Dangar Island Wharf

Dangar Island: Life on the Hawkesbury River

It’s only a short walk from Hawkesbury River station to the Brooklyn Wharf and the Dangar Island Ferry. I live on Dangar Island and it is high time to “discover” this unusual suburb through a visitor’s eyes. Perhaps I’ll add some local insights along the way.

Getting to Dangar Island

“The Sun”, a little white wooden ferry has a long history of working the Hawkesbury River. Beautifully restored, it has been transporting passengers between Brooklyn, Dangar Island and Wobby for around 40 years. The ferry ride is relaxing, with great views of the river, the Hawkesbury River Bridge and the boatsheds and cottages lining the shore. All too soon, the ride is over and we pull up at the Dangar Island Wharf.

Dangar Island is lined with boatsheds and jettys

Boatsheds and Jettys

Dangar Island Ferry and Hawkesbury River Bridge

Dangar Island Ferry

Sense of Community

Walking through the Ferry Shed it is already obvious that there’s a strong community on Dangar Island.  Notices adorning the walls inform locals and visitors about boats and other goods for sale, about the community buggy and upcoming events. There’s a shelf laden with books and unwanted goods and clothing and a row of bicycles line one wall.

Dangar Island Public Wharf

The Wharf, The Buggy and a Barge

Dangar Island Public Wharf

Local Tinnies

Upside down wheelbarrows wait silently for their owners to load them with shopping for the last leg of the homeward journey. People walk freely on the roads as apart from the Fire Truck, First Responders Ambulance, Community Buggy, a ute and the odd service truck there are no vehicles on Dangar Island.

News and Mail

Numbered letterboxes line the wall of Dangar Depot, the local café and general store, and one of the last glass enclosed telephone booths in the Sydney metropolitan area serves as a notice board with hand written notes and carefully designed posters looking for or selling anything and everything.

Dangar Island Mail Service

Letter boxes

Enclosed Telstra Phone Booth

Dual Purpose Phone Booth

The blue community Buggy (of golf cart style), is parked outside the wharf. Today’s volunteer driver, Julie, enjoys a coffee with other locals at one of the outdoor tables while waiting her next fare. I stop and chat.

We notice something is floating in the water near the sea wall. Julie wades in, avoiding the oyster shells, and drags what turns out to be a floating oyster bag ashore. Michael guesses who the owner is, calls them and owner and oysters are reunited. The community is a major reason for me living on Dangar Island.

Dangar Depot

Dangar Depot

Wheelbarrows as transport

For the shopping

Points of Interest

After bidding my friends farewell, I wander up the hill to the narrow path that will take me to the Community Hall and Bowling Club.

As the path opens out, I admire, not for the first time, the sandstone clad water tower which used to supply water to nearby Dangar House. All that remains of the house after a fire in 1939 is The Pavilion, part of a home now located behind the quaint “Beware of the Rabbit” doorway.

Beware of the Rabbit

Beware of the Rabbit

Water Tower Dangar Island

The Water Tower

The Bowling Club, often a hive of activity on weekends is quiet now. The monthly afternoon music sessions in the park and open mike nights in the club usually draw quite a crowd.

Looking closely

Exploring the island “as a visitor” has me paying closer attention to my surroundings than usual. I pass a fence lined with colourful surfboards. A boat woven out of sticks, now a garden feature, was one of the many contributions to a Dangar Island Sculpture walk a few years ago.

Grounded Tinny on Dangar Island

Grounded

Surfboard Fence

Fenced In

A magpie flies up to a low hanging branch, with a large insect in her beak, her baby squawking hungrily down below. The maggies here tend not to swoop but seem to warble and chat as I walk past. I know I’m not the only one that talks back.

Very Brief History

For over 30 000 years, Aboriginal people were the custodians of the area around the island. The Guringai (or Eora) to the South, the Dhargug from the West, the Darkinjung to the North – used to meet here as is evident from the numerous middens and the rock carvings (now quite indistinct) on the top of the island.

More recent history is recognised by a plaque which commemorates the landing of Captain Arthur Phillip on the island on the 7th March 1788, when he was in search of arable land. He named the island Mullet Island and in 1921 it was renamed Dangar Island.

Bradley's Beach

Looking Right

Bradley's Beach

Looking Left

Bradley’s Beach

Two young girls in wet swimmers, walk towards me after their swim on Bradley’s Beach. They greet me easily and reply in the affirmative to my question about the warmth of the water. Dangar Island has a magic feel. Children have a freedom not often experienced these days.

Halfway along the beach, a large barge is pushed up on the shore. A worker loads it with building material. Everything from bringing the shopping home to renovating a home is complicated and requires careful planning. I wonder aloud if the work will be finished before Christmas. The man replies “everything has to happen by Christmas – it just depends which Christmas”.

Dangar Island Street Scene

Street scene

Dogs playing on Bradley's Beach

Fun with a ball

Another friend

Playful barking and children’s chatter reaches me from further along the beach. Someone calls out “Hey Jo”. My friend Sue is sitting in the water surrounded by her grandchildren and dogs enjoying respite from the heat. We chat and watch the dogs chasing a ball and the children playing in the water.

Back on the Streets

Away from the beach now, a pair of low flying lorikeets fly past me in a blaze of colour. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any king parrots or galahs today nor have I heard any Kookaburras. Perhaps it is too hot. What I have heard is the constant drone of cicadas in the trees.

Wheelbarrow transport

Ready for use

Egg Sculpture on Chook Run

Chook Run

An oversized egg sculpture marks one of the many chook runs on the island. One of the chooks looks at me expectantly and then turns away.

Emergency Services

My walk takes me past the Fire Shed and Ambulance Station and I make a detour to the shop to collect my mail and get an ice-cold drink.

Friendly Offer

While sitting outside enjoying the pleasant breeze and quiet lapping of the water against the sea wall, one of the people from the beach walks past. When he realises that the ferry will be a while he offers me a lift back to Brooklyn. He isn’t local and my camera has marked me as a tourist. Dangar does that to people – they are friendly and helpful and talk to strangers.

Riverview Avenue

I make my way up the steep hill to explore the top half of the island. Recently two women passed me on this section of the road and asked “is there anything up there?” The answer should have been “that depends” For me there is plenty “up there”.

Back to nature

There are beautiful native trees and bushland, views past rooftops down the Hawkesbury River and if you stop and look, lots of little things. There are termite mounds in trees and their tracks crossing the road, there’s birdlife and the occasional blue tongue lizard or other reptile.

Dangar Island Garden

It is peaceful here

Dangar Island Honey

Honesty Box for local honey

Look out for quirky things

A friend sells local honey at a roadside stall complete with honesty box. Yarn bombing decorates a pole and large wooden Scrabble-like blocks with letters spelling “Dangar Island” challenge passers-by to create new and different words. Today there’s a new one “Lizard Sanga”

The path up to Kiparra Park and the top of the island with its elusive rock carvings is unfortunately cordoned off while Sydney Water removes a reservoir and rejuvenates the area.

Having completed the top loop, I return to the shop and ferry shed having seen my island home in a new light. Now it is time to jump off my jetty to cool off.

If you enjoyed reading about Dangar Island, you may be interested in a children’s picture book that I wrote about Island life as seen through the eyes of a child.

And for more about Dangar Island, a fellow Sydney Blogger, Best Sydney Walks has also  written about Dangar Island. The post is full of great information about how to get to Dangar Island and what facilities there are.

Bundeena is another Sydney Suburb accessible by ferry. Read more about Bundeena here.
Next stop: Moore Park

Useful information:

You can find the Dangar Ferry timetable here

The Ferry costs $7:70 per adult one way. Opal Cards are NOT accepted

Plan your trip at transportnsw.info

And a map to assist you: This is a map taken from my book (illustrated by Jacqui Selby). You can download the map here

Map of Dangar Island

Comments

  1. Thanks Jo. Glad you decided to include our ‘suburb’ in your wonderful blog of Sydney neighbourhoods.

    1. Author

      Thanks Suzanne….I have been wanting to do Dangar Island for absolutely ages but wasn’t sure how it would go down locally. In the end I bit the bullet as it were. Jo

  2. Great work. Be careful not to sell the island too much. Hornsby Shire’s best kept secret paradise!

    1. Author

      Thanks Nathan….that is the danger, but on the other hand why not share it with others? Joanne

  3. As I have had the pleasure of visiting Jo & Bronek several times on the island, I can well understand that it is a secret Paradise!! As always Jo, just loved this blog – very special!! Lib

  4. Wonderful read Jo. Brings back some super memories. Thanks for sharing ! Tim

  5. Very important are the Evidence of Aboriginal carvings. Their west facing orientation is important to others on nearby Country.
    Of course the area here had anti submarine nets here in the event of Impending Japanese invasion of Sydney circa 1942 and the target of blowing up the rail bridge adjacent. In fact the nearby Woy Woy rail tunnel was wired up for such a purpose.

    1. Author

      Thank you Dave for your additional information. There is so much history surrounding Dangar Island. The local historical society has a guide with much more detail that I was able to provide. Joanne

    1. Author

      Hopefully you’ll be back Bernadette. We enjoy sharing our special home. Jo

  6. You are very lucky to live in such an interesting place! I enjoyed reading more about it!

    1. Author

      Yes, Charlene, we are lucky and do remind ourselves of that every day when we look out onto the river. Jo

    1. Author

      It’s a lovely place and although people do come for a weekend or day trip it’s not too busy. We see a couple of family groups walking past. That’s it.

  7. Hi Jo,
    I have vague memories of visiting an Aunty who lived here many years ago!
    Was wondering, do you know the traditional name of the island? Are there plans to rename the island to its traditional (Aboriginal) name?
    Rob

    1. Author

      Unfortunately, Rob, I don’t know the traditional Aboriginal name for the Island. It was called Mullet Island by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788 and it was officially renamed Dangar Island in 1921 with the first subdivision, although it had been referred to as Dangar’s Island and Dangar Island prior to that. I don’t know of any plans to rename the island to its Aboriginal name.

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