Getting all hot and sweaty over a harbour!Oct 1, 2002 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line You haven't seen Sydney until you have seen it's many harbours and sub-harbours!
Just the word harbour, or if you prefer harbor, is enough to get many people into a lather of anxious anticipation. Add a name such as Sydney or SanFrancisco and watch the heart beat really rise!
However to a Sydneysider, which I was throughout the 1980s', the mere mention of Sydney Harbour doesn't have quite the same effect. The reason is, I believe, that the infamous Sydney Harbour is but one of four impressive natural harbours in the inner Sydney region. By inner Sydney I refer to a radius of about twenty five kilometres or about fourteen miles.
From North to south these harbours are The Hawkesbury or Pittwater, Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), Botany Bay and Port Hacking. A brief word or two on each is warranted. But first Port Jackson, better known as Sydney Harbour, was chosen as the location of downtown Sydney because it is the most sheltered but more importantly it had fresh running water about twelve kilometres or seven miles inland. In addition it has a relatively flat area of terrain making an ideal location for Australia's first white settlement. Unknown at that time is the fact that this is the precise spot that cooler southern seas meet warmer equatorial ones giving Sydney some of the most diverse seafood on the planet.
The Hawkesbury/Pittwater area is a huge natural harbour effectively providing the northern boundary to this fairly large "international" city of five million people. Very much tourism oriented it is also significant for oyster growing and the surrounding land has over eight hundred Aboriginal sites of importance. A great many people live around the shores, but it is much less populated than the central two harbours. Over eight hundred significant Aboriginal sites are in this area, most of the southern edge being protected as a national park known as Kuringai Chase. Yachts, launches and even seaplanes are a daily sight in this vast and idyllic waterway.
Port Jackson, otherwise known as Sydney Harbour is without doubt the best known of Sydney's harbours. Just about everything marine occurs daily on Sydney Harbour from the ferries, hydrofoils, passenger liners, military and freight shipping all the way down to rowing boats. Always a scene of high activity there are numerous locations to witness the passing parade that is essentially non stop, day and night. A relatively leisurely half hour taking the ferry from downtown (Circular Quay) to Manly seems almost a compulsory tourist activity as is taking at least a one way high speed hydrofoil trip. A hydrofoil is akin to riding a torpedo just above the water as they make the seven mile trip in twelve minutes. I thoroughly recommend both modes of transport and for preference would take the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay. That way you get a better appreciation of the harbour and downtown's location plus incredible vistas of the surrounding countryside and housing plus of course the Bridge, Opera House and other such paraphernalia.
Botany Bay is the next harbour heading south and was actually Captain Cook's first landing place in Australia. The name Botany was chosen in recognition of the wide variety of before unseen plants. Only about ten kilometres south of downtown Sydney, Botany Bay is almost completely encircled by suburbia except for an expanse being the location of Kurnell Oil Refinery on the south and Sydney's major international and domestic airport (Kingsford Smith) on it's northern shore. The two main runways encroach into the ten kilometre wide Botany Bay and a busy container ship terminal is in operation virtually non stop.
Heading a little further south we come to yet another natural harbour, Port Hacking. Even though this "harbor" is really a large estuary covering some eleven square kilometres (nearly seven square miles) it has a catchment area of over a hundred and eight square kilometres and is fed principally by the Hacking River and some small creeks. The entry is over twelve metres deep (near forty feet) but sandbars do exist.
Port Hacking is really an aquatic playground, heavily populated on it's northern side and distinctly unpopulated on the south - except for the absolutely beautiful town of Bundeena, one of our most favoured locations in all of Sydney. Bundeena is accessed either by boat from the north or via a road through the vast "Royal National Park", one of the first national parks so proclaimed in the world. Less rugged than Kuringai or even the Sydney Harbour area it is stunningly beautiful and many a winters Sunday would have us and our then about six year old twins exploring the southern beaches around Bundeena. We loved this area so much we seriously contemplated moving to Bundeena but decided against the extra hour each way travelling - but it was a close decision!
All of these magnificent waterways play a huge part in the general "feel" of Sydney - encroaching haphazardly as they do into the "Sydney Basin" means no one is ever far from water.
It is probably fair to say they create a modern town planners nightmare but an extensive network of bridges and freeways interconnects the areas probably in a surprisingly user friendly fashion for a city of this size.
While each has it's own peculiarities, all are well worth a visit and all are accessible by car or public transport. You haven't seen Sydney until you have seen it's many harbours and sub-harbours!
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