You got it, shipwrecks galore in the heart of Sydney, who knew?! I didn't, until a photo of it popped up in my Facebook feeds. So, I did some research to locate these shipwrecks and learnt of their amazing history of how they served Australia in WWI and WWII in their glory days.
There are 4 main wrecks to spot and they are easily accessible via Bicentennial Park or Bennelong Parkway at Wentworth Point.
In 1966, the Maritime Services Board approved a section of Homebush Bay for use as a shipwreck yard. In 1970 a wooden ramp was constructed to break up the vessels ashore, after breaking they were scuttled off along Long Reef (off the coast of Narrabeen) as part of the shipwreck reef formed from 1976.
All shipwrecks over 75 years old are automatically protected from disturbance by the State of NSW Heritage Act 1977 and the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. Any relics in NSW's waterways over 50 years old are protected under the Heritage Act.
Shipwreck No. 1 - SS Ayrfield (launched as SS Corrimal)
A steel-hulled steam *collier weighing 1140 tonnes and 79.1m long, it was built in the UK in 1911 and registered in Sydney in 1912. It was commissioned by the Commonwealth Government for the transportation of supplies to American troops stationed in the pacific regions during WWII. In 1951, it was sold to Miller Steamship Company Ltd and was renamed SS Ayrfield and operated as a collier between Newcastle and Sydney. By 1972, the hull had been broken up and ended up in Homebush Bay.
Collier - A ship designed to transport coal.
SS Aryfield Past and Present (old photo from afloat.com.au)
A steel-hulled steam tug boat weighing 258 tonnes and 38.1 long. It was built in the UK in 1909 for Thomas Fenwick (tugboat operators) of Sydney. In 1911, it towed and ex-French three-mustered warship 'Eure' to Sydney. It was commissioned by the British Admiralty during WWI (renamed Epic) to engage in rescue work off the Scilly Isles. In 1919, it was back in Sydney working as a tug and during WWII it rescued the freighter 'Allara' when it got torpedoed off Sydney. Circa 1940, it assisted in manoeuvring RMS Queen Mary in Sydney Harbour. By 1973, it was sold to J.B Mullins who intended to rename the vessel 'Bustler II' but somehow ended up in Homebush Bay.
SS Heroic Past and Present (old photo from afloat.com.au)
A steel- hulled boom defence vessel weighing 971 tonnes and 54.25m long. It was built at Cockatoo Docks in Sydney and was commissioned in 1941 to serve in Darwin when the Japanese attacked in WWII. It was decommissioned by the Navy in 1965-6 and later abandoned in Homebush Bay.
HMAS Karangi Past and Present (old photo from afloat.com.au)
Shipwreck No.4 - SS Mortlake Bank
A steel-hulled steam collier weighing 1371 tonnes and 71.65m long. Built in the UK in 1924 and purchased by a company in Melbourne. It was used to transport coal between Hexhem and Mortlake. On 31 May 1942, during WWII SS Mortlake Bank entered Sydney Harbour passing through the anti-submarine boom net when the Japanese midget submarine (M-24) made entry under the ship's keel.
The vessel has been broken up and only the stern section and part of the bow remain floating approximately 50m north east of SS Ayrfield.
SS Mortlake Bank Past and Present (old photo from afloat.com.au)
From Homebush Bay Drive, turning into Australia Ave, passing Bicentennial Park main entrance, turn right at Bennelong Parkway, follow the signs to the Archery Centre veering right and over a little road bridge, parking is on your left opposite the apartment block on the corner at Wentworth Point.
Cross the road and follow the footpath (to the left of the apartment block), this will lead you to the water's edge, to your right you will see a white footbridge and the stunning SS Ayrfield floating on the water amongst the mangroves.
Archery Centre Car Park - Pathway left of the apartment block - White footbridge and shipwreck
What makes SS Ayrfield so special amongst the photographers is the east lying position of the floating forest shipwreck, making it a stunning rustic subject matter when set amongst a sunrise or sunset backdrop.
Photo courtesy of Brent Pearson from freephotoguide.com
From Homebush Bay Drive, turning into Australia Ave, turn right into the main entrance of Bicentennial Park, follow the road all the way to the last parking lot P10f. The parking area is directly opposite the Badu Mangrove boardwalk.
This is an excellent scenic 1.3km walking track, which first takes you through the mangrove boardwalk before joining up with the cycleway/footpath, turn left and follow the path all the way to the shipwreck lookout. On your left you will pass the salt marsh then the stunning waterbird refuge filled with birdlife. You will soon spot the first shipwreck SS Heroic on your right through the mangroves in the water.
Badu Mangroves Boardwalk - Blackswans in the Waterbird Refuge
Towards the end of the track, you will come to small sandy/pebbly path with a metal plaque on the ground titled "Ship Wreck Lookout" with a brief history. To your right you will find HMAS Karangi. By the water's edge you will find the old wooden ship-breaking ramp and crane and a telescope to view SS Ayrfield and SS Mortlake Bank.
Plaque and Sandy/Pebbly track to the Shipwreck Platform