Cape Banks and La Perouse

Cape Banks La Perouse

The walkway connecting Cape Banks to the small island off the coast

The La Perouse peninsula, which includes Cape Banks, is really an area of outstanding natural beauty. Here you will discover some of Australia’s history, beautiful beaches (including an unofficial nudie one!) and you can even go on a shipwreck hunt.

The area is also famous for its amazing views and walking trails with some excellent tracks in the area.

So read on to find out the amazing things to do in Cape Banks and La Perouse.

Cape Banks

Cape Banks is so breathtakingly beautiful.

Amazing sweeping vistas of the ragged coastline, walking trails with beautiful views and historic fortifications. And best of all there is a ‘island’ with a walkway and a shipwreck.

The New South Wales Golf Club is also located at Cape Banks – there is even a golf tee on Cape Banks Island.

The Cape Banks area can really only be accessed by foot. You would be able to manage some of it with a pram if you parked at the rifle range.

Fort Banks

Henry Head Fortifications

The graffitied Henry Head fortifications are sure to give you a chill

Fort Banks is a ruined World War II fortifications complex. The fort was built to protect the entrance to Botany Bay (along with the Bare Island Fort). There are also ruins of fortifications at nearby Henry Head.

The main artillery at Fort Banks was two disappearing guns. There were also anti-aircraft guns, torpedo launching facilities, barracks and an electricity generating plant. A hospital and plotting rooms were on site.

The fort was de-commissioned after World War II and all that remains today are its ruins.

As you enter the National Park gate you will come to the first part of the fortifications. I always find old fortifications both fascinating and really creepy. The ruins at Cape Banks are in disrepair and have more graffiti then other Sydney forts such as Middle Head (which is also a brilliant place to visit).

If you continue to walk straight ahead you will find further fortifications, or if you turn to your left you will come to the fire trail which will lead you to the shores of Cape Banks.

You can wander around the ruins at Cape Banks – even going in the open doors!

Cape Banks island and SS Minmi

The Bridge to Cape Banks

A bridge connects visitors to a small  island at Cape Banks

The Cape Banks island is not really an island but more a small rocky land mass that is now connected via a walkway to the mainland. This tiny ‘island’ is wild, stunningly beautiful and definitely worth a visit.

On the island you will find the remains of the shipwreck SS Minmi which was wrecked here in 1937. The Minmi was an Australian ship on its way from Melbourne to Newcastle. In heavy seas the ship was wrecked at around 10.15pm on the outside of Cape Banks. Today the remnants of the ship still stand as a testimony to this tragedy.

Today the largest section of the ship that remains is the stern section which sits on the inside of the island.

Scattered around the island you will also find signs of construction (ruins only) as well as beautiful wildflowers, wonderful views and it is also a popular whale watching spot. 

To get to the island, from the first lot of fortifications, head to the left down one of the two paths. You will come to the Cape Banks fire trail which will lead you straight to the island.

The shipwreck SS Minmi

You will find the SS Minmi on the inside of the island at Cape Bank

Walking Trails

The view from Cape Banks Walking Trail

The views from Cape Banks Walking Trail bring visitors from all over (image: National Parks)

One of the main attractions of Cape Banks is its amazing walks.

Cape Banks Walking Track is a 7km return walk that departs from La Perouse. This popular track will take visitors through the National Park, skirting around the golf course. The loop will take you past Congwong Beach, Henry Head and onto Cape Banks.

The other  popular walk is the Henry Head Walking Track. This 4.0km track departs from the La Perouse Museum or the carpark near the entry gates. The Henry Head Walking Trail and Cape Banks Trail link up.

The Coast Hospital Cemetery

Located to the north of the Cape Banks fortifications you will find an old cemetery. The cemetery includes a collection of graves from the old Prince Henry Hospital dating back to 1868.

You will find the cemetery along Cape Banks Road, on your way to the fortifications.

Finding Cape Banks

If you are driving, an easy way to see the area is to turn left from Anzac Parade into the Kamay Bay National Park, onto Henry Head Lane. Once at the entry to the golf course, you will then veer left onto Cape Banks Road. At the end of the Cape Banks Road you will come to a driving range and also the Westpact Lifesaver Helicopter Base. There is a small car park here. Once you have parked you will see a sign to Kamay Bay National Park, enter the park at the sign. The fortifications are ahead of you, and the trail to the island and shipwreck are to the left.

Alternatively you can walk to Cape Banks via the Henry Head Walking trail. This trail departs from La Perouse Museum or opposite Goorawahl Avenue.

Exploring La Perouse

The Barrack Tower La Perouse

The Barracks Tower dates back to the time of Governor Macquarie

After exploring Cape Banks, La Perouse provides an amazing way to relax and finish up your day. A beautiful old fort, interesting museum and beautiful beaches with snorkeling. What more could you ask for?

Bare Island Fort

Bare Island Fort

Tours of Bare Island Fort run each Sunday

Bare Island Fort is the most prominent fort remaining within the area. The fort was built in the early 1880s to protect Sydney. Over time it was further supported by fortifications at Henry Head and Cape Banks.

The island gets its name from Captain Cook who upon spotting the island in 1770 referred to it as a ‘small bare island’.

The fort was in operation until 1908. Since this time it has operated as a War Veterans Home and a museum. Today the island is accessible by guided tour only, but visitors are welcome to cross the bridge to the fort and marvel at this engineering feat.

Tours run each Sunday and need to be booked in advance via the National Parks website.

La Perouse Museum and memorial

La Perouse Museum

La Perouse Museum is currently undergoing a re-development process

The La Perouse Museum has recently changed hands from National Parks management to being managed by Randwick Council. It is currently undergoing a redevelopment process so look out for great things to come.

At the moment the museum is a little run down, but don’t let this put you off coming in for a wander. There are some really interesting displays and you’ll find some great historical information in the museum. There is also a small cafe that sells hot drinks and snacks. The front verandah is a great spot to sit and watch the world go by.

Don’t miss the memorial to La Perouse out the front, as well as the grave of a french priest who died when the La Perouse convoy were in the area in 1788.

Congwong Beach and Frenchmans Bay

Congwong Beach La Perouse

You can see straight across to Bare Island from Congwong Beach

After a day spent walking and wandering, surely the best way to end it is a swim and a snorkel at some of Sydney’s sweetest beaches.

Congwong Beach is located on the east side of La Perouse headland. It is a small secluded beach which has a bit of a walk in from the car-park. The  beach is only small, but offers a relaxed atmosphere and also some neat snorkeling spots. Among the rocky outcrops you may be lucky enough to see Eels, Sea Horses, fish, Cuttlefish and Sea Dragons. Sea Dragons, Moray Eels, Sea Horses, and Giant Cuttlefish.

Next door to Congwong Beach is Little Congwong Beach which is an unofficial nudist beach.

Fremnchmans Bay is on the western side. It is a popular spot with families as it is located next to a small park, is protected from the harbour, has easy access and is close to shops and the famous Boathouse restaurant.

Flat and peaceful Frenchmans Bay is great for families

Getting to La Perouse

La Perouse is located at the  end of Anzac Parade. It is easily accessed via car or bus. To get the latest bus information check 131500, Sydney’s transport website.

There is free car-parking available, but note that the area can get busy on weekends.

A bit about La Perouse

If you, like me, are a bit rusty on your history, here is a quick update on the importance of La Perouse.

The La Perouse area was originally inhabited by the Kameygal clan. Many descendents of this Aboriginal clan are still in the area today.

The first European to land at this spot was Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse, who landed here on 24 January 1788. La Perouse was a french explorer and navigator who had been at sea since 1785. La Perouse headed to shore, on his ships the Astrolabe and the Boussole, as he needed to replenish his supplies and rest his crew. The beach he landed on was later named Frenchmans Beach.

When La Perouse sailed into the bay he actually saw Captain Arthur Phillip and his convoy of convicts departing the bay. La Perouse was five days behind the English crew. Arthur Phillip dismissed La Perouse as a settlement site, claiming it was unsuitable. He left to find a new place to start the colony; a place which is now known as Sydney Cove.

La Perouse spent six weeks exploring the area. Departing the area on 10 March 1788. Tragically he and his crew were never heard from again. The ruins of his ships were discovered decades later, off the coast of what is now Vanuatu.

During the six-week stay, Father Receveur, a Franciscan chaplain, died and was buried at La Perouse.

Freedays Summary

  • Entry: Free
  • Toilets: Yes
  • Wheelchair friendly: Yes (in parts)
  • Free carparking: Yes
  • Free BBQ facilities: Yes (limited facilities near Frenchmans Bay)
  • Time to spend here: 1 hour to all day
  • Food available: Yes
  • Address: Anzac Road, La Perouse NSW 2036
  • Further details: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/la-perouse-area

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