Mar 302010

Obelisk Beach

One day in early March I hitched a ride with some friends across the Harbour Bridge to tiny Obelisk Beach on the Lower North Shore.  It’s my favorite beach in Sydney, but a bit hard to get to without a car, I always thought.

On this fine day, after a couple of hours of snoozing on the sand, I became restless.  My friends weren’t ready to go, so I decided to walk back to the city center.  Given that it had taken no less than forty-five minutes to drive to the beach, and that there’s a major body of water between the here and the there, my mates were, to say the least, skeptical.

But I had looked at the maps and had a plan.  I’d bushwalk along the harbour foreshore track in Sydney Harbour National Park to the Taronga Zoo Wharf then ride a Sydney Ferry to Circular Quay.  From there it’s only a ten or fifteen minute bus ride along Oxford Street to Surry Hills and the Governors.

Submariner Miners' Depot @ Chowder Bay

My route led along Chowder Bay Road, past the remains of the old George’s Head forts, to Ripples Cafe, in the historic Submariners’ Miners’ Depot, built about 1891 by the Royal Australian Navy, which needed to lay mines to protect the harbour.

Athol Hall

From there it’s only a few steps to the Clifton Gardens Beach.  At the far end of the beach the track climbs into a eucalyptus forest and winds its way around Taylor’s Bay.

He's Two Feet Long!

Once around that bay the track climbs onto Bradley’s Head  and past Athol Hall, built to house entertainments for the sailors.

A few final strides led to the fantastical main gate to the zoo and then down to the ferry wharf.  The ride across the harbour reeled off a spectacular series of world-class views.  We sailed past both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera house.

Tom Hatfield's View from the Zoo

The journey turned out to be a very happy-making rapid trip from remote forest to beehive city center.  The study in contrasts was both stimulating and reassuring – that Sydney can manage to preserve such lands so close to its center and in the face of intense development pressure carries a lesson for urbanites everywhere.

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