The harbourside walk in Cremorne is a perfect reason to explore Cremorne. There’s also the Art Deco Orpheum and a few heritage listed homes to look out for.
Cremorne: North of Military Road
Taking the bus, I alight in Military Road, after the Redlands Senior Campus. Walking back towards Redlands, a series of Art Deco planter boxes line the footpath. The strong stylised geometric shapes hint of more Art Deco to come.
The traffic snakes slowly along Military Road which recently earned the dubious reputation of having one of the longest peak hours in Sydney (from 7am to 6pm).
St Peter’s Anglican Church
Tall metal gates set against the sacristy wall of St Peter’s Anglican Church symbolise the “Open Gates of Faith”. Created by Anne Ferguson, the gates draw me in to inspect delightful details including ripples on a pool, clouds and sun rays, fish and more. The gates are a modern addition to the church which was first built in 1909.
Low rise unit blocks line one side of Grasmere Road facing older bungalow style homes on the opposite side. A woman walks towards me, her dog trotting beside her looking up at her with a loving, expectant look in his eyes. She tells me that he’s “begging for a treat”.
Flowers and Bubblers
Surprisingly, here in suburbia, I see a brush turkey scratching on the nature strip nearby. Rows of decorative plants line the edges of intersections adding to the overall pleasant feel of this North Sydney suburb.
Walking through a small garden island planted with rosemary and lavender at another intersection, I notice an old pyramidal sandstone bubbler. I doubt that many sandstone bubblers remain – I certainly can’t remember seeing another during my suburban explorations.
A thin old man looks at me suspiciously. Even when I greet him with a smile, he continues to stare with no change to his facial expression. Hopefully this isn’t indicative of the locals around here.
Primrose Park and Arts Centre
Walking down a steep and narrow winding road to Primrose Park and Arts Centre, I remember watching my daughter play soccer here on cold Sunday mornings. Nestled between Cammeray and Cremorne, the playing fields run down to the water at Willoughby Creek.
Today, the fields are empty save for a couple of dog walkers. A lone artist works in one of the studios. The sounds of tennis balls being struck and the occasional outburst about a miss hit accompany me as I descend the old wooden steps near the tennis courts down to the fields below.
The Art Studios reside in the engine house of the Folly Point Sewage Treatment Works which operated between 1891 and 1926. I wonder which “Folly” led to the name of the small peninsula opposite where I stand now. Additional research sheds no further light on the subject.
The Hayden Orpheum
Leaving the park and more or less retracing my steps towards Military Road, I turn into Parraween Street. I once drove up and down this street looking in vain for a car park when going to see a movie at the Hayden Orpheum. A word of advice: Get the bus.
Unfortunately, I’m too early for “Ussed& Abbussed” which only opens at eleven. This eclectic “New and Vintage Store” would be fun to look around. Instead, I make my way to the Hayden Orpheum, which first opened in 1935 as a picture theatre.
I’ve read that over time the Orpheum became quite run down. Property developers then bought and redeveloped it into a shopping arcade and gym. Only the art deco ceiling and parts of the proscenium (section of the stage in front of the curtain) remained – hidden by a concrete slab.
Later, bought in 1986 and lovingly restored with Art Deco features and the addition of a Wurlitzer Organ, the Hayden Orpheum reopened in December 1987. Fun facts: The original Orpheum had space for an organ but never installed one. The additional cinema screens were actually carved into the sandstone below.
Cremorne: South of Military Road
Walking down Spofforth St, people smile, say hello and are generally friendly. Happily, the unfriendly suspicious man was an anomaly.
The Heritage Register describes Number 7 Cranbrook Avenue (Belvedere) with its striking covered wrap around veranda as “one of the finest individual Californian Bungalow designs in NSW”. Number 11 (Egglemont), also on the heritage register is another Californian Bungalow built around 1916. It has the dubious fame of being the home where Michael McGurk was shot and killed in the driveway.
The architecture I’ve seen so far is a real mixture ranging from older freestanding Federation homes and semis to art deco units, sixties style blonde brick unit blocks and modern homes and town houses.
Garbos fill a garbage truck with hard rubbish left out for collection. I wonder what they think when they throw perfectly good bric a brac into the back of the truck to be scrunched up and taken to the tip.
Then, there in the distance, is Sydney Harbour. A tall ship glides past a huge anchored cruise ship. When I step down to Hunts Lookout, the harbour view vanishes behind thick bush. A sundial here commemorates the work of J. G. Atlee Hunt in the municipality. Nearby is another sandstone bubbler, this one made from concentric circles of stone.
Cremorne Point Harbourside Walk
Following the bush track, I pass large houses all with water views. Then things become confusing. I can’t orientate myself. Consulting the Council sign doesn’t really help but my decision to turn right proves to be correct.
Dog walkers, couples and small groups of people walk or run towards me enjoying time in the bush with water lapping the nearby shore. Decorative shingle lines the walls and windows of double storey homes. An informative sign describes the features of the Federation Arts and Crafts style of architecture which is prevalent around here.
Lex and Ruby Graham’s Garden
Diverting from the bush path, I take care not to slip on the wet and uneven stone steps that lead down to the water’s edge in Lex and Ruby Graham’s Garden. This garden, started in 1957 from one Elephant Ear bulb found floating in the harbour, became a labour of love. Lex and Ruby worked tirelessly to develop the sanctuary that the garden is today.
Back on the Foreshore Walk, I soon find myself looking at the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge and wondering why it’s taken me so long to discover this walking track.
Robertson’s Lighthouse and Maccallum Pool
The view from Robertson’s lighthouse, at Robertson Point across through the heads is spectacular. Watching Captain Cook ferries transport passengers from the cruise ship I wonder how many ferries it would take to get the 596 passengers off Silversea’s Silver Muse?
Continuing my pleasant walk around the Cremorne Point peninsula, I arrive at Maccallum Pool, which started off as a rock pool built by Olympic Swimmer Fred Lane. Later enlarged and improved by Hugh Maccallum in the 1920s, Council restored the pool in 1985-86 maintaining the 1920s architectural style.
Leaving Cremorne Reserve, there’s one more heritage house on my list. Dalkieth was once a Norwegian Seaman’s Church and then a meditation centre. This large sandstone and slate home is now a private residence.
Cremorne: Worth a Visit
Cremorne has something for everyone. There’s heritage architecture, a pleasant harbourside walk and a beautiful Art Deco Cinema. Cremorne is certainly a suburb worth getting to know.
Of course, if you only wish to do the Cremorne Point Harbourside Circuit, you can arrive by ferry.