Jutting out between Jew Fish Bay and Lime Kiln Bay, Oatley Park in Sydney's south is a haven for its birdlife, bush trails and natural beauty. There's plenty of interesting features here and it's ever-changing too, from the construction of Oatley Baths in 1909 to Oatley Castle in the early 1930s and, more recently, an upgrade of the playground in 2019 to be more inclusive.
You can walk, cycle and drive around the park, take in the views from various lookouts, explore the wetlands and river beaches, enjoy a swim, have a picnic, use the barbecues or play a game of cricket.
The adventure playground is huge and a drawcard for families. With its new park furniture and recreation infrastructure, it caters to all ages and abilities. Included is a large wooden structure with a ramp, a tower to climb and both small and giant tube slides, a large xylophone that kids like to strike, a flying fox with a seat for younger children, a teen area, traditional and modern swings, an old historic steamroller, sandpits and shaded areas.
For those wanting a secluded spot away from the busyness of the playground, head to the Castle, a sandstone tower resembling the ruins of an old English castle. It was originally a kiosk and lookout built as part of an unemployment relief scheme during the Great Depression. Today, it's a picnic venue with barbecues, tables and seats, and you can take the ramp to the top for some gorgeous views.
Apart from the Castle, there's the history of the military kind. In 1920, a descendent of the original Gallipoli 'Lone Pine' tree was planted near the entrance to the park (thanks to a seed brought in by a WWI veteran). Two decades later in 1942, the Royal Australian Engineers training camp was located in the park, where exercises in road and bridge building were performed as well as the construction of tank traps (in the name of coastal defence).
But that's not all. Our Aboriginal history is present too with evidence of activity that includes rock carvings and shell middens. The past has seen an Aboriginal cultural tour organised by the Hurstville Museum & Gallery with an Aboriginal guide sharing knowledge on his culture, from tools used to uses of plants in the park, followed by a morning tea at the Castle. You can enquire with the Museum (phone 02 93306444) as to whether there are any future tours being planned.
As you meander around the park, you'll find plenty of trees, shrubs and native flowers. Over 310 species, in fact, have been reported. From tall smooth-barked Apples with their grey and pink trunks to wattles and red flowering Coral trees, there's beauty everywhere. The best way to see them all is by taking a bush trail, of which there are several of varying lengths. For a shorter 30min return walk, take the Ridge Track (starts and ends at the steamroller play area) or the Headland Track (starts and ends at the Castle). For those that want more of a workout, then the Oatley Park Lime Kiln Bay Circuit Walk will suit you. It's 2hrs return and starts and finishes at the main car park. A map in the park shows you all the trails, facilities and points of interest.
Events are held in the park from time to time to raise money for various organisations and to recognise important dates. Music in the Park raised proceeds from stalls and donations for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal several years back, whilst the upcoming Winter Wander (5th June 2021) celebrates World Environment Day. The guided tour explores the park and its biodiversity. It's free with tickets available through Eventbrite.
This 45-hectare reserve bounded by the Georges River provides for a delightful day out all year round. The gates open at approximately 6.30am, making it great for runners to get in an early morning jog. Closing time is sunset and this varies from 6pm-8pm, depending on the month.