Come for the views or come for the water at Headland Park
It’s been on the to do list for a while and today I finally got to visit Headland Park – and I was not disappointed. It’s a cracker of a place offering something for everyone – scenic sights, bushwalks, lazy walks, swimming, views, food, history and lookouts.
Headland Park is actually a huge stretch of land that runs along Sydney Harbour in Mosman. It is is managed by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. The boundary of the park is a bit blurred with Cliftons Gardens (which is next to Chowder Bay) being owned by Mosman Council and Middle Head Fortifications being managed by NSW National Parks, so for the sake of this article I have included them all.
The best way to see the bulk of the area is to walk it, drive it or a bit of both. I decided to walk and drive, but please note it is easy to access all these points driving. So don’t be put off thinking that you need to walk everywhere.
So read on to find out how I got around during my day here and why I think you must visit this fabulous spot!
Walk from George’s Heights Oval to Chowder Bay and Clifton Gardens
Be teased by glimpses of the view ahead
Before the legs got lazy I decided to go for a walk.
I had previously chosen a starting spot, which was the lower car park at George’s Heights Oval at the end of Dominion Crescent. From here I headed off on a marked bushwalk and started to make my way down to Chowder Bay. The walk was pretty easy, a steady downhill decline, although there were stairs at certain points. It was very quiet (likely because it was mid-week).
Along the walk you will pass a small lookout area as well as an area that is owned by the Royal Australian Navy. The bushland is very beautiful and it is a bit exciting seeing glimpses of the water and Clifton Gardens through the foliage.
Once you reach the bottom of the hill (via a pretty steep driveway) you are at the very end of Chowder Bay Road! And Chowder Bay awaits.
If you wanted to drive here instead, just drive to the end of Chowder Bay Road. There is a carpark nearby.
Chowder Bay was used as a Submarine Mining Corps Base from the 1890’s. Today it is an ecliptic mix of historic buildings, modern restaurants and an amazing beach. As tempting as it is to rush off to Clifton Gardens and the water, take some time to wander around the old buildings, explore the pier and of course enjoy the views.
There is a small Discovery Centre which provides visitors with some great historical information on the area.
Interestingly the area gets its name from the whalers who made ‘chowder’ from the area’s seafood.
Enjoy the views and the history
After exploring the historic part of Chowder Bay I headed on over to the waters of Chowder Bay and Clifton Gardens. To get down to the water, wander pass the upper level restaurants and along and through the commercial buildings and down a stair case. Keep walking and heading downwards when you can….it feels slightly strange, but you will get there!
And once you are there it is amazing!!
I was lucky enough to be there on a weekday so it was delightfully quite, serene and peaceful. Even on an autumns day there were a few brave swimmers, there were people picnicking, fishing, playing basketball and a few just enjoying a day off.
The bay is beautiful and the gardens (although there aren’t any formal gardens) are perfect for a picnic. You’ll find an all access playground, basketball court, BBQ’s, picnic tables and lots of wide open green spaces.
There is a super cute cafe here (which is tucked into a former ammunition store) for those craving a coffee, or if you are flush with cash you can try Ripples at Chowder Bay or one of a few other restaurants in the area.
And best of all there is the most beautiful netted swimming area with a wrap around boardwalk and a pier. Sydney at its very best.
If you wanted to drive here, there is a paid carpark at Clifton Gardens (gets very busy on the weekend) or you could park at Chowder Bay and walk across.
The facilities at Clifton Gardens make it very popular on weekends
Bungaree Walkway from Chowder Bay to Georges Heights Lookout
It is a steep ascent up the Bungaree Walkway
After enjoying some time at Clifton Gardens I decided to head onwards and upwards. I headed back to Chowder Bay and took the Bungaree Walkway up to George’s Heights Lookout. To be honest this walk was a little bit steep. It was manageable (even in thongs!) but be warned it’s definitely not flat!
Once you exit Bungaree Walkway turn to the left then follow the signs to Georges Heights Lookout. And prepare for wow as this place is so amazing!!
First of all is the lookout. Built in 2007 this beautiful, well designed community space is great. Even on a quiet weekday there were a few people here enjoying the fantastic view and the sunshine.
Second up is that view. You can see right across to Centre Point Tower and Sydney Harbour.
Thirdly there are some pretty fascinating military fortifications here. Whilst you can’t enter any of the tunnels you can get pretty close to the remnants of these fortifications. The fortifications here, at Middle Head and at the Artists Precinct (see further info below) include concealed gun pits, underground tunnels, barracks and other military structures. The fortifications here are known as Georges Head Battery and date back to 1871.
Go for a walk through the lookout to fully appreciate it
Onto Middle Head
The view from the Inner Head Fortifications is incredible
Middle Head is about a 1.5km walk from George’s Heights Lookout so I decided to walk back to the car and drive to Middle Head. The walk back to my car was fairly easy up along Suakin Drive from the Lookout.
To get to Middle Head just follow Middle Head Road until you read the end! Unfortunately there is no free parking at Middle Head (but you could park up the road and walk down if you like). But you will only need around 1 hour to explore the area unless you are doing a bushwalk or heading to one of the (nudist) beaches – Cobblers Beach or Obelisk Beach.
I’ll be honest Middle Head is not what I was expecting. I knew there were some fortifications about, but didn’t really grasp how many there still are. Also the area is somewhat poorly signed and not a great deal of information about.
But don’t let first impressions put you off. It is so so interesting and I will admit a little spooky too. It was pretty deserted when I was there but I think on a weekend it would be much busier (so perhaps not as creepy).
If you walk straight ahead from the entry gate you will come to Outer Middle Head where the bulk of the fortifications are, or if you walk to the left you will come to Inner Middle Head where there are also some old fortifications. There is a short bushwalk that connects the two or you can walk across the grassed area between the two sites.
There are also some interesting historic buildings here worth checking out.
The views across to North and South Head are impressive
Last stop Artists Precinct Headland Park
Orb, by David Ball is pretty impressive at Headland Park
After wandering Middle Head for a bit I decided some R&R was in order. So I jumped back in the car and headed to the Artists Precinct at George’s Height.
The Artists Precinct is pretty cool. It’s like a little village for artists with walks, cafes, studios and some pretty amazing sculptures. There is some more fortifications here and also a BBQ and picnic area (although strangely no picnic tables).
It’s a great place to have a picnic or grab a coffee at the end of a long day.
You will find the Artists Precinct on Best Avenue.
The Artists Precinct is a mix of old and new
Top Tip – go on a tour
The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust run tours on various Sundays throughout the year. Tours are $10.00 per adult and take you through two sets of fortifications dating back to the 1870’s. Learn about the fortifications as well as go through a bushland walk and see some historic buildings.
Consult the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust website for full details.
Find out more about the history of this area
Headland Park, George’s Heights and Middle Head are such significant historical sites in Sydney. If you are interested in finding out more information about the history of this area, I recommend you consult the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust website or why not get onto one of their tours!
Don’t forget to consult the map!
If you’ve read a few of my posts you will know that I love maps and Visitors Centres.
There is no Visitors Centre in Headland Park that I found, but I was really impressed with the amount of information boards and paper maps that were around. If you don’t manage to pick up a map straight away you will come to one eventually, otherwise consult the online map and visitors guide.
Freedays Summary Headland Park
- Entry: Free
- Toilets: Yes
- Wheelchair friendly: Yes, in parts
- Free carparking: Yes, in parts
- Free BBQ facilities: Yes, at The Artists Precinct or Clifton Gardens
- Time to spend here: All day
- Food available: Yes, at Chowder Bay, The Artists Precinct or Clifton Gardens
- Address:Middle Head Peninsula, Middle Head Road Mosman NSW 2088
- Further details: www.harbourtrust.gov.au/en/see-and-do/visit/headland-park/georges-heights/