Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vaucluse House and Shark Beach

Our friends Michelle and Alex were off traveling in the U.S. and Europe for several weeks and only recently returned, so we booked a lazy Sunday to hang out with them. I was feeling a bit rough from a friend's buck's night so slept in and by the time we were all ready to take off it was early afternoon. Given the late start we didn't want to venture too far and the weather wasn't quite warm enough for the beach.

I declared that it would be an adventure day nonetheless and we'd go explore some part of Sydney none of us had seen. After a quick online search for walking trails in the city we decided on Vaucluse, an upscale neighborhood that juts out into the harbor just north of Bondi. Despite it being so close it's one of those places we never thought to explore. There was a 1.2km walk along the water that sounded nice.

En route to the starting point of the walk, Nielsen Park, we passed the welcoming entrance for Vaucluse House and decided to take a detour. Now a historic landmark, Vaucluse House was originally built in 1803 by Sir Henry Brown Hayes, who was "transported" (that's the polite term for the practice of sending convicts to Australia) to Sydney after kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy Irish banker. In Sydney he was considered a trouble maker, so to get him away from the city the governor allowed him to build a house in Vaucluse, which was a healthy distance away.

In 1812 Hayes was pardoned by the new governor and returned to Ireland. Some 15 years later the house and property were purchased by William Charles Wentworth, a successful lawyer and politician. His wife, the daughter of former convicts, ran the property and made several additions to it, and it took it's current shape under her direction. Despite their stature and wealth they were shut out of Sydney society due to two out-of-wedlock children they had prior to getting married.

Since 1920 the house has been a historic site open to the public. Walking the grounds is free, but a self-guided tour of the house costs $8. Depending on your taste for historic sites (my mom always read every single placard, which drove us kids insane), the house can be covered in 30 minutes or less.

After checking out the house we drove a few hundred meters further up the road to Nielsen Park, which sits on the harbor. We had intended to walk the trail along the harbor, but didn't make it any farther than our first stop, Shark Beach. Shark Beach is a small beach bookended on each side by small cliffs and trees. The vibe is totally different from Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, or Coogee. It felt like a private beach and, since it was nearly 4:00pm at this point, was mostly empty. A net protects swimmers from the sharks that prowl the harbor. A small café overlooks the beach and is the perfect place for a drink. A trail meanders along the water to another tiny beach and historic property named Strickland House, which is not open to the public (still worth a walk, though).

Here are some photos:
Vaucluse House from the back.
Raiding the pantry.

Inside the courtyard.

Shark Beach from the side.

Alex with the city in the background.

Catching the fading light on Shark Beach.


  1. Interesting,
    How come we never toured it when we were in Bondi?

  2. Never enough time to see everything! xx