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Neutral Bay Travel Guide

Neutral Bay : History, location and things to do

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The traditional home of the Cammeraygal people, Neutral Bay today is a diverse neighbourhood filled with high-rises, townhouses and quiet bungalows. Located about five kilometres north of Sydney’s central business district, Neutral Bay is surrounded by Cremorne, Cremorne Point, North Sydney and Cammeray.

Europeans named the area Neutral Bay in 1789 when Governor Phillip determined that all foreign, or non-British, ships should anchor there. Grass trees, blue gums and blackbutts were scattered along the ridges, and waterfalls glistened above the foreshore rocks. The first estate was bought in 1816 by Captain John Piper. The 700 acre plot of land was a gift for Alfred Thrupp, his son-in-law, who never occupied it but instead moved to Van Diemen’s Land, which is now known as Tasmania. Piper sold the estate to a land speculator whose nephew managed the estate. A large homestead was built on the site in the 1830s, and residential development began in the 1860s and 70s.

The suburb began to flourish, particularly alongside Military Road, and businesses sprang up. One of the most prominent was Oaks Stream Brick Company, which was owned by Patrick Hayes, who also owned a soap factory and even had a wharf named after him. The newly established electric tram network brought even more development to the area. The brick company closed, and the building became the tram depot. This progress brought with it a larger working class population. The Neutral Bay Public School was established along with a fire station, post office, churches and shops, most of which were clustered along Military and Wycombe Roads. Development continued towards the waterfront, and the estates were further subdivided.

By the end of the century, there were about two dozen lease holders, and these were getting even further subdivided. Architect Walter Liberty Vernon was elected to council and formed the Neutral Bay Land Company. He worked for the provision of water, sewerage and gas, and he began to build a series of large villas on land he had leased from the descendants of the original land speculator.

Roads were spreading beyond Military Road and towards the waterfront, and trams were gradually phased out until the 1950s when buses took over. The tram depot was split into two portions, and half became a bus depot while the other half became one of the first self-serve supermarkets in the area.

Many of the original late 19th and early 20th century Australian homes survive today. One of the most famous residents of Neutral Bay, the children’s author May Gibbs, moved to a waterfront home during World War I. Her home and garden have been preserved by the North Sydney Council as a museum commemorating her life and work.

Neutral Bay Club is a bistro, tennis and bowls club that has operated continuously since the late 1800s. It is a popular meeting place and has been named one of the area’s top tennis experiences with floodlit tennis and bowling courts, lounges, function rooms and luxurious dining facilities.

Visitors can reach Neutral Bay through one of two operating ferry wharves or through the Warringah Freeway. Public transportation within the suburb is plentiful and readily available.

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