04.08.2018 – Garden Island, Sydney, NSW

This week’s excursion from Penrith is to catch the ferry from Circular Quay and travel to Garden Island, to see the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre.

Garden Island is north of Potts Point, at Port Jackson. During WWII the island was joined to the shoreline by land reclamation work. Following the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, the island was used for growing vegetables, hence it’s name.

Do not believe any (out of date) internet listing that says to take the ferry to Watsons Bay to get to Garden Island. On the day of our visit, the ferry between Circular Quay and Double Bay was the only method of travel for members of the public to the island. The trip from Circular Quay to Double Bay takes about 17.minutes overall and it’s first stop at Garden Island takes only about 7.minutes. The ferry runs hourly.

On arrival we were greeted at the wharf by a representative of the RAN Heritage Centre who informed us where we could venture within the Public Access Precinct which is fee-free. The rest of Garden Island is restricted access being a Royal Australian Navy base.

As we were visiting on a Saturday, we had avoided the Sunday crush, when families come to visit and take advantage of the Opal card Sunday cap of $2.50 travel for the day. To our dismay, we soon found out that the Salthorse Café is only open during the week.

Without there being any other visitors, we were able to walk around at our leisure and look at everything without waiting for anyone. Two hours was enough time to have a good look around. We would allow longer if wanting to take time out for a picnic or have to deal with crowds.

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The bow of “HMAS Parramatta” – more impressive seen from the water.

Between the wharf and the Heritage Centre are a number of memorials.  The largest, the bow of the war-ship “HMAS Parramatta” has its stern in Queens Wharf Reserve, Parramatta and are memorials commemorating the service of all ships with “Parramatta” in their name after this, the original and the first ship built in 1910 for the Commonwealth Naval Forces (later the Royal Australian Navy).

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Next to the old artillery mount, the National Corvette Memorial.  In its base and next to a plaque, a glass time capsule showing items and uniforms from the Corvettes and servicemen.  Visible is a black handled pen knife “used by Able Seaman William Lamshed to carve a rudder out of the seats of the whaler HMAS Armidale, sunk off Timor on December 1, 1942. The rudder enabled the whaler, containing 29.survivors, to get within 150km of Darwin where they were rescued by HMAS Kalgoorlie.” 

History and stories abound in and around the Heritage Centre and several we read about in wonderment – a portion of one of three Japanese mini subs that entered Sydney Harbour in 1942 – the Queen Victoria figurehead from the 19th Century clipper ship “Windsor Castle” – so many more.  We tried the working periscope that went through the roof of the building and giving views of the harbour.

Outside through the adjacent gardens we wandered past the first grass tennis courts in Australia and 150.year old trees on our way up to the lookout on top of what was the Main Signal Building, from where movement of naval vessels in the harbour was once controlled.  From there are spectacular 360° views. It goes without saying now in NSW, that if we are going to see anything worthwhile, we are climbing hills or steps and once again…

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