Today, Bondi is a popular tourist haven, with locals and international visitors alike drawn to the famous beach. The area of Bondi has, reflecting this popularity, been modernised and updated over the many years, making the image above a glimpse into a Bondi which is today long gone. Yet the image above is also a glimpse into one of Sydney’s oldest roads – Old South Head Road.
In 1790, just two years after Europeans colonised Australia, a signal station was built at South Head. The signal, which was built on the high cliffs, was built in order to alert the new colony of approaching ships, yet it was very difficult to access. In fact, it could only be reached by boat. In 1803 though, this changed. The colonial surgeon, John Harris, was placed in charge of supervising the building of a convict road. His tender was to build a 15 foot wide road for just 100 pounds. The road, which passed through the lands of the Cadigal and possibly the Biddigal and Birrabinnagal people, followed a much older Aboriginal trackway called ‘Maroo’ by the local Aboriginal people.
In 1811 Governor Macquarie ordered that the road be upgraded to accomodate vehicles such as carts and carriages. Soon the South Head Road was not just the access route to the signal station, but also to the villas of the colony’s well to do who had built beautiful homes in what we now know as Darlinghurst, Potts Point, Darling Point, Point Piper and Paddington. Then, in 1831 another road to South Head was built. It ran closer to the harbour and became the access road for these suburbs. This new road was known as New South Head Road, and the old road was also renamed – Old South Head Road. The older road gradually began to be used almost exclusively for excursions and scenic outings, while the new and more efficient route became the more frequently used access road.