History of the Northern Beaches, Sydney

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Located in Northern Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia, the Northern Beaches is a stunning stretch of coastline spanning a staggering 30 km, starting at Manly and curving all the way up to the popular Palm Beach. Today, the region is governed on a local level by the Northern Beaches Council. The Council was formed on 12 May 2016, after the amalgamation of Manly, Pittwater, and Warringah Councils. 

Early History of the Northern Beaches 

The early history of the Northern Beaches starts with Aboriginal inhabitants of the land, which is now known as the Northern Beaches. These early inhabitants were the Garigal people belonging to the Eora nation. The aboriginal people thrived in this area thanks to the abundance of resources of the region, including fish, shellfish, and animals. All over the coastal zone, researchers have found evidence of these in the middens. 

After only a few years of settling on the land, the Garigal people have mostly disappeared primarily due to an outbreak of smallpox in 1789. Some evidence of the Garigal people populating the area remains the rock etchings that are currently located in Kuring-Gai Chase National Park. 

After only a few weeks of the arrival of the First Fleet, the 11 ships that departed from England in 1787 to New South Wales, the northern beaches area was explored by Governor Arthur Philip of the Royal Navy. The site, however, remained a rural location for the entire 19th century and early 20th century. The region only had a few small settlements located in the valleys between headlands.

 From Manly Cove way up to the famous Palm Beach, the entire region had a different transformation. In Manly Cove and North Harbour areas, scattered settlements began in the early 1820s. In a map of 1832, the Palm Beach region is marked under the name Cabbage Tree Boat Harbour. 

Recent History of the Northern Beaches 

In 1906, the Warringah Shire council appeared, along with the NSW Government Gazette and 132 other new Shires within the entire New South Wales area. In the same period, Pittwater, a valley estuary that is semi-mature in terms of evolution, located nearly 40 km north of today’s Sydney central business district, was incorporated as the “A Riding” of Warringah Shire. However, this has led to a sentiment held by some in A Riding as the area of northern Riding took up more than 40% of Warringah’s land area, and it was increasingly ignored and subject to what was considered back then inappropriate development and policies for the region. 

In 2016, the Local Government Proclamation of 2016 insisted that the regional councils of Manly, Warringah, and Pittwater would merge and become the Northern Beaches Council. This new change was effective starting 12 May 2016. 

The Northern Beaches Today 

Today, The Northern Beaches in Sydney is a region part of the Sydney metropolis. Yet, it still maintains an isolated environment from other regions of the municipality, including the North Shore area. 

These days, the Northern Beaches district is home to 52 suburbs, including Manly, Manly Vale, Palm Beach, Morning Bay, Warriewood, Whale Beach, Bayview, Elvina Bay, and many others. The two localities of the region include Bantry Bay and Careel Bay. 

Today, the Northern Beaches Council area comprises residential areas and national parks in terms of land use. There are, however, some commercial, industrial, and rural areas as well. The entire Council area has a total land of about 250 square kilometres. The land also includes significant areas of water frontage, coastal foreshores, beaches and islands, and reserves. 

Some of the most notable features of the Northern Beaches region today include: 

  • Garigal National Park 
  • Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
  • Sydney Harbour National Park
  • Middle Harbour
  • Manly Reservoir
  • Manly Dam 
  • The Northern Sydney Institute
  • Northern Beaches Council Aquatic Centre
  • North Harbour Walk
  • Numerous beaches, marinas, and harbours. 

The Northern Beaches area is home to several primary, high, and K-12 schools, including Manly Village Public School, Manly West Public School, Barrenjoey High School, St Paul’s College, Manly, and The Pittwater House Schools. The place also hosts two international schools, including German International School Sydney and Sydney Japanese International School. 

Today, the Northern Beaches region is a stunning developed area with plenty of opportunities for locals and visitors.