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Historical Sydney

Visiting Captain Cook’s Landing Place At Kamay Botany Bay National Park Kurnell

Visiting Captain Cooks Landing Kamay Botany Bay National Park Kurnell Sydney

Visiting Captain Cook’s Landing Place At Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Kurnell

Kamay Botany Bay National Park in Kurnell is the landing place of the HMS Endeavour, and place of first contact between the local Aboriginal people, Captain Cook and the ship’s crew.  

It is one of NSW’s most significant heritage sites, and was included in the National Heritage List in 2004. 

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

There are many reasons to visit Kamay Botany Bay National Park, from exploring the history of the peninsula to leisure activities. 

The Kurnell Visitor Centre is currently closed for renovations, but would usually be the best place to start a visit and learn about local Aboriginal culture and history, including encounters with the crew of HMS Endeavour in 1770.

Burrawang Walk

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

To understand the historical events that took place here, take the Burrawang Walk, a paved path that leads to several of the area’s historic sites, including Captain Cook’s Landing Place. 

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

The walk starts at the Kurnell Visitor Centre. It is a 1.2km loop and takes anywhere from 15 – 45min. A large section of this walk is paved and wheelchair-accessible, however the last section that leads to the new whale sculpture is not.

The Burrawang Walk tells the story of the first meeting of European and Aboriginal culture. During one section of the walk there is a a soundscape featuring Aboriginal language, children laughing and clap sticks.

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

The walk leads visitors past many of the historical sites on the peninsula, including the welcome wall, freshwater stream, the meeting place, Banks’ Memorial, Ferry Shelter Shed and Captain Cook’s Landing Place.

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

There are interpretive signs along the walk that explain the significance of the sites and perspective of both the Aboriginal tribes and European ship’s crew, including the first impressions both had, and the deep misunderstanding between the two cultures from the very start. 

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

In 1770, Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook, along with botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander and the crew of the HMS Endeavour, landed at Botany Bay’s Inscription Point. He and his crew stayed in the area for eight days. 

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Cook and Banks recommended Botany Bay as a suitable site for settlement, however upon inspection by Captain Arthur Phillip it was found unsuitable as it had no secure fresh water or suitable anchorage, resulting in the selection of Sydney Cove to set up a penal colony instead.

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

There were Aboriginal people of two different nations living in the area at the time – the Goorawal People and the Gweagal People. Their way of life, responses to the landing and consequences following the invasion have been included in the interpretive signs on display. There are several significant historical Aboriginal sites throughout Kamay Botany Bay National Park including middens and engravings.

Read about an Aboriginal perspective to the landing here.

Find an Aboriginal perspective on James Cook and educational material for school kids here.

250th anniversary and sculpture installation

2020 marked the 250th anniversary of the encounter between Aboriginal Australians and the crew the HMB Endeavour on 29 April 1770. Three large bronze sculptures of significance to the Gweagal Aboriginal People were installed along the walk to acknowledge the anniversary, designed and created by Aboriginal artists Julie Squires, Theresa Ardler and Alison Page.

The works include both Aboriginal and European viewpoints of the arrival of the Endeavour. 

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Julie Squires and Theresa Ardler’s work ‘Wi-Yanga and Gurung The Whales’ are based on Ardler’s painting on her Budbili, a possum skin cloak. “The story behind my Budbili is connected to the Sydney rock engravings of the mother humpback whale and her baby, out at La Perouse on the shores of Botany Bay. This engraving is a prominent landmark from my ancestors who carved the rock and continues to hold cultural and spiritual connection to our sea and country.”

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

A Rock Weave was also installed near the whales; a woven fishing net was hand made by Aboriginal Master Weaver Phyllis Stewart and cast into bronze by sculptor Julie Squires.

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

The ‘Nuwi/Canoes’ represent stringy bark canoes that the the Gweagal Clan traditionally fished from. “During their ‘first contact’ observations, both Cook and Banks recorded this practice,” explained Ardler.

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Alison Page with Nik Lachacjzak designed ‘Eyes of the Land and Water’. The work is an “abstraction of the ribs of the HMB Endeavour and the bones of the Gweagal totem the whale”. Working closely with researchers at the Gujaga Foundation and Gweagal artist, Shane Youngberry, Page and Lachacjzak developed cultural and historical content which was etched into each rib, including a description of the encounters at Kamay in 1770.

“The Eyes of the Land and the Sea’ is a story about discovery. Not the discovery of land by England, but of all Australians discovering our true history as we move together towards a reconciled Nation,” explained Page.

Read more about the mixed response to the anniversary commemoration here.

Whale watching

Kurnell is an excellent spot for whale watching between June and July. Drive from the visitor centre to the Cape Solander viewing platform to watch the whale migration.

Water activities

Inscription Point and Sutherland Point are popular spots for diving and snorkelling. 

Rock pools

Just past the whale sculpture are some incredible rock pools to explore. 

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Bush walks

Try the Banks-Solander track and Cape Baily track for a longer walk. There are plenty of native birds to be spotted.

Picnics

Commemoration Flat picnic area , near the Kurnell Visitor Centre, is a beautiful grassy spot, perfect for family gatherings.

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Bathrooms

There are brand new bathroom facilities available in the park.

Kurnell Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Kamay Botany Bay National Park
Cape Solander Dr, Kurnell NSW

Hours: 7am–7.30pm August to May. 7am–5.30pm June to July.
Park entry fees: $8 per vehicle per day (in the Kurnell area only). The park has coin-operated pay and display machines – please bring correct coins. The park also has credit card accepting payment facilities. There is also free street parking outside the park.
nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

Visiting Captain Cooks Landing Kamay Botany Bay National Park Kurnell Sydney

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Exploring the past at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks is a cutting-edge museum that brings Sydney’s past to life through a series of innovative and immersive experiences.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

Built in 1819 by convict labour under the commission of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the Hyde Park Barracks were originally designed as a place to house up to 600 male convicts. 

The Barracks, over time, have also been an  immigration depot, asylum, law courts, government offices hospital and mint. It is now a museum and cafe and one of 11 Australian convict sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

Hyde Park Barracks reopened in February 2020 after an $18 million renovation. The new experience at the Barracks allows visitors to authentically experience life in the past with a series of immersive activations and groundbreaking audio technology. 

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

Allow at leat 90 minutes to experience the full guided audio tour, which involves an audio device and attached headphones. There is very little written information around the Barracks, so the best way to enjoy the experience and take away as much as possible is by following the audio tour. 

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

The tour takes visitors around the various parts of the Barracks and gives a mixture of information, recreated sounds and stories of the people who found themselves living here for a time. 

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

There is no need to look for numbers on walls to press “play” in this tour – the clever technology senses when the visitor leaves one room and enters another so cuts off the section it is playing from one room and starts on the next as soon as it is entered. It makes for a seamless and easy experience.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

There are over 4000 original artefacts on display throughout the tour, from the 100,000 personal and precious fragments that were recovered from beneath the floorboards during the first renovation of the Barracks.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

These are items that had been left behind or stashed for safekeeping by convicts, women and court workers now tell a riveting story of life in the Barracks. As visitors walk through the audio tour, the stories of these artefacts become the voices of people, bringing their experiences to life in a sometimes confronting fashion that can’t be looked away from or ignored.

Hyde Park Barracks

The Aboriginal history of the barracks is also brought to light and life as part of the renovation, with the complete story of this piece of Australia’s history finally being told. 

Hyde Park Barracks

Coinciding with the reopening of the Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney Living Museums and the City of Sydney’s Art & About program are presenting untitled (maraong manaóuwi), a major site-specific installation by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones in the courtyard surrounding the central Barracks building.

This mesmerising installation looks at the symbols of the emu footprint and English broad arrow as a way of understanding history and cultural relations. There are over 2000 symbols covering the 2500sqm of the HYde Park Barracks courtyard, designed to be churned up and destroyed underfoot as visitors engage with it.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney
Family bathroom

The bathrooms have also been renovated and now visitors have access to brand-new bathrooms that include a large family room with change table and nursing chair.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney
Family bathroom.

The new disabled toilet includes a shower.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney
Disabled toilet.
Hyde Park Barracks Sydney
Disabled toilet.
Hyde Park Barracks Sydney
Disabled toilet.

Accessibility was an important part of the renovation, with the aim to make the new experience accessible to all people abilities.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

A new elevator was installed inside the three-floor Barracks central building, plus a series of ramps and courtyard matting that makes it easy for wheelchairs to traverse the gravel courtyard.

Hyde Park Barracks Sydney Hyde Park Barracks Sydney Hyde Park Barracks Sydney Hyde Park Barracks Sydney

Two additional audio tours are in development. One for families that gives a more kid-friendly version of the tour and one that provides an accessible tour through the experience.

 
 
Hyde Park Barracks
Queens Square, Macquarie Street Sydney
Phone: +61 2 8239 2288
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm
https://hydeparkbarracks.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/

Additional images thanks to Sydney Living Museums.
 

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NSW Rail Museum: Things To Do In Southwest Sydney

NSW Rail Museum: Things To Do In Greater Sydney

Bring your locomotive-loving kids to get up close to trains at the NSW Rail Museum in the historic town of Thirlmere. Since 1975 this little town has been home to a large collection of NSW’s railway heritage, including over 100 vehicles that move on a railway including locomotives, railroad cars and more.

NSW Rail Museum Australia

Thirlmere is approximately 90km from Sydney in its southwest region, a town built with the arrival of the Great Southern Railway in 1863 to 1867.

The NSW Rail Museum is divided into three sections:

NSW Rail Museum Australia

The Main Exhibition Building  
This is the indoor building where you’ll find plenty to learn about life on the railways, their purpose and development and information on their engineering and design. Kids will love the interactive elements in this building, such as the train play table, colouring in, crafts and train carriages that can be entered.

NSW Rail Museum Australia

We enjoyed looking at ​the Governor General’s Carriage, which looks like a palace on wheels, the Prison Van, even though it freaked out youngest member out a tad, the Steam Machine which kids can pretend to drive, and the mail van, which led to discussions about how mail was and is delivered.

NSW Rail Museum Australia

In this building you’ll also find Steam locomotive E18; built in 1866, this is the oldest train in the collection.

Worker’s Walk
Linking the Main Exhibition Building to the Great Train Hall, this is where you can learn about the jobs that keep the railways running.

NSW Rail Museum Australia

The Great Train Hall
Here you’ll find the biggest collection of “rolling stock” (which means anything that runs over railway tracks) in Australia.

​Keep an eye out for:

6040 Garratt: The heaviest and most powerful steam train to ever turn a wheel in Australia.

Steam locomotive 1905: The first train to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Rail Pay Bus: Used to transport employees’ wages, some carriages are able to be boarded.

Roundhouse
Take a look at the trains being restored and maintained inside the Roadhouse.

NSW Rail Museum Australia

Special Events
Several times a year, the NSW Rail Museum runs special events (check their page to see what’s next), such as their Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine, Annual Festival of Steam and Summer Heritage Train Rides.

NSW Rail Museum Australia NSW Rail Museum Australia NSW Rail Museum Australia NSW Rail Museum Australia NSW Rail Museum Australia NSW Rail Museum Australia NSW Rail Museum Australia NSW Rail Museum Australia

NSW Rail Museum
10 Barbour Road
Thirlmere NSW 2572
​Tel: 1300 11 55 99​
The NSW Rail Museum is open 7 days a week.
Hours: Open daily, Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat & Sun 9am-5pm
nswrailmuseum.com.au

More things to do in Sydney

Find a list of the best things to do in Sydney with kids here.

Find things to do in Sydney for free here.

Get a list of the best kid-friendly beaches in Sydney.

Find the best animal experiences in Sydney here.

Visit the best kid-friendly restaurants in Sydney here.

Find the best high teas in Sydney here.

Head to one of the best museums in Sydney here.

Check out things to do in Sydney on a rainy day here.

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First time visiting Sydney? Get tips for first time visitors to Sydney here.

Secret Sydney: Uncovering The Paddington Reservoir Gardens

The Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

If you didn’t know it was there, you would walk straight past this unique slice of Sydney history, situated on busy Oxford Street, Paddington. I have actually walked past the Paddington Reservoir Gardens hundreds of times myself and never noticed the signs or just looked down!

Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Paddington Reservoir Gardens is an award-winning location in Sydney’s east. It was completed in 1864, created as part of Sydney’s third water supply to contain water pumped from Lords Dam at Botany Bay.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

The reservoir operated between 1878 and 1899 when the Centennial Park Reservoir was commissioned. After it closed Paddington Reservoir was used by Sydney Water for storage, a garage and workshop. In 1934 the reservoir was sold to Paddington Municipal Council. The western chamber was leased for a service station while the eastern chamber was still occupied by the Water Board well into 1950s.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

After a roof collapse the reservoir was closed off and inaccessible until its regeneration project, opening in 2009 following major renovation and landscaping, which also  included the surrounding the Walter Read Reserve and John Thompson Reserve.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

The restoration project salvaged as much of the reservoir’s original framework and materials as possible, fusing them with contemporary and sustainable elements.

The garden contains wide boardwalks and green spaces free for the public to use. Pull up a deck chair or lie on the grass with a book. It’s a quiet spot in an otherwise very busy part of Sydney.

The Paddington Reservoir Gardens are now state heritage-listed.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

 

Paddington Reservoir Gardens
251-255 Oxford Street
Paddington NSW 2021

The gardens are accessible and entry is free. There is an elevator from the top that takes you directly down to the boardwalk. Bus routes 378, 382 and 380 stop nearby.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Travel Guide: Visiting UNESCO World Heritage Site Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Sydney’s history hides itself in plain sight. Scattered around the sparkling harbour and lush bush are pieces of a past that was built on the backs of convicts sent to the colonies to pay for their crimes committed far across the ocean.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

It’s easy to forget the past when you’re faced with the present and future. Sydney is a vibrant city renowned for its pristine beaches, foodie scene and wildlife – but scratch beneath the surface a little and you’ll find two hundred years worth of history ready to be explored by the next generation.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Cockatoo Island is one such place that is sitting right there in the middle of Sydney Harbour, rich with the past and full of tales to tell. Before the First Fleet arrived at our shores, the island was frequented by sulphur-crested cockatoos and the Eora people, Aboriginals from Sydney’s coastal region. They called the island Waremah and would have used it as a base to fish from, making their canoes from the bark of the red gum forests that once covered the island hill.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

In 1839 the Governor of the colony of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, chose Cockatoo Island as the site of a new penal establishment and put convicts to work building prison barracks, a military guardhouse and official residences – a rather less idyllic island life than the previous residents had enjoyed.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

In the 175 years that follow, the island is used as a jail for “the worst of the worst”, a graving dock, a site for a girls’ reformatory, and a major shipbuilding site.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

After the closure of the last ship dockyard in 1992 the island lay dormant until the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust restored the island and opened it to the public in 2007.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Since its reopening it has been used as a site for major films (see below for more details), events and art exhibitions, as well as a place for Sydney’s locals and visitors alike to discover the forgotten tales of its former residents.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

In 2010 Cockatoo Island, together with 10 other historic convict sites in Australia, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, ensuring its stories will be preserved for all future generations to learn from.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

A visit to Cockatoo Island is perfect for the whole family, for people of all ages and abilities. It can be as relaxing or active as the participants in your group want it to be. We visited with our very active five-year-old and have plenty of tips for those visiting with a similarly energetic party!

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Bring the scooter
The island has plenty of flat cement ground for kids to scoot everywhere on. While we were reading the fine details on the history of the island, the kid was scooting off a storm and having the time of her life. There was no complaining about tired legs or being bored, just one very happy scooting child.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Pick up a kids’ activity pack
Ask at the Visitor’s Centre when you get off the ferry for a free kids’ activity pack. It sends kids on a treasure hunt around the island in a quest to find various clues and complete activities that engage them in the history of the island. Love it when you can blend education with some fun.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Break for lunch
You’re free to bring your own picnic lunch and enjoy it on the island, but we really enjoyed our late breakfast from Societe Overboard, one of the two cafes on Cockatoo Island. Societe Overboard is right near the ferry terminal and serves breakfast plus lunch items (we ordered the Brekky Roll for $9.50 and the Euro Bruschetta for $16.50).

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

The second cafe is the Marina Café & Bar which is located just a short stroll through the Dogleg Tunnel from the main ferry wharf or through the Main Tunnel from the campground. Their menu offers pizza, nachos, toasted wraps and more, including vegetarian options.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Stay the night
While there is comfortable accommodation available in the gorgeous heritage housing, the most fun to be had is glamping overnight in a tent with a killer view! The Cockatoo Island staff set up the tent and bedding, even providing toiletries from Appelles Apothecary.
All glampers have access to hot showers and communal camp kitchen with ten BBQ areas, fridges, microwaves and a boiling water system.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Imagine life as a convict
The Convict Precinct on Cockatoo Island is a lesson in the harsh living conditions and deprivations endured in prison labour.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Convicts were put to work quarrying stone, building prison barracks, a military guardhouse, granary silos and official residences, forged their own prison bars and constructed the Fitzroy Dock with their bare hands, often waist deep in water and shackled with leg irons. It’s easy to imagine the despair faced by the convicts who lived in appalling conditions on the island when you see first hand the brutal life they endured.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Escape to the past down (kinda creepy) tunnels
There are two tunnels that cut through the middle of the island, Tunnel 1 and the Dogleg Tunnel. Both were built in 1915 to facilitate the movement of workers and materials from one side of the island to the other, and were later modified to become air-raid shelters during World War II. The Dogleg tunnel is seriously spooky as it has a giant kink in the middle (the “dogleg” for which it is named) so when you enter the 180m tunnel you can’t see where it ends.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Take in the view
Walk up the hill or steep stairs (your Fitbit will thank you for it later) to Biloela House for stunning views of Sydney Harbour.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

The sandstone house was built in 1841 and intended for the island’s Superintendent, hence the gorgeous location and building. If you have time (and patient children) go inside Biloela House to check out the Shipyard Stories exhibition.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Leave the kids in solitary confinement
I kid, I kid! Seriously though, a brief look into these cells where prisoners were kept as punishment will give you and the kids a very quick education in how bad it would have been to be a convict on the island.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Get a glimpse at Australia’s naval history
Cockatoo Island was also the site of one of Australia’s biggest shipyards that operated between 1857 and 1991. A walk through the yard will leave you in awe at the pure size and scale of the ships built here – and the cranes are always a favourite with the kids.

Cockatoo Island Chess

Play a game of chess
A life-size chessboard is set up near the ferry terminal for anyone to play – it’s the perfect way to teach young ones the rudiments of the game.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Spot movie filming locations
In 2008 X-Men Origins: Wolverine was filmed on Cockatoo Island. If you look carefully you’ll be able to see the remnants of the film set where the island was used as Stryker’s laboratory and a “mutant containment area.”

Cockatoo Island was also transformed into Japan’s most notorious Prisoner-Of-War camp Naoetsu during the 2013 filming of Angelina Jolie’s film, Unbroken.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney AustraliaCockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia
Want to know more about Cockatoo island? I highly suggest dropping by on Sunday March 26 to enjoy their open house event, a rare opportunity to take a sneak a peek inside the heritage houses and apartments.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Getting to Cockatoo Island 
Catch the F3 or F4 ferry directly to the island. Our big tip is to use the unlimited travel on public transport for $2.50 on a Sunday.

Learn more about visiting Cockatoo Island online.