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Double Bay to South Head Walk

Sydney sightseeing

This walk covers some twelve kilometres, including the return from South Head to Watsons Bay, and will take about four hours. One can reach Double Bay by ferry, train to Edgecliff and then fifteen minutes walk, or bus no. 323, 324 or 325 from Circular Quay via King’s Cross. Double Bay is an up-market shopping and restaurant area and high class residential suburb, although it was originally intended as the site for the Botanical Garden.


To get just a taste of this area, walk ahead down Bay Street after alighting from the ferry until you reach Knox Street, where turn left. If you come by bus or on foot from Edgecliff, you will be travelling along New South Head Road. When you reach Bay Street, alight from the bus, if travelling by that means, and turn left into Bay Street and then right into Knox Street. This will lead you back into New South Head Road once more.


Turn left and follow the road as is curves right and passes Seven Shillings Beach, supposedly so named because that was the amount paid to the aborigines as compensation for its surrender. Redleaf Pool, with its landscaped gardens, is off to your left, but requires a short diversion. The road swings right again and you are in Rose Bay.


You can leave the road here and walk along the Esplanade above the beach. Rose Bay used to be a flying boat base and one of the last commercial flights in the world to be operated by flying boat used to take off from here for Lord Howe Island until the late 1970s, a perilous operation as the aircraft had to attain a speed of 150 km/hr in a bay crowded with pleasure boats.


This was also the starting point for the first commercial flights from Australia to England in 1938, when the journey took ten days and involved 29 stops, but was no cheaper than it is now. Rose Bay is still used for pleasure trips by small seaplanes. There is a regular service from here to Palm Beach, for example.


The seaplane base is at the far end of the beach, just beyond the ferry wharf. You will also see here many expensive yachts and launches, for Sydney’s most affluent citizens inhabit this area. After passing the seaplane base, return to New South Head Road and follow it as it climbs. At the summit is Kincoppal, formerly Rose Bay Convent built by French nuns of the Order of the Sacred Heart. There is a very good view from this point. Now bear left into Vaucluse Road. After a while you will come to Strickland House which, from the time of the Great War until 1989, was a women’s convalescent home. Now it is used for weddings and other functions and as a film location.


The entrance to Nielsen Park is on your left. This is a National Park area, popular for picnics. It also has a netted swimming enclosure in the sea at Shark Beach. The reason for the net is suggested by the name of the location. At the end of the park, turn left into Greycliffe Avenue, then immediately right into Coolong Road. As you meet Wentworth Road, you will see the entrance to Vaucluse House opposite. Parts of this house date from 1803 and the extensive gardens are also attractive. Turn left into Wentworth Road and then follow round into Fitzwilliam Road. Left into Parsley Road, and left again into Hopler Avenue, which will lead you into Parsley Bay Reserve. Walk through and exit onto The Crescent. Turn right, then left into Hopetoun Avenue, which follow until you return to the sea and Robertson Park. You are now at Watsons Bay.


Originally ships used to anchor here for the inspection of their papers. Now they just slow to take on board the harbour pilot. Walk along by the beach until you can go no further. Then walk up to Pacific Street and turn left along it until it comes to a dead end. From here you can descend and continue along Camp Cove beach, noting as you do so the plaque at Green Point to commemorate the landing of the First Fleet here in 1788. From the end of Camp Cove, it is a climb up to the point where you can have a fine and interesting view overlooking the Lady Bay nudist beach, Sydney’s only such beach. The track now continues to South Head, where there is another good view of the harbour entrance, and the Hornby Lighthouse.


The track goes round in a circle before rejoining itself for the return to Watsons Bay. If you still have energy, you can walk over to The Gap on the ocean side of this peninsula and get another fine view. It is only a matter of ten minutes from the ferry terminal. This spot has seen several shipwrecks, most notably that of the Dunbar on 20th August 1857, when the captain mistook The Gap for the entrance to the harbour, just north of this point at South Head, and ran his ship onto the rocks. 121 lives were lost, there being but a sole survivor.


The Dunbar Memorial Lookout now stands at the spot of the disaster. From Watsons Bay, one may return to the city by ferry or by bus 324 or 325, both of which services run via King’s Cross. In fact route 325 follows almost the whole of this walk, so at any time one may give up and return. However, if one does nothing else, the walk from Watsons Bay to South Head is worthwhile and takes only about an hour for a return trip undertaken in leisurely fashion.


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