Bungaroo is an area located within Garigal National Park around the tidal limit of Middle Harbour Creek. It’s accessible by boat (at high tide) or bush track, even so it’s a wild area with a feeling of remoteness, it’s easy to forget how close it is to civilization. Bungaroo is also of historical significance to the early colony of New South Wales. It was at this spot that Governor Phillip camped with a small exploration party on April 16, 1788.
My interest in Bungaroo was sparked when I was contacted by a man named John Byrnes about any information I had about the area. After numerous emails it was clear that Bungeroo is of great interest to John and he’s somewhat of an authority on the place. Much of what follows is from articles John sent me and documents he’s uncovered.
Not long after their arrival at Sydney in 1788 the new colony was having trouble getting crops established, not surprising considering the poor soil in the vicinity of Sydney cove. The animals they had brought with them were not doing well, many of the sheep had died and the chooks and roosters were not breeding. To save the colony from starvation Phillip set out on an expedition with a small group of men with the intention of locating fertile land capable of supporting the new colony. They left Sydney on April 15th, travelling overland from Manly to Middle Harbour River all the way to the tidal limit at Bungeroo. Here they they camped. The next day they climbed out of the valley and made their way up to the ridge line that is now occupied by the pacific Highway in the vicinity of Turramurra station. It was here where they glimpsed the blue mountains in the west. As a man of the world Phillip knew that large mountains meant a large river, which in turn meant fertile alluvial flats. The agricultural future of the colony lay in the west! They were back at Bungeroo that night, Phillip and his party returned to Sydney on April 18th.
So resolute was Phillip to reach those mountains that just four days later, and before he had fully recovered from from the effects of the first trip, a similar party set off again directly westwards from Sydney on the 22nd April. They had much better rations but only reached as far as a hill that Phillip christened “Bellvue Hill”. They had then reached what we now call Prospect Hill – with an even better view of the Mountains. It took the English a bit longer to reach the Mountains and the expected big river, but reach it they did – and as anticipated it did become the food bowl of the Colony
Phillip sent a report of his Bungaroo expedition back to England, addressed to Lord Sydney, on the 15th May 1788, and here is what he wrote:
“The country we passed thro’ when we left the low grounds was the most rocky and barren I ever saw; the ascending and descending of the mountains being practicable only in particular places, but covered in flowering shrubs; and when about fifteen miles from the sea-coast we had a very fine view of the mountains inland, the northernmost of which I named Carmathen Hills and the southernmost Landsdown Hills. A mountain between I called Richmond Hill, and from the rising of these mountains I did not doubt but that a large river would be found”.
From the early 20th century Bungaroo has been used by many as a picnic and camping spot, today there are well marked tracks through the area, although it would look pretty much as it did in 1788 when Phillip visited.
There’s more detail on Bungaroo and it’s later use in this document obtained from Ku-Ring-Gai Library by John. Short histories and oral statements on Bungaroo
If you know of any more information on Bungaroo and it’s history John and myself would love to hear, you can contact us here.