I don't often get to this part of the harbour. It's tucked away behind Mosman and a little way off the main thoroughfare of Military Road, on Sydney's north shore. But on a recent detour, I accidently took a wrong turn and found myself at the water's edge of this most picturesque part of the harbour. It's part-old-fashioned beach with a pavilion and rotunda which date back to the early 1900's, and part-French Riviera, surrounded by Federation-style mansions that date back to the late 1890's. It's well-serviced by buses from Spit Junction and well worth the visit. The long promenade along the beach front is lined with majestic, grand old figs that sprawl and provide acres of shade, and a few historical signs detail its link to indigenous and European history. Capt. John Hunter arrived here in 1788, four days after the First Fleet's arrival at Botany Bay. Farms were established, and the beach was named after Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Between 1922 and 1958 trams serviced the area, running to Wynyard, Lane Cove and Chatswood. Currently, Balmoral Beach Conservation area is heritage-listed, and the main attractions are:
Perfect white sand, a netted safe swimming area and small swells make this protected part of the harbour sublime. The footpath which traces the edge of the sand is wide, allowing plenty of room for strollers and scooters. A rock pool at one end is fun to explore and the southern end has shaded areas of sand where the massive fig trees spread their canopy. There are amenities blocks at both ends of the beach.
The Eateries: I love that there are a couple of casual kiosks where you can just grab a gelato, or fish and chips from 'Bottom of the Harbour' café, and plonk yourself under a nearby tree. But if you're in the mood for something a little more decadent, visit Bathers Pavilion, open all day every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Being absolute beachfront, it's popular for weddings and special occasions. There's also the Boathouse Café, where you can also hire kayaks and paddleboards.
Activities: It's so easy to walk when you have some really spectacular views to keep you going. The trails along this part of the coast are part of the Balmoral to the Spit collection of walkways. If you're in the mood for an all-day outing, grab your water bottle and go all the way to Taronga Zoo. Shorter walks include Balmoral to Chowder Bay, where there is still a naval base and the only scuba diving school on Sydney Harbour. Easier options include exploring the coastline to Sirius Cove, or the one kilometre walk north to Chinaman's Beach. Both beaches are well within the harbour, secluded and serene.
The Green Spaces: Right beside the netted baths and café is a comprehensive and fun children's playground with a range of equipment to keep all ages occupied. There is an amenities block adjacent to the playground, and the trees here shade the beach, ideal for little ones playing in the sand. There are picnic tables and chairs at various spots, and shady grassed areas all along the promenade. Also, just across the road is another large green space with picnic tables, swings, enough room to kick a soccer ball or enjoy a game of cricket.
At the end of the day, all I wanted to do was find a seat in the 'arms' of one of the wonderful huge fig trees and watch the passing parade of yachts on the water, children playing on the sand, and the dedicated doing their laps across the bay in front of me. Gelato anyone?