Brisbane Water and the local waterways

Brisbane Water was named after Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane, Governor of N.S.W. between 1821 and 1825. The naming of Brisbane Water was contemporary with, but not necessarily connected to, the arrival of James Webb, the district’s first white settler at The Rip in 1823.

Entrance to Brisbane Water from Ettalong

It is a mostly shallow tidal bay located at the southern end of the Central Coast of New South Wales, approximately 17nm by sea and 75km by road from Sydney. It is entered from Broken Bay, over an ocean bar located near Little Box Head.

Vessels may enter Brisbane Water from Broken Bay through the ocean bar at Little Box Head. The entrance is narrow, relatively shallow but well marked and safe except if a strong southerly is blowing. Once the bar is cleared Lobster Beach is to the east.

Follow the narrow channel carefully to Half Tide Rocks and do not miss the dog-leg around the navigation markers or you will find yourself aground.

The city of Gosford is found at the most northern extent of Brisbane Water. Brisbane Water contains several islands and is rich in aquatic life, including sea weeds, mangroves, oysters, and a good population of various species of fish.  Along its foreshores, travelling north you will pass Ettalong, Wagstaffe, Pretty Beach, Hardys Bay, Booker Bay, The Rip and its bridge, Daleys Point and St Hubert’s Island (to the east), Orangegrove and Blackwall then Woy Woy (to the west), through Paddy’s Channel to the Broadwater. As you progress north you will pass Noonan’s Point, TS Hawkesbury and the Marine Rescue Base at Point Clare and to the east, Gosford Sailing Club, finally reaching Gosford Boat Harbour and the Gosford Visitor Wharf.



West of the bar entrance situated on Broken Bay are Ocean Beach, Umina Beach and Patonga. The mouth of the Hawkesbury River runs into Broken Bay west of Patonga.


Brisbane Water, the predominant harbour area around the Western side of Gosford, was the home of the coastal Gu-ring-gai (Ku-ring-gai) people, occupying an area from the northern side of Sydney Harbour along the coast to the lower reaches of Lake Macquarie. The Darkinjung people occupied the area west of Mangrove Creek to Rylstone, north to Cessnock and the Wollombi areas. Mt. Yengo, in the Darkinjung country, remains a highly significant cultural and religious site to local tribes.

Governor Arthur Phillip and a small group of officers and marines briefly explored Broken Bay and a tributary called the “north-east arm” in 1788, having established the settlement at Sydney Cove just five weeks before. Phillip further explored in 1789 and this tributary subsequently came to be called “Brisbane Water”. The first known white settlers to the area took up land on the ocean shores in the 1820s with varying agricultural and ocean based enterprises. James Webb was the first white settler in the area. Originally, a soldier in the New South Wales Corps, he received permission to occupy 300 acres of land on the eastern side of Broken Bay to run cattle. In September 1824, he received a grant of 100 acres on the western side of The Rip, a tidal current that is concentrated in the channel where The Rip Bridge is today. The area was named Mullbong Farm.

Timber-getters began operating in the area in 1820, obtaining forest oak and ironbark for building purposes. Red cedar was also in demand for manufacturing furniture, and stocks of this timber were depleted within a decade. Other early industries in the area included shipbuilding that persisted to the mid 1950s and lime shell mining of natural shell banks and aboriginal middens for the manufacture of lime that was used in building mortar.

The railway from Sydney to Newcastle was completed in 1889 and a steady stream of middle class tourists began. Woy Woy, Empire Bay, Davistown and Saratoga in particular became holiday destinations for those eager to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities and by 1911 there were at least 20 boarding houses on the Woy Woy Peninsula alone.

Brisbane Water Today

Brisbane Water today is a blend of residential haven and tourist paradise. The Woy Woy Peninsula has long held a reputation as the ideal weekend getaway with many accommodation options. There are two national parks within easy travelling distance of the peninsula and a variety of beautiful pristine beaches to enjoy. It is no wonder Brisbane Water’s popularity shows no sign of abating despite having paid host to visitors for well over a century. Opportunities for fishing, surfing, boating, water skiing, swimming, shopping and bushwalking abound. The area is well provided for in the way of picnic and barbecue facilities. There are many clubs and restaurants around the foreshores providing easy dining or an enjoyable nightlife.


Gosford is the major commercial and administrative centre of the Central Coast. It is surrounded by many popular hideaway holiday locations making it a conveniently central starting point for visitors to the region. Spectacular ocean beaches and evergreen bushland and forests line the coast. Inland, steep hills and valleys with extensive state forests and lakes offer numerous options for visitors to relax and unwind.

Rumbalara and Katandra Reserves, featuring exceptional bushland adjacent to the heart of Gosford, are popular attractions. Rumbalara has eight varying walking trails, where you can view an early aboriginal rock shelter, westward viewing lookout, bronze sculptures of early explorers and pioneers, and some remnant rainforests. Katandra boasts more striking and distinctive cliffs, with the easy-going and popular Waterman Walk circling the Seymour Pond and offering dramatic environments from pleasant bush to dense canopy. Brisbane Water National Park covers most of the land between Brisbane Water and the F3 freeway. There are walks through open woodland and well-established pockets of subtropical rainforest in the steep sandstone gorges. Tree ferns, cabbage tree palms, elk horns, rock orchids, wildflowers, mangroves, Australian native animals and birdlife thrive in the park. The Bulgandry Aboriginal Engravings site is located within the park, with easy access walkways and good information boards. The engravings are best viewed at dawn or dusk or after rain. Carawah Reserve is an estuarine wetland with an elevated boardwalk through salt marshes, swamp forests, mudflats, mangroves and sea grasses. Information boards describe the nature of the vegetation and particular environment.

The Gosford Regional Art Gallery & Arts Centre, opened at Caroline Bay, East Gosford in 1999, is situated in parkland with a walking track leading to Central Coast Potter’s Society. The parkland features a beautiful Japanese garden with a pond full of large bright koi, created by Gosford’s sister Japanese city, Edogowa. An ideal environment and location for art lovers, the centre includes a 420 sq metre art gallery built to conservation standards.

Gosford Boat Harbour is adjacent to the town centre and has safe marina style berthing facilities for visitors at the Gosford Visitors Wharf. The berths have water and electricity available at a modest per diem cost.  Nearby and within easy walking distance are quality restaurants, clubs and hotels as well as Bluetongue Stadium featuring soccer and rugby fixtures. Bookings for the Visitor Wharf berths may be made with Marine Rescue Central Coast, phone 4325 7929 or click here to use the email reservation system on this website.

Gosford History

Gosford is believed to have been named after Archibald Acheson, 2nd Earl of Gosford (1776-1849), with whom NSW Governor Gipps served in Canada. Archibald Acheson was appointed Governor of British North America in 1835.

One of the few historical remnants remaining is the Old Courthouse, the oldest recorded public building on the Central Coast and now home to the Central Coast Music Conservatorium. Built in 1848-49 of local sandstone, it replaced the original 1827 watch-house.

Pioneer Park contains a number of historic gravestones, a picnic and playground area, and an excellent view of the Brisbane Water.

Wyoming Cottage at Wyoming Road was built in 1842. There have been a number of extensions over the years but the basic original structure remains intact.
The design for the cottage was commissioned in 1832 and the foundation stone laid in 1836.








Henry Kendall Cottage at West Gosford was temporarily home to and named after, one of Australia’s most famous colonial poets. Located in Henry Kendall Street West Gosford, the sandstone home was built between 1836 and 1840. It was originally licensed as the Red Cow Inn and is situated in a hectare of pleasant parkland and picnic grounds. The cottage is restored and houses a museum retaining a few of Kendall’s possessions. Displays include items of local history and antiquated agricultural items.

The original Gosford watch-house was built in Donnison Street in 1827. A three-roomed shingle-roofed slab timber structure quickly became inadequate for its purpose. Around 1833 the first Gosford Courthouse was added. The first Police Magistrate, Willoughby Bean was appointed in 1826. The first township was established at East Gosford by Samuel Peek in the 1830s, with a government township originally known as ‘the township’ at Point Frederick being surveyed and established between Narara and Erina Creeks. Governor Gipps named the town of Gosford in 1839. It is believed to have been named after Archibald Acheson, the 2nd Earl of Gosford.

Local Government commenced in 1843 with the constitution of The District Council of Brisbane Water. This Council had limited funds, resources and powers, and was dissolved in 1859. Gosford became a town in 1885 and was declared a municipality in 1886. It was proclaimed a city in 1980. Tourism in the region began in the 1880s with the completion of the Sydney to Newcastle railway and a new focus on health and leisure.  A significant section of the railway was the opening of the original Hawkesbury River Bridge in 1889. This bridge was heralded as the last link in uniting the eastern states by rail, and became a rallying point for Federation.








The Church of England was erected at East Gosford in 1858. In 1906 Christ Church was moved stone-by-stone to Mann Street south, Gosford, where it stands today as St. Mary’s.

Ettalong (aboriginal for “place for drinking”.)

Ettalong is a quiet, yet growing village by the seaside, situated near Umina and Woy Woy on the Central Coast.  Ettalong is also close to bushland and National Parks waiting to be explored.  If you are seeking a bargain, do not miss the Ettalong Markets Saturdays and Sundays on Ocean View Road. Movie-goers will love the quaint independent local cinema ‘Cinema Paradiso’ offering a unique cinema experience.

South of Ettalong is the residential area known as Umina, said to mean ‘repose’. Umina was established as a holiday resort town in 1917 connecting to Woy Woy train station by a motor service. Immediately south of Ettalong Beach is Ocean Beach. At the end of The Esplanade is a play and picnic area, Umina Beach, a caravan park and a large recreation area. Further south are Mt Ettalong, Pearl Beach and Patonga.

Hardys Bay (named after Harry Hardy, who kept a small vineyard and sold wine to local residents.)

Hardys Bay is a quiet residential village with neighbouring villages Wagstaffe, Killcare and Pretty Beach. Hardys Bay is in close proximity to Putty Beach, Tallow Beach and Bouddi National Park that features a walking track to Box Head that, in turn, overlooks Broken Bay down to Palm Beach. Killcare Marina (no fuel available) is at the head of the bay, just north of the public wharf. Meals of good quality are available at the ‘The Old Killcare Store’ and the Yum Yum Eatery both on the waterfront near the public wharf.

Woy Woy (aboriginal for “the big lagoon” or “deep water”.)

The Woy Woy area is a popular holiday and retirement destination on the Central Coast north of Sydney and is the largest of a number of settlements around the western foreshores of Brisbane Water. The last stop along Brisbane Water Drive before Woy Woy is Koolewong where a strip of parkland lies between the road and the ocean. There are picnic and playground facilities and a pedestrian walkway along the foreshore with a carpark, a deepwater boat ramp, and toilets. Most of Woy Woy, Ettalong and Umina is on a large peninsula, called The Peninsula, jutting out from the mainland. The western edge of the peninsula is separated from the rest of the mainland by Woy Woy Inlet, one of the few flat areas of the Central Coast. The beautiful scenery makes all four bodies of water popular with holidaymakers. The warm summer weather provides endless opportunities for boating, swimming and fishing. Fresh oysters are readily available direct from the growers. The Woy Woy Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in NSW and was built for the occasion out of ten million bricks, shipped by Rock Davis of Blackwall to Brick Wharf, at the north-eastern tip of Woy Woy Peninsula. They were then transported along a rail line (now Brick Wharf Rd) to the construction camp. The first store and post office and four temporary hotels opened to cater for the 800 workers building the tunnel. Railway access enabled Woy Woy to become a fishing and tourist resort in the 1890s. Around this time the Central Coast started to become a primary tourism destination. Fishing was the main drawcard, although bathing and shooting were other attractions. At Fisherman’s Wharf you can easily fish for flathead, whiting, bream and crabs. Woy Woy Bay, west of the bridge, is also good for flathead, bream and jewfish and for prawns at night.

There is a waterfront reserve with picnic facilities, toilets, a playground, tidal baths and formal gardens in War Memorial Park, out to the north-eastern edge of the Public Wharf. There is a wide selection of food, cafes, restaurants and pubs within walking distance of the waterfront.

The Bulgandry Aboriginal Engravings:

What is known as the Gu-ring-gai and the etchings can be seen by following a pathway around the circumference of the site, situated south of Woy Woy. The figures are of men, women, marine life, kangaroos and canoes. It is not known to what extent they form a narrative or to what extent they are pedagogical or of ceremonial significance (or all three). Theories suggest they started as a charcoal or scratched outline that was made permanent by ‘pecking’ holes along the outline with a pointed stone with the area between the holes later rubbed away. While surviving as a good example of early aboriginal significance, erosion has taken its toll and the figures are sometimes indistinct, though the information boards are helpful in providing clarity. The engravings are clearest at dawn or dusk or after rain.

Boat Ramps and Public Wharfs

BLACKWALL POINT  (Blackwall) Jetty and Ramp. Nearest Access: Un-named access off Blackwall Road near Plane Street. Parking: Several trailer spots. OK for emergency services. Deep water. Facilities: Fish cleaning.

Lat 33°30´06.43″ S. Long 151°20´11.7″ E.

Blackwall Wahrf and Ramp

EULALIA  (Jetty and Ramp) Davistown. Nearest Access: Amy St off Kincumber Crescent. Facalities: Nil. Some Parking. OK for emergency Services. Deepwater.

Lat 33°29´15.82″ S. Long 151°22´19.44″ E.

Eulalia St Waharf and Ramp

LINTERN STREET  ( Ramp and jetty.)  Davistown nearest Access: Lintern Street near Malinya Road. Facilities: Play area, fish cleaning, pergola. Parking: Open space. OK for emergency services. Difficult  access at low tide

Lat 33°29´04.19″ S. Long 151°21´10.55″ E.

Lintern St

Restella Street – Deepwater (BR+PW)

Empire Bay – Kendall Street – Deepwater (BR+PW)

Empire Bay –  Merritts Wharf, Merritts Road (PW)

Ettalong – The Esplanade – Deepwater (BR)

Erina –    The Entrance Road, Punt Bridge – Shallow (dual ramp) (BR+PW)

Gosford – Dane Drive – Deepwater (dual ramp) (BR+PW)

Masons Parade – Deepwater (BR+PW)

Green Point – Orana Street – High Water Only (BR)

HASTINGS WHARF (Bensville) nearest Access: Kallaroo Road at end of street. Care required. Parking: Nil. Facilities:Nil. Shallow water

Lat 33°29´44.64″ S. Long 151°22´42.07″ E.

Hasting St Whard





Kincumber – Carrak Street – High Water Only (BR)

Hawk Street – All Water (BR)

Koolewong – Brisbane Water Drive – Deepwater (BR+PW)

Koolewong – Cooche Park – Brisbane Water Drive – Deepwater (PW)

Pretty Beach -Araluen Drive – High Water Only (BR+PW)

Saratoga – Centennial Avenue – High Water Only

St Hubert’s Island – Luderick Avenue – High Water Only (BR)

South Woy Woy – Brisbane Water Drive – Deep Water

Woy Woy – Lions Park (end of Burge Rd) – Deepwater (two ramps) (BR+PW)

Woy Woy – Fishermans Wharf (PW)

15 July 2011