Sydney by ferry

Nutcote, Neutral Bay and Kurraba Point

The Neutral Bay ferry is a  trip that's largely unchanged from the 19th century.  According to the history that was written when Neutral Bay Wharf was last upgraded, there has been a ferry from the city to the wharf at the bottom of Hayes Street since 1871.  The bus that meets the ferry today follows almost the same route as the tram that started running in 1900 as a steam tram, and was converted to electric in 1909; it was Sydney's only tram fitted with brakes.  When you try to walk up Hayes Street, you will understand why.

Today, the ferry operates a circular route connecting High Street, Neutral Bay (Hayes Street) and Kurraba Point wharves.

This whole area is mainly just people's homes, with few tourist things to do and few places to eat.  But between Neutral Bay wharf and Kurraba Point wharf, there is a special place.  This is Nutcote, the home of children's author May Gibbs MBE.  She is important in the history of Australian literature - as the Heritage Council explains:

Author May Gibbs, for the first time, gave Australian children a fantasy world they could relate to. She created Bush Babies and Bad Banksia Men, while other characters in her books were Australian animals. These wonderful stories and the evocative illustrations that accompany them were penned at Nutcote and much of Gibbs' inspiration came from her garden.

The local council's history section puts it in more evocative words:

May Gibbs’ Australiana work inspired a cult all of its own. Her use of Australian native flora and fauna captured the spirit of Australia. The time was post-Federation, a time to look away from the colonial past and towards an Australian future.... Considered to be an early environmentalist, her first major adventure of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie appeared with the message: ‘Humans, please be kind to all bush creatures and don’t pull flowers up by the roots.’

If you want to find out what this is all about, there's a great collection of May Gibbs' work and life history at the State Library of NSW website.

Since May's death in 1979, the house, together with the garden that was her inspiration, have been preserved and restored by the local council and volunteers.  Being run by volunteers, it is open for fairly short hours - 11am to 3pm on Wednesdays to Sundays (but closed Christmas to New Year). Apart from seeing the house and garden, you should be able to get a light lunch of sandwiches there, but it's wise to ring first to check that the food is available, and that they aren't closed due to being booked for a wedding.  Being more or less self funding, you do have to pay an entry fee, but it's only $9/$5.50/$3.50.

Nutcote is located at 5 Wallaringa Avenue.  To get there, catch the ferry to Hayes Street, walk up from the wharf to the first sidestreet (Lower Wycombe Road) and follow it to Wallaringa Avenue (which is the first street).  If you can't cope with the Hayes Street hill, you can catch the 225 bus, which runs along Lower Wycombe Road.

Beyond Nutcote, if you want to go further, there is a great little park at the end of Kurraba Point.  Walk to the far end of Wallaringa Avenue and turn right onto Kurraba Road.  On the way, you'll pass the steps down to Kurraba Point wharf, with a local shop that sells snacks you can eat at their tables   The park is at the turning loop at the end of the road, and it's a great place to sit and watch ferries and everything else on the harbour.  Sydney's Manly ferries were maintained here until the 1950's.  On your way back, you only need to walk as far as Kurraba Point wharf to catch the ferry back to the city.

On weekends, the Neutral Bay ferry only runs hourly, so please plan your trip.  On weekdays, it's half hourly.

This page was last modified on Fri Jul 1, 2016
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