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Information about the beautiful Pittwater

The Naming of Pittwater

Here is part of a letter from Captain Arthur Phillip R.N. (Governor of the new settlement of Sydney Cove) to Lord Sydney in London written on the 15th of May 1788.

'The 2nd of March I went with a long-boat and cutter to examine the broken land mentioned by Captain Cook, about eight miles to the northward of Port Jackson. We slept in the boat that night within a rocky point, in the north-west part of the bay (which is very extensive), as the natives, tho' very friendly, appeared to be numerous; and the next day, after passing a bar that had only water for small vessels, entered a very extensive branch, from which the ebb tide came out so strong that the boats could not row against it in the stream; and here was deep water. It appeared to end in several small branches, and in a large lagoon that we could not examine for want of time to search for a channel for the boats amongst the banks of sand and mud.

Most of the land on the upper part of this branch was low and full of swamps. Pelicans and variety of birds were here seen in great numbers. Leaving this branch, which I called the north-west branch, we proceeded across the bay, and went into the south-west branch, which is very extensive, and from which a second branch runs to the westward, affording shelter for any number of ships, and as far as we examined there is water for the largest ships, having seven fathoms at the entrance, and deep water as you go up. But the almost continual rains prevented any kind of survey.

Here the land is much higher than at Port Jackson, more rocky, and equally covered with timber, large trees growing on the summits of mountains that appear to be accessible to birds only. Immediately round the headland that forms the southern entrance into the bay there is a third branch, which I think the finest piece of water I ever saw, and which I honoured with the name of Pitt Water. It is, as well as the south-west branch, of sufficient extent to contain all the Navy of Great Britain, but has only eighteen feet at low water on a narrow bar which runs across the entrance. Within the bar there are from seven to fifteen fathom water. The land here is not so high as in the southwest branch, and there are some good situations where the land might be cultivated. We found small springs of water in most of the caves and saw three cascades falling from a height which the rains then rendered inaccessible.

I returned to Port Jackson after being absent eight days in the boats. Some of the people feeling the effects of rain, which had been almost constant, prevented my returning by land, as I intended, in order to examine a part of the country which appeared open and free from timber.'