Image

The Three Beaches Walk

I’ve dubbed this The Three Beaches Walk because it covers Sydney’s three most northerly beaches: it begins at Palm Beach, takes in Whale Beach and ends at Avalon Beach, roughly 9km. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a map.) I did it last weekend, and as the photos reveal, it was a beautiful spring day, 22C and sunny.

Looking back (north) along Palm Beach from the point I started walking, you can see the lighthouse on Barrenjoey Head.

Looking in the direction of the walk (south), this is where I was headed.

I had to get from sea level to the top of that hill, though. At the end of the beach are stairs. Lots of them.

Once at the top, you can look back to Palm Beach and beyond, and marvel how high you’ve come.

The houses along here are big, expensive, and face the sea. Only walls and roofs can be glimpsed from the road. (According to friends who grew up on Sydney’s North Shore, this is known — unflatteringly — as the Insular Pensinsula.)

Flowering plants aplently!

Here’s the next beach, Whale Beach.

I had a sinking feeling when I spotted that headland at the end of Whale Beach, but luckily didn’t have to scale it. However, I knew the headland beyond this one would have to be tackled.

It was a bit of a trek up the hill at the far end of the beach. In the bottom right you can see Whale Beach, and how tiny the people are.

This bench is hardly a stunning specimen, but it was sturdy and in the shade, so I sat for a bit. 🙂

This louvred door and shrub caught my eye. It looks as if they’re blocking access to something, but in a fun way.

Time to go off road! This is the beginning of the bushwalk at Bangalley Head.

“Relatively hard”. “Highest point”. hmmm

More stairs, of course …

Once at the top, and with my breathing back to normal and heartbeat no longer thumping in my ears, the walking was delightful. Sun-dappled paths through the trees, and glimpses to the right of yachts in secluded bays.

The end is in sight! That’s Avalon Beach in the distance. How to get off this headland, though??

I finally found the path down. More stairs (naturally) but easier to bounce down than up. When I turned a corner in the path and saw this perfectly framed sight, I actually exclaimed, “Wow.”

These cliff edge warning signs were dotted along the Bangalley Head walk. You can see how close the edge is.

Once off the headland and looking back, the height of the drop is all too apparent.

The path continues between cliff edge and front gardens. I hope these people have insurance, because that’s a pretty steep drop.

The end! Here is Avalon Beach.

Now, I’m not a great fan of ocean swimming — too much sand, too much surf, too much getting knocked over by waves. But the pool at the hotel I stayed at that night in Newport is much more my style!

Here’s a Google Maps shot of where the walk is, if you’re not sure of the relation to Sydney.

If you enjoyed this walk, be sure to check out other people’s offerings on Jo’s Monday Walks.

And if you’d like to see more about Palm Beach and the Barrenjoey lighthouse, Jude has a great post.

(A note about the photos. I didn’t want to lug my ‘real’ camera around for three days, so took a smaller ‘point and shoot’. The quality is not as good as I’d like, but that was the trade-off for less weight and bulk. Still, you get the idea!)


walks-badge

Image

The Goods Line

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour.

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour. Hard to believe this is now an urban walking route and playground!

A chance reference to “The Goods Line” in a news article last week sent me straight to Google. What was this elevated railway-turned-pedestrian walkway in Sydney, and why had I not heard of it before?

Rather than rewriting what I’ve since learned, I’ll simply quote. “The first railway in New South Wales was laid on this route in 1855 to transport goods from the wharves of Darling Harbour to the railway goods yard at Redfern … Today the entire length of the re-invigorated rail corridor is only 500 metres – basically from Central Station’s Devonshire Tunnel under George Street to the southern boundary of the Powerhouse Museum. Yet this was once one of the most lucrative commercial arteries in the British Empire.” (source)

I somehow managed to miss the reference to the tunnel under George Street, so wandered around at street level until I finally found a map of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) (which grew up around the original train line) and was able to join The Goods Line at the halfway point, where it crosses Ultimo Street.

The black and white photo below is part of an information display above the bridge. I was unable to match the angle of the old shot because, as you can see, there is quite a bit more traffic on Ultimo Street now! The only shared landmarks in these shots are the rail bridge and the tower behind. The tower is the restored bell tower of the Sydney Markets, now standing outside the Markets Library of the UTS; the bridge is the oldest iron bridge in Australia, built in 1879. What I find most striking about the old photo is the complete lack of trees.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

Now that I’d found the line, doing only half the walk would have been cheating (not to mention absurdly short) so I headed back to the beginning. This is where the tunnel from Central Station, which I should have followed, spits you out.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

If you go down the stairs and look over your left shoulder, you see this. Aren’t you itching to know what’s behind those locked gates?

Train track to ... where?

Train track to … where?

Looking north, you see the rail line, and the walk, stretching arrow-straight ahead of you. The last goods train left Darling Harbour on this line in 1984, and until redeveloped as a pedestrian link (at a reported cost of A$15 million) and opened last September, the land and infrastructure were unused (apart from the occasional steam train taking things to the museum).

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

I certainly hadn’t done anything requiring a rest, but there was no shortage of benches.

Bench after bench after bench ...

Bench after bench after bench …

This extraordinary structure sits at the corner of Ultimo Street and The Goods Line. It’s the first building in Australia designed by globally renowned architect Frank Gehry and belongs to the UTS.

The nature of the walk changes dramatically at the bridge, from concrete hemmed in by buildings in the south (below left), to meandering paths, greenery and play areas in the north (below right).

If you compare the view north now (above right) with the view in the undated b&w photo below (displayed above the bridge), the only common feature is the twin peaks of the roofline of the power station (now housing the Powerhouse Museum).

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

Strolling towards the museum, you’ll pass a number of diversions, such as ping pong areas (BYO paddles!):

Anyone for ping pong?

Anyone for ping pong?

… a child-sized interactive fountain …

… old railway objects …

… flowers and little gardens.

The Goods Line leads you to the Powerhouse Museum …


Powerhouse Museum

… where the walk ends abruptly, blockaded by a solid grey barrier.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

Welcome to the pedestrian hell that is the Darling Quarter/convention centre construction site. Here’s a small sample of what’s going up:

Yet more Sydney construction.

Yet more Sydney construction.

The brave walker pushing on to Darling Harbour, as I was, must negotiate this blot on the landscape.

This was a very short walk (I walked at least as long trying to find the start!), but it revealed to me a part of Sydney’s history that I hadn’t known about. You can discover where other people have been walking on Jo’s Monday Walks.


sydney-strolls-badge

walks-badge

Image

Travel Album: Philadelphia

30th Street Train Station

Now THIS is what a train station concourse should look like! What a glorious space. (30th Street Train Station)

Exploring Philadelphia on foot.

I arrived in Philadelphia by train from New York City, and was delighted by the marvellous vaulting space of 30th Street Train Station. The station was restored and renovated in a $75 million project completed in 1991. From the 90-foot ceilings to the marble columns to the gold leaf gilding, it looks fantastic. A great introduction to the city. I was in Philadelphia in late May for a conference, but managed to get in two walks — one on the way to a supermarket which revealed unexpected (to me) back streets that reminded me of English villages, and the other around the Old City area with its historical sites commemorating the push for independence from England.

The supermarket in question was the Whole Foods store on South Street, and my hotel was near City Hall, so I walked along South 12th Street. Although I was heading out for food supplies, I had my camera with me (of course!), and was soon snapping away at the lovely old tree-lined side streets.

City Hall is definitely worth a look! “At 548 ft (167 m), including the statue of city founder William Penn atop it, it was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1894 to 1908 … it was built between 1871 and 1901 at a cost of $24 million.” (source)

One morning, when the conference sessions were not relevant to my work, I took the train to 2nd Street station and followed a self-guided walking tour of old buildings and monuments.

Along the way I passed a lovely little park …

… more quaint side streets …

… Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States) …

Benjamin Franklin bust

Benjamin Franklin bust

… and things cluttering up the sidewalk …

… and then I stopped for coffee and a muffin. I forget the name of the coffee shop, but I loved the interior lights!

Then it was on to Elfreth’s Alley. “Named for blacksmith and property-owner Jeremiah Elfreth, Elfreth’s Alley was home to the 18th century artisans and trades-people who were the backbone of colonial Philadelphia. … While a modern city has sprung up around it, the Alley preserves three centuries of evolution through its old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, Flemish bond brickwork and other architectural details.” (source)

If you have enjoyed these walks in Philadelphia, check out Jo’s Monday Walk to see where other bloggers have been walking.


travel-album-logo

walks-badge

Can-US-badge

Image

Travel Album: New York City (2)

Maine Monument

The Maine Monument commemorates the 260 American sailors who died when the battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbour (Cuba) in 1898.

A walk in Central Park

On a lovely Saturday at the end of May, a friend and I strolled through the southern end of Central Park. We entered from Columbus Circle (where the Maine Monument is, above), heading loosely for the Shakespeare Garden because I wanted to take photos of the garden. (My Shakespeare Garden post is here.)

cp-0-map

I was pleasantly surprised at the many woodland retreats scattered around.

Woods and fence.

This is scene is more bucolic than I expected in New York City.

Woods and bench.

This bench seems to have grown out of the fence.

The Victorian Gardens Amusement Park were popular with children and adults alike.

A ride in a horse-drawn carriage is a very popular thing to do, though with prices starting at $50 for 20 minutes it didn’t seem like value for money. The poor horses seemed faintly embarrassed by their exuberant head gear.

Horse with red white feather.

Horse with red and white feather.

Bethesda Fountain is one of the best known fountains in the world — apparently. I have to confess that I did not recognise it, although it has appeared in a number of films. Interestingly, the statue at the top (“Angel of the Waters”) is the only sculpture in the park that was commissioned as part of the original design.

Bethesda Fountain - Angel of the Waters

Bethesda Fountain – Angel of the Waters

What’s a park without performers? And yes, he was singing a Simon & Garfunkel song when I took this.

Busker

The park opened in 1857, and some of its solid brick and stone architecture can still be seen.

More modern architecture is on display in the towers of Manhattan, viewed across the lake.

Office towers seen across the lake.

Skyscrapers seen across the lake.

Rhododendrons or azaleas? I’m not sure what the difference is, but they are pretty.

If you have enjoyed this walk in Central Park, check out Jo’s Monday Walk to see where other bloggers have been walking.


travel-album-logo

walks-badge

Can-US-badge

Image

Travel Album: Distillery District, Toronto

These barrels and the brick buildings are reminders of the area's past.

These barrels and the brick buildings are reminders of the area’s past.

Toronto’s Distillery District was initially the home of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. By the 1850s the distillery was thriving, and in 1859 construction began on the current site. In the 1870s, Gooderham and Worts was the largest distillery in the world — by 1871, its annual whiskey and spirits production came to 2.1 million gallons. The distillery closed in 1990. In 2001 work began to turn the area and more than 40 buildings into a pedestrian-only village dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment: Distillery Historic District opened in May 2003. (source)

Some of the old machinery is displayed in the buildings.

The Distillery District is an appealing mix of old and new, and a walk around the area is a photographer’s delight. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars for refreshment, plus interesting little shops where you can spend your holiday money.

Barrels on a wagon.

Barrels on a wagon.

If you enjoyed this walk, check out where other people have been walking with Jo’s Monday walk.


travel-album-logo

Can-US-badge

riverside park manhattan
Image

Travel Album: New York City (1)

69th Street Transfer Bridge

69th Street Transfer Bridge

A walk in Riverside Park, Manhattan

Riverside Park runs for 4 miles (6.4 km) on the west side of Manhattan, from 72nd to 158th Streets. Since 1875, it’s offered somewhere for New Yorkers to escape the city and relax. Part of the land on which the park is built was originally used for railroads.
The photo above is what’s left of the 69th Street Transfer Bridge — a dock for car floats which allowed the transfer of railroad cars from the rail line to car floats that crossed the Hudson River to New Jersey. It may seem an odd subject to open a post about a park, but it looms over the park and is a reminder of the area’s history. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Hover mouse over image for caption; click to open gallery and view full size.

The park is a great spot for chilling out.

Reminders of the area’s industrial history are everywhere.

This aerial shot shows the 69th Street Transfer Bridge and the rebuilt Pier 1 beside it, plus the rotting remains of old structures.

This aerial shot shows the 69th Street Transfer Bridge and the rebuilt Pier 1 beside it, plus the rotting remains of old structures.

The park looks across the Hudson River to New Jersey.

A dramatic sky breaks over the New Jersey shoreline.

A dramatic sky breaks over the New Jersey shoreline.

In the 1980s Donald Trump owned the 57 acres of land just south of Riverside Park that had been the Penn Central freight rail yard. His Riverside South development of towering apartment buildings also extended the park south to 59th Street.

If you enjoyed this walk along part of Manhattan’s Riverside Park, head over to Jo’s Monday Walk to see where other people have been walking.

For other bloggers’ travel adventures on a Monday, check out Monday Escapes.


Facts and figures about Riverside Park taken from:
nycgovparks.org/parks/riverside-park/history
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverside_Park_(Manhattan)
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Central_Railroad_69th_Street_Transfer_Bridge


travel-album-logo

walks-badge

Can-US-badge

Travel Album: Switzerland

Walking in the mountains above Interlaken

There was such an enthusiastic response to my recent post about mountains that I thought I would share more photos from the Bernese Oberland area in Switzerland. These shots are from three walks in June 2008 (which explains the less-than-fantastic quality of the photos). To see a much better version of the map below, click here.

Map of trains, buses and walking routes accessible from Interlaken. Just hop on a train, and go!

Walk 1: After my visit to Jungfraujoch and Top of Europe (more photos here), I walked from Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen, a route that takes about 2 hrs and 45 minutes. This was a lovely stroll with a gentle descent of only 800 m.

Walk 2: From Harder Kulm to Interlaken, roughly 2.5 hours – and a descent of 2500 m. My knees were shaking by the time that one was over!

These four photos were taken from the balcony of my hotel, the Metropole. Stunning views of Jungfrau, in all conditions (well, the foggy one is not so stunning).

Walk 3: Along Schynige Platte, a generally flat 2.5-hour circular walk on a plateau.

If you have enjoyed these walks in the mountains of Switzerland, be sure to visit Jo’s Monday Walk for other walks.

travel-album-logo

walks-badge

moorhen at Centennial Park
Gallery

Walking home from work

I admit it: that heading is misleading. Walking all the way home from work would take hours. On nice summer days, though, (assuming I’ve remembered to bring shorts, etc) I do like to get off the train one stop early and walk from there. Click here for a map of the route.

Leaving Edgecliff station, I head along Ocean Street in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra. Much of what is now Woollahra was once part of the 1130-acre estate of the Cooper family. The name Woollahra is believed to be based on the Aboriginal word for ‘lookout’ and was chosen by Daniel Cooper for his proposed house in 1856. There are many lovely old houses along this tree-lined street.

(click any image to expand a gallery)

Now I leave the suburbs of the rich behind, and head into Centennial Park through Woollahra Gate.

Woollahra Gate Centennial Park

Woollahra Gate

The area where Centennial Park was built was originally swamps. In 1827, using convict labour, construction began on an underground tunnel to bring the fresh water to Sydney. Lachlan Swamps served as Sydney’s main water supply from 1837 to 1859. The Centennial Celebrations Act of 1887 set in motion the construction of Centennial Park. (By the way, the centenary being celebrated was that of the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788.) Centennial Parklands, as it is known today, has an area of 220 hectares. (Refer to the walk map for an idea of its size.)

Now we come to my favourite part of the walk. Behind one of the ponds is a small planting of pine trees, which are rare in Sydney. At this time of the day, with the early evening light slanting low and golden, it’s a beautiful, glowing spot. The wind in the pine trees creates a sound quite unlike that of rattling palm fronds or rustling gum leaves.


What would a park be without birds and flowers?

If you’ve enjoyed this walk through parts of Sydney that tourists rarely discover, be sure to check out Jo’s Monday Walks.

walks-badge

sydney-strolls-badge

New Year’s walk – a giant stairway and a miniature train

Blue Mountains near Leura - no crowds and no parties here!

Blue Mountains near Leura – no crowds and no parties here!

New Year’s Eve in Sydney – either you embrace it, or you escape it. As much as I love the fireworks, I hate the crowds. I also hate being subjected to the parties going on until the early morning in the back yards of the houses down the hill or in the flats adjoining mine.

So, in a decidedly “bah humbug” frame of mind, I left Sydney after work on 30 December to spend two days in the Blue Mountains. My base for two nights was the Leura Gardens Resort.

On New Year’s Eve day, my plan was to walk the roughly 10km (6 miles) from Gordon’s Lookout in Leura to Scenic World in Katoomba.
First, though, a stroll around the resort’s gardens was called for. The grounds incorporate the Lady Fairfax Garden, created by Paul Sorensen for Lady Mabel Fairfax in 1933. (more about the gardens here)

Then I caught a cab to Gordon Falls Lookout (no point adding extra kilometers!) to begin the first leg of my walk. I followed the Prince Henry Cliff Walk as far as the Three Sisters in Katoomba.

The path, as you might guess from the name, runs along the edge of the cliffs and offers sweeping views over the hills and valleys, and also lovely, tranquil paths through the forest. The path was constructed in the 1930s – spare a thought for the men who built this trail with pickaxes and shovels, carving steps from the rock, building metal stairways, fencing off the lookouts perched at the edge of thrusting spurs with vertiginous drops. The walk was named in honour of a son of King George V, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, who spent 20 minutes at Katoomba railway station in 1934. (source)

This walk is rated “medium” for difficulty. My book of walks (Blue Mountains Best Bushwalks) breaks it into two sections: from Gordon Falls to Leura Cascades, you descend 110m and ascend 150m; from the cascades to Echo Point (the Three Sisters), you descend 170m and ascend 90m.

link to map 1

click for larger image of Bridal Veil Falls

At Echo Point, it was time for a toilet stop and a cold drink. There are also fantastic views of the Three Sisters (a series of cliffs that jut out in a point), but I’ve seen them a number of times so skipped the view, although I have included an older photograph in the gallery below for reference.

Now came the fun part: the stairs.

Oh pooh pooh, you say, how hard can stairs be? Well, it’s not called the Giant Stairway for nothing. It’s 540m long and descends around 300m (or ascends, if you’re coming up!). Some 900 stairs are cut into the side of the cliffs making up the Sisters, or, in places where that is not an option, metal stairs are bolted to the rock. According to the book, there are “910 stone steps and 32 steel staircases of almost vertical descent”. These are not stairs for the faint-hearted or those who have a problem with heights. At times, there is only a metal grid between the soles of your shoes and the valley floor hundreds of metres below. Looking at the Three Sisters photo below, the stairway is on the other side; the path then runs out around the base of the cliffs and back.

Construction began in 1916 but was halted two years later. Work resumed in 1932 and was completed that year.

link to map 2

Once at the bottom, in the cool dappled shade of the forest, it was time to sit for a while until my leg muscles stopped trembling. I’ve gone down the stairway a number of times, but never up! I can’t imagine how a person’s legs feel after slogging up those stairs and ladders. The rest of this walk is a tranquil stroll among trees and ferns, past little waterfalls and over tiny streams. The sounds of birds fill the air, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a brightly coloured parrot or two.

Of course, at the end of the walk you’re still a few hundred metres from the top of the cliffs. There are two options: walk back up to the top, or take the train. Yeah, you know what I opt for!

The Scenic Railway ascends 310m and is the world’s steepest passenger railway, at an incline of 52 degrees (click on the first picture below, I’ve circled the top and bottom points). When you get into the cars you are uncomfortably sprawled backwards, but as the train starts moving up that cleft in the cliff you are pushed forward. Hands shoot out to grasp the overhead rails and knees press against the padded rail in front.

The walk from Echo Point to the base of the railway is graded “hard” due to the stairs, but the actual walking is easy. After all that, I felt that I deserved a cool refreshment back on my balcony at the resort.

A well deserved cool beverage.

A well deserved cool beverage.

The next day, New Year’s Day, I had time for a short walk before returning to Sydney. I settled for a 4km jaunt from the resort to Inspiration Point and back. (I couldn’t find a map of this walk on the National Parks site, so the one in the gallery below is a rough approximation.) This little walk is graded easy, with ascents and descents both of 70m over gradually rising (or falling) stairs.

The two lookouts offer more stunning views of weathered cliff faces and gum trees sweeping to the horizon, all under the deepest blue sky imaginable. Then it was back to the resort to take a cab to Leura station for the train to Sydney.

click for larger image of the stunning view

Oh, and in Sydney, one of my neighbours had a party that started mid-afternoon and went on into the night, so my cunning plan to avoid the doof-doof-doof of music and the shrieks of drunken delight was not entirely successful.

+ + + + +

This post is my first contribution to Jo’s Monday Walk. You can find interesting walks by Jo and other bloggers on her site each week.

walks-badge