Rock Art


    Almost all the art works (see arrowed stars on map) mentioned are by Aboriginal artists but European carvers completed at least one. There is much to learn about Australian indigenous rock art (both painting and engraving). Here we collect the brief summaries about the engraved rock sites we describe. These are listed by their geographical location (given in parentheses) starting from the most southern and moving northwards.

    As you locate and admire the art and architecture described, remember that indigenous, and indeed any, rock engravings are susceptible to damage. If you visit rock engraving sites, please be careful not to touch or damage the art and to show respect for the sites and their surrounding areas. More information can be obtained from the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change.

    From the south:

    Ball's Head Reserve Rock Art: (33° 50′ 35″S, 151° 11′ 41″E) this is an ancient place for indigenous people containing archaeological deposits and middens. There is an engraving of a whale with other smaller figures at the end of Waterhen Drive. The Aboriginal name for the headland is ‘Yerroulbine’ while since European times it has also been named for Lieutenant Henry Ball. Ball’s Head is very close to the ferry route from Circular Quay (on the Great North Walk) to Valentia Wharf. A 7-minute walk south from Waverton railway station down Bay Road that becomes Ball’s Head Drive to Waterhen Drive, where Ball’s Head Drive divides.

    Berry Island Reserve Sites: (33° 50′ 23″S, 151° 11′ 16″E) indigenous people occupied this ‘island’ and Ball’s Head (‘Yerroulbine’) long before Europeans. There are middens, campsites, weathered engravings and evidence of axe grindings. Take the right hand bush trail to reach the engravings (3 minute walk) of a large whale-like creature encompassing a (possible) stingray. You can also continue on the Gadyan Track, a 20-minute bush trail around the island following interpretative signs describing Aboriginal and European history. Both Berry Island and Ball’s Head are very close to the ferry route from Circular Quay (on the Great North Walk) to Valentia Wharf. No longer an ‘island’, this reserve is a 5-10 minute walk from Wollstonecraft station at the end of Shirley Road.

    Grotto Point, North Sydney Harbour: (33°48′43″S, 151°15′59″E) this site is perched on the headland offering stunning views of the Sydney Heads and Harbour. It is not on the Great North Walk, but is only 8 km from Circular Quay near the start of the Great North Walk. On Arabanoo Walk (which is part of the Sydney Harbour Path between Manly and Spit Bridge) these engravings are on a cluster of sandstone outcrops at Grotto Point on Dobroyd Head. The Aboriginal rock engravings, now protected by railway sleepers, depict a giant kangaroo, a shark or whale and several small fish. To find the site join the trail near the intersection of Tabalum and Cutler Roads in Clontarf, down stone steps and turning towards Castle Cove Beach.

    Political Rock Cartoon at Conscript Pass: (33° 44′ 21″S, 151° 5′ 21″E) Lorna Track and Conscript Pass are now part of the Great North Walk running from Thornleigh Oval to the Lane Cove River. These walks were built during the Great Depression of the 1930s as a means of offering employment to those who had none. The funds were provided by contributions organized by a local lady, Lorna Brand. The carvings, by the track workers, include an arrow and name ‘Lorna Pass’ and a caricature of the then Premier of NSW: Bertram Stevens. On the Great North Walk. The engraved words ‘Lorna Pass’ are easy to find, being located at the trail turn-off to the Baden-Powell campsite. The cartoon and ‘Convict Pass’ sign are co-located about 120 m below a sharp turn in the track (technically where the Great North Walk departs from (or joins) Lorna Pass. This pair of engravings is at a set of steps cut into a large rock. Bertram Stevens (60 cm x 30 cm) faces you as you ascend the first set from the river and the pass name, together with the engravers’ initials, face you as you turn left to ascend the next few steps.

    Quarter Sessions Campsite: (33° 41′ 59″S, 151° 4′ 36″E) this is where an Aboriginal meeting and camping place once was. Many carvings have been lost in European times but a few still remain here including two wallabies, some fish, other lines that have been described as a noose and a koala. There is a notice at the NW corner of Quarter Sessions Road, Westleigh on the loop of the road, next to the rocks. About 200 m from the Great North Walk at Westleigh.

    Terrey Hills ‘Hunt’ Rock Engraving: (33° 41′ 44″S, 151° 12′ 37″E) this rich site contains an interesting set of outlines: a man with a long penis, two women, a number of kangaroos and wallabies and a line of human-like foot prints. It has been variously interpreted as representing a successful hunt — because one kangaroo has a spear in its back; related to fecundity ceremonies — because of the over-endowed nature of the male organ; and linked to a creator spirit, perhaps, Baiame — because of the footprints, or ‘mundoes’, and the headdress on the male figure. Going north out of Sydney on Mona Vale Road, through St Ives, then turn left at the intersection with Forest Road into Myrooa Road. As this road takes a hard right turn, take the unpaved track on the left, which is Larool Road. Park at the first sign for Dundundra Falls just before the Crown Land weed reduction site and walk along the path on the left for about 200 m to the site. This site is about 12 km due east of the Great North Walk at Fishponds.

    Berowra Waters Engraving: (33° 35′ 49″S, 151° 7′ 32″E) just 200 m from an easy-to-reach car park and on the Great North Walk track itself, this rock is often overlooked even by those who know this trail well. From the F3 Freeway take the Berowra turning and go down Berowra Waters Road to the ferry. Walk north along the track by the side of the creek past the car park and look for a large rock next to the path on your right. The engravings are a little tricky to decipher but include a man in a head-dress, an animal (perhaps a koala) and another figure.

    Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (near West Head): (33° 35′ 1″S, 151° 16′ 60″E) there are a large number of indigenous rock art sites in this park. The Red Hands Cave is near the Resolute picnic area; near the Echidna Track is a site containing some very beautiful engravings including a long set of ‘footprints’; and the most photographed site is on the Basin Track and shows people, kangaroos and fish. To get to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, drive along West Head Road and seek directions from signs in the park. About 3 km due south from the Great North Walk at Patonga Wharf, although the more likely approach is from the south.

    Woy Woy Rock Art Site: (33° 28′ 33″S, 151° 17′ 33″E) a challenge to locate. Take the same turning off the F3 Freeway to Woy Woy and Gosford as for the Bulgandry site and pass this until, on the left you see Staples Lookout. It’s easiest to park here and continue on foot down the Woy Woy Road to another very small vehicle turn-out. From here you walk into the bush for about 500 m — as far as the rock ledges continue — this takes you to the last engravings and from here you can find the others by back-tracking to the road. There are a number of groups of engravings all of which are worth locating. The furthest from the road could be termed the best carvings and include an outstanding male figure, a fish, a shield together with an eel and a kangaroo. Nearer the road is the famous line of ‘rabbits’; the ‘mundoe man’, a fish and an emu; a many ‘cupmarks’. The site is about 2 km from the Great North Walk.

    Bulgandry Engraving Site: (33° 27′ 13″S, 151° 17′ 9″E) named for the ancestral hero depicted here, this site has been developed so that visitors use a wooden boardwalk to circuit the area. There are explanatory signs on the path to the site and in front of most of the engravings. Turn off the F3 Freeway between Sydney and Newcastle at the Woy Woy and Gosford turning. About 3 km along the road to Woy Woy, the parking area is signed off the road. Follow the path to the site. About 2 km from the Great North Walk.

    Girrakool Rock Site: (33° 25′ 50″S, 151° 16′ 38″E) this is a very easy site to access but a little disappointing because the engravings are rather worn and weathered and difficult to see or interpret. Leave the F3 Freeway at the Woy Woy and Gosford exit and turn into Wiseman’s Ferry Road, then left onto the Old Pacific Highway going south. Take the first left into Girrakool Picnic Area and walk along the Girrakool Loop for about 150 m. The engraving site contains a male figure, a kangaroo behind him and other fragmentary outlines. The site is only about 2 km from where the F3 Freeway intersects the Great North Walk and Mooney Mooney Creek.

    Australia’s Walkabout Park (Calga): (33° 25′ 33″S, 151° 13′ 7″E) is renowned for a giant engraving depicting a large, speared emu. There is also a cave with paintings: red-ochre stencilled hands and other sites with more engravings including a wallaby and a crescent. The 2006 site includes two small emus, both similar to but one hundred times smaller than the nearby giant emu. Although these park carvings have not been dated, a local Aboriginal representative David Pross (a past Chairman of the Darkinjung Land Council) suggests that they are between 500 and 1,000 years old based on their proximity to other, dated, carvings in the same area. The park is about 3 km from the Great North Walk near the Calga Interchange of the F3 Freeway, signposted ‘Peats Ridge’.

    Burragurra Aboriginal Site: (33° 2′ 33″S, 151° 3′ 33″E) this is a site of considerable cultural significance. According to Aboriginal legend, the god Biamie stepped from here to Mount Yengo, and then up into the sky after finishing his creations. Today, there is little to see except a small number of fireplaces. To reach this site, turn off the Great North Road onto Yango Creek Rd near Laguna and then bear left after 3 km onto Boree Road, which becomes Boree Track. After 8 km, the track forks (Boree Track left and Yango Track right) at a clearing. From here, a short walking trail (300 m) leads to the site. [It is possible to follow Yango Track 11 km from Burragurra to the Finchley rock art site.] This site is not on the Great North Walk being about 17 km west of Mount Warrawolong.

    Finchley Track Aboriginal Rock Art: (32° 58′ 49″S, 151° 0′ 49″E) this is a large rock art site containing a good example of Aboriginal rock art from this region. It is also readily accessible and well signed. To get there turn off the Great North Road near Laguna into Yango Creek Rd and then into Upper Yango Creek Rd. Follow National Park signs, which lead along Finchley Track, to Finchley Trig Point, about 14 km. Around 800 metres past the trig point is the art site itself. There is a short cultural walk with explanatory signs and a campsite about 200 m beyond the engravings. It is not on the Great North Walk but lies about 23 km west of Flat Rock not far off the Great North Road.

    Ending in the north.

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