Ballast Point Park, History Brought to Life
Ballast Point Park is a recreational 2.6ha park in Birchgrove on the Balmain Peninsula where visitors can wander through Sydney’s rich history while enjoying panoramic Harbour views.
Let’s find out more about this unique spot in the Sydney Harbour.
Getting to Ballast Point Park
Visitors can try to park their car in the parking area on Wharf Road going into Ronald Street. It is a very small car park though and street parking is also limited.
Public transport is a good option, with the Balmain ferry wharf being very close to the park. In addition, buses 441 and 442 travel through Balmain and Birchgrove frequently.
Check the Transport NSW website for details.
What is Ballast Point Park?
To be perfectly honest, we had never heard of Ballast Point Park before until we drove past it while visiting Balmain.
We noticed a couple of weird structures popping out of the park so we decided to park the car and go on a little discovery adventure.
Ballast Point Park is located at the end of Ballast Point Road in Birchgrove, right at the very tip of the Balmain Peninsula, so the views across Sydney Harbour are magnificent.
From Industrial Back to Nature
The park was officially opened to the public in July 2009 by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, with walking paths, a playground, barbecues, picnic areas and access for cyclists.
This part of Sydney has quite a rich history and the park was designed in a way that this history remains very much alive. It’s worth pointing out that a lot of recycled materials have been used for the redesign of the park.
The park has a somewhat raw atmosphere which, combined with its natural beauty and panoramic views, makes it a very interesting place to wander around.
In recognition of Aboriginal history, the park was given a second name, Walama, which means “to return”.
This name highlights the transformation of the park from industrial use back to nature.
The most prominent and visual landmark in the park is Tank 101, a huge steel structure that represents one of the oil tanks used by Caltex in the 20th century.
Built in the 1930’s, the original Tank 101 was the largest industrial storage vessel on the site.
An interesting feature is the poem around the structure that is written by Australian poet Les Murray. The structure was partly built with re-used steel from the actual tank in the old Caltex site.
History of Ballast Point Park
After centuries of Aboriginal habitation, the sandstone-rich site was used by European settlers as a fishing and hunting ground in the early 19th century.
It is believed that the name “Ballast Point” refers to the quarrying of sandstone from this site to function as ballast for ships.
After a few changes of ownership, Thomas Perkins, a local clothing merchant, purchased Ballast Point in 1852 for a whopping 300 pounds.
From 1864, the site became known as Menevia Point when Perkins built a two-storey house for himself and his family that he named Menevia. The site later became known as Perkins Point, named after Mrs. Perkins.
It is generally believed that Menevia was actually the only house that has ever existed on Ballast Point. In later years, Menevia was used as a boarding house.
The Caltex Era
Sadly, Menevia was demolished in 1928 by oil company Texaco (which later became Caltex) which bought the site for 15,000 pounds to transform it into a fuel depot.
The old, run-down house had to make room for ugly oil storage tanks. Up until the 1990’s, Ballast Point had been a very important oil distribution site in the Sydney area.
Caltex phased out its operations in Sydney at the end of the 20th century. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority then purchased Ballast Point from Caltex in 2002 with the idea to turn it into public parkland.
The Birth of Ballast Point Park
After seven years of designing and constructing, Ballast Point Park was officially opened in 2009 by NSW Premier Nathan Rees, NSW Planning Minister Kristina Keneally and ex-Prime Minister Paul Keating.
The park won the Landscape Design award in the 2009 BPN Sustainability Awards.
The park was very well designed, but Paul Keating originally wanted to take it a step further. His vision was to completely remove the industrial aspect and turn the site into a natural park.
He wanted green to be truly green, which was a fair enough idea. If it wasn’t for Paul Keating though, Ballast Point could’ve become residential with apartment blocks instead of parkland.
Interestingly enough, remains of the Menevia house were uncovered during remediation works and a glass display now contains domestic artifacts for the public to see.
Watch this cool video to get a bit of an impression of what Ballast Point Park is about:
The official address of Ballast Point Park is 4 Ballast Point Rd, Birchgrove NSW 2041. It’s fairly easy to find but parking can be limited, especially in the weekends.
Alternatively, the Balmain Wharf is literally next door and only a short stroll away. Or you can also catch a bus (lines 441 and 442) to Balmain or Birchgrove.