A Self-Guided Walk in Kirribilli
Kirribilli a suburb covering an area of half a square kilometre, has two functioning wharfs. A third, Beulah Street Wharf, is a known fishing spot. This is fitting as the name Kirribilli comes from the Aboriginal word “Kiarabilli” meaning good fishing spot.
Looking around after alighting at Milson’s Point Station, I admire the art deco signage and brick design of the Kirribilli Hotel. This part of Kirribilli has a village feel to it. There are little shops and cafes tucked under the approach to the Harbour bridge. Looking across the road the low-rise building facades vary in age and design.
Several buildings in Kirribilli are on the Australian National Heritage List. I hope to see most of them. The first is St Aloysius Junior school and to get there, I pass Wild Lotus, a not for profit fashion boutique. The prices are reasonable and the stock a little different which makes it a place to return to.
The Junior school, once Kirribilli Public School, seems to be built in a relatively modern blonde brick and I can’t really see why it would be on a National Estate Register. Closer inspection reveals a sandstone doorway with the date 1887 and “Public School” inscribed above it.
Then, I pass the Church by the Bridge with its wooden spire. A low sandstone wall of hand crafted blocks divides the property from the pavement.
Kirribilli, like many Sydney suburbs offers restaurants with a range of cuisines including Italian, Thai, Japanese and Seafood. There’s even Coco Chocolate with specialty handmade chocolates. Local residents have plenty to choose from and need not go far for a meal out.
St Aloysius College stands behind a metal pole fence, a trefoil decorating the tip of each pole. Boys in short dark pants, crisp white shirts and striped ties walk between buildings to their next class. The heritage part of the school is visible, but dwarfed by newer buildings.
A pedestrian laneway passes behind the school where large windows provide a view into a classroom. The students are concentrating on a seemingly complex PowerPoint slide – chemistry I think.
Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre
French classes have been cancelled at the Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre, another building of note. A free library stands just outside the door, the shelves set into a small model of the building itself. Again, the imposing building is one of hand hewn sandstone and filigree balustrades.
As I walk there are regular glimpses of the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House. As I pass a row of terraces in Jeffrey Street, I think how pleasant it would be to walk to the ferry each day to go to work, or of an evening to attend a show at the Opera House.
Stanton lookout is a small pocket park with a low fence carved from sandstone. People sit on benches taking in the spectacular view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. A large cruise ship is berthed at Circular Quay and ferries and yachts ply the harbour. That fisherman in his tinny is in a precarious spot.
A water fountain beckons. I lean over, then exclaim and jump back as a sudden blast of water shoots up wetting my hair. Oh great. A woman walks past without comment.
Along the shoreline, curiosity gets the better of me. A break in the high sandstone wall near a large fig leads to a flight of stairs. Stepping over a root of the fig, I climb the stairs to find myself in Captain Henry Waterhouse Reserve. It is another pocket park. I am sure these parks are filled to capacity on New Years Eve.
Dr Mary Booth Reserve
Down the stairs again, the Dr Mary Booth foreshore walkway passes over a little bridge. The water under the bridge ebbs and flows, swirling and crashing against a rock wall. Is that an aboriginal carving just on the waterline?
Workers in hi viz vests walk towards me, making for the ferry. One stops to take a photo. After all, it is not every day your work brings you to views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Dr Mary Booth Reserve is another little park with a great city views. A Helicopter hovers over Circular Quay, soon joined by another. The loud clapping of their blades shatters the pleasant ambience. I make a quick diversion to Beulah Street Wharf for yet another iconic view.
Prime Minister’s Sydney Residence
Steps lead me past Mirradong Place to Kirribilli Avenue and Admiralty House where a couple and their guide on bicycles are dismounting. The guide, almost speaking in whispers behind his hand, explains that “we are under surveillance here as this is where…..[the Governor General lives when in Sydney]”. What an act. Here I am in broad daylight taking photographs, not in the least concerned about security cameras.
Next stop is Kirribilli House, the Sydney home of the Prime Minister. The gate has the Southern Cross incorporated into its design while the gables are quite familiar from TV news clips.
There are quite a few tourists wandering the streets. They probably have little time in Sydney and yet have taken the time to discover where the Prime Minister and Governor General Live. While I have lived in Sydney for over 30 years and this is my first visit.
Lady Gowrie Reserve
At Lady Gowrie Reserve, a doof doof sound gets louder as I descend the stairs. A fisherman has claimed his spot. The music, if you can call it that, is keeping everyone else at bay.
A line of people waits to be seated at the small café (Celsius) at Kirribilli Wharf. The queue moves quickly and soon I am tucking into my chilli eggs on sourdough. It is delicious. The pretty waffles with berries and edible flowers will soon be on Instagram.
The “Jacaranda Street”
The Royal Yacht Squadron is next on my list. A woman asks if I am lost and “looking for the tree street”. I am not, but realise that Kirribilli must be one of the suburbs with a street of flowering Jacaranda trees.
In the nearby park workers from the Yacht Squadron jam on their guitars. Their music is so much more pleasant than the earlier doof doof. The musicians also tell me about the tree street and how to get there. I had better go.
My route takes me past beautiful old houses, many of which have been converted into smaller residences. The former headquarters of ASIO was once in Carabella Street, as was the Reserve Bank of Australia. In Holbrook Avenue homes with names like Huntingdon, The Walder and Mayfair impose their grandeur on the street.
Loreto Kirribilli (girl’s school) is here as it the Ensemble Theatre and the Sydney Yacht Squadron – a great place for lunch with a view. Alongside Milson Park is the so-called Jacaranda Street. People, stand in the middle of the road taking photographs with the lilac backdrop. A Japanese woman picks up a parasol and poses.
Along my route, especially in the pocket parks informative plaques provide background, history and context. On the corner of Hipwood Street, one such sign encourages me to look more closely at the row of terraces and their brick facades.
Last but not least on my list are the Greenway Flats. I can see the high-rise towers soaring into the sky from Milson Park. Residents of this public housing complex arguably have some of the best views in Sydney.
Kirribilli still attracts fisherman as it did thousands of years ago. But it has so much more to offer and you could do worse than take a wander through the streets to experience some of the grandeur of this harbourside suburb.
Kirribilli is over the Harbour Bridge, 3km north of the Sydney CBD
Plan your trip at transportnsw.info
You may be interested in this pdf of an historic walk through Kirribilli.
And a map to assist you: (You can download it here)
(NOTE that the time indicated on the map does not allow for any stops. I take an average of 4-5 hours when I explore):
I have done lots of weddings under the Moreton Bay Fig tree at Jeffreys St Wharf and on the level above that, known as Cope’s Lookout – spectacular Opera House, bridge and city views.
Hi Philip – Kirribilli would be a great place for a wedding. Nicola had her engagement party at Dr Mary Booth Reserve. Cheers, Jo
I have been walking around Kirribilli for years. Thank you again for a nice article and photos.
One treasure missed although I dare not mentioned it, but will is the Sydney Flying Squadron Club. It has a great cafe (Flying Bear Cafe) on the water’s edge and with a restaurant above. The vintage 18′ skiff’s from the club are amazing to see getting assembled by a crew and then out sailing.
The adjoining Milson Park is one of the most delightful parks in Sydney.
But it needs to be kept a secret.
Hi Loretta. Thanks for the tip re the Flying Squadron. I mentioned it but by a different name… and now I know the name of the restaurant (Flying Bear Cafe) which looked pretty popular when I walked past. I love the community garden in Milson Park. Jo
Hi Joanne Every time I read one of your walks I am determined to reply to say how much I have enjoyed them. But life usually gets in the way and suddenly I have to have a cup of tea, make a call, get the mail or do the washing and my resolve vanishes. But this time I am trapped in a little cafe in Glebe and Sydney is putting on a great display of thunder and drenching rain with a bit of hail thrown in. So of course I get out my phone and there is your delightful Kirribilli blog. So thank you Joanne I love all your blogs. And when they have a special meaning for me I love them even more! Best wishes to you and I will look for more blogs in the new year … I love your style of writing too! Regards Patricia Walters
Thank you so much, Patricia. And there’s no better place to be as the heavens open than a little coffee shop in Glebe. Joanne
How lucky to be in ‘the tree street’ at full blossom time! Simply stunning.
Yes. I was lucky. I took visitors there a week later and we were disappointed. Back to drab as the greenery hadn’t yet fully come out.
I do enjoy Kirribilli, and went at a good time when the jacarandas were in flower. I actually went to the cafe. The food and coffee were great. Joanne.