The Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability and Coal Loader Cafe, Waverton
The Coal Loader is an historic venue in North Sydney, including a large green space, community garden, elevated platform with harbour views, bush walks and the Coal Loader Cafe.
The Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability is located on the Waverton peninsula. It’s a fascinating place to delve into Sydney’s past and also learn about its sustainable future.
Coal Loader History
The Aboriginal Cammeraygal people called the peninsula home for thousands of years. A large rock engraving of a whale survives at the entrance to the Coal Loader site, and there is further evidence of the indigenous community carved into rocks on the bush walks.
The Coal Loader opened in the early 1920s to serve as a transfer depot for coal to be moved from bulk carriers to smaller coal-fired vessels or to be distributed by road. The elevated platform which is now a place for the community to gather as well as the face of North Sydney’s sustainability plan, once housed a large coal stockpile.
Underneath the platform are a series of tunnels through which coal was transported into coal ‘skips’. The site was decommissioned in the early 1990s. After being dedicated a public open space in 1997, North Sydney Council took over management of the site in 2003, working with a grant from the Australian and NSW Governments to transform the space into the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability.
The site operated for over 70 years before being decommissioned. The Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability was opened in July 2011, and the Coal Loader platform opened in March 2018.
Today, the Coal Loader is a place for the community to gather and relax, dine, and learn about sustainable living practices.
Genia McCaffery Centre
The Genia McCaffery Centre, located inside the historic sandstone building onsite, is a place to visit and be inspired by sustainable concepts. Visitors can get information on how to “green up” their lives, participate in book swaps, and drop off batteries, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, toner cartridges, corks, soft plastics or mobile phones and their accessories for recycling.
Coal Loader Platform
The platform is one of Sydney’s largest publicly accessible green roof spaces. At one hectare in size (or seven Olympic swimming pools next to each other), the concrete and sandstone platform is a multipurpose recreational space displaying sustainable technology and community gardens.
Coal Loader Cottage Community Garden
Dotted around the Genia McCaffery Centre, cafe and platform are an array of community gardens and the native bush nursery. In total there are 40 raised garden beds, aquaponics facilities, fruit trees and herb planters. Visitors are welcome to admire the gardens and have a bit of a sniff at the produce as it grows – but must be a member of the community gardens to access any produce.
Aboriginal Bush Foods Garden
The ‘bush foods’ garden has a variety of edible and otherwise useful native plants from the local area.
While the chickens were on holiday when we visited, they usually live at the Coal Loader and visitors can learn how to keep their own chooks at home.
Coal Loader Cafe
The Coal Loader Cafe is currently open Wednesday to Sunday serving delicious light breakfast and brunch meals. Book a table or be prepared for a bit of a wait. The cafe has a kids’ menu and options for vegetarians.
Coal Loading Tunnels
Take the elevator or stairs down to the Coal Loader tunnels and explore tunnel 1, features the original coal feeder and cart, and tunnel 2, which takes visitors 160m through the dark to bushland of Balls Head.
Foreshore Park and Walks
Past the tunnels is the foreshore park with plenty of bush walks. You can also access the park by road if you won’t wish to go through the tunnel. The 2.8 hectare park features a native havens demonstration garden (habitat for fauna), wetlands, picnic areas, and foreshore walk. Along the walk are interpretive signs which talk about the site’s heritage and sustainable transformation. The walk to Balls Head Reserve traverses through the largest bushland remnant in North Sydney.
Digital Kids Trail
While our kid was easily entertained during our visit with scooting, exploring and bushwalking, families can also check out the free digital kids trail, which helps kids discover the Coal Loader’s history, sustainability features, native planting, food gardens, bats, chickens and more. Visit http://www.TheCoalLoader.com.au on your mobile device to begin.
The Coal Loader
2 Balls Head Dr, Waverton
More things to do in Sydney
Find a list of the best things to do in Sydney with kids.
Find things to do in Sydney for free.
Get a list of the best kid-friendly beaches in Sydney.
Find the best animal experiences in Sydney.
Chase waterfalls in Sydney.
More things to do on the Central Coast.
Visit the best kid-friendly restaurants in Sydney.
Find the best high teas in Sydney.
Things to do in the Southern Highlands.
Head to one of the best museums in Sydney.
Check out things to do in Sydney on a rainy day.
Enjoy one of the best ocean pools in Sydney.
First time visiting Sydney? Get tips for first time visitors to Sydney.
Cool down at one of these free water parks in Sydney.
Find the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Sydney.
Get a list of the best playgrounds in Sydney.
Find the best ice cream and gelato in Sydney
Things to do in the Blue Mountains.
Plan amazing NSW road trips.
Pick your own fruit: fruit picking Sydney.
The best things to do in Western Sydney and Parramatta with kids.
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!