It seems fitting to walk across the Pyrmont Bridge into Pyrmont. Office workers rush towards me. I on the other hand take the time to look around at this historic bridge whose swinging span enables vessels taller than 7 metres to pass through. Opened in 1902, it was closed to traffic in the 1980s and is now a pedestrian (and cycle) path.
The Maritime Museum
Walking along the path between the Maritime Museum and the harbour, I am greeted by the tall, white Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse gleaming in the sun. Built 70km South of Townsville in 1874 using local hardwood for the frame and clad with iron plates, it was replaced by a modern tower, dismantled and moved to its current home in 1994.
Opposite the Pyrmont Bay Ferry wharf is the Welcome Wall, which recognises those who have migrated to Australia from across the seas. The many columns of names engraved in the bronze wall are interspersed with migrant stories like “I remember seeing the Swan River and being amazed……it just blew me away”.
While photographing the Windjammer Sailors sculpture, a sprightly older man starts chatting to me. Like me, he enjoys getting out and about in Sydney. He names a few suburbs – and is surprised that I have already explored most of them including Bundeena, Cronulla, and La Perouse.
With a wave of his stick he farewells me with “See ya hon. You’d be a great tour guide”. Volunteers are busy restoring parts of the James Craig in a workshop in the Maritime Heritage centre. The tall ship stands proudly moored alongside with more volunteers busy up the mast and on deck.
Union (Pyrmont) Square
Pyrmont Bay park is next, where a man sits on a bench warming himself in the sun. Across the road, I take a chance and climb a flight of stairs on the edge of a building on Edward Street. My punt pays off.
The stairs take me up and over the Light Rail tracks to Union Street and Union (Pyrmont) Square. There a towering winged female figure stands on a tall sandstone base. A memorial to locals who lost their lives in WW I.
An old sandstone building stands proudly on the corner. Beautiful Georgian style sandstone terraces line the street with one single storey cottage squeezed in between them. A late breakfast at Bar Croatia (may no longer be there) calls. The café has a nice feel about it. The menu is interesting and it seems popular with office workers.
Pyrmont Power Station
In Pyrmont Street, the original façade of the Pyrmont Power Station is all that remains of the 1904 building. The power station itself was demolished in 1993 to make way for Star City Casino.
Not one for gambling, I am conflicted about going into The Star, yet find myself walking through the gaming area. Already there are plenty of people are placing bets huddled around the gaming tables and others feeding money into machines. My horror of gambling is confirmed.
The walking path around Wharf 7, Darling Island and Jones Bay wharf provides an insight into a life very different from mine. The suites of fancy modern offices all have great views.
Those on Jones Bay Wharf have covered outdoor areas. One has a BBQ going. Another a comfy lounge setting. Some are looking for new tenants. Their rent must be astronomical. Squawking seagulls, runners and walkers join me in enjoying the view, the warm sun and sparkling water.
A young girl from Brazil asks me to take her photo, then I continue on to Metcalfe park. The eight tall yet curious wooden structures apparently represent the timber used on wharves in the harbour.
Nearby, a small building housing the Darling Island Recycled Water Factory needs a closer look. The workings of the plant are visible through a large window. There’s an informative video which explains how the plant works. Parking is expensive here, but a car share service is close at hand. In this part of the city the share car is a white convertible.
While Pyrmont is one of the most densely populated suburbs in Sydney, there is plenty of green space which is well used by the residents. In Pirrama Park (built on reclaimed land), a man practices yoga, people walk their dogs and others read in the sun. The view to the Harbour Bridge is magnificent.
The “Tied to Tide” sculpture is bigger and more impressive than expected. Sitting watching the orange ladders swing as their supporting beams raise and lower with the movement of the water is mesmerising. The beams creak and the water softly laps the harbour wall. This suburb is worth a visit if only for the interesting sculptures.
Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR)
Another Sydney icon looms ahead. The ANZAC bridge stands tall across Johnstons Bay. Along the path, wooden beams provide have words etched into them. One claims that it is “a perfect place for a picnic”. Others recognise that this was the site of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
Multiple references to the history of Pyrmont take the form of informative plaques, artefacts and cleverly displayed photos. When you explore the suburb for yourself, slow down, look around you and see what you can find.
A chance encounter
Someone is calling my name and look up. There, on the balcony of one of the high-rise apartment blocks is a friend from my daughter’s school days. Over a cup of tea, she tells me about the great community and mix of people they discovered when they moved here.
Two enormous spherical ‘digesters’ from CSR days rest in Waterfront Park where another sculpture, ‘Metamorphosis’, is made up of identical pieces all oriented differently. It leads to the road to the Fish Market.
The Sydney Fish Market
As usual the Fish Market is teaming with tourists. They share seafood platters, photograph the displays of fish, crabs and sushi and peer into boxes of live crabs. recently Sushi donuts came up on my Instagram feed. A sign for “Doshi” shows me where to find them. They are obviously popular as the last one has just been sold.
Walking the Streets
The remainder of my walk is takes me along streets named for the history of Pyrmont. There is Refinery and Distillery Drive and Quarry Masters Drive.
Sandstone quarries provided sandstone for many city buildings in the City including Government House and Town Hall. The quarries were named Paradise (the easiest to work), Purgatory and Hellhole. Apparently, the names are carved in sandstone on the footpaths between the Fish Markets and the Channel Ten complex. I don’t find them.
The roads are confusing and I get lost. You should too. Follow your nose and truly explore the area to find hidden treasures. There’s mosaic, and in Banks Street Reserve, a plaque indicating that this was Paradise Quarry. Historic photos adorn an old sandstone wall lining a flight of stairs from Distillery Drive.
In the square in front of Tablet house words engraved into a long strip of steel describe how Pyrmont got its name. The “Ghost house” represents the one cottage in John Street between Jones and Cadigal which was beyond repair.
It has been a long but fascinating day walking beside the harbour, discovering sculptures and learning about the history of Pyrmont. I walk down Harris Street back to the Pyrmont Bridge.
If you’re a cyclist, you may wish to get to Pyrmont by bike: Follow this route prepared by another Sydney blogger, The Travelling Lindfields, which will get you to Pyrmont via the Harbour Bridge.