Middle Head Fortifications

The first fort at Middle Head was built in 1801 and the last batteries were constructed in 1942. The majority of the fortifications were built between 1870 and 1911. The site contains the works of several periods and technologies, which remain in place for review today. Historically it dates from the time when defence was first moved away from Sydney Cove and towards The Heads.[1]

There were three sets of fortifications built in Mosman and Middle Head in the 1870s, these were upgraded in the 1880s on the advice of British experts. These fortifications still exist and are now heritage listed, they are, the Lower Georges Heights Commanding Position, the Georges Head Battery and a smaller fort located on Bradleys Head, known as the Bradleys Head Fortification Complex.

The battery on Middle Head built in 1871 was designed by James Barnet, a colonial architect. The fort was built on a strategic location and received many additions until 1911. It formed part of a network of ‘outer harbour’ defences. They were designed to fire at enemy ships as they attempted entry through the Sydney Heads. The whole area is linked by an extensive network of underground tunnels, ancillary rooms, gunpowder magazine and a disappearing gun emplacement. The site has its own underground power room that is supported by iron columns. Rooms located below ground were used to train some of Australia’s first troops who were sent to Vietnam in ‘Code of Conduct’ courses, which were lessons in how to withstand torture and interrogation, by simulating prisoner of war conditions.[2]

In 1974 the Middle Head fortifications featured in the movie Stone.

In 1979 most of the area became national park and the military has moved on to more strategic locations. The army base on site which included the transport group and 30 Terminal Squadron, left Georges Height’s in 1997. The Headquarters Training Command section relocated to the Victoria Barracks in 2002.[3]

source Wikipedia

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

If you are a green thumb or just love gardens The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney is “not to be missed” and it’s free. You can easily venture into the gardens from the city via the Opera House (just follow the harbour foreshore) or enter one of various gates further up off Macquarie Street.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do it yourself, we can include a brief tour as part of our Essential Sydney Tour.

Established in 1816, it is the oldest botanic garden and scientific institution in Australia. It is home to an outstanding collection of plants from around the world with a focus on Australia and the South Pacific.

Number of plant species in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and Domain: 8,900

Number of plant specimens in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and Domain: 67,100

Number of trees in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and Domain: 3,964

Number of preserved plant specimens in Herbarium of NSW: approx. 1.2 million

Source: The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Chowder Bay

Chowder Bay, which as the name may suggest was named after whalers who made chowder from the bay’s seafood.

As an  option, we can visit Chowder Bay as part of our North Shore & Beaches Private tour, as it is quite close to Mosman and Middle Head fortifications.

It is nestled between the harbour and a steep expanse of bushland. Once a submarine base, there are many historic buildings or you can spend your time swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, or bushwalking. You can hire everything you need for a day on the water from Plunge Diving.

There are a few good options for coffee or something to eat. The most comprehensive is the well regarded Ripples Chowder Bay  which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There are a number of native wildlife you can look out for. Water dragons, blue-tongue lizards, ring-tailed possums, green tree snakes, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, burrawongs, pacific white face herons, and dollar birds.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

You can walk over it (BridgeClimbSydney), walk across it, walk up it (Pylon Lookout), walk under it and even catch a ferry beneath it. Each experience gives you a different perspective of this iconic Sydney structure. So I suggest you try as many as you can while you are here.

Featured in our North Shore & Beaches private tour “ The Coathanger” is perhaps Sydney’s most iconic structure (it fights it out with the Sydney Opera House).

It was opened in 1932, and holds a very important place in Sydney’s history as it opened up the north shore and northern beaches to development.

The roadway across the bridge is known as the Bradfield Highway named after Dr John Bradfield a controversial figure who is largely attributed with the construction of the bridge.

The bridge’s design is often said to be influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City.

A brief history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – Courtesy of Pylon Lookout website

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest (but not longest) steel arch bridge, and, in its beautiful harbour location, has become a renowned international symbol of Australia. A brief history follows:-

The contractors, under Director of Construction, Lawrence Ennis, set up two workshops at Milsons Point on the North Shore. Here, the steel (79% imported from England, 21% from Australian sources) was fabricated into girders etc.

The foundations for the four main bearings, which carry the full weight of the main span were dug to a depth of 12.2 metres and filled with special reinforced high-grade concrete laid in hexagonal formations.

The four impressive, decorative 89 metre high pylons are made of concrete, faced with granite, quarried near Moruya, where about 250 Australian, Scottish and Italian stonemasons and their families lived in a temporary settlement. Three ships were specifically built to carry the 18,000 cubic metres of cut, dressed and numbered granite blocks, 300km north to Sydney.

After the approach spans were erected, work began on the main arch. Two half-arches were built out progressively from each shore, each held back by 128 cables anchored underground through U-shaped tunnels. Steel members were fabricated in the workshops, placed onto barges, towed into position on the harbour and lifted up by two 580 tonne electrically operated creeper cranes, which erected the half-arches before them as they travelled forward.

Joining of the Arches
There was great excitement on 20 August 1930 after the arch was successfully joined at 10pm the night before. The steel decking was then hung from the arch and was all in place within nine months, being built from the centre outwards to save time moving the cranes.

As the project neared completion, the last of approximately six million Australian made rivets were driven through the deck on 21 January 1932. In February 1932 the Bridge was test loaded using up to 96 steam locomotives placed in various configurations.

Opening Celebrations
The official opening day on Saturday 19 March 1932 was a momentous occasion, drawing remarkable crowds (estimated between 300,000 and one million people) to the city and around the harbour foreshores. The NSW Premier, the Hon. John T. Lang, officially declared the Bridge open. However, the Premier enlivened proceedings when Captain Francis De Groot of the para-military group, the New Guard, slashed the ribbon prematurely with his sword, prior to the official cutting. The captain was arrested, the ribbon was tied together, and the ceremony went ahead.

The opening celebrations included a vast cavalcade of decorated floats, marching groups and bands proceeding through the city streets and across the deck in a pageant of surprising size and quality, considering the economic depression.

The celebrations continued with a gun-salute, a procession of passenger ships under the Bridge, a ‘venetian’ carnival, a fly-past, fireworks, sports carnivals and exhibitions. After the pageant the public was allowed to walk across the deck…an event not repeated until the 50th anniversary of the Bridge in 1982.

The Gap

Often known more for its dark place in Sydney’s history (many people have jumped to their death) “The Gap” as it is known, is located near South Head.

One of the great day trips is to catch a ferry to Watsons Bay and explore South Head, The Gap, Camp Cove, The Hornby Lighthouse and the ship wreck site of the Dunbar. Or you can take our Essential Sydney private tour and we will visit these attractions and much more.

Cremorne Point Reserve

This really is a beautiful public reserve that has the lot. Views, picnic spots,walking tracks, fishing, a swimming pool, a kids playground, gardens and a ferry stop (Cremorne Point).

For me the best part of Cremorne Point is the walking track on the Eastern side (the side looking back towards the heads not the city view side (although it is also fantastic).

Rose Bay – Vaucluse

Australia’s first International Airport was situated at (or more correctly) on Rose Bay.  Today it still serves as an airport but today only recreational seaplanes take off from this airport.

Lyne Park is home to Sydney Seaplanes and Catalina’s one of Sydney’s iconic fine dining restaurants. A place to see and be seen in glitzy Eastern suburbs.

Ballast Point Park

IMG_5799.JPGLocated a the Balmain peninsula this fascinating park has had a varied history.

The site was variously:
A sandstone quarry in the 1850s supplying ballast to the nearby shipyards at Balmain and Birchgrove;
1864-1928 – the location of the two storey marine villa, Menevia, home of Thomas Perkins and his family; and later a boarding house from 1893 to 1915.
From 1928, the first seaboard terminal for the Texas Company (Australia) Limited, later Caltex. Used as a fuel storage and major oil distribution point for Sydney. Caltex phased out its operations in the 1990’s.
Public land from 2002. Clearing of the infrastructure of tanks.

In 2009 it was opened to the public after a significant transformation from a contaminated industrial site to a beautiful public space right on the harbour.


Shelly Beach

This little beach, a short walk from the southern end of the world famous ” Manly beach” is a personal Sydney favourite.

Its takes only 20 minutes to walk along the coastal path through Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve past a lovely little cafe along the way at Fairy Bower and then on to Shelly Beach. Keep your eye out for the Eastern Water Dragons sunning themselves along the path.

There is a fantastic cafe/restaurant (“The Boathouse”) at Shelly Beach.

This is one of Sydney’s real local gems and not to be missed. A visit to Shelly Beach is included in our Essential Sydney and Harbour & Beaches Tours.IMG_2975