The Freshwater Beach History

Freshwater Beach Basin






Surrounding Sydney, and within easy reach of its heart, are maritime resorts almost any of which would put to tho blush some of the most talker-of and fashionable watering places on the other side of the world. In the harbour and on the coast nature has dealt it out with an almost too lavish hand.

Manly, of course, Is the queen watering place of Sydney— the villagers would say of the Southern Hemisphere.

But with all respect to its harbour background, Its chastely classical statuary, its odorous back streets, and its ferry pass-bedecked aldermen, there are easily half a dozen other beaches round Sydney which for natural beauty run the Village very closely.

Queenscliff Bridge

Away out past North Steyne, about eight or ten minutes’ tram journey from the wharf and less than five minutes’ walk beach wards from Freshwater Junction, here is found a long and very narrow wooden bridge leading to the place of many steps spanning the hill of Queenscliffe. When one has climbed the last stage of steps, and before he has covered the short distance which will take him to the first of the series of steps leading down to the other side, a view of unsurpassed seascape bursts upon the view.


This is the beach of Freshwater, held by many to be the finest surfing stretch or water on our coasts. Running back from the semi-circular beach is a naturally beautiful valley, a fairy bushland, bounded by craggy hills.

In the declivity between these rocky outcrops, stretching back for a mile or more, are dotted the week-end shacks, camps, cottages, or what other name one chooses to call tho two or three room wooden structures. These are the residences of the week-enders.


Getting to this beauty spot other than by walking from Freshwater Junction, on the Manly-Narrabeen tram line, over the narrow bridge which spans the lagoon at Queenscliffe, and then across the hill; or by taking the tram to the steps, which are right at the back of Freshwater.


A tramway extension is to be constructed to Freshwater some day: It may help in a couple of years, and It may be in 25 years. And here the question may be asked, is there any other city of a civilised country possessing such a fairyland which would not long ago have constructed a line of any cost, and run to it a fast service of trams or trains?


As It now exists, Freshwater is chiefly interesting because of the multitude of its weird residential structures.

Coming over Queenscliffe head you see squat wooden houses perched among the rocks. Some are giddily poised on slender piles of stone or brick, others on wooden stakes, and yet others dumped down flat on a convenient nook in the rocks.

There is no building covenant over that way, and the shacks are destitute of any architectural pretensions.

Occasionally cottages with wide verandahs can be found, but the majority of the Freshwater buildings are utterly destitute of external appurtenances, their eyebrowless appearance being emphasised by the funny little doors and windows.

At the bottom of the steps is a street or road of weatherboard camps rejoicing in the name of Rotten Row.

Then, running through the valley, are other rows of camps, some nestling in choice pieces of bush scenery, and others are quite hidden by the scrub and foliage.

The buildings contain anything from one to four rooms. Some have garden plots, and here and there may be observed cottages which in their construction and surroundings bear evidence of refined taste. Likewise there are some which are tastefully furnished and elaborately appointed.

But the great majority of the cottages or huts carry inside and outside the stamp of the simple life. Single and two-decker canvas bunks or stretchers provide the sleeping accommodation, the other furniture consisting of rudely fashioned tables, benches, and stools, and occasionally deck chairs.


Freshwater is musical or unmusical, accordingly as one possesses the soul for ragtime or abhors it. It is, at any rate, unusual to find a hut without its piano, and it is also exceptional to Oh! to be able to discover a Freshwater domestic orchestra in sound health.

The weekend settlement has Its general stores, Its grocery, and butcher shops, post-office, electric and gas light. It is. In fact, a little self-contained town, and ono which carries tho air of being’ exceptionally well pleased with itself.


Freshwater is unique in Itself. It would be difficult to find quite its kind near any other city or place In this or the Northern Hemisphere.

It is peculiar in its inhabitants. Its situation, Its isolation, and Its mode of life.

What may be termed the public business of the town is transacted at dinnertime on Sundays.

With the midday repast comes the rent man and the gas man, who collects the tolls from the shilling-in-the-slot meters.

Once over the Queenscliffe hill you are in another land, quite cut off from the life of tho city, Its lights and shades and pleasures and anxieties, and to all intents and purposes you at once become a participant in the simple life.

One of tho first things which strikes the new visitor to Freshwater is the queerness of the names, which distinguish the camps from one another. There are no numbers on the different residences, and It Is probable that the names of the roads — If they exist at all — are not known to anybody but the estate agents. These names then serve a useful purpose, and an Inquiry for a particular name will ensure a prompt and true direction from any of the campers and their friends.

Classical names are conspicuous by their absence. The Devil Dodgers is the title of one home, while on various parts of the valley are to be found The Glad Eye, Paradise Lost (in course of construction), Government House, Little Green Patch, Shark’s Bait, Simple Life, The Monastery, Rogue’s Retreat, Dirty Reds, The One. The Other, and Next Door.


Nestled among the foliage of one of the most favoured patches is a camp rejoicing in the title of Mont de Piete.

The fancy of the Inhabitants of this lot has further caused them to suspend FRESHWATER PICNIC.

Over the gate three golden balls. The demand made on the names of popular plays and musical comedies covers nearly every piece staged In Sydney during the last 10 years.


Freshwater 1895 boxing Pugilists SLNSW

The population of Freshwater is migratory. From Monday to Friday the place is, as dead as a door nail, and there are not many about except the few who reside there permanently.

But during the long summer every Friday night sees the arrival of long streams of week-enders. This stream continues all Saturday morning, and increases a hundredfold during the afternoon, while at night as the trams arrive from each boat big crowds are discharged at the junction, and the long bridge is heavily taxed by the hundreds that pass over it.

It is surprising, too, the heavy loads that axe constantly carried over the many steps of the steep hill. Among the articles brought in this way are valises, baskets, heavy hampers, fishing gear, rugs, blankets, and bottles, and even small kegs of beer for the Sunday refreshment


Freshwater Is not to be found In any official guide book of the beauty spots of the State.

Its Saturday night and Sunday population has not been reduced to figures, but judging by the multitude that pass through the bridge, tho number of residences and the general appearance of tho place on Sunday morning and afternoon the regular weekenders possibly number between two and three thousand souls.

This population is made up of all classes of the community. The artisan out with his family for a week-end breather lives next door to the city commercial and professional men.

Manly says that Freshwater is not respectable. But then Manly Is jealous, and is also suffering from a species of swelled head.

It is likely that tho great majority of Freshwater week-enders are quite peace-loving, hard-working, and noiseless people. But a comparatively small number of noisy young men and giggling young women can turn an otherwise peaceful pared into an inferno, and rightly or wrongly Freshwater has the name of being at certain times a place of fearsome noises.

The bare-headed-soft-collar-over-chat-white-trousered frisky youth who  frequents the Manly wharf on Saturday nights, and whose compulsory enlistment and transportation to the front, where the hottest fighting is, would confer the greatest benefit on himself and the community generally, helps to make up the week-end Freshwater population.

And he and his lady friends are want to make night hideous between tho hours of 10 and 12, or even later, as they trail over the long lagoon bridge.

Ragtime songs delivered in the most raucous of voices, cat calls, shrieks, and shouts are some of the things which murder the sleep of the peaceful Queenscliffe Headlanders on week-end nights.

This has caused Freshwater to bear a name for rowdyism which it perhaps does not deserve. On Sunday nights the long trail Sydney wards begins and by 9 o’clock on Monday morning Freshwater is denuded of by far the greater part of its population.