The beachside suburb of Queenscliff is located 16 kilometres north-east of the Sydney central business district. Queenscliff is famous amongst the Australian surf beaches for its "heavy" waves (bomboras) that break out at sea. The stories recounting how Dave Jackman dared to ride one in 1961 gave rise to big wave surfing in Australia.
Queenscliff beach is the northern section of the 1.5 km long strip of sand that is Manly Beach. UBD Map 198 Ref C 5 North Steyne, Manly.
Facilities: patrolled by lifesavers, changerooms, toilets, grassed areas.
Public transport: ferry to Manly. Walk along The Corso to the beach.
Queenscliff Rockpool: A 50 metre pool at the northern end of Manly Beach. The pool wall marks the southern tip of Warringah. We recently restored the rockpool with extensive improvements made to the pool area, widened ramp access from the beach, modifications to the pool stairs and a new ladder at the deep end.
Facilities: Parking, Bus Stop within 100m, Kiosk.
The sport of surfing was introduced to Australia here when Hawaiian surfer champ Duke Kahanamoku demonstrated the art of riding the waves. The waves are more suited to bodysurfing than board riding and there are a few rips to keep all on their toes. A rock pool offers sheltered swimming. A good alternative to the busier Manly beach to the south. UBD Map 198 Ref D 2. Cooloora Ave., Queenscliff. Facilities: patrolled by lifesavers, changerooms, toilets, grassed area, picnic and barbecue facilities, children's playground, kiosk
Public transport: ferry to Manly, bus No. 130, alight at Bridge Rd; or bus No. E65 from Wynyard, alight at Carrington Pde.
Freshwater Pool: Nestled within McKillop Park at the northern end of Freshwater is the gorgeous 50m Freshwater rock pool. Despite its name, which refers to the suburb where it is located, not its water, the pool is a chemical free, salt water ocean pool. These types of pools are common throughout Sydney s beaches, but few are as well patronised as this one.
The birth of Australian surfing: It wasn't until December 1914 that Australian surfing history is to have officially begun when the legendary Hawaiian Olympic champion, Duke Kahanamoku, introduced the sport of surfing to Australia on 23rd December 1914. He was invited to give a surfboard riding exhibition, and promptly shaped a surfboard out of a solid piece of Queensland Sugar Pine. A teenage girl, Isabella Letham, was plucked from a large crowd on the beach at Freshwater, and is officially recorded as the first Australian learning to surf and actually standing up riding waves. Australians had been bodyboarding on wooden boards, and bodysurfing, but not standing up. Letham was 15 at the time, but an accomplished swimmer and bodysurfer, and known as something of a tomboy. On the first few waves they paddled for she yelled for him to stop because it felt like going off a cliff. Being a gentleman Kahanamoku did stop, but then ignored her cries, went anyway, and hauled her up. They rode four waves that day and Letham was, as she later said "hooked for life". Letham went on to become an accomplished surfer, and to teach surfing and swimming. More about Isabella Letham >>
The board Duke Kahanamoku used in 1914 has been kept on display in the Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club since 1952. There is now a statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku on the headland at Freshwater above McKillop Park. The statue was sculpted by artist Barry Donohoo, one of the last works by the artist before his death.
After Duke left Australia, Claude West, "the Hawaiian's star pupil" became Australia's first surf champ and ruled as such from 1915 thru 1924. Surfing soon captured the imagination of locals and quickly built up a cult of devotees and proceeded to capture the imagination of sporting Australians. A whole way of life had developed around surfing and the search for the perfect wave. It soon became commonplace along coastal towns to find long-haired surfers cruising the more popular beaches in beaten-up old cars full of friends, surfboards and good humour. In the early sixties, surfing was then introduced to Europe by Australian Lifeguards.
Queenscliff was named in honour of Queen Victoria. Manly Lagoon was originally called Curl Curl Lagoon and the name Curl Curl appears to be the original Aboriginal name for the Queenscliff, Manly Vale area, Manly Creek was originally Curl Curl Creek and Queenscliff Headland was originally Curl Curl Headland. The first Crown grant of land in the area was to Thomas Bruin on 27 September 1815, and consisted of 50 acres (200,000 m2) directly opposite the beach. The Manly Land Company subdivided and named the property Freshwater Estate in December 1884. In time the beach shacks gave way to more permanent dwellings as the area was opened up to residential development. In 1886 W M Gordon surveyed the subdivision named Harbord Estate. The land, divided into two sections, north and south of Curl Curl Lagoon (now named Manly Lagoon) was offered for sale in August 1886.
Some time after the naming of Harbord Estate, a number of residents began to believe that the holiday image of Freshwater should be upgraded by a name change to Harbord. The change of name attracted much controversy and debate and occasionally became quite heated. When the first local district school was built in 1912, a petition was sent to the Minister of Education requesting it should be called Harbord Public School. The Minister declined and officially opened it Freshwater Public School. Pressure was then directed towards renaming the post office. The Postmaster-General finally accepted the views of those who wanted a residential image and Freshwater officially became Harbord on 1 September 1923. In 2003 the Harbord Chamber of Commerce submitted a request to Warringah Council to support an application to the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales to rename the suburb of Harbord to Freshwater. In public consultation 774 voted in favour and 161 voted against with the results recorded in council minutes on 8th March 2005. The suburb of Harbord was officially named Freshwater on 12 January 2008.
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Queenscliff (centre) and Freshwater (foreground) Beaches