Hidden Sydney: The lesser known viewing point

For those who like to take their views in a bit of isolation,

Sydney Harbour Bridge from Bradley’s Head

…there is a wonderful, lesser known walk alongside Sydney Harbour to tempt you.

The one time you can guarantee you will be crowded here is on 26th December each year (Boxing Day) at the beginning of the rigorous 600 mile Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race that fills the harbour with every type of marine vessel, as well as the competing yachts.

It is an unforgettable experience, but one that you will share with many others, no matter what vantage point you choose around the harbour on that day.

But on nearly every other day, here on this lesser known Sydney adventure, you have the view to yourself.

Sydney Opera House from Taronga Park Zoo ferry

This local’s secret walk can be reached by car from Bradley’s Head Road, Mosman, but why would you go by car, when part of the magic is to take the Taronga Park Zoo ferry from Sydney’s Circular Quay (pronounced KEY)?

The Zoo itself is a recommended attraction – but maybe on another day!

It’s a bit surreal to be taking this walk in the very early morning or at dusk and as you look across Sydney Harbour, hear lions roaring.

While your fellow ferry passengers either take the bus from the ferry jetty or walk up the hill to the Zoo, you will bear right on a small pathway that drops below the road level and leads you along the harbour edge, past the grand old dowager Atholl Hall – once a very grand mansion - with its café where you might want to collect an ice-cream for the walk.

Allow enough time for the peacefulness of just absorbing the views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the distance…

Sydney Harbour Bridge view from Bradley’s Head

… and of the harbour traffic, passenger liners, yachts, freighter ships, and the Manly Ferry and Hydrofoil.

Manly hydrofoil raised on its foils

The tripod foremast and fire control tower of the 1st Australian ship to be named HMAS Sydney (there have been five) sits on the point.

This first HMAS Sydney famously sunk the German naval ship Emden in 1914, later going down with all hands from damage suffered from the German warship.

Although no trace of HMAS Sydney or her crew was ever found, by contrast, most of the German sailors survived, were rescued, interrogated – and their stories not believed.

Instead, there were all sorts of conspiracy theories, later proven false by historians, to justify that it must have been something mysterious that caused the sea to swallow so many lives without trace.

HMAS Sydney wasn’t found until 66 years later, in 2008 – and its location finally confirmed the accuracy of the German accounts.

It is one of the more spectacular cases in Australian history of that observation my father used to make about the attitude of some people:

Don’t confuse me with facts

My mind is made up

The superstructure of HMAS Sydney was originally installed on the headland in 1934 as a memorial to the sailors of HMAS Sydney, but was later rededicated to the lives of all sailors lost at sea.

HMAS Sydney Memorial with foremast and fire control tower Sydney Harbour

It is a thoughtful and somehow very fitting place for such a memorial – with stunning views back to Sydney.

Sydney Harbour and Manly ferry from HMAS Sydney Memorial

Nearby is a stone block that was once part of the foundation of the early Sydney General Post Office, fondly known as the GPO.

When a new GPO was built, this was installed here to mark exactly one nautical mile from Fort Denison. It allowed an accurate speed measure for newly built ships on their sea trials.

Further along – almost hidden in the bush…

Gun emplacements at Bradley’s Head on Sydney Harbour

…are the gun emplacements…

Gun emplacements and trenches at Bradley’s Head on Sydney Harbour

… built to guard the inner harbour in the reign of Queen Victoria when the penal colony of New South Wales responded to the threat to their homeland from the Crimean War – and to a perceived threat therefore to the newly rich colony.

In the photo above you can see the carved date under “VR” (Victoria Regina – Victoria’s reign).

The locals were paid 10 shillings per stump for every stump they removed to clear the space so that the cannons themselves…

Cannons at Bradley’s Head on Sydney Harbour

…could be rolled down the hill to be installed on these gun carriages

Gun carriages Bradley’s Head on Sydney Harbour

…which were in turn mounted on circular rails.

Gun carriages on circular train Bradley’s Head on Sydney Harbour

There are three gun emplacements, as well as tunnels and a firing wall, and the jetty from which the garrison soldiers would have alighted.

Hidden Gun emplacements at Bradley’s Head on Sydney Harbour

The walk continues around the harbour and has isolated benches on which to sit and take in the views.

Here, the Manly Hydrofoil seemed so close.

Manly Hydrofoil ferry Sydney Harbour

It is one of those walks that tempts you onwards - you can swim at Clifton Gardens (it is within the Harbour Shark Netting) , a much loved locals’ picnic spot since it opened on Christmas Day 1863 - before heading back again by ferry around the Opera House.

Sydney Opera House from ferry

…to end a perfect day of exploring what locals know to be one of the best viewing places on Sydney Harbour’s north shore.

Seeing the crowds around the Sydney Opera House…

Sails of Sydney Opera House from ferry

…and thinking back on the day spent in solitude with my camera -surrounded by the bush on one side and the ever changing harbour on the other - I could but think of Henry David Thoreau’s statement:

I would rather sit on a pumpkin

and have it all to myself,

than be crowded on a velvet cushion

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