To me, my Grandparents house was magical. It was a two story white house at the bottom of a very step hill, the kind you'd avoid walking up at all costs. My pop proudly installed a flag pole and raised the Australian flag every morning and brought it in every evening as the sun went down. He did it all with such ritual and care that it etched a love of respectful traditions into me. It's often hard to maintain some of those good old fashion traditions today; gosh my neighbours barely even talk let alone lend each other a cup of sugar. It's a shame those things are lost. I'm getting side tracked...
Although my family and I lived in the neighbouring suburb, visiting my grandparents always felt like we were entering another world. Driving back all these years later to show my own children the area, I'm overwhelmed with the same sense of emotion. I think it may be because Lugarno itself is one of those Sydney suburbs that quietly exists but rarely changes. It's where the bush mets the river, where families grow and rarely leave, where friendships are made for a lifetime.
This photo on the left is the original Illawarra Road (now called Forest Road) built by convicts.
Running along the ridge from Cooks River, it gave access to the St George Forests and leads to the Illawarra district via the punt which is directly behind (or once was) where I stood to take this photo. You could be forgiven for not missing it entirely, especially if you were about to eat at the popular local seafood restaurant next door.
The first ferry or punt at this location commence operation in 1887 and was powered by horse and carriage. Over the years it had a long history of accidents and misfortune creating many headaches for the local council. According to the on site information board, the ferryman's 1923 Annual report shows that in 1868 cars and bikes & 24,307 passengers were carried that year.
The photo directly below shows the entry and exit points (in the distance) of the old punt. The area on the other side of Georges River, is of course Illawong. The river effectively separates "The Shire" from the St George district.
It was certainly popular with the locals but of course, improvements in the roads gradually lead to its decline. The punt stopped running on December 12 1974. In its heyday, it would carry over 2100 cars a day! Remnants of old cables, winches, steel and the Steel rope rollers from the ferry/punt can still be found at the site.
These steel rope rollers pictured below clearly show the imprint of the steel hawsers used to haul the ferry.
I really enjoyed my day back in Lugarno and look forward to returning in the near future with my sons and our fishing robs.
How to get there:
Best way to visit this area (if you're not from around here) would be by car. Come into the suburb of Lugarno via Forest road and literally drive to the very end (see map below for details). Head towards "Lugarno Seafood" marked on Google maps.
The boardwalk however, does offer a fantastic walk that runs along the river.