A simple entrance off Lane Cove Road near the start of the M2 motorway at North Ryde is all it takes to flee the madding crowd and find peace and tranquillity in Lane Cove National Park. Entering the handsome entrance, I pass through stone pillars and am immediately transported to some far away place. The constant hum of traffic is quickly left behind as I start to follow a winding road through preserved bushland. Statuesque gums, tree ferns, native banksia, grevillea and grass trees fill the sloping land, and as the road descends to the valley floor, I hear birdsong instead of trains, planes and automobiles. Through the trees, I catch glimpses of Lane Cove River, a placid meandering waterway. Rocky outcrops break through the escarpment and walking tracks leading off into the bush in various directions soon become obvious.
I pull over at Porters Creek Bridge, a historic landmark built in 1938 by unskilled labour and scale the few steps to the small creek below. The old moss-covered stonework of the bridge is beautiful and I sit amongst the tree-ferns to listen to the family of lorikeets squabbling in the canopy of gums above. Back in the car, the road slowly descends through the bushland, following the natural slope of the land, and designated picnic and barbeque areas are soon dotting the landscape. So convenient, I think to myself, that each spot has a name and number making it easy to meet family and friends for a rendezvous or picnic in the bush.
I'm travelling solo today, but pull off the main road to check out the amenities at various locations. Halfway Point sits right on the water's edge and a shady clearing provides a picnic table, wood barbeque (some firewood is even provided) and it's possible to clamber down and dip a foot in the water. The gentle winter sun hits my face, momentarily blinding me, and for a split second I can't see or hear anything. I have the entire sanctuary to myself and could be anywhere but mere miles from the centre of Australia's largest and busiest city.
Further along the road, another clearing, Commandment Rock, provides a covered pavilion, more wood barbeques, seating and a large open grassy area, perfect for children to run and kick a ball. Into a nearby sandstone outcrop, the Bible's 5th Commandment has been carved. The inscription 'Honour thy father and thy mother that the days may be long upon the land you have been given' has been attributed to the sons of Edward Tunbridge, who was a farmer in the area around 1875. A few Aboriginal carvings also can be found at various locations.
The road levels out at the Lane Cove Boat Shed. Paddle-boats, canoes and row-boats are available for hire, although may be closed weekdays through the winter months, so best to check their website here for pricing and availability. This area also has toilets and a small kiosk selling drinks and ice-creams. The main walking track through the park, parts of which were originally old logging trails, passes by the boat-shed, along the water's edge and is part of the Great North Walk from Sydney CBD to Newcastle.
Finally, I'm at the bottom of the park. A small weir has ducks and herons wading through the shallows. A children's playground, sprawling green lawn area and 'Headquarters' building sits just inside the Lady Game Drive entrance. It's been a mere 15-minute drive down from the top, plus stops, but it feels like I've been here all day. To walk it would probably take a couple of hours, and there are a smattering of joggers, cyclists and walkers using both the roadway and the bushland trail to get their dose of green space and fresh oxygen-hit today.
NOTE - The park is open 9am to 7pm during daylight savings (6pm outside daylight saving), and may close due to poor weather. As it's a National Park, entrance is $8 per vehicle per day, and coin-operated pay-and-display machines are available. If coming by bus from Chatswood station, or walking from North Ryde station entry is $4.40/adult, $2.20/per child. An annual pass can also be purchased which gives you access to all National Parks in NSW. Toilet facilities are at Bakers Flat, Carter Creek, Casuarina Point, Commandment Rock, and Cottonwood Glen picnic areas. Lane Cove River Tourist Park - has on-site cabins, camping facilities and a kiosk, but there are no other facilities within the riverside areas to purchase food so make sure you bring your own food and water.