Sydney’s Port Jackson is arguably the most beautiful harbour in the world. Stunning views of natural shores, and snapshots of the landmark features, are waiting here to be yours, on a paddle through its eastern reaches.
When Governor Arthur Phillip first ventured into Port Jackson in 1788, he was so impressed that he was stirred to write “we had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world”. More than 230 years later, people cruising in for the first time find it hard to disagree. Now more commonly referred to as Sydney Harbour, the beauty of glittering Port Jackson is enhanced by the instantly recognisable Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, and a wonderful fringe of publicly accessible parklands and white sandy beaches.
The best Sydney Harbour East paddling experiences are had by people who start at daybreak. In addition to the remarkable experience of watching the sun rise over a sleepy city, reduced traffic on the water means smoother safer paddling, and a lack of cars on the road makes for easy parking.
The trip starts from the beach in Robertson’s Park at Watsons Bay. The plan is to head south west for a lap of Rose Bay but it is worth taking a short detour to Camp Cove in the opposite direction. The indigenous Cadigal people used to spend time fishing and collecting shellfish here and the sandstone rocks were once a canvas for their rock art. It is also believed that this was the first place Europeans landed in Port Jackson. Governor Arthur Phillip’s party spent the night here before continuing on to what was to become the site of the first settlement at Sydney Cove. Naturists (as opposed to naturalists) will be interested to know that the small beach north of there is Lady Bay, one of the few places in Sydney where you can still legally get your gear off in public.
From Camp Cove, paddle south west to Bottle & Glass Point (see map) and on to Shark Bay and Nielsen Park. Nielsen Park is named after a NSW Minister for Lands called Neil Nielsen who played an important role in the creation of public reserves like this one around the harbour. It is now a star of the Sydney Harbour National Park and a popular venue for family picnics, weddings, and other events, offering plenty of shade and a swimming beach that is protected by a shark net in summer.
Continue south west to Shark Island, a leafy oasis in the mouth of Rose Bay that is another highlight of the Sydney Harbour National Park. Hook around its northern tip then head due south to Point Piper.
You will be treated to wonderful views of the Opera House and the Bridge but make sure not to get too distracted. This is an open water crossing in an area popular with sailing boats and, as strange as it seems, they have right of way over paddle craft.
It is amazing to consider that Rose Bay was the location of Sydney’s first international airport. In 1938 Qantas began a seaplane service which carried passengers from Rose Bay to London in 10 days instead of the 6 weeks it had previously taken by sea.
Location, location, location! It’s the most important factor in determining real estate value and Point Piper, Rose Bay, and Vaucluse are perfect illustrations of that. The opulence of the mansions that occupy these magical locations is quite simply jaw-dropping. Trace the shoreline back to Watsons Bay to see if there are any with your name on them.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.” Susan Rabin