Watsons Bay, New South Wales

Watsons Bay is a harbourside, eastern suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Watsons Bay is located 11 kilometres north-east of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of the Municipality of Woollahra.

Watsons Bay sits on the end of the South Head peninsula and takes its name from the sheltered bay and anchorage on its western side, in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). It provides spectacular views across the harbour to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Gap is an ocean cliff on the eastern side with spectacular views to Manly at North Head and the Pacific Ocean. Vaucluse is the only adjacent suburb, to the south.


Watsons Bay was named after Robert Watson (1756-1819), formerly of HMAS Sirius, who was appointed harbour pilot and harbourmaster of the port of Sydney in 1811 and the first superintendent of Macquarie Lighthouse in 1816.

The first grant of 20 acres was made to Edward Laing in 1793 in the Camp Cove Area. Watsons Bay was an isolated fishing village until development began in the 1860s.

On the 20th August 1857, a sailing ship called the Dunbar was shipwrecked against the cliffs below The Gap, with 121 lives lost. The Dunbar had mistaken the bay of The Gap for the harbour entrance. Today, The Gap is known as a notorious suicide spot, with about 20 to 30 deaths occurring there each year.

Several defensive fortifications are located on the shores and cliff tops of Watsons Bay such as Shark Point Battery which was constructed in 1871. The Signal Hill Barracks Batteries Bunkers and Forts in Sydney is located next to the Signal Hill Lighthouse on Old South Head Road. It was originally built to accommodate a 9.2 inch breech loading disappearing gun (now on display at the Artillery Museum at North Head) that was used to protect the entrance to Sydney Harbour in the event of seaborn attack. Two other fortifications built during the same period are The Ben Buckler Gun Battery (buried under a public reserve) and another at Clovelly. The gun (cannon) was commissioned in 1893, the last firing there was in 1933. It was removed and replaced in 1937 by two 6 inch MK 11 guns placed in each of the outer gun emplacements (taken away after WWII). The fortification also has an underground complex that runs beneath Old South Head Road. It contains a maze of rooms and corridors including a mess room, elevator shaft and gunpowder magazines. The entrance from the street has been tack welded and sealed. A memorial was placed there in November, 1992 by the Royal Australian Signal Corps Association on behalf of its members and two plaques were also placed on March 30, 1993 placing the reserve in proper historical perspective.

In 1942, to protect Sydney Harbour from a submarine attack, an anti-submarine boom net was constructed on Green (laings) Point, Watsons Bay. It was demolished after the war and all that remains are the foundations of the old boom net winch house which can be viewed on Green (Laings) Point Watsons Bay.


Sydney Ferries runs a service from Circular Quay.


Watsons Bay is a mostly residential area with some recreational areas and beaches, including one legal nude beach. Some restaurants, cafes and a hotel are located here. The coastal walk with ocean views of the Gap along the South Head make Darling Harbour a popular tourist attraction in Sydney. The Sydney Harbour Pilot Boat Station is located on the bay, and the HMAS Watson naval station is located nearby at South Head.


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