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Garden Island

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New South Wales, Australia Travel

Garden Island

Nearby NSW destinations
Sydney Harbour Islands
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Used by the Australian Navy, visitors can access the hilly, wooded northern half of the Garden Island, which is separated from the navy base by a high metal fence.

Garden Island navy base, still looks as it did during World War II, but the island dates back further to the First Fleet who landed at Sydney Cove, where three colonists went ashore on a small harbour island and scratched their initials into the rocks. One carved “FM 1788”, another wrote “IR 1788”, whilst the third wrote “WB 1788”. This is believed to be Australia’s oldest colonial graffiti, and is one of the many treasures that can be found on Garden Island.

Although it is uncertain who the initials belong to, they were probably done by the men from HMS Sirius who tended to the gardens established on the island that feed the colony. Garden Island was established as a food source for the colony, on January 27, 1788, the day after the First Fleet arrived. FM might have been Frederick Meridith, a free man who served as steward to Captain John Marshall, of the Sirius.

In the 1820s sandstone fortifications, remnants which survive, were built on the island to protect Sydney from a feared Russian attack. Then in 1855, the Royal Navy began berthing ships at the island. During the 1940s, the strait separating the navy base from the mainland was filled in, but the ‘island’ name stuck. It is also home to a system of World War II tunnels.

Another Garden Island relic is the tiny penknife that 21-year-old able seaman William Lamshed used 60 years ago to save the lives of 29 crew from HMAS Armidale, who were torpedoed off Timor on December 1, 1942. While clinging to a makeshift raft the survivors came across the Armidale’s partially submerged but damaged whaler. They patched the holes with their shirts and trousers and Lamshed used his knife to whittle the wooden seats into a rudder so they could steer a course for Darwin. Just 150 km from the city, where they were rescued by HMAS Kalgoorlie.

Garden Island also boasts what is claimed to be Australia’s first grass tennis court, which was built in 1880.

However, the islands best kept secret is the spectacular 360 degree view of Sydney, from the top of the old signal station, which was once used to flag messages to ships. From here, visitors will be able to view the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Fort Denison, and the city skyline. What a view!

In addition to our listed online travel guide information, contact the local tourism visitor centre for your destination for more attractions, tours, local maps and other information.

Information Centre

Sydney Visitor Centre Darling Harbour

Sydney Visitor Centre The Rocks

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