Located on the South Head peninsular, just near the entrance to the Harbour, Watsons Bay is a very peaceful place where you can sit on a bench in the park to look straight down the Harbour at Sydney’s wonderful skyline, one that is dominated by Sydney’s iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
At Watsons Bay there are luxury homes with waterfront boundaries and dozens of water craft moored just offshore; elegant yachts and sleek motor cruisers, peacefully bobbing about in the serene waters of Port Jackson (the original name given to Sydney Harbour by Captain Cook).
Watson’s Bay was Sydney’s first fishing village, and adjacent to the small beach you will find Doyle’s, a well known seafood restaurant which occupies the shop from which the original Doyle, a fishmonger, first sold his catch in 1845. Doyle’s also have a less formal fish and chip shop on the Watsons Bay jetty; it’s a great experience to sit on a bench under a spreading Moreton Bay Fig Tree munching of freshly cooked fish and chips and soaking up the view.
There is an easy walk you can do from Watsons Bay, around the Harbour side of the peninsular, visiting the small, and quiet, beach at Camp Cove, and taking you past Lady Bay, Sydney’s first official nude beach, to the historic Hornby Lighthouse. The return trip will take about one hour, but it is a very easy stroll, just perfect on a sunny day.
Sitting at Watsons Bay enjoying the serenity, it is hard to believe that this place has also caused so much heartbreak, but when you walk up the hill, you come upon The Gap, a notorious cliff face, and the scene of many tragedies.
Here in 1857 the Captain of the ship Dunbar mistook the bay at The Gap for the entrance to Sydney Harbour, and was shipwrecked on the rocks below, with the loss of 121 lives. The Dunbar’s anchor was recovered in 1910, and now sits atop The Gap, a sentinel, reminding us of that tragic loss of life.
The Dunbar shipwreck was an accident, but The Gap has a sadder reputation for being Sydney’s number one place for suicides. Hundreds of unfortunate people have thrown themselves off The Gap, and in one notorious case, was thrown off the cliff by a jealous lover. And when you look over the edge, you see why it has such a reputation. If the fall onto the rocks doesn’t kill you, the ferocious waves which pound the rocks will. Others have died through misadventure. Rock fishermen, who have carefully and successfully scaled the cliffs just to get a good catch, have been known to be dragged under the rocks by king waves, their bodies sometimes disappearing for days.
I believe that the best way to get to Watsons Bay by public transport is by ferry from Circular Quay. Or, if you are travelling by public transport, combine a trip to Watson’s Bay with a visit to Bondi Beach, and do the circle – catch the train to Bondi Junction, the bus to Bondi Beach and the bus to Watsons Bay – or vice versa. It all makes for a great day out and you will easily be able to visit in the one outing some of the best places that Sydney has to offer.