Middle harbour is a remarkable waterway in that despite being only a few kilometers from Sydney's CBD there are still stretches in the upper reaches where you can walk along its banks, or sit quietly fishing, without experiencing any signs of civilization. It is one of those places around Sydney about which it could be said "you could be almost anywhere".
The bordering Garigal National park keeps much of upper middle harbours towering valley foreshores free from urban development and lush in natural bush land, barely changed from what Governor Philip would have experienced on the first first expedition into this valley from the newly founded colony on Sydney Cove in April 1788. At the time the harbour was home to many Aboriginal family groups, as is evident from the numerous, deeply bedded middens on the foreshores and carbon blackened cave roofs and rock carvings found in the upper escarpments.
Middle harbour differs from most other estuaries and rivers in that it is a flooded valley. Unlike the Hawkesbury, for example, whose path was cut by running water falling off a huge catchment area, the middle harbour valley simply filled up when sea levels rose at the end of the last ice age. In a way it is a lot like an impoundment in that it is very deep and the main features are the old creek bed and all the landform features that made up the original valley when it was dry. Because of the tiny catchment salinity levels are similar to that along the coast and at its deepest point it reaches 120ft . As a result Middle harbour offers a perfect environment for big fish and oceanic species like dophins and sharks that would otherwise find your classic river or estuary environment quite unsuitable. Most of the local rock carvings above Bantry bay feature the unnerving combination of very large sharks and very small bark canoes.
Manly and North Harbour
Manly's 1.5km beach, incorporating Manly, North Steyne & Queenscliff beaches, is a wide strip of clean sand with good surf. The plethora of hotels, restaurants, cafes, nightlife and other attractions beyond the beach are a bonus. Catch the ferry to Manly. The sport of surfing was introduced to Australia at Freshwater Beach in 1915.
One of the residential suburbs of Sydney's Lower North Shore, Cammeray is the northern neighbour of North Sydney and Neutral Bay. In spite of the encroachment of suburbia which now encircles it, Long Bay still retains much of its natural brauty, and the parks and reserves on its shores are popular places for family picnics and walks.
Bantry Bay was never developed as a suburb, no doubt because of its isolated location and being relatively difficult to access a centry ago when the suburbs around it were being subdivided and sold for housing. Because of its isolation from the rest of the city and its narrow entry, and steep sided valley, it was chosen as the site for a public explosives magazine in 1907.
Seaforth overlooks Middle Harbour and is linked south to Mosman by the Spit Bridge. To the west, Seaforth overlooks Sugarloaf Bay across to the suburbs of Northbridge, Castlecrag and Castle Cove. Garigal National Park sits on the northern border. There are only two spots for swimming at Seaforth, both of them quite small tiny ribbons of beach.
Clontarf is a picturesque residential suburb, 13 km north east of Sydney, which overlook The Spit and Middle Harbour on its north side. In 1868, an attempt was made to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh at Sandy Bay. The guest of honour at a summer picnic there, he was taken to hospital but made a quick recovery. The bullet fired at him at close range by an anti-Royalist Irishman.
Characterised by its lush and leafy roadsides, parks, and gardens, the suburbs of Roseville, Roseville Chase and East Roseville are named after orchardist George Wilson's stone cottage, Rosa Villa, which was demolished to make way for the Roseville railway station. It is the southern-most suburb in the Ku-ring-gai municipality.
One of the many picturesque spots on Middle Harbour upstream from Spit Bridge, 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. A number of walking tracks circle their shores.
Castlecrag is one of Sydney's suburban curios. The dreamchild of American architects Walter and Marion Burley Griffin, it was designed and created as an experiment in communal and community planning and living, and for "the liberal intellectual, Theosophical, Anthroposophical and Natural history views of its inhabitants".
The geographical feature which gives this locality its name is a sandbar which extends beyond Beauty Point on a bend on Middle Harbour prior to it joining the two other harbours which, combined, form Port Jackson. Sydney's most loved bushwalk - the Spit to Manly Walk - begins here. The view of The Spit and Spit Bridge is one of Sydney's finest suburban panoramas.
Middle Head is the large headland which faces Sydney Heads at the junction of Sydney Harbour and Middle Harbour. The point of Middle Head is riddled with a network of lookouts, gun placements, and ammunition stores, all interlinked by tunnels and passages. Most were constructed in 1871 and remained untouched until the second world war.
Situated on the road to Manly, Balgowlah has a number of places of interest, particularly around its Middle Harbour foreshore. These include lookouts with harbour views, Aboriginal rock art sites, isolated beaches and walking tracks. One of Sydney's best bushwalks - the Spit to Manly walking track - passes through Balgowlah.
The centre of a busy social scene with its high class restaurants and expensive yachts, Balmoral is very much the beach to be seen at on the North Shore. With a 1920s beachfront promenade a-la-Bondi featuring a bathers pavilion, boardwalk, bridges and rotunda, everything but ample parking is laid on for the beachgoer's pleasure.