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Bundeena, NSW

"Get away from it all" village on the shore of Port Hacking.

Bundeena is one of southern Sydney's best kept secrets. Located across Port Hacking from Cronulla it is a sleepy village on the edge of the Royal National Park which is both a commuter suburb (for people happy to take a ferry to work or to drive through the Royal National Park), an artistic centre, and a holiday and retirement destination. In many ways it is schizophrenic with houses along the waterfront being large and worth millions of dollars while in the suburb away from the water there are still simple fibro holiday shacks.


Bundeena is accessible by ferry or car. The ferry leaves Cronulla and crosses Port Hacking to Bundeena every hour. By car Bundeena is 56 km from Sydney via the Princes Highway and Audley Road, Sir Bertram Stevens Drive and Bundeena Drive.


Origin of Name

Bundeena is named after the Dharawal Aboriginal place name, said to mean either "daughter from the hills" or "noise like thunder"  (the sound of waves).


Things to See and Do

Bundeena Reserve and the Bundeena-Maianbar Heritage Walk
Only a few metres up the hill from the Bundeena Wharf is the beginning of what used to be the Bundeena-Maianbar Heritage Walk. There used to be excellent brochures titled the Bundeena-Maianbar Heritage Walk but, sadly, they no longer exist. However most of the excellent walk is still accessible.
The Bundeena Reserve, which was proclaimed in the 1940s, occupies the headland above the Bundeena ferry. It is easy to find the first six of the signposts on the trail. They provide information about the history, fauna and flora of the district.
The first signpost, at the foot of the stairs leading up to the headland, reads: "The plant in front of you with strappy leaves is Mat Rush. Clambering over the rock behind is the vine Common Silkpod. It has pink flowers in Spring and silky green pods in Summer and Autumn. The large trees in the reserve are mostly Smooth-barked Apple (angophoras) with smooth blue/grey/red trunks, and Bangalay, with brown, rough bark. At the top of the stone steps and to the right is the Blueberry Ash, often showing its blue berries. A Pearl Vine, with heart-shaped leaves twines on the ground below."
The second stopping point discusses the Aboriginal middens in the area. Other signs include information about local Aboriginal women, the problems with weeds and (6) the geology of the area - "Behind this sign you can see a spot where the ground has dropped away by about 3 m, leaving a flat ledge. This happened millions of years ago when parts of the ground collapsed following a volcanic eruption. Amazingly, all this probably took place hundreds of metres above where you are now standing. Erosion has since stripped back the sandstone to the present level."
Wildlife in the reserve includes echidnas, flying foxes, ringtail possums, brushtail possums, blue-tongued lizards, diamond pythons and red-bellied black snakes.
Although the detailed brochures for the Bundeena-Maianbar Heritage Walk are no longer available the map of the walk can still be downloaded at http://bundeenainfo.com/images/stories/maps/bundeena_heritage_walk_full.jpg. It is a good map of the area and provides directions for a hugely enjoyable walk through both Bundeena and Maianbar.

The Statue of Spring
The charming statue of "Spring" (just up the road from the wharf) is by Judit Shead (her maiden name was Englert Judit and she was born in Budapest, Hungary) who was a sculptor and artist who was married to the famous Australian artist Garry Shead. She came to Australia in 1983. Her obituary (she died in 2007) in the Sydney Morning Herald explains: "After visiting the artist Bruce Petty in Maianbar, Judit decided they should live in nearby Bundeena. Around 1991, in a moment of artistic despair, Garry said to his muse: "I've had it, Judit. I've come to the decision that I'm not meant to be an artist." Weight says Judit looked at him through 500 years of European art history and replied: "Garree, go back into zat stoodio and doon't coom back until you ave dun somzing vorthvile."
The D.H. Lawrence paintings followed. Shead had long been fascinated with the English writer and felt a parallel between the Lawrences, with German-born Frieda, and the Sheads, with Hungarian-born Judit. Judit's face was to appear in hundreds of Shead's works, in various guises from Frieda to the monarchy, to naked dancers, to a solitary European woman in the Australian bush, and artist's model.
Shead said that Judit turned his career around: "I learned more from her about how to put a picture together and the finer points of composition than I ever did at art school [or through] years of trying to work out my own ideas."
She was a perfectionist with a good critical eye. They sometimes fought over his work, over the colours, the composition or the drawing. She said in 2001: "I'm a challenger, an agent provocateur. In Europe we were trained to ask lots of questions in studios - 'Why on earth are you doing that?', 'Explain this' - and I just did that with Garry. Instead of saying, 'Oh, I love that picture, darling', I'll always say the truth. Then we argue our opinions, and if I've overstepped the line again and said something too blunt, I risk getting thrown out of the studio."
Her sculptures in bronze, stone, steel and wood stand in Australia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and in private collections around the world. They include Aspiration, a large stainless-steel work at Cronulla, a Walter Burley Griffin bust at Castlecrag, a sculpture of Doc Evatt, the former Labor Party leader, and public works at Ultimo and Mosman. Judit Shead also threw herself into community work around Bundeena and helped launch Village Noise, an independent local newspaper."

The Art Trail Map
At places around town (ask at the newsagency) there is an Art Trail Map - a single sheet with the addresses of over 22 studios for painters, potters, photographers and jewellers who all work in the area. Their studios are often open and, if not, there are phone numbers or check out http://www.arttrail.com.au which has detailed information.

Dharawal Engravings
There is a delightful walk along Jibbon Beach and along the low cliffs to Port Hacking Point. It starts at the eastern end of Neil Street and Eric Street and involves walking for a kilometre along Jibbon Beach and then through the scrubland on the Jibbon Loop Walk. The appeal of the walk is a combination of superb views at Point Hacking Point, dramatic cliff views across to Cronulla and the city (the CBD is on the horizon) and some fascinating Aboriginal rock platform carvings. The carvings are clearly signposted on the cliff walk, some 700 metres from the eastern end of Jibbon Beach and they are accessible from a new, and very impressive, viewing platform which identifies each of the engravings and provides its Dharawal name. The etchings depict killer whales (burriburri), stingrays (girawaa), turtles, kangaroos (buru) and a well-endowed conveyor of lore (Dharamulan). They were carved by the Dharawal people with each figure being pecked and rubbed using traditional tools to create a groove about 10mm deep and 20mm wide.
Given that most of the Aborigines had left the area nearly a century ago, and that just across the water the suburbs of modern Sydney can be seen, this is a powerful reminder that, long before Europeans arrived, the Dharawal Aborigines lived in this area, trading and moving from one freshwater source to another as local resources became temporarily depleted. They are thought to have lived in groups of 12-18 people which traded with each other. Archaeologist Les Bursill has suggested that between two and four of these groups lived in what is now Bundeena. They dined on shellfish, fish, wallabies, birds and plants.
Pause for a moment and reflect on a life which was ruled by fishing and catching crustaceans in the shallow rock pools. Imagine a life where the local Aborigines slept under the gum trees or in the caves, woke with the sunrise and, having caught their meals from seas rich with fish, spent most of the day sitting and talking and enjoying themselves. It must have been as close to paradise as anyone could reasonably imagine. Indeed, the many engravings, drawings, paintings, stencils, middens, grinding grooves and the remains of bush ovens, which are scattered about the entire area are taken as a sign that the Dharawal of this area lived a life of relative comfort and that, before white settlement, they congregated here in comparatively substantial numbers - the  figure of 900 for the Port Hacking area has been suggested. Just beyond Jibbon Beach there is a clearing with a number of metal silhouettes and a sign titled "The Arrival of the Dharawal" which tells the Dreaming story of the arrival of the local people.

There is a walking track from Bundeena to Maianbar which lies to the west of Bundeena. The track passes through the Royal National Park, crosses a bridge and reaches a reserve at the eastern end of Pacific Crescent where it is possible to see birdlife including superb blue wrens, eastern spinebills and New Holland honeyeaters. The nearby headland is known as Constable's Point Reserve. It was named after the state hangman Marmaduke Constable, who purchased 36 acres, including the headland, in 1859.
Fishermans Bay Wharf is one of five original finger wharves built at Maianbar between the 1940s and the 1960s to cope with the shifting sands of Deeban Spit. It is located at the end of Park Road.
There are fine views of Port Hacking and Sydney's CBD from the cleared land (functioning as a bushfire break) which is located a short distance from the end of Newcombe Street.

Deeban Spit
Off the shore at Maianbar is a large sand mass, evident at low tide, which is popular with holidaymakers, anglers and local swimmers. It is also home to thousands of soldier crabs. It is said that cattle once grazed on the vegetation that used to cover the sand flats. The spit is home to terns, black cormorants, white-faced herons, pelicans, ibis, pied oyster catchers, masked plovers, silver gulls, egrets and, in summer, migratory birds such as sand pipers and eastern curlews.

Yenabilli Point Fire Trail
Head north from the end of Newcombe Street at Maianbar and you will reach a marker where there is a rough track into the National Park which leads to the start of the Yenabilli Point Fire Trail. The Fire Trail leads past Aboriginal middens, an old engraving of initials (J.T.) in a rock, the foundations of an old hut and views over Fishermans Bay to Maianbar. At Yenabilli Point the dark shapes in the water to the west are ballast rocks discarded by ships entering Port Hacking in the late 19th century. They collected timber which had been transported down the Hacking River by barge from Audley and shellgrit used for making lime.


Other Attractions in the Area

The Coast Track
The Coast track is one of the great, relatively easy, walks in Australia. So close to Sydney and yet so timeless. The track starts at Bundeena, traverses the coastline for 26 km, and arrives at Otford and Stanwell Tops where there is one of Australia's greatest coastal vistas. The track passes Little Marley, Marley Beach, Wattamolla, Burning Palms, Era and Garie and while it can be done as a continuous one or two day trek it can also be broken into easier, shorter walks according to fitness and whether the walker is being collected at a certain point.
For example, the first section from Bundeena to Little Marley is a two hour walk. It is, according to a sign at the beginning of the track: "One of the oldest walking tracks in the Royal National Park, and definitely the most popular ... Visitors can enjoy either long or short bushwalks with outstanding views of the Pacific Ocean from the high sandstone cliffs. You can rest by serene creeks which cascade to the sea below, enjoy swimming or fishing at any of the small coves and beaches, or surf some of the finest waves on the New South Wales coast ... the northern half of the Coast Walk, extending from Bundeena to Garie, passes through coastal heath communities dominated by the Dwarf Apple. This small tree or shrub grows to around two metres high and is common on Hawkesbury Sandstone areas. In October and November, the dense creamy flowers attract a variety of animals including pygmy possums and honeyeaters. The creek systems and mangroves support fish, crustaceans and swamp wallabies. The Curra Moors is a swampy area where the New Holland Mouse, once thought to be extinct, can be found."
The walk follows the park's eastern cliff line and affords dramatic, panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean. This is unspoilt coastal terrain which is heady with wildflowers in winter and spring; is characterised by beautiful sandstone formations weathered by the influence of the ocean; and peaceful, isolated beaches nestled between high, rocky headlands. The sign at the head of the walk indicates that "Big Marley is 3.5 km, Garie 15 km, Little Marley 4.5 km, Otford 23.5 km, Wattamolla 8 km."
For more information check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0030. There is a commercial operation which offers guided walks. Check out http://www.lifesanadventure.com.au/guided-coastal-walk.

Coastal Walks from Bundeena
To Jibbon: An easy walk along clifftop rock platforms to the Aboriginal engravings and a swimming beach. Allow 90 minutes return.
To Big Marley: An easy walk to a beautiful beach. Big Marley is unsafe for swimming, but relax beside the tranquil lagoon behind the beach. Allow 2 hours return.
To Little Marley: A little way beyond Big Marley is the safe swimming beach of Little Marley. Allow 2.5 hours for return journey.
To Deer Pool: A good bush camping site with fresh water. Follow Little Marley fire trail signs until you reach the Deer Pool track. Allow 4 hours for the return journey.
To Wattamolla: An easy walk to the day visitor area, lagoon and beach of Wattamolla. Allow 6 hours for return journey.

Bushwalking in the Royal National Park
The park has walks ranging from a 500 m stroll to the Bungoona Lookout which is wheelchair friendly and takes about 30 minutes through to the Coast Track which is 26 km, medium difficulty and takes two days. A personal favourite, on the edge of the park, is the walk from the Bundeena ferry to Jibbon Point which involves walking along a wonderfully firm and sandy beach, passing some fascinating Aboriginal rock platform carvings of sea creatures (including a whale) and reaching a vantage point where the vista crosses the past two centuries with the timeless, rugged cliffs of the Royal National Park to the south and the southern suburbs of Sydney (particularly Cronulla) just across the waters to the north.
Bushwalking is always about more than just walking and the flora and fauna of the park is well worth detailed study. There are six major vegetation regions in the park.
(1) Rainforest
Across the park, particularly in the valleys of the Hacking River and in the valleys around Garie and Marley, there are impressive pockets of subtropical, warm temperate and coastal rainforest. These can be easily identified by the stands of cabbage tree palms. If you look carefully you will also see coachwood and sassafras, wombat berry, settler’s flax, wonga-wonga vines and shiny fan ferns.
(2) Coastal Heathlands
Around the beaches, along the cliffs and in the sand dunes the walker will find open heathland which is alive with wildflowers between July and November. This is also an area where such exotics as hairy spinifex (a dune grass which can withstand the severe southerlies which blow up the coast) guinea flower, coast rosemary brush as well as coastal tea-tree, banksias (Old Man Banksia, Silver Banksia and the red Heath Banksia among others), dwarf apple, scrub oak and she oak, Port Jackson mallee and finger hakea with its dense clusters of white flowers and its egg-shaped fruit that splits to release winged seeds, abound.
(3) Wet Eucalypt Forest
Further from the coast is an area characterised by red bloodwood (a eucalypt with an urn-shaped gumnut), gnarled and twisted scribbly gums, stands of blackbutt and Sydney blue gum.
(4) Grassy Woodlands
The grassy woodland areas include false sarsaparilla (its deep purple flowers add to the colour of the park between August and December), hairy spider flowers and the eggs and bacon shrubs (characterised by yellow flowers with red centres), hopbush, blady grass and a twining creeper with dark red flowers called dusky coral-pea. These areas also have distinctive grass trees (once known as 'blackboys') with their spear-like flower spikes and their leaves that spread out like a grass dress.
(5) Freshwater Wetlands
The park's freshwater swamps have stands of Christmas Bells with their red and yellow flowers (they appear between December-February), needle bush, bottlebrush, pink swamp-heath, coral-heath and paperbark shrub.
(6) Saltwater Wetlands
These lie mainly on the tidal zone at the edge of the Hacking River where mangroves and saltmarsh thrive in the mudflats. Check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkVegetation.aspx?id=N0030 for more details.

Parkland Fauna
The park very proudly claims to have recorded 43 native mammal species and twitchers have sighted 241 species of birds, 140 of which are resident. The coast is home to the silver gull, white-breasted sea-eagle, pied oystercatcher, the crested tern, the black cormorant, albatross and the white-faced heron. The coastal heathland also attracts honeyeaters and wattlebirds
In the forests and woodlands there are wedge-tailed eagles, rainbow lorikeets, black-shouldered kites, crimson rosellas, pee-wees, sulphur-crested cockatoos, and bronzewings. Satin bower-birds and superb lyrebirds inhabit the rainforests and around the swamps and lagoons the eastern whipbird, azure kingfisher, welcome swallow, New Holland honeyeater and black duck can be sighted.
Native mammals in the park include swamp wallabies, brushtail possums, red-necked pademelons, tiger quolls, black rats, bush-rats, New Holland mice, a range of gliders including the sugar glider, bandicoots, ringtail possums, dunnarts, lizards and goannas. There are also 40 species of reptiles including tiger snakes, brown snakes, death adders and red-bellied black snakes. Summer walkers should be sensibly careful. Check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkWildlife.aspx?id=N0030. The main NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website - http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0030 - describes in detail eleven walks in the park and provides maps, distances and levels of difficulty for each of the walks. In many instances the greatest challenge, because the paths are one-way, is arranging to be collected at the end of the walk. The park does not have bus services.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Dharawal Aboriginal people.

* The first Europeans known to have entered Port Hacking were English explorers Bass and Flinders, in 1796. The shallowness of the port and their inability to locate fresh water sources led them to disregard it as a potential site of settlement.

* It is said that by the end of the eighteenth century 'rum runners'  (producing sly grog for sale in Sydney) used the caves around Cabbage Tree Creek.

* The first official settler at Bundeena was Owen Byrne who was granted 400 acres in 1832.

* Maianbar developed from an 1841 land grant made out to George Newcombe.

* In 1863 George Simpson was granted 50 acres at Bonnie Vale, adjoining Bundeena. His son, William, built Simpson's Hotel on what is now Simpsons Bay in the 1870s.

* In 1879 Australia's first (and the world's second) national park, the Royal National Park to the immediate south of Bundeena, was declared.

* The wharf at Bundeena, originally known as Yarmouth Wharf, was built in 1890. The wharf was the subject of some controversy as it then served no practical purpose and it was built by the NSW Minister of Public Works who had an interest in a real estate company which planned to sell local land.

*  The Cronulla-Bundeena ferry began operating in 1915.

* The Bundeena wharf was rebuilt by the local council in 1920.

* The first store in the village did not open until the early 1930s

* A public school was not established until 1949

* Bundeena Road was not constructed until the 1950s.


Visitor Information

There is currently no visitor information in the village although the news agency does have Cartoscope maps of the area. The closest is the Audley Visitor Centre, Royal National Park, 2 Lady Carrington Drive, Audley, tel: (02) 9542 0648.



Bundeena has a small shopping area. It currently has three cafes.


Useful Websites

There is a website dedicated to Bundeena. Check out http://bundeenainfo.com.

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1 suggestion so far
  • Hi, sorry but the photo that you have labelled “buru”, is not an Aboriginal engraving, although position of the sign on the new viewing platform does appear to identify it as such. The real aboriginal engraving of a kangaroo (buru), is very close to it though, about a metre to the west of it.
    If you do a Google Images search on “jibbon rock engravings kangaroo”, the 6th image shows the sign, and the 16th image shows the correct matching engraving.

    Bruce Howell