December 11 - 17, 2011: Issue 36

 A Tent at The Basin

Camping at The Basin was how our original custodians lived on the shores of Coasters and the deep inlet called ‘The Basin’ and also how the first settlers lived in this beautiful little paradise. Rock carvings at The Basin of fish tell it was a place visited during the fish run seasons, usually winter for Pittwater according to literature on Aboriginal Women's Fishing Practices since 1788.

In 1834 Martin Burke applied for land here; CUMBERLAND-50 Acres Parish of Broken Bay, and at the Basin at Pittwater ; applied for by Martin Burke ; price 5s. per Acre No Title. (1834, January 14). The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 - 1838), p. 3 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32145420

Above: Our Camp at the Basin, 1884 by Harold John Graham. nlapic-an6438966, Below: nla.pic-an6438962 Graham, H. J. (Harold John), 1858-1929. Broken Bay 1884 or 1885. Both images Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

This lovely emerald inlet was also known as Blind Cove:  

This beautiful little bay shown in our illustration, formerly private property, has been made a reserve of by Government, and is now practically a cruising ground for the yachting community of Sydney. A more useful and delightful sheet of water could not have been chosen, situated as it is at the entrance to the Hawkesbury River, just opposite Barrenjoey. To the north is the broad expanse of water known as Brisbane Water, and to its south Pittwater, which is now connected with Sydney, Newport, and Manly by means of a coach running daily. Blind Cove, also called The Basin, is a safe refuge in the very worst of weather. It owes its name of Blind Cove to the fact of its being invisible to the incomer until he has almost reached its entrance, which is very narrow and hidden from view by a low stretch of sand; but inside this narrow passage there is deep water, and the height of the hills surrounding the basin (some 6OOft) so thoroughly shelter it from heavy winds that it might well be called Looking-glass Bay. It is on account of this, and also the beauty of the surrounding scenery, that has made it one of the principal rendezvous of yachtsmen.
Blind Cove, Pittwater, N.SW. (1883, March 10). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 26. Retrieved from
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70996783

Blind Cove (The Basin) 1883 Illustration from Australian Town and Country Journal

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at The Basin became a fixture on the Royal Motor Yacht Club’s calendar (as the place to stay prior to their annual Regatta) and many other Sydney sailing clubs from at least 1885 and when the estuary was still called Pitt Water as well as Pittwater. There have been a few debates over the years on looking after this haven properly, one in 1906 over oyster bed leases and the lessees ordering people off these beaches and their adjacumnt areas and another in 1935 when the Trustees of what became part of Kuringgai National Park (in 1915) tried to close the area to all the yachts that inundated the shelter during the Christmas period as they were concerned about pollution.

All word skirmishes aside, The Basin has been a favourite camping place for many, with some bringing lavish tents, tables, chairs and all the accouterments for a summer long stay. Camping became ‘fashionable again’ in 1885; “Camping out is now held in high favour and becoming- even quite fashionable, and this too by persons owning boats that hitherto have been looked upon as mere racing machines..” from CRUISING IN THE HAWKESBURY. (1885, January 3). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 38. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71021899

In 1950 the sentiment was still the same; From Across the blue water for a camping holiday. (1950, December 30). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47806278

“Years of camping have taught the Dutch family discrimination in packing. They take only what is needed for comfort, leave behind non-essentials, which add to the burden of travelling and clutter up the camp. To pack and load the trailer takes more than two hours.
Camping these days does not mean roughing it, with ants in the jam and sour milk in the tea. Modern campers take with them all kinds of amenities. Here is the holiday story of one of the thousands of Australian families who camp at the seaside.
FREEDOM AHEAD. With luggage for their summer camping holiday piled on the cabin-top of the launch-ferry Rambler, the Dutch family and other holiday-makers wave good-bye to Palm Beach wharf as they set off across Pittwater for The Basin, on opposite shore, 20 miles from Sydney. The Basin is a favourite ground for hundreds of camping fans, and the Dutch family have spent holidays there for years. Ferry trip - only connection with mainland - is highlight of annual pilgrimage.
DOWN THE JETTY. Before casting-off children ride on rail-trolley at Palm Beach, where car, trailer are garaged.
WHEN THE TENT IS PITCHED, Enid, Mavis, and Eileen fill their palliasse with straw. They take pillows from home, sleep under six long blankets sewn together. The long bed, which stands firmly on pipe legs, is divided into six compartments for daughters. Palliasse hay is brought in bale from home.
FIRST SWIM. While Mr. and Mrs. Dutch, and married daughter Joan, rest on the grass after making camp, the five other Dutch daughters race off for a swim in the shark-proof pool, enclosed by steel mesh. Pool is shallow for many yards from the shore, is considered perfectly safe for children.

The Basin has also been considered a favourite spot for a picnic. On November 22nd 1954 many local groups and organisations took a larger then usual group westwards; Legacy Children Had A Real Picnic; The appetites of 1,064 Legacy children at a picnic at The Basin, Pittwater, yesterday, astonished the organisers. The children demolished 6,000 bottles of soft drink. 6,000 sandwiches and bread rolls, 6,000 cakes, and 2,000 pieces of fruit. The picnic was organised by the Legacy Club of Sydney, the Broken Bay branch of the Royal Motor Yacht Club, the Volunteer Coastal Patrol, and The Kuring gai Motor Yacht Club. The yacht clubs and the Volunteer Coastal Patrol provided the food and 70 cruisers to take the children from Church Point to The Basin and back. And 167 cars and buses were used to take the children from Legacy House, city, to Church Point and back. About 300 adults looked after the children BOY'S 13 BOTTLES; Mr Frank Grace, of the Royal Motor Yacht Club, said "The food the children ate was colossal "One small boy in my group boasted that he had drunk 13 bottles of soft drink."
Legacy Children Had A Real Picnic. (1954, November 22). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18449781 

The Basin today accommodates up to 400 campers. The fee has risen a little since 1935’s 5 shillings a tent per week but it’s still great value for families and a delight for children. Palm Beach Ferries runs there daily should you wish to have a picnic yourself and it’s quieter during the week; you may even hear some of the echoes from those who dwelled there in yesteryears or smell their billy tea.

Further: In Research File

The basin.pdf The basin.pdf
Size : 95.855 Kb
Type : pdf

Above:  Rowboat at Pittwater Basin, New South Wales, ca. 1880, by Bayliss, Charles, 1850-1897. nla.pic-vn4277873, Courtesy National Library Of Australia

Below: Oatley family sitting down to a meal while camping at The Basin. 1911, Courtesy of the Pittwater Image Library of Mona Vale Library.

 Across the blue water for a camping holiday: 1950

Across the blue water for a camping holiday

PACKING LINEN in the aluminium bath at home in Willoughby, Sydney, are Roy Dutch, his wife Olive, daughters Eileen and Lois. In adjoining room, packing cutlery and kitchen utensils, are daughters Mavis and Enid. Mrs. Dutch takes 10 pairs of sheets, washes a sheet a day during holiday.

LOADING UP THE TRAILER. Years of camping have taught the Dutch family discrimination in packing. They take only what is needed for comfort, leave behind non-essentials, which add to the burden of travelling and clutter up the camp. To pack and load the trailer takes more than two hours.

Camping these days does not mean roughing it, with ants in the jam and sour m i I h in the tea. modern campers take with them all kinds of amenities. Here is the holiday story of one of the thousands of IMAtralian families who camp at the seaside.

FREEDOM AHEAD. With luggage for their summer camping holiday piled on the cabin-top of the launch-ferry Rambler, the Dutch family and other holiday-makers wave good-bye to Palm Beach wharf as they set off across Pittwater for The Basin, on opposite shore, 20 miles from Sydney. The Basin is a favorite ground for hundreds of camping fans, and the Dutch family have spent holidays there for years. Ferry trip - only connection with mainland - is highlight of annual pilgrimage.

DOWN THE JETTY. Before casting-off children ride on rail-trolley at Palm Beach, where car, trailer are garaged.

WHEN THE TENT IS PITCHED, Enid, Mavis, and Eileen fill their palliasse with straw. They take pillows from home, sleep under six long blankets sewn together. The long bed, which stands firmly on pipe legs, is divided into six compartments for daughters. Palliasse hay is brought in bale from home.

FIRST SWIM. While Mr. and Mrs. Dutch, and married daughter Joan, rest on the grass after making camp, the five other Dutch daughters race off for a swim in the shark-proof pool, enclosed by steel mesh. Pool is shallow for many yards from the shore, is considered perfectly safe for children.  

Across the blue water for a camping holiday (1950, December 30). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47806278

Legacy Picnic from National Archives of Australia 


The Basin, 2009 Aerial from Google Earth 

 A Tent at the Basin - threads collected by A J Guesdon, 2011.