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Woy Woy, NSW

Commuter belt area which was the beloved Aussie home of the late British comedian, Spike Milligan.

To the outsider Woy Woy, like Wyong and Gosford, is seen as part of the vast suburban sprawl that is the Central Coast. There's a simple reason for this: each place is a major stop on the electric train line that brings and takes commuters to and from Sydney. The challenge is to find the charm in the place and separate it from the hurly burly of malls, shopping centres, commuters and a buzz that has little time for the quieter appeal of the area. It is a dense conurbation which stretches from Umina in the south through Ettalong and Blackwell to Woy Woy Bay and Pelican Island in the north. Most of Woy Woy (along with Ettalong and Umina) is on a large peninsula, called simply "The Peninsula", which juts from the mainland. The western edge of the peninsula is divided off from the rest of the mainland by Woy Woy Inlet. It is one of the few flat areas of the Central Coast. The distance between the eastern edge of The Peninsula and the opposite shore of Brisbane Water is less than a kilometre and is spanned by The Rip Bridge. On the other side is Saratoga. St Huberts Island, Rileys Island and Pelican Island (the latter two are nature reserves) lie between the two shores just north of the bridge. At the southern end of The Peninsula are Mt Ettalong, Pearl Beach and Patonga.


Woy Woy is located 82 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Motorway and Woy Woy Road which runs along the ridge above the town.


Origin of Name

The words 'Woy Woy' reputedly come from the language of the Guringgai (or Kuringgai) First Nations people. The expression is said to mean 'deep water' or 'big lagoon' - a probable reference to Brisbane Water.


Things to See and Do

Cruises from Woy Woy
Starship Cruises offer cruises of Brisbane Water and Broken Bay on the MV Lady Kendall from Woy Woy public wharf. Built in 1901 the MV Lady Kendall is reputedly the oldest working vessel in Australia. The 2.5 hour cruises depart Woy Woy Wharf at 10.40 am Saturday to Wednesday, contact (02) 4323 1655. Check out http://www.starshipcruises.com.au for prices and additional information. Beyond the public wharf is Fisherman's Wharf where it is possible to throw a line into the tidal waters and catch flathead, whiting, bream and jewfish.

Picnic Areas Around The Water
There are formal gardens in War Memorial Park on The Boulevard near the Woy Woy Public Wharf and beyond the Fishermans Wharf (where you can get fish and chips), off Brickwharf Road, there are public baths, which are tidal, and parks where it is possible to go for a pleasant stroll beside the water or enjoy a picnic.

Spike Milligan's Home
Located at 393 Orange Grove Road, Blackwall (it is a suburb of great Woy Woy) this is the home that was bought by Spike Milligan's parents in the 1950s (it is a classic Australian suburban home of the era) and lived in until Spike's mother died in and it was subsequently sold in 2008. At the time the Daily Telegraph reported: "The cottage, on Blackwall's Orange Grove Rd on the Central Coast, was bought by Milligan's parents Florence and Leo after they moved from England to Australia in the 1950s.
The house is a beautifully preserved time capsule of the period, from the classic kitchen - carpeted like the rest of the house with brown patterned flooring - the lino bathroom and the dominance of striped wallpaper.
Although Milligan's comic career took him to all ends of the Earth, his nephew Michael Milligan said Milligan would often call the cottage home for months on end while he took a breather from his global comic career.
"I think my uncle missed his father a lot after he died, so Uncle Spike would become sentimental when coming back home," Michael said yesterday.
"When he came home the house was almost like a shrine for (his father). Although I do know that he and my grandmother were both quite strong characters, so when Uncle Spike came home there were times when they would almost drive one another crazy and he would be seeking alternate accommodation."
Milligan used the wood-panelled study at the rear of the house to pen three of his bestselling books.
Michael said he was certain Puckoon and Hitler, My Part In His Downfall were written in the cottage, and it was believed Silly Verse For Kids may have been the third.
"They were typed out on grandpa's old typewriter and I always remember seeing old manuscripts and notes around the place," Michael said." It has obviously changed over the time since it has been resold. The charm - bush behind and views of Brisbane Water - still remain

Blackwall Mountain Lookout
If you want to experience outstanding views over Ettalong and out through Broken Bay towards Lion Island and Palm Beach the view from the Blackwall Mountain Lookout is worth the effort. Located off Blackwall Road the lookout is accessed by turning into Bayview Crescent. When you can go no further you need to walk up to the water tank and then onto a path clearly indicating the route to the lookout. There is an excellent view to the south and across Brisbane Water to the shoreline of Wagstaffe. Less attractive, but no less important, are the views over the dense suburbia of Woy Woy.

South of Ettalong  is the suburb of Umina. Umina is said to mean "repose". The suburb was established as a holiday resort town in 1917 with the sale of a thousand allotments. Shortly afterwards a bus service connected it to Woy Woy railway station.
The journey cost six pence and took 15 minutes.


Other Attractions in the Area

Bouddi National Park
The Bouddi National Park covers over 1500 ha and is located on the other side of Brisbane Water, just 8 km from Woy Woy via Maitland Bay Drive, Empire Bay Drive and Wards Hill Road. It is the northern part of the Sydney Geological Basin and, at certain points, offers such an amazing panorama that visitors and walkers can see Lion Island and Pittwater in the foreground and, on the horizon, the high rise of Sydney's central business district. The area is known for its cliff top walks, beautiful and peaceful beaches and a rich Aboriginal heritage. To the visitor it offers fishing (although a marine extension has been declared from Bombi Point to Gerrin Point within which all marine life is protected), surfing, sunbathing, swimming, excellent bushwalks, panoramic lookouts, and beautiful, tranquil, secluded bays and beaches backed by wet sclerophyll forest, grasslands, swamps, heathlands and densely-canopied rainforests. The park is home to gliders, possums, echidnae, bandicoots, bush rats, marsupial mice, owls, scrub turkeys, lyrebirds, bowerbirds and white-breasted sea eagles.
There are large and ancient sand dunes (90-100 m above sea-level) at Bombi Point (known to Captain Cook as Third Point) and Mourawaring Moors (Second Point), in the northern section of the park. There are camping and picnic areas at Little Beach, Putty Beach and Tallow Beach. Bookings can be made on (02) 4320 4203. There is an excellent brochure, complete with a detailed map, which can be downloaded as a PDF from http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Bouddi-National-Park/Visitor-Info.

Bulgandry Aboriginal Engraving Site and Staples Lookout
It is poorly signposted (the sign says Brisbane Water National Park in large letters and below, in very small letters, are Bulgandry Aboriginal Engraving Site) but the effort is worthwhile. These are some of the most impressive Aboriginal engravings in the greater Sydney area. To access them turn off the Pacific Highway heading towards Gosford and then turn into Woy Woy Road. Exactly 2.7 km along the road towards Woy Woy is a sign to the carpark for the Bulgandry Aboriginal Engravings site. It is a short walk along a path to the flat rock surface. A pathway has been constructed around the circumference of the site. There are good information boards which explain what is known of the Guringgai and the etchings. The figures are of men, women, marine life, kangaroos and canoes. It is not known to what extent they form a narrative. They probably started as a charcoal or scratched outline that was then made permanent by 'pecking' holes along the outline with a pointed stone with the area between the holes later rubbed away. Erosion has impacted on the clarity of the figures which are sometimes indistinct. However the information boards are helpful. The engravings are clearest at dawn or dusk or after rain.
Another 2 km south, on the road to Woy Woy, is Staples Lookout, on the left, which offers the best panoramic view eastwards towards Woy Woy Bay. The Tommos Loop Trail joins the road at two points.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the First Nations group called the Guringgai (or Kuringgai).

* Governor Phillip and a party of officers and seamen entered Broken Bay in a whaleboat in 1788, about a month after establishing the settlement at Sydney Cove. They passed Lion Island at the mouth of Brisbane Water and sheltered from heavy rains behind the rocky headland of Green Point. Phillip observed 'the land is much higher than at Port Jackson, more rocky and equally covered with timber; large trees which grow on the summits of mountains'. Phillip reached Ettalong Beach.

* Phillip returned in 1789 to what was then called the North East Arm but his focus subsequently fell on the Hawkesbury River. At this time Phillip and his party camped on Ettalong Beach.

* European settlement around 'the Arm' began and it was renamed Brisbane Water in the early 1820s.

* The first white settlers were drawn by the possibilities of exploiting the local supplies of cedar, forest oak, blue gum and other hardwoods. Boat building also began at this time and continued until World War I.

* The first settler to receive a land grant in the area was boat builder James Webb who occupied 120 ha on the eastern side of Brisbane Water from 1823. Samuel Coulter also built a house there and established a farm.

* Webb purchased another 150 acres in 1834. It was this second portion which contained the land upon which the central shopping area of Woy Woy was later built.

* There were no roads so contact with the world beyond was strictly by boat and the settlement was restricted to the area alongside the shores of Brisbane Water and its inlets.

* Small settlers took up land and grew maize, onions, potatoes and hay. Others gathered cockle shells which were loaded on to ketches and sent off for lime-burning. The terrain made the area a haven for smugglers, moonshiners, escapee convicts and ticket-of-leave men.

* A survey in 1829 recorded about 100 persons (half of them convicts assisting the timbergetters) living along Brisbane Water, with 916 cattle, 7 horses and 205 acres under cultivation.

* By 1833 there were 315 people living in the area.

* By the 1860s there were virtually no Guringgai left in the district.

* The first oyster lease was established  around 1884.

* The arrival of the railway in 1888 led to the rapid development of the town. The Woy Woy Tunnel (1791 metres) was built out of ten million bricks, shipped by Rock Davis of Blackwall to Brick Wharf, at the north-eastern tip of Woy Woy Peninsula. They were then transported along a rail line (now Brick Wharf Road) to the construction camp. It is the longest railway tunnel in New South Wales.

* By 1889 the first store and post office and four temporary hotels opened to cater for the 800 workers building the Woy Woy  tunnel.

* With railway access Woy Woy became a fishing and tourist resort in the 1890s.

* The population increased to 660 by 1911.

* James Webb's original Woy Woy estate was sold off at auction in 1912.

* A permanent official post office opened in 1913.

* The first road to the town was built in 1923 under an unemployment relief scheme.

* The road was enlarged in 1930.

* The population increased from 1,710 in 1947 to 7,396 by 1954 and 16,287 by 1966.

* In the 1950s the British comedian, Spike Milligan's father and mother settled in the area.

* Deepwater Plaza was opened in 1984 by Spike Milligan's mother, Flo.


Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Centre at Woy Woy. For information check out Gosford Visitors Centre, 200 Mann Street, Gosford, tel: (02) 4343 4444 is open from 9.30 am - 4.00 pm Monday to Friday and Saturday 9.30 am - 1.00 pm.


Useful Websites

There is no dedicated website. The site http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/docs/default-source/Library-documents/a-history-of-woy-woy---fact-sheet.pdf?sfvrsn=0 has a very detailed history of Woy Woy.

Got something to add?

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2 suggestions
  • Hi I am researching Samuel Coulter who had one of the first farms in the Brisbane Waters. He was an associate of James Web. I would love some more info re him and a position on a map as to where Samuel had his farm and any newspaper reports and photos of him and his family, particularly his son Edwin. My husband’s mother was a Coulter and Sam is his great-great-grandfather and Edwin his great-grandfather. Hoping that you can assist.

    Lorraine Mason
  • Looking for information about the cement slab and steps on Blackwall Mountain. Apparently there was a house there many years ago