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Image credit: 'Cockatoo Island, Parramatta River' (illustration, 1842) by John Skinner Prout, National Library of Australia, Rex Nan Kivell Collection (NK4395/11).

Historical places

Our historic destinations on Sydney Harbour feature buildings, landmarks and other objects that will transport you to bygone eras.

Delve into the history of each of our protected places and discover why they have enduring significance for First Nations peoples, including their Traditional Custodians and Owners.

Chowder Bay / Gooree (Headland Park, Mosman)

Located on the Mosman shoreline, Chowder Bay is a place of enduring significance for the Borogegal people. The area played an important part in the defence of Sydney during the First World War. Chowder Bay was occupied by the military from the 1890s until 2000, when it was opened to the public.

Image credit: Chowder Bay and Clifton Gardens, Sydney, New South Wales ca. 1878-79, National library of Australia

Cockatoo Island / Wareamah (Sydney Harbour)

During the 60,000 years prior to European settlement, Cockatoo Island was a meeting place for Sydney’s First Nations peoples, who know it as Wareamah. From the mid-nineteenth century, it was reshaped for different uses. The island was the site of a convict gaol (1839-1869), a major shipbuilding and repair facility (1857 to 1991) and educational institutions for boys and girls (1871-1911).

Image credit: Aerial of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, 1944.


Georges Heights (Headland Park, Mosman)

The homeland of the Borogegal people, Georges Heights occupies a significant place in Australian history. The area held the first ‘friendly’ contact between Europeans and First Nations peoples. In the 200 years following colonisation, Georges Heights was occupied by military forces and in the First World War, played a crucial role in the defence of Sydney.

Image credit: 80 pounder RML gun at Georges Heights, circa 1890, William Vosper (photographer), State Library of NSW, FL1231925.

Macquarie Lightstation (Vaucluse)

Completed in 1818, Macquarie Lighthouse was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway and named for Lachlan Macquarie, the NSW Governor who commissioned it. Crumbling sandstone foundations led to the construction of a replacement lighthouse in 1883. Designed by James Barnet to closely resemble the original, this lighthouse continues to operate, ensuring the safe passage of vessels into Sydney Harbour.

Image credit: Macquarie Lighthouse, 1909 (Hurley Negative Collection) Frank Hurley, National Library of Australia

Former Marine Biological Station (Camp Cove, Watsons Bay)

Like Sydney Hotel and Katoomba’s Carrington Hotel, the Former Marine Biological Station was designed by colonial architect John Kirkpatrick. Built in 1881 as a place for Russian scientist Nikolai Nikoleavich de Miklouho-Maclay to study local marine life, the station was later acquired by the Australian Army to house officers.

Image credit: The Former Marine Biological Station at Camp Cove, State library of NSW, FL1228185

Middle Head / Gubbuh Gubbuh (Headland Park, Mosman)

A place of enduring significance for the Borogegal people, Middle Head once played an important role in the defence of Sydney. Gun emplacements were built in response to the Napoleonic Wars, and during World War II, barracks were constructed to house soldiers. After the war ended, Middle Head housed a training facility (ASOPA) for Australians serving the developing world.

Image credit: Photo: Big gun practice at Middle Head, Circa 1884 to 1917, Sydney NSW, Bryna Bamberry, National Museum of Australia, 1986.0117.6223

North Head Sanctuary (Manly)

North Head Sanctuary was the backdrop for some of the earliest interactions between First Nations people and Europeans, and the area was also used to quarantine people with deadly epidemic diseases. During the Second World War, North Head was one of the most heavily fortified sites in Australian history.

Image credit: The quarantine burial ground, Spring Cove, Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, George French Angas, 1847, National library of Australia.

Sub Base Platypus (North Sydney)

Located in Cammeraygal Country, Sub Base Platypus was most recently HMAS Platypus, an Australian Navy submarine base. The site has also hosted a gasworks, as well as workshops for manufacturing and maintaining torpedoes for use in the Second World War.

Image credit: Neutral Bay Gasworks viewed from Kurruba Wharf, c 1910 (City of Sydney Archives, Graeme Andrews Collection: 083425)

Woolwich Dock and Parklands (Hunters Hill)

Woolwich Dock is a maritime precinct steeped in history. Carved from 85,000 cubic meters of excavated sandstone, the dock was used during both World Wars to repair damaged vessels. Later, the Army used it as a base for their marine transport operations.

Image credit: Dry dock at Mort's Dock, Woolwich, Government Printing Office Archive, 1957, State Library of NSW, FL2112915

Helpful links

Learn more about our extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour with these links, resources and experiences.