henry Christian Press developed picnic ground and a dance hall, called Palmer Pleasure Grounds, on the tip of the peninsula and a wharf on the southern shore around 1910. People came from all over the city for a day's outing there, especially on Sundays.
Two walking tracks begin near the second Explosives Reserves sign on Cammaray Road. One of the tracks is a circuit through the reserve, but views across Middle Harbour from its are partically hidden by trees. The second track follows Middle Harbour upsteam, but along the wooden escarpment. A third track begins at the end of Cammaray Road and leads down to the Sugarloaf Bay Castle Cove foreshores. The reserve has no facilities.
Public transport: train to Chatswood station. Bus No. 277 (no Sunday service), alight Cnr Neerim Rd and Padulla Place, walk down Cammeray Rd to park entrance.
The land on which this suburb stands was originally known as Little Sugar Loaf Peninsula. Castle Cove's first white resident was Henry Hastings Willis, a prominent member of the Parliament of New South Wales at the time. He named his castle-like home Innisfallen Castle, after a ruined abbey at Killarney, Ireland. It was built over 18 months from 1903-1905 using sandstone quarried on the estate. Each corner is graced by a solid stone circular turret and the exterior walls are two feet thick. The interior joinery is of cedar with two metre doorways and ceilings four metres high. The decoration has a strong Federation theme with many Australian wildflowers depicted in the plaster and stained glass. Situated on the ridge of Castle Cove, the building overlooks Sugarloaf Bay and is a landmark that can be seen from various places in the area, including Harold Reid Reserve. Other than Innisfallen Castle, the land in this area remained largely undeveloped until the 1950s. Walter Burley Griffin labelled the locality Castlecove when he set in motion plans to develop large tracts of land on Middle Harbour but only his Castlecrag development eventuated.
The area that now comprises the suburb of Middle Cove was originally known as the Big Sugarloaf Peninsula after the prominent hill - The Sugarloaf - overlooking the waters of Middle Harbour at the end of the peninsula. While landholdings on the peninsula were taken up from 1858, the rocky terrain was not attractive to settlers. A pioneer of the area was Chen Ah Teak, who purchased land there in 1882, erected a weatherboard cottage and commenced market gardening activities.
Middle Cove was the centre of three residential developments planned by Walter Burley Griffin in the 1920s. Due to financial difficulties caused by the Great Depression of the 1930s, his plans for Covecrag (Midddle Cove) and Castlecove were never implemented except for a few streets in Middle Cove only the suburb of Castlecrag eventuated. Middle Cove was developed as a residential suburb in 1954 under the name of Harbour Heights Estate. The name Middle Cove was gazetted by the Geographical Names Board in 1976.
take the Bus No. 203 from Wynyard station; Bus No. 275 from Chatswood station. Alight at Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag; or drive to Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag