Botany Bay National Park
Botany Bay National Park information
The 458-hectare national park straddles the heads of Botany Bay , 15km south of Sydney Harbour. Captain Cook landed here in 1770, naming the bay after the botanical specimens his naturalist Joseph Banks found here. Banks suggested it would be a good place to incarcerate a few crims, but when the First Fleet arrived in summer 18 years later, they weren’t inclined to agree; the scorched vegetation and limited water supplies were a far cry from Banks’ wintry paradise. They soon relocated to Sydney Harbour. Cook’s monument-marked landing place is on the southern side of the park in trailer-trashy Kurnell. The Discovery Centre conveys the impact of European arrival, and has information on the surrounding wetlands and Cook’s life and expeditions. Note that the car-entry fee only applies on this southern headland – pedestrian access is free. Most of the walking tracks begin close to the park entrance, so you might as well park outside. La Perouse is on Botany Bay’s northern headland, at the spot where the French explorer of the same name arrived in 1788. He turned up just six days after Cook’s First Fleet arrived (much sooner than expected) and gave Mother England a decent scare. Anglo-Franco relations were apparently conducted without the usual disdain – La Pérouse and his men camped at Botany Bay for a few weeks before sailing off into the Pacific never to be seen again. It wasn’t until 1826 that the wrecks of their ships were discovered on a reef near Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands. There’s a monument at La Perouse, built in 1828 by French sailors, to commemorate the explorer. You can also visit the fabulous La Perouse Museum & Visitors Centre housed inside the old cable station (1882). The centre has relics from La Perouse’s many expeditions, an interesting Aboriginal gallery and changing exhibitions on local history and environment. About 50m offshore at La Perouse is the strange Bare Island , a decaying, grass-tussocked concrete fort built in 1885 to discourage a feared Russian invasion. A 45-minute guided tour is the only way to access the island.