Kayaking adventure along Lane Cove River
By ALEC SMART
A Navy punt passes Fig Tree House. Photo: Alec Smart
The 2066 postcode region is dominated by the Lane Cove River that flows 15km from a confluence of creeks, snaking its way south into coves and bays before joining Parramatta River on the western edge of Sydney Harbour.
The indigenous Cammeraygal people called the area where the two rivers met ‘Mookaboola', which literally means ‘meeting of waters’, while Lane Cove River was known to them as Turrumburra (or Turranburra).
Covering a catchment area of around 95 square kilometres, Lane Cove River is separated by a weir mid-way near Fullers Bridge. Its narrow, freshwater upper reaches lie within the forested Lane Cove National Park, while the lower section is a tidal estuary characterised by mangroves and oyster-covered rocks between private wharves and waterfront properties.
Seen on a map, the four peninsulas that make up the lower region of the 2066 postcode, around which the river flows west to east – Linley Point, Riverview, Longueville, Northwood – could be described as four ‘fingers’ (albeit taking into account those fingers would be lopped off at the first knuckle!).
Lane Cove River, seen from Longueville. Photo: Alec Smart
With a friend I set out to explore the bays characterising the aforementioned four fingers, paddling downstream on kayaks. We dropped into the dark green river at Cunningham’s Reach on Linley Point, where there is convenient waterside parking accessible from Burns Bay Road, and stone steps descending into the water.
The tide was out, and as we paddled beneath Fig Tree Bridge we came upon a sandbank where a pelican sun-baked beside a few squawking seagulls.
Adjacent to the bridge, in Hunters Hill to the south, is historic Fig Tree House, an attractive yellow timber and stone cottage built in 1836 by successful businesswoman Mary Reiby.
Mary, whose portrait appears on one side of the orange $20 note, was an English-born merchant and shipowner. However, she originally arrived in chains among the Fourth Fleet of convicts on the Royal Admiral in 1792, after she was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a horse.
Fig Tree House, Hunters Hill. Photo: Alec Smart
To enter Burns Bay, we paddled around Linley Point, one of Sydney’s smallest suburbs, which has only 131 houses, including heritage-listed Linley House (now a privately-owned B&B), and Carisbrook (now a museum of life in the 1880s). In the 1860s this area was utilised as an abattoir by the Ludowici and Radke tanneries, where no doubt the blood from slaughtered stock washed into the cove to feed hungry sharks.
Riverview, the peninsula to the east of Burns Bay, is dominated by the playing fields and buildings of St Ignatius, a boys-only Jesuit school.
On the shoreline at the tip of Riverview is a small two-tone pagoda with an Indian-style domed roof, in which newly-married couples often pose for romantic clinches after they’ve tied the knot.
Indian-style pagoda on the shore of Lane Cove River, Riverview. Photo: Alec Smart,
Tambourine Bay, between the peninsulas of Riverview and Longueville, was a popular fishing cove for the Cammeraygal, who used multi-pronged fishing spears (which British colonists called ‘fizz-gigs’), nets woven from tree fibres, and hooks carved from bones. Fishing was done from rock platforms or bark canoes; fires were often lit on stone slabs in the canoes where fish were cooked fresh as soon as they were pulled from the water.
There used to be a tidal swimming pool in Tambourine Bay, built circa 1930 and mainly used by St Ignatius students for swimming tournaments and training, but it was demolished in 2015.
As we followed Longueville peninsula around into Woodford Bay, we observed caves set into the overhanging sandstone strata, where the Cammeraygal people lived along the shoreline in close proximity to the seafood on which they thrived.
Woodford Bay, between Longueville and Northwood, is densely packed with anchored yachts. Woodford Bay Bicentennial Reserve on the Longueville side features a sea pool with a walkway along one edge. It is staked with timber fencing to shark-proof the enclosure (although some of those wooden bars are missing with gaps wide enough for a hungry bull shark to swim through!).
Dinghies on the beach at Woodford Bay, Longueville. Photo: Alec Smart
Woodford Bay is where a military stockade was built in 1790, during the time the European settlers began expanding north from their Sydney Cove settlement and encountered Aboriginal resistance during land clearance. A permanent garrison of soldiers here clashed with the Indigenous inhabitants, among them feared resistance leader Pemulway.
The final part of our watery journey took us around Northwood, named after Northwood House, the first estate to be built on the headland in 1878.
After owner Jane Davys’ death in 1903, it was sold to Abdul Wade, a camel breeder from Bourke who kept his camels on the grounds before losing the house in a poker game.
Gore Creek, between Northwood and Greenwich, is a small inlet that features more mangroves than waterfront properties. It is the last cove before the Lane Cove River flows out between the Woolwich and Greenwich peninsulas into Parramatta River.
Then we undertook the long paddle back to Cunningham’s Reach...
Burns Bay, Riverview. Photo: Alec Smart
On weekdays, Captain Cook ferries visit wharves at Northwood, Longueville, and Riverview College: www.captaincook.com.au/sydney-harbour-cruises/ferries/lane-cove-ferry/
Lane Cove Kayakers racing and fitness club: www.lcrk.org.au/
Kayaks and small boats for hire in the upper (freshwater) area of Lane Cove River, above the weir: www.lanecoveboatshed.com.au/
Waterfront parks and facilities: www.lanecove.nsw.gov.au/Community/ParksandRecreation/Pages/Parks.aspx