Take a stroll to the end of Darling Point Road and you might think you’ve stumbled into a secret paradise.
You’ve reached McKell Park, one of Darling Point’s most picture-perfect treasures.
With a waterfront position and world-class views of Sydney Harbour, McKell Park is a firm favourite with Darling Point locals and visitors alike.
Let’s step through the gates to discover its history and its many charms.
The road to McKell Park
McKell Park was officially opened in February 1985. But before the pathways were laid and the gardens planted, this pocket of land was home to some very notable dwellings.
Of these, Canonbury was the grandest, a two-storey Gothic Federation home that was one of Darling Point’s now-forgotten old mansions.
Canonbury was built in 1904 by Harry Rickards, a well-known vaudeville performer and theatre owner. In fact, if you’ve been living in Sydney long enough you might even remember Rickards’ most famous venture, the much-loved Tivoli Theatre.
Dominating the tip of Darling Point, Canonbury eventually became a hospital for returned servicemen. After that, the mansion was handed to the state government and became part of Crown Street Women’s Hospital. In the 1970s the hospital moved out and the property was transferred to Woollahra Council for development into the park we know and love today.
History still lingers
While Canonbury is long gone, you can still glimpse history here and there.
A key aspect in the planning of McKell Park was the decision to preserve certain historical features. So if you know where to look, you can “read” the history of the site.
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As soon as you enter the gates you’ll see Canonbury Cottage. Built as part of the original Canonbury estate, the heritage-listed building is now available to hire for small weddings, parties and community group meetings. Other features, such as the beautiful sandstone staircase, are remnants of the park’s former life.
From the cottage, head across the manicured lawn towards the harbour where another remnant of the site’s past awaits. See those sandstone foundations beneath your feet? They were part of Landsdowne, built in the 1840s and the very first home on the site.
Brides, boats and boot camps: McKell Park today
Although less than 1 hectare in size, the park plays host to a wide range of activities.
Fitness programs, including Tai Chi and boot camps, are conducted in the park, and it’s popular with local runners. And on any sunny weekend you’ll see people enjoying picnics and walking along the water’s edge. Kids love the park’s pathways, and you may even find a fisherman casting off.
If you’re lucky enough, you could snag a spot here for the New Year’s Eve fireworks. Closed every other night of the year, the park boasts unobstructed views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House for a memorable midnight. Plus, the council limits revellers to just 1,000 so you can raise your glass without the crowds.
The terraced gardens, unbeatable views and waterside access make McKell Park a popular choice for weddings and wedding photos. The bride can even arrive by boat and step elegantly onto the wharf.
And, it’s from the wharf that local commuters can catch the ferry directly to Circular Quay or simply sit and watch the world go by. Listening to the waves splashing against the sandstone wall while the sun sets is one of the quiet pleasures of this little piece of paradise.
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