4 kilometres north of the Sydney central business district, the residential suburb of Waverton occupies one of a number of peninsulas on Sydney s Lower North Shore. Enjoying stunning views of Sydney Harbour, Waverton has a village-like collection of shops, several restaurants and cafes around its railway station.
Flanked by Berrys Bay and Balls Bay, the Waverton peninsula is blessed with tracts of both virgin bushland and parkland, heritage-listed Aboriginal rock engravings as well as a number of iconic former industrial sites. These include the circa-1910 Balls Head coal loader and BP Refinery, both with heritage significance. Balls Head Reserve, the bushland peninsula, is a popular picnic destination especially when there are harbour fireworks. Its one-way road system also forms part of a favoured route for walkers and joggers. Waverton Park, on the banks of Berry's Bay with stunning views of Sydney Harbour, is another recreation focal point.
Click on or tap an attraction to read the description. Click or tap again to hide the description.
The land around Waverton was developed by grantees and business partners Alexander Berry and Edward Wollstonecraft, in the early 1800s. Firstly, they constructed a stone wharf, then a stone warehouse, and workers cottages and huts. Berry s overseer, W G Mathews, lived in the cottage on the site which consisted of only one room and a loft. Berry then leased the parcel of land leading to Balls Head for a short time as a coaling depot to shipping companies, P & O and General Steam Navigation Company, after which it was used for ship repairs, storage of ballast and even a distillery which operated out of a stone storehouse between 1872 and the 1880s and had connections to the Rag and Famish Hotel in the heart of North Sydney.
An historic Waverton building that still standing is the circa-1890 railway station, classified by the National Trust and built by local timber merchants, the Eaton brothers, whose yard was on the aptly named Sawmillers Reserve, bordering Berrys Bay at McMahons Point.Waverton was named in 1929 after the Waverton Estate of an early resident, Robert Old. The land once belonged to William Carr, who named it after an English village connected to his family.
HMAS Waterhen is located on the shores of Sydney Harbour at Waverton on a land area that was originally granted to Edward Wollstonecraft and passed to his business partner Alexander Berry in 1832. Today it owes its geography to the need in the 1930s for a graving dock facility for the RAN. The cliff which forms the back wall is a result of quarrying operations which saw stone removed from the Waverton site to Potts Point to form the Captain Cook Dock and the land bridge between Potts Point and Garden Island, which was actually a true island at that time.
With the advent of World War II, the site was filled and a number of temporary fibro buildings were constructed. The site was utilised as a Boom Defence Depot where they stored the booms (steel nets for underwater use to stop enemy submarines from entering the Harbour). It was a joint RAN/USN facility from 15 March 1943 to 30 June 1943, then was under RAN control from 1 July 1943.
After World War II the site reverted to a storage depot until HMAS Waterhen was commissioned on 5 December 1962 to serve as a support base for the six Ton Class Mine Sweepers, HMA Ships Teal, Ibis, Snipe, Gull, Hawk and Curlew, acquired from the Royal Navy in the 1960s. This was the first small ship base of this nature and was also home to the Mobile Clearance Diving Team. With a complement of 85 Officers and Sailors, the base had no accommodation, so the River class frigate HMAS Culgoa was relocated to the northern wharf and put into use as a barracks ship.
HMAS Waterhen was first commissioned in 1962, as the parent establishment for Australia s Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Force, Clearance Diving Team One and a variety of Support Craft. For many years, the base supported the Australian Mine Warfare and Patrol Boat Forces, serving as the home port for mine countermeasures vessels and both the Attack and the Fremantle Class patrol boats.
In the early 1990 2s Waterhen underwent an extensive redevelopment and modernisation program in which all facilities were rebuilt. This project delivered an establishment designed to fare well into the future. The Hand-Over Ceremony for the completion of the Modernisation Program was held 20 February 1997.
One of North Sydney's true hidden gems. As its name implies, this was once the site of a sawmill. Its operators, John W. Eaton Ltd timber merchants, established the harbourside mill in 1880. Eaton s had its own power house, two sawmills, engineers shop, joinery shop, a blacksmiths shop and its own wharf and crane to unload logs/load timber from smaller vessels. Remnants of the powerhouse have been retained in the park to retain a link to the park s past. Today, steps wind down to the water s edge for beautiful views of the harbour, Pyrmont and Balmain, and west to Balls Head Reserve. Sloping embankments planted with native vegetation give way to an open grassy foreshores suitable for picnics and informal play. The wreck of an old hopper barge sits just offshore in Berrys Bay. The park has access points on Munro, French and West Crescent Streets, and is either a 10 minute walk down Blues Point Road from North Sydney railway station, or a 10 minute walk up from the McMahons Point ferry wharf. Limited parking is available in surrounding streets.
The Anglo Persian Oil Company s occupation of what became known as the BP site dates from 1908 but it wasn t until 1923 that their first tank was installed. The tanks grew in number to 31 by the late 1960s and were a prominent feature of this part of the Harbour. The substantial stone store erected by Berry and Wollstonecraft was demolished to open the way for additional fuel storage tanks in the mid 1930s. The bund wall left standing contains the stones of the storehouse and is listed by the North Sydney Council as having high heritage significance. In the early 1950s additional tanks for storage were added in Unnecessary Road (a planned extension of Rose Street which is today Larkin Street) and adjacent properties purchased to provide accommodation for the staff.
The Commonwealth Oil Refineries took over the Anglo Persian Oil Company (now BP) and many locals still recall the large letters of COR in lights on top of the cliff face. The cliff face in the past was known as Gibralter and this is evidenced in historical maps of the area and relates to the character of the cliff face. The last tanks were dismantled in the mid 1990s. The outline of the tanks can still be seen, giving an impression of their size and bulk. The whole site has undergone a remediation process and is now a parkland.
Aboriginal Rock Engravings
North Sydney is rich in Aboriginal culture and history. The original occupants of this region, the Cammeraygals of the Kuringai Tribe, lived along the foreshores and in the surrounding bushland prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The landscape of Balls Head, Berry Island, Kirribilli, Cammeray and Cremorne is dotted with the cultural remains of the Cammeraygals and tells their story even though the people who once lived here were displaced many years ago.
It is the foreshore areas of Balls Head and Berry Island that have some of finest examples of Aboriginal cultural sites on the lower north shore. Large caves and rock shelters along waterways and trade routes were another popular location for local tribes and bands, and remnants of their occupation can still be found scattered throughout North Sydney today. Rock engravings such as the large one near the entrance to Balls Head are special places which had strong significance to the Cammeraygals and would have related to the Sydney Dreaming. There are other smaller engravings located around this site but they are covered by the roadway. They were surveyed as early as 1899.
The Aboriginal carvings in this pleasant and tranquil bushland reserve are the closest ones to the North Sydney and Sydney central business districts. As you enter the reserve, the outline of a 10m long whale-like creature can be seen carved into a rock on the left of the road leading into HMAS Waterhen. The engraving, which is fenced off, includes a man within the shape of the creature. Sadly, sections of nearby engravings were destroyed when the road was built back in the days when little thought was given to Aboriginal rock art and its significance in Sydney s cultural history.
Groups of smaller engravings, 6 shell middens, 2 rock shelters and axe grinding grooves are located near the waterline towards the eastern and western tips of the headland. Alongside the lookout at the eastern end of the car park is a rockpool used to collect drinking water with axe grinding grooves beside it. The lookout offers panoramic views up and down the harbour, taking in the opera House and Harbour Bridge, city skyline, Darling Harbour, Goat Island, the Balmain peninsular and the Parramatta River up to the Gladesville Bridge.
Joseph Bugler Playing Field contains Traces of Aboriginal hand stencils and engravings are located on the rocks and overhangs above and around the path leading up from the reserve to Larkin Street. As they have been badly eroded and defaced, the inexperienced rock art explorer may have difficulty finding them.
Balls Head Bushland Reserve is a treasured pocket of natural bushland on Sydney s Lower North Shore. It contains many Aboriginal sites including archaeological deposits/middens, art sites and rock engravings. It is thought that Balls Head Reserve was a site where men came to perform sacred corroborees to honour their ancestors of the Dreamtime.
Named after Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, Commander of the ship Supply in the First Fleet of 1788, Balls Head was the original foreshore land included in the large Wollstonecraft Estate, which remained largely undeveloped at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1912 the Quarantine Depot was established in Berrys Bay to service the boats operating to and from the Quarantine station at North Head. This is now the National Maritime Museum s working depot.
Vantage points in the reserve offer superlative views both up the Parramatta River towards Gladesville Bridge, across the water to Balmain and Darling Harbour, and downstream towards the Harbour Bridge and city skyline. Visitors can enjoy BBQ and pinic facilities and walking tracks around the headland.
Will Ashton Lookout is named in honour of the well-known artist and Waverton resident, Sir John William Ashton. Prior to being knighted in 1960, he received an OBE in 1941. Will Ashton began his art career when he studied art in his father s studio in Adelaide until 1899, at which time he travelled to Europe to paint and continue his studies. n 1906 he won the Wynne Prize for an Australian landscape (he also won this prize in 1930 and 1939). He was the Director of the Art Gallery of NSW from 1937 to 1944.
Balls Head Coal Loader
Constructed on the western edge of the Balls Head peninsula in 1917 to act as a steamship bunkering station, the Balls Head Coal Loader site was a significant Sydney Harbour industrial landmark. During its working life, the coal loader's gantry cranes and cable hopper cars unloaded and loaded coal onto the many ships, both passenger and commercial, that passed in and out of the Harbour. A freak wind storm damaged one of the gantry cranes beyond repair in November 1940, leaving only one crane in operation until the late 1950s.
The Loader ceased operations in October 1992, resulting in the dismantling of the site. In October 1992, the Balls Head Coal Loader ceased operations resulting in the dismantling of the site. Only the wharf, coal loading platform, tunnels and a few brick administrative buildings remain as evidence of its former operation.
The Coal Loader site been transformed by the North City Council, allowing access into the inner workings of this idustrial heritage site. At the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability, you can now explore one of the 960m tunnels from the historic coal loading system, and enjoy the walk through the tunnel to the bushland of Balls Head and beyond. Sensor lighting will turn on to guide you. The site has been landscaped with community gardens, native bush nursery, regenerated park lands and much more.
Waverton is serviced by trains on the North Shore railway line. Numerous bus services travel along Pacific Highway in the locality's north.
Waverton was named after the Waverton Estate of an early resident, Robert Old. It was named by a previous owner, William Carr, a solicitor, who purchased the property in 1850. The estate was named by him after a village in England where his family came from. The name was adopted for the locality in 1929. Though essentially a residential suburb, some industry has encroached on the landscape of Waverton. A sugar works was built on Oyster Cove in 1857. Its site was used in 1914 for a gasworks.