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Published February 2nd 2016
Discover the best of Lane Cove in 4 hours
Lane Cove's National Park, loved by locals, is much smaller than the nearby Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park but easily explored on this easy 5-kilometre introduction, completed within 4 hours (or longer if you don't want to leave). As you'll be charting Lane Cove River, you'll discover a colourful variety of wildlife, including Superb Fairy-wrens, wildflowers and stonework, featuring the inviting Commandment Rock and majestic Porters Bridge. Dark Swamp Wallabies, easily mistaken for small kangaroos, may hop across your path while slithering snakes and lizards – Red-bellied Black Snakes, Eastern Water Dragons and Burton's Legless Lizards taunt you with flashing tongues.
Lane Cove River (by Sardaka at Wikipedia)
From Central Station, board the T1 North Shore, Northern & Western Line train to Chatswood, changing for the 545 bus to Parramatta, exiting on Millwood Ave after you pass the traffic lights of Lady Game Dr and the Lane Cove River. Cross the street to walk straight into the park and onto Riverside Dr. Walking through Chatswood Park, you'll be drawn to the river by the Lane Cove Weir. The weir has a chequered history since its proposal in 1900 and eventual construction in 1938, the same year the area was declared a national park. Planned to allow larger pleasure craft to sail the length of Lane Cove River, the weir prevented the natural migration of fish. After passionate lobbying from dedicated local volunteers and rangers, a "fish ladder" was eventually installed. The ladder is a series of stone steps, complementing the natural surrounds and providing a channel for fish to swim upstream. Local residents are especially protective of this park and the regrowth of native trees and flowers after terrible bushfires in 1994 destroyed much of the wildlife in the area. Follow the river as it winds north-east then tucks back to the south. You'll pass Illoura, the first of many picnic areas but it's too soon to stop yet as a boat awaits.
Fern tree (by Sardaka at Wikipedia)
Lane Cove's Boatshed has rowboats for families, pedal boats for couples and canoes for the solo walker. Once you're back on dry land, walk south-west again to reach another turn in the river after another 500 metres. You'll push north for the rest of your expedition. Up ahead, Carter Creek picnic area is a good morning tea stop if you resisted the ice creams at the boatshed.
Northward, Cottonwood Glen is a nice photo spot and other perfect picnic area. As you sit by the river, lookout for the fish-loving birds including Powerful Owls ogling you from above and hooting hello, Red-browed finches and Superb Fairy-wrens but also the ungainly brush-turkey. Dissuade any American visitors from chasing them during Thanksgiving – these aren't related to the American turkey.
Red-browed finch (by Glen Fergus at Wikipedia)
Nearby, children will have a religious experience at Commandment Rock picnic area, formerly a 19th century family farm, a broad grassy spot with sheltered tables and benches. The large rock, now partly hidden by greenery, was a writing pad for Aboriginals, engraving a moon's crescent and the sun's bursting rays of light. Europeans also carved at the rock with symbols of weaponry, including a bow and arrow, cannon and sword. The rock is named after the tale of a boy growing up in the 1800s when this site was a family farm. Perhaps after snacking on the farm's strawberries, Thomas Tunbridge angered his parents, resulting in a punishment of inscribing 'Honour thy father and thy mother', the Fifth Commandment from the Bible, on the rock and inspiring the naming of this site, enduring long after erosion has worn away his writings.
Water dragon (by Sardaka at Wikipedia)
Fittingly at your halfway point, you'll hit Halfway Point picnic area. After lunch, continue north, watching for the slight diversion from the river on a dogleg to cross the spectacular Porters Bridge. The shades of grey stone and glowing green moss, with curved piers and sharp, straight parapet, water flowing beneath rectangular openings are well worth a drink stop before pushing north and finally turning south and onto Riverside Dr.
Lane Cove River (by Sardaka at Wikipedia)
To return home, follow Riverside Dr south-east and onto Lane Cove Rd, reaching Macquarie Park Station after 400 metres. Take the T1 North Shore, Northern & Western Line train south for the 40-minute ride to Central Station.