A Walk Through History – ‘Port – History Walk around Pyrmont’, Sydney

Today’s walk is the final in my series of Sydney explorations on foot…for now. I have really enjoyed these slow walks, allowing the equally slow reveal of the City’s history.

The theme of today’s walk is industry as we stroll through the suburb called Pyrmont, once a hive of manufacturing and shipping, and now the home of ritzy high-rise apartments.

Let’s explore the historic gems and interesting stories tucked away in Pyrmont’s hidden nooks and corners…

The legs were a little tired today after three days of walking Sydney’s hard streets, but the fact that I was walking away from the CBD put a little spring in my step.

Here are the Nuts and Bolts of this little walk:

  • Distance: Approximately 5km.
  • Time: Allow 1.5hours or longer if you decide to stop for a coffee or a snack.
  • Location: The suburb of Pyrmont envelops a small peninsula just to the West of the Sydney CBD. It is only a short walk across the Pyrmont Bridge and Cockle Bay area of Darling Harbour to reach the official start of this walk.
  • Terrain: While most of this route is on footpaths, there are some steep sections of steps and stairs that would make it challenging for people with mobility issues or prams. You would need to take a couple of wide detours to miss those and get back on track.
  • What to Pack: A hat and sunscreen are important, especially as you stroll the more exposed areas on the Harbour’s edge.

General Comments:

  • Walking over the Pyrmont Bridge, I immediately noticed the contrast between the shiny glitz and glamour of Darling Harbour and the other-worldliness of Pyrmont.

Pyrmont was once the shipping heartland of Sydney with long finger wharves stretching out into the harbour to greet arriving ships. Sydney’s (and Australia’s) maritime history is celebrated at the Australian National Maritime Museum and in various art installations and sculptures installed at the water’s edge.

  • I was particularly interested in the role this area played in immigration, with Wharf 13 being the first place that hundreds of thousands of post-war immigrants stepped onto Australian soil. What an exciting, frightening and completely disorienting experience that must have been.
  • The path proceeds around the Harbour’s edge, taking you past the remaining finger wharves, now converted to luxury apartments with views to die for, past the very tarnished Star Casino, before leading you back inland and up onto the ridge that runs the length of the peninsula. Past St Bede’s Church, opened in 1867 and operating continuously since then and past the old Pyrmont Powerhouse which has been absorbed into the Casino. Many of the old buildings in this area have been constructed from sandstone quarried on their very doorstep and it is possible to see the remnants of the original quarries on this route.
  • Much of the area would be quite unrecognisable to its original residents with the small workers’ cottages and terraces replaced by towering apartment blocks. Between these you get small glimpses of glorious water views, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While most residential areas looked quite expensive, I was interested to see that the Ways Terrace flats, a large block of social or low-cost housing, enjoyed the same magical water views. Go them!

  • Walking these streets, you get a real sense of community that existed in the early days. Some of the streets are quite narrow and twisting, no doubt designed for horse and carts, and residents would have had no choice but to live cheek-by-jowl, playing and socialising in the streets. Replaced by high-rise apartment blocks, residents are still living close together, but now sealed off in their own little boxes.
  • At the end of the Pyrmont peninsula, a large section of open space has been reserved for the public. Pirrama Park includes patches of sculpted green lawns and many different paths for the locals to stretch their legs. Thank goodness the locals were active and vocal as developers had their eye on this site for more apartments, not open space!
  • Industrial architecture dominates the landscape including the old Colonial Sugar Refining (CSR) Company processing site, numerous wool stores and warehouses. This architecture is solid and robust, built to handle the rough treatment of both workmen and the elements. These buildings really were built to last, until sadly, many of them were knocked down in the name of ‘progress’. ‘Progress’ has a lot to answer for, but can you imagine the smell of all these noisy and polluting industries?
  • Working my way back to the end of the loop, I missed a couple of turns and walk a more scenic route. There is no waymarking on this route and sometimes the path heads down a narrow street or up a hidden set of stairs. These are easily missed, but it does make for an even more interesting walk.

This is a really enjoyable and fascinating way to spend a couple of hours. Not only is the scenery beautiful with plentiful harbour views, you do get a strong sense of the area’s industrial history and the growth of the colony both economically and socially.

And that ticks all my boxes.

Where is your favourite stroll through history?

#sydneywalks #travelinspo #shortwalks #historywalks #pyrmont #darlingharbour #maritimehistory #immigrationhistory #cocklebay #industrialsydney #daywalks #harbourviews #waterviews #colonialhistory #shipping #australianwoolboom #ridingonthesheepsback

24 thoughts on “A Walk Through History – ‘Port – History Walk around Pyrmont’, Sydney

  1. These walks look like a great way to explore your own city. I should see if we have something organized here. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. I certainly have learned a tonne and being such a history buff, it has been a true joy to walk and learn at the same time. Have a good day. Mel

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your walks. I found them very informative and will be using them when I get a chance o get up to Sydney.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure. Exploring on foot is a great way to understand a city. Thanks, Mel


  3. Well done, Mel, for completing such a comprehensive list of walks around Sydney. Which will be worth referring to when someone heads next in Sydney.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to walk on your behalf, Suzanne. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good on you, Mel 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “when anyone heads to Sydney.” Fat finger syndrome when using phone to write 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Off the top of my head, I’d say wandering through Rome was my favorite walk through history. Someday I hope to give Rome a run for its money by walking around in Greece.

    Funnily enough, I’m actually listening to the Tracks soundtrack as I’m reading your post about an Australian destination! And on a related note, the Australian National Maritime Museum just went on the list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Roma! That takes some beating for history. Yes, Athens would be up there and how about Cairo?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Sure! I’ll just pop out and buy that lottery ticket! 😁

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I have enjoyed these walks around Sydney very much. There is so much to see and do in that city. The last time I walked across Pyrmont bridge it was on a very hot December day and there isn’t much in the way of shade on there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope I have provided a small trip down memory lane for you. 😊


      1. You have indeed. I’m only sorry that I probably won’t be visiting Sydney again.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, in that case, I need to do a tonne more walks for you!


  7. I love a maritime museum, Mel, and this looks like an area with plenty to linger over. I love the old black and white shots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jo. I actually haven’t been inside that museum. Living so far from the sea, I don’t have a natural affinity with it and boats. I do appreciate their beauty though.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s a surprise to see the lighthouse so suddenly at the harbour. And of course, a glimpse of your beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge is always a bonus!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought you might like this walk. Water views aplenty…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ta. All a bit tame considering your surrounds, but interesting all the same. Have a good day, Mel


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