The image above is a beautiful view of a place which, in the past and today, is a popular destination for picnicking Sydneysiders.
The land where Athol Gardens was established was first promised by Governor Darling to Joseph Kay in 1831. Yet Kay didn’t stay in Sydney, and the was instead kept by his wife. After Kay’s death, his wife, Mary, married Alexander Ferrier. Alexander Ferrier built a house on the land some time before 1848 and the Ferrier family lived on the estate, or at ’Athol’ as it is recorded, until 1853. After this, the land and house were leased. One of the people who leased the estate was William Clark, who in 1868 applied for a publicans license for the ‘Athol Gardens Family Hotel’. His son, Charles, later said that during his fathers tenure there was a hotel, dancing pavilion and wharf. Later, there would be picnic grounds and even boats to hire for the holiday makers and day-trippers who visited Athol Gardens. Although the land passed through many different hands, the Ferrier family actually retained ownership of Athol Gardens until the early 20th century. They sold a portion of the estate to William Boyce Wilkinson in 1904 and in 1906 Sydney Ferries bought Athol Gardens, retaining ownership until 1911 when the land was resumed by the Minister for Lands. Some of the original gardens was transformed into a zoological park following this resumption, and is now known as Taronga Zoo. Today, all that really remains of the former pleasure resort of Athol Gardes is Athol Hall and an area of parkland known as Athol Park. This area, even today, remains a popular picnic ground, with spectacular views of the harbour, though most of the more elaborate attractions are long gone.