Gymea Lily Symbol of Gymea in Sydney

Gymea: Gymea Baths, a Regional Gallery and more

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Today I’m off to explore Gymea, the southern Sydney suburb whose name originates from the word used by local indigenous people for the Gymea Lily.

Stepping out of Gymea Station, I find myself in the Gymea shopping village. I’ll return to this shopping strip once I’ve found the Gymea Bay Baths.

Suburban Streets of Gymea

After walking past a few low-rise units (probably from the 1960s or 1970s) on my right and the trainline on my left, the built landscape changes to simple single storey homes.

House in Gymea

Beautiful Garden

Older Gymea House

An Older Home

Birds tweet in the bottle brush trees lining these quiet back streets. The houses, built from a range of materials including brick, fibro and weatherboard, display a range of styles. A faded and tattered Cronulla Sharks flag droops from a flagpole.

Meeting Locals

Inside the fence of the Sydney Montessori School, a sign reads “Imagine a place where children really want to come to school each day”. A woman leaving the school smiles in greeting.

On the sidewalk, another woman wearing a long white nightgown (isn’t she cold?) and black felt slippers waters her garden. She looks at me curiously, not returning my smile. I would ask her about the unusual tennis ball sized flowers on her plants, but I don’t think she wants to chat.

Later I discover that the unusual flowers are native to tropical Africa and are variously called “balloon plant, bishop’s balls, elephant balls or hairy balls”.

Homes of Gymea

With the skies clear for now (showers are predicted), I’m enjoying walking the side streets of Gymea, passing the odd caravan or boat parked in driveways. Here, most, if not all the homes have neat, well cared for gardens with trimmed lawns and hedges. Some are modernised, or even rebuilt while others retain original features.

Bridge over Coonong Creek

The Gully

Gymea Bay Home

More Established Home

I walk down a flight of stairs into a gully and across a wooden bridge.  The path climbs up the other side of the gully meeting an extension of the road I’ve just left. It’s comforting when my planned route matches the reality on the ground.

A Bush Track

But then, it doesn’t. Unable to find the walking track, I head down a long driveway, but it’s soon obvious that this is private property, and I quickly walk back to the road. Looking more carefully now, I see an obscure wooden pole and a walking track which at first glance appears to be part of a garden.

How pleasant it is to be walking through the bush, with water babbling in the creek and the scarcely visible back yards of neighbouring homes obscured by trees and undergrowth. The hollow in a fallen branch makes the perfect home for a little creature.

Path to Gymea Bay Baths

Obscured Pole

Coonong Creek Bushland Reserve

Coonong Creek Bushland Reserve

A white trunk with ‘peeling’ bark is quite conspicuous amongst the other eucalypts and native trees which seem to thrive here. A paperbark perhaps. The broad flat root of another tree ‘drips’ over a boulder, reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s melting clock.

The smooth, gently pitted trunk of a tall angophora reminds me of a story I once heard. Apparently in the heat of summer, Aboriginal children would hug these tree trunks to cool down. I stroke the pink hued trunk enjoying its coolness and texture.

Gymea Bay Baths

Through the trees, glimpses of water and the boardwalk of the Gymea Bay Baths appear and the creek on my right opens out. It is peaceful. I take my time absorbing the scenery, the reflections on the still water and the surrounding calm.

Gymea Baths through the trees

Glimpse through the trees

Gymea Bay

Peaceful Scene

Fishermen drop lines from the boardwalk into the water below. A kookaburra and his friends break the quiet with a laughing welcome. As I leave the baths, one of the fishermen tells me he hasn’t had any luck yet, adding that “it is a good place to fish”.

Cockatoos and Community

Two Cockatoos eye me suspiciously from the ground. One, bobbing its head, feathers fluffed up, appears to be unwell. The other watches on. Then the situation becomes clearer. The second bird regurgitates some food, and feeds the other now noisy and rather large young cockatoo.

You know there’s community in a suburb when neighbours greet each other from opposite sides of the street. One of them, however, looks at me suspiciously. I suppose it’s not often a woman of a certain age, wearing a backpack and carrying a camera walks past their home.

Gymea Bay Baths

Swimming Lanes

Gymea Bay Baths

Fishermen in Gymea Bay

What I have noticed, particularly near the Gymea Baths, are signs warning about surveillance. Is antisocial behaviour really a problem here or is that just the perception, I wonder?

Walking through Sydney’s suburbs, I often see unusual garden decorations. The upright water ski fixed to a brick mail box gets me wondering who lives there. And the large shell suspended from the eaves of another home is certainly different.

Old School Park

Mothers chat while their toddlers enjoy the ample facilities at Old School Park. In the front yard of a home not more than 200m away, an elaborate piece of play equipment with rope climbing, swing and rings stands empty. Why buy such equipment when there’s a great park nearby with the added advantage of new friends to meet?

Large Shell on Wall

Home Decor

Wheelbarrow of Flowers

Garden Decor

Noticing me approaching, a tree lopper calls to his mate telling him to stop climbing. He instructs me to “watch your step please” and once I pass, calls up to the chap in the tree “righto mate”. Workplace safety in action.

The houses closer to the shopping strip are different now. Less well maintained, the grass long and gardens neglected, curtains hang half off the rails behind dirty windows.

Gymea Village

Apparently one of the oldest shopping strips in Sutherland, Gymea Village is a busy modern strip of shops, cafes and restaurants. I’m on the lookout for two shops in particular.

The Portuguese Bakery Gymea

The Portuguese Bakery

Pastel de nata in Sydney

Pastel de nata

The Portuguese Bakery

First up, the Portuguese Bakery where I enjoy a coffee and Portuguese Tart just like they make in Portugal. The women next to me eat freshly made sandwiches for lunch. I almost join them in a sandwich, but save myself for the Hazelhurst Café.

Nina’s Chocolates

Next, I cross the road to the award-winning Nina’s Chocolates. There, I watch a team of chocolatiers, wearing maroon aprons over white shirts prepare their confections. The rich aroma of warm chocolate tempts my taste buds.

Founder George Magganas started the business in the early 1990s, naming the shop after his daughters, Nicole and Natalie. I can’t resist buying chocolates for after dinner.

Making chocolate in Sydney

Making Chocolates

Nina's Chocolates in Gymea

Nina’s Chocolates

Two other shops pique my interest. The first offers tattoo removal for those who “Regret the Past” and the second, the Grate Cheese Co sells a range of interesting cheeses.

Hazelhurst Gallery and Arts Centre

Before discovering the artwork at the Hazelhurst Gallery and Arts Centre, I order a sandwich at the Hazelhurst Café. The customers here are mostly women ‘doing lunch’, a small three generation family group and a few mothers with babies.

The café is warm and while there’s much chatting it’s not noisy. However, it is busy and service is slow. Sitting alone at a tall communal table, I wonder if the large vases of Proteas and Australian wildflowers are from Craig at East Coast Wildflowers.

Hazelhurst Regional Gallery

Cast Iron Entry

In the Garden of Hazelhurst Regional Gallery

Wildflower Mural at the Gallery

Current Exhibitions

The current exhibition, RocoColonial, not surprisingly has a number of indigenous artists represented. One particularly moving piece of shells pasted onto tiny slippers which outline the shape of Australia references the stolen generation.

The other exhibition by Japanese born Junko Asaba is intricate and appealing. These are works of folded and otherwise shaped paper. Unfortunately, the exhibition ends soon.

Australian Wildflower Display

Impressive Flower Arrangements

Wire Dogs at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery

My Max is there

Sutherland Shire Community Nursery

More walking suburban street walking brings me to the Sutherland Shire Community Nursery, where people buy native plants at very reasonable prices. Walking through the well laid out and labelled rows, I’m not surprised to discover tubes and pots of Gymea Lilies. This is Gymea after all.

Gymea Community Centre

Gymea Community Centre

Gymea Real Estate

Interesting Architecture

My Thoughts on Gymea

Gymea may not have the heritage homes and buildings found in other Sydney suburbs, but it has a lovely feel to it. And then of course there’s the Hazelhurst Gallery and the Gymea Bay Baths, not forgetting the Portuguese tarts and the handmade chocolates.

If you enjoyed exploring Gymea and Gymea Bay, have a look at Castlecrag and Bundeena for suburbs with a similar feel.
Next Stop: Campbelltown

Useful information:

Gymea is located 26 kilometres south of the Sydney CBD

Click here for current exhibitions at the Hazelhurst Gallery

The Portuguese Bakery: 18 Gymea Bay Rd

Nina’s Chocolates: 27 Gymea Bay Rd

Click here for more about the Sutherland Shire Council Plant Nursery

I used two maps together with day notes. You can download the maps here and here. Only use the section marked ‘4’ and ‘3’ on the second map. Use the maps together with these notes. Please note, the time indicated on the map doesn’t allow for stopping and looking around. I took about 4 hours including lunch.

Walk in Gymea to Gymea Bay Baths

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Comments

  1. My home town and right past my home street Houston St Gymea on your walk. Was a great place to grow up. Our daughter had her wedding ceremony at Hazelhurst Gardens in 2011 then on to Summersalt for reception.

    1. Author

      What a lovely part of the world you grew up in. And pretty special gardens at Hazelhurst for a wedding. Thanks gor dropping by.

  2. Hi Joanne … you peaked my interest at ‘Portuguese Tarts’ 😘

    Loved hearing about this walk & unusual house decor made me laugh!

    I’ve just joined a local walking group in the area (kiama/Shell Cove) I live in & they do a monthly Sydney walk …
    this sounds like one for us to do.

    Thanks again 😃

    Chrissy C

    1. Author

      Yes, Portuguese Tarts are always a winner. Do let me know how you go when you do the walk.

  3. Hi Joanne, I bought your two beautiful kids’ books recently and received them within a couple of days. Much appreciated. Really lovely, bright uplifting books that I will donate to a local infants after school care.

    Am looking forward to taking groups on your excellent walks and please keep giving us tips on the pastries.
    I just lurve Portugese tarts by the way. One of my faves.

    P.S. You live in a beautiful part of the world. My dad and I used to love Brooklyn and the Hawkesbury, Spent some wonderful times there.

    Cheers from Russell D.

    1. Author

      Hello Russell.
      I’m so pleased you like the books and what a lovely thing to donate them to an after school care.
      Do let me know how you go on the walks. It was my hope that my walks would inspire others, and it seems to be doing so in a small way.
      Yes, I often pinch myself that I live on the Hawkesbury. A very special place. Joanne

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