Sydney by ferry

The Lower North Shore

The Lower North Shore ferry routes are where it all started with Billy Blue, who ran the first ferry service (and that's why McMahons Point wharf is at the bottom of Blues Point Road) after he was granted land on the north shore in 1817.  An ex convict, Billy Blue was from Jamaica and his heritage was the slave trade.

By the late 19th century, there were also commuter ferry runs to Mosman and, Neutral Bay.  The Taronga Zoo service is a little newer, dating from when the zoo moved there in 1916.  Traditionally, the ferries were always double-ended, built that way to simplify getting out of the "dead end" wharves at Neutral Bay, Mosman and the zoo - and particularly the crowded dead-end wharves at Circular Quay.  They included the biggest ferries that have ever operated on the harbour - the 2250 pasenger ships Koompartoo and Kuttabul, introduced in 1922 to take the enormous pasenger loads from Milsons Point before the Harbour Bridge was built.  Both were no longer needed when the bridge opened, dropping the annual passenger counts from 50 million to 29 million, and were taken over by the Navy in World War II.  Kuttabul was sunk by a Japanese submarine in Sydney Harbour, with 19 lives lost, and now the Navy's main base takes the name HMAS Kuttabul.  Sydney Ferries never recovered from the loss of its pasengers and was unhappily taken over by the state government in 1951.  By this time, only the Lower North Shore and Woolwich services still ran.

The picture above shows Lady Northcott passing the Opera House on her way to the zoo.  She was the last double-ended ferry left in service on the inner harbour routes until she was retired in 2017, though we still have the four double-ended Manly ferries.

Of all the old wooden double-ended ferries that served the Lower North Shore for nearly a century before the 1970's double-enders took over, only two are still afloat.  On the harbour, Kanangra (built in 1912) is now waiting her turn for dry docking at the Sydney Heritage Fleet, for her return to service.  Down on the south coast at Jervis Bay, Lady Denman has been preserved, in the place where she was built, as part of a museum - the Youtube video of how she was saved is worth a look. And at Balmain ferry depot, the last two 1970's steel double enders are waiting for someone interested in taking them over as heritage cruise ferries.

Although the Lower North Shore is all residential today, there are a few local gems that are well worth exploring.  From the other side of the harbour, much of the area appears to be preserved bushland, because the steeper slopes to the harbour have mostly been left untouched.

This page was last modified on Wed Dec 26, 2018
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