• History and Heritage

    Sydney history unearthed: five ‘must-see’ heritage landmarks in the Parklands

Visitors to Centennial Parklands are easily impressed by its surface beauty, filled with green vistas and water features teeming with native and exotic wildlife. Scratch beneath the surface though, and you will find a whole new layer of historical significance to explore.

You might be surprised to learn that Centennial Parklands is in fact, rich with Australian history. Next time you head down for your daily bike ride, meet your mothers’ group for a coffee or walk the family pooch, take a second to look around and observe how nature and history have intertwined to form the iconic Centennial Parklands we know and love today. Below are five impressive landmarks to look out for…


Anzac Parade Obelisk


A year before the end of World War I, Sydney city architect, R H Brodrick, designed and oversaw the construction of a stunning sandstone obelisk in honour of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The erection marked the renaming of Randwick Road to the more appropriate Anzac Parade. This precious piece of history was recently refurbished and re-instated at a new location at Kippax Lake in Moore Park (adjacent to the original Anzac Road site). Read the full story here.


Where the Anzac Obelisk once stood on Anzac Parade.

Where the Anzac Obelisk once stood on Anzac Parade


Gates and Gateways


There are several superbly constructed gates and gateways across Centennial Park –  and each has a story behind it.  The eight sets of sandstone gates that surround Centennial Park were built between 1887 and 1900. These gates were built for the park’s official dedication in 1888 and they have each been lovingly restored and cared for since. The gates on Musgrave Avenue were fully restored just two years ago.

The next time you pass by the Bird Sanctuary (it’s near Centennial Homestead), make sure you observe the beautifully designed ‘Brolga Gate’. Aptly named, it was built in 1939 with a large ‘brolga’ bird design in honour of Gould League secretary and treasurer, Harold W Hamilton. Brolga Gate is a constant reminder of the importance of conservation and education in the Parklands.


Heritage features on the Woollahra Gate

Heritage features on the Woollahra Gate



Crimean War Cannon


Two commanding Crimean War cannon sit atop the hill opposite Centennial Homestead in Centennial Park. The striking cannon watch over diners and passers by, reminding crowds of the Crimean War of the 19th century. They’ve stood tall, on a previously unused area of the Park, since their dedication to the park by the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1920. How did they end up in Sydney? Read the full story here.


Crimean War canon at dusk

Crimean War canon at dusk



Federation Pavilion


A temporary pavilion built of plaster of Paris was raised for the Federation Ceremony in 1901 but it disintegrated and there was no long-term memorial of that momentous day. It wasn’t until 1988, during the bicentennial celebrations that the permanent reminder and spectacular Federation Pavilion was built – and it is almost as impressive.  The Federation Pavilion is such an important symbol for our nation, the original design was incorporated into the latest $5 note. Check out the final remains of the original in Cabarita Park!


The new Federation Pavilion on the site of the original in Centennial Park

The new Federation Pavilion on the site of the original in Centennial Park



Busby’s Bore Cairn


Before being converted into the remarkable Centennial Park as we know it today, ‘Lachlan Swamp’ had the monopoly of the land. During the early 1800’s, a tunnel was carved from the site of the swamp to transport clean drinkable water to supply Sydney’s growing population. Known as ‘Busby’s Bore’ (named after Civil Engineer John Busby), the tunnel functioned to supply water until 1859 when a combination of growth of industry, poor maintenance, livestock grazing and garbage dumping gradually polluted the Swamps.  ‘Busby’s Bore Cairn’ is a sandstone monument that was instated in 1988 to commemorate the bore as Sydney’s first major infrastructure tunnel.


Busby's Bore Cairn

Busby’s Bore Cairn tucked away under a tree in Centennial Park


And much, much more…


This is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to history and heritage at the Parklands. Did you know that the land on which Centennial Parklands is constructed was once an important ceremonial site for many of the Sydney Aboriginal Nations? Learn more with an Aboriginal Heritage Tour or check out the Centennial Park History Book available for purchase online.


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