A freelance writer with an interest in just about everything.
Published April 11th 2013
Harbourfront bushland oasis just 15km from the city
Jutting out into Sydney Harbour, Balls Head Reserve is almost nine hectares of waterfront bushland just 1.5 kilmoetres from the heart of Sydney. With bushwalking trails, an intriguing history and some truly impressive views of the city, the reserve is a good spot for a day out.
Balls Head has a long and quite interesting history. Before the arrival of European settlers, the Cammeraygal people lived in the area - in fact, middens, art sites and rock engravings still remain in the area today.
The reserve gets its name from Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, the commander of HMS Supply, the first ship of the First Fleet to enter Botany Bay. Balls Head was dedicated as a recreation reserve back in 1926, but during the Depression years many people were forced to live in caves and shelters on the sandstone headland. Trees were cut down and vegetation destroyed, so a "beautification" scheme was launched to help transform the site into the beautiful area it is today.
Though it's less than one kilometre from Waverton Station, which is itself just a short train ride from the city, Balls Head Reserve is something of an unexplored gem for many people. It's a refreshing break from the crowds that infest many of Sydney's other harbourfront sites.
The closest bushland reserve of this size to the city, Balls Head offers great views of the city skyline, the Harbour Bridge (pity about that building at Blues Point blocking some of the view), Goat Island and Darling Harbour. Make sure you take along a camera when you go exploring here.
Home to Sydney Red Gums, Red Bloodwoods and Banksias, the reserve is also a welcome refuge for many birds and animals. Picnic tables, seats and electric barbecues are available and, with one of Sydney's best backdrops on offer, it's no surprise the reserve is such a popular picnic spot.
Numerous plaques and reminders from the Depression era including remnants of paths, steps and railings can be found throughout the reserve. Several bushwalking tracks, including one suitable for wheelchairs, wind their way through the dense bushland. Leave yourself an hour or two to wander around these trails, taking time to stop every now and then to admire the view.
Dogs are welcome in Balls Head Reserve as long as they're kept on a leash, while public toilets are also available. Car parking is available in the reserve and on Balls Head Road. For more information about Balls Head Reserve, visit the North Sydney Council website.